Do you struggle with hope? Does your assurance waver? I know that I do in my Christian walk. But what is the source of this?
Did you know that in a military conflict, one of the greatest tactics used by one side is the diversion? Essentially this is a means of causing a disturbance in one place to draw attention away from the another place. Then, the attack would occur when the forces were preoccupied elsewhere. This has been used throughout the ages as a means of tipping the scales in a battle. It is effective and quite simple to engage. The devil uses this tactic quite a bit. I have lost many battles this way.
Initially I intended to discuss just a couple of attributes to the Christian walk that I sometimes struggle with; hope and assurance. But as I was working on that writing, I ran into wall after wall. Distractions would easily pry my attention away and I’d lose track of where I was headed. I couldn’t seem to get my thoughts together. This really frustrated me and caused me a great deal of discouragement as to my ability to share these things. I really hit a dark point.
It also got me thinking about what’s wrong with me. And that’s what turned out to be my problem! I’ll explain.
I tend to overthink, over analyze issues when they come to light. For example; why I couldn’t seem to write about my struggles with hope and assurance when that was on my heart? So my solution was to evaluate the problem. Then I dwell on it, fighting through the matter, even trying to force it. And always asking God what’s wrong with me. I’d pray that He would change my mind and heart.
Often times as I was trying to address the problem, my mind would drift away and attention would be diverted elsewhere and I would forget about the original issue. Sound familiar? Do you have those moments where you get up to do one thing, but quickly lose track and start something else? I do…a lot! What it turns out that I suffer from is what I call the Peter Principle.
This isn’t the Peter Principle you may have heard about decades ago, the one based on the book by the same title that theorized that people are promoted upward until they arrive at a level of incompetence. In other words, you do well, get promoted, do well, get promoted, then next arrive at a level in the hierarchy that you are really not skilled enough to do. This isn’t what I mean when I say that term. (Though that theory could have applications regarding me trying to be something I am not equipped to be…but that’s another story!)
My version of this comes from the Apostle Peter himself. Matthew 14:28-33 tells of the encounter the Apostle had with Jesus who was coming to them walking on water as they were on a boat on the Sea of Galilee.
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
We can easily see the application here: the storms, the waves, the uncertainties, the distractions, the annoyances, the feelings…all diversionary tactics that cause us to lose focus, take our eyes off of the goal, the prize, the direction we were headed to: our Savior Jesus!
So, are we glaring too much at our problems and missing what should be our vision? You know the words to the great hymn: Be thou my vision, oh Lord of my heart! What a prayer!
But don’t get me wrong, as I don’t want to give too much credit to the enemy. We have our own flesh nature, our own sin-filled capacity. We are, after all, a fallen being before the Throne of God. So many times we trip ourselves all on our own…without any help from the enemy! It doesn’t take much for me to get distracted in thought and I have to believe that the bulk of those issues is self-inflicted! But, giving the devil his due, he is also at work daily trying to fail our faith.
Peter had a moment of doubt. He was human. Plain and simple. We have to remember that the great Apostles were mere men who were imperfect. All the amazing faith that is ascribed to them and the forefathers of our faith (as mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11) came supernaturally from God! They were ordinary men and women who faced the same worldly issues that we do. Though the times and means have changed, the underlying issue is the same. By doubting and taking our eyes off of God, we start to sink. Then our human nature kicks in more and we panic, we start trying things under our own strength, and before you know it, we are sinking under the waves.
I think that’s my problem when over analyzing…I tend to keep my focus too much on the waves and not where it should be. So I praise God for people like Peter. He shows me that though we doubt, struggle with faith, fall into temptations, mess up, falter and even fail, yet we can be saved by God in a mighty way despite ourselves! Peter had the right answer to his sinking into the sea of doubt and fear: He called upon Jesus to save him!
Verse 30, But seeing the wind (there’s the distraction), he became frightened (there’s the fear), and beginning to sink (there’s the consequences), he cried out (there’s the solution), “Lord, save me!”
There’s the whole of every problem we face in our daily sojourn. Jesus told him why he failed this attempt; it was because of his little faith that then caused him to doubt. I can identify with the Apostle in that my struggle with little faith in my daily battle here has caused me so many sinking moments that have led to near drownings. But, thankfully, He who began a good work in us is faithful to complete it! We need to rely on that promise, trust in God’s provision of saving faith. We will struggle in the flesh, just like the greatest men of faith like Peter and Paul! But we don’t need to go under the waves when all we need to do is call out to Jesus! Verse 31: Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him…! What an blessed assurance in our darkness!
The great evangelical bishop J.C. Ryle wrote the perfect summary;
“Go on, and be not cast down because you are troubled by doubts and fears. You are yet in the body—this world is not your rest. The devil hates you because you have escaped from him, and he will do all he can to rob you of peace. The very fact that you have fears is an evidence that you feel you have something to lose. The true Christian may ever be discerned by his warfare—quite as much as by his peace; and by his fears—quite as much as by his hopes. The ships at anchor may swing to and fro with the tide, and pitch heavily in a south-eastern gale; but so long as their anchors hold the ground they ride safely, and have no cause to fear. The hope of the true Christian is the “anchor of his soul, sure and steadfast.” (Hebrews 6:19.) His heart may be tossed to and fro sometimes—but he is safe in Christ. The waves may swell, and lift him up and down—but he will not be wrecked.”
Remember, we are human, in the flesh. We will be tossed to and fro on this earth. There are many storms inside and out that will cause us grief, doubt, fear, and have uncertainties, but we don’t need to live in the dark, consumed by the waves all around us. We just need to call out to the one who is always there, always ready to reach out and take hold of your hand. No longer do we need to sink in the waves of doubt. Peter’s principles showed us how we simply call on Him, Jesus.