Where to turn your eyes
An experienced fisherman like Simon Peter knew that we can swim in water but not walk on water. So how come this seasoned fisherman was walking on the Sea of Galilee? Was he dreaming or was that a reality?
Earlier, Jesus himself walked on the water towards the trembling disciples who thought he was a ghost. To reassure his disciples, Jesus told them, “Take heart; it is I.”
We need assurance
We need this assurance if we think the “ghosts” of this earth are scaring us and causing us to fear. If we know the Lord is with us, we must take heart.
Simon Peter, hearing this, said, “Lord, if it is (really) you, bid me come to you.” Was that a doubtful test or was it an opportunity to exercise faith?
Well, Jesus said simply, “Come,” and Simon Peter jumped onto the sea and began walking towards the Lord. The other disciples dropped their jaws and watched in amazement.
“How on earth!” John exclaimed.
“This is impossible!” James screamed.
Ignoring their remarks, Simon Peter walked on, with his eyes glued to the Lord who asked him to come and who walked towards him.
Then it happened. For just a brief moment, Peter turned away from Jesus and observed the rousing waves. He looked back at the boat carrying his friends and saw the billows roll – and he panicked.
Looking farther away from Jesus, Peter’s eyes darted left and right. Just below his feet, he saw what looked like a shark swimming past, and he panicked some more.
Then he began to sink.
“Lord, save me!” Peter cried – the way we must cry unto the Lord when we slip and begin to sink.
The Lord Jesus reached out, scooped the bearded disciple like a child, and entered the boat with him.
Peter scratched an imaginary itch on his brow, looked fearfully at Jesus and awkwardly at his friends, and sighed heavily. That was too close for comfort.
That day, Peter learnt a great lesson, which was that, on this journey to eternity, in order to avoid sinking, we must fix our eyes on Jesus, “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).
Where to focus
Peter was doing fine until his focus shifted from Jesus to the waves. Some of us, drunk with temporary success or challenged by temporary failure, shift our focus from God to the circumstances facing us, forgetting that that is a recipe for sinking.
Years later, Peter would write in his first epistle, “Cast all your anxiety on (Jesus) for he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
About focusing on the Lord instead of on anything else, an anonymous psalmist (perhaps King Hezekiah) learnt that lesson generations earlier. In his walk with God, the psalm writer had learnt to look to the Lord, not to any of his creations.
Therefore, he wrote in Psalm 121:1&2 – “I lift my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
Focusing on things on earth – wealth, fellow humans, talents, businesses, gold – while turning away from God, is a formula for eventual failure. We are helped, not by what is created but by the Creator.
When David faced ravenous beasts, Goliath and King Saul, who hunted him – and when he walked through the valley of the shadow of death – he was not afraid because his eyes were upon the Lord his Shepherd who was with him.
“Our eyes are on you!”
There was a king of Judah named Jehoshaphat who faced a terrible war and had to choose where to turn his eyes. Should he turn to superpowers Egypt and Syria for their military strength?
But Jehoshaphat knew where to turn. Turning to God, he prayed, “Lord, we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 20:12).
Keeping our eyes on God is the same as waiting on him, and those who wait on him shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
The biggest lesson Jehoshaphat and his troops learnt was not only that God won the battle for them but also that in times of distress, they must turn their eyes on the Almighty.
Those who do that are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. Therefore, we sing with songwriters Steven Taylor and Helen Lemmel –
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth
Will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.