Stay Focused or Sink Fast

As I grow in my personal, professional, and most importantly, my spiritual life, I have found that I have a lot to learn; especially when it comes to my faith, my understanding of who Christ is, and what it means to be a leader. Leadership is not something we should take lightly. It is more than a position. Leadership is a way of life and should come from the heart. Leadership is service; love in action. However, if we are not careful where we put our focus, we will sink, and our leadership will mean nothing. 

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.  But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately, Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:22-31)

Not only is this a powerful story for personal and spiritual growth, it is also a good reminder for leaders. There are many times, as leaders, that we are called out of the boat and onto the water. We are called into chaos, and many of us do so with fearlessness and determination. We make a decision that risks our comfort, our serenity, and our self made peace. We take a risk, believing in what we were called to do. But the further away we walk from the comfort we left, the more we begin to focus on the doubts, fears, worries, and “What If’s” of our decision.

Jesus calls Peter out into chaos. Peter doesn’t hesitate for a second. He steps out with confidence and fervor. His eyes are fixed on the only peace amongst the chaos. He boldly swings his legs over the side of the boat and stands firm on the surface of the water. His hands gently leave the side of the boat, as he begins to take one step after another. With his gaze still fixed on the Everlasting Peace, he begins to move away from the comfort and security he once had. With each and every step he begins to get closer and closer to Jehovah Shalom. 

Out of the corner of his eye, Peter sees a giant wave crash around him. His gaze quickly moves the swirling chaos all about him. He is many steps away from the comfort he left, and many more steps away from True comfort. His mind begins to race. His fears begin to swirl all around him. His anxiety is through the roof. He loses sight of Jesus for a split second and becomes consumed with turbulent chaos all around him. The more he focuses on the waves, the quicker he begins to sink. 

I imagine Peter struggling to walk. I see him beginning to sink as if he were in quicksand. The more he struggles and focuses on his fears, the quicker he sinks. I see the water quickly rising up, slowly overtaking his body. As the water reaches his neck, he looks at Jesus and cries out, “SAVE ME, LORD!” And just as the water reaches his eyes, Jesus reaches down and pulls him from the suffocating chaos and into the arms of Peace. 

This is one of my most favorite stories in the Bible. Something inside of me stirs, like a child on Christmas day, when I think about Peter stepping out onto the water, among the wind and chaos, and starts walking toward Christ. There is something about Peter being completely uninhibited in his faith. The fearless abandon that Peter shows in his faith is something I want more than anything. However, there is a great lesson to be learned in this story: Unless our focus stays on the One who keeps us walking on water, the distractions, stresses, and worries in life will cause us to sink. 

Our fears and worries become giant waves crashing all around us. We lose sight of the One who called us out of the boat. We lose sight of the “Why?”. We become consumed with the fear and chaos swirling all around us. And unless we put our focus back on the One who originally called us from the boat, we will sink and lose it all. The moment we put our focus back on Him, the one who gave us our purpose and our meaning, and call out to Him, is the moment we will find our confidence and peace. 

Jesus’ s response to His disciples when they are back in the boat is not one of rebuke, but is more like a father questioning their child. It’s as if Jesus is asking, “Don’t you trust me? I would never let anything happen to you.” It’s amazing how quickly we allow our fears and worries to consume our thoughts, taking our eyes off of the only One who can bring us real peace and safety. 

We are called to be strong and courageous. In fact, Jesus even told the disciples in the boat to “take courage!” As Jesus commanded:

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you, by worrying, add a single hour to your life?  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:26-27, 33-34)

Be bold. Be brave. Be strong and courageous. But most importantly, keep your eyes focused on the One who holds all things together. Do not be consumed with the doubt, fear, and chaos the swirls around you. Live fearlessly and uninhibited for the One who loves and cares for you with complete abandon. 

As always, stay humble and serve well!

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