Fear and Failure

Fear does not mean absence of faith. Failure does not mean absence of God’s approval.

There’s a story I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Peter (a follower of Jesus) and his friends are in a boat. It’s the middle of the night and Jesus suddenly appears walking on the water toward them. Everybody freaks out because they think it’s a ghost until Peter summons enough courage to call out, “If it’s you Jesus, tell me to come to you.”


Jesus says, “Come.” Peter goes. He freaks out, starts to sink and then Jesus saves Peter. (Classic Jesus.) It ends with all of Peter’s friends worshiping Jesus as God.

I feel like this story has always been used to make Peter look like an idiot and to warn us to also not be idiots. If God asks you to do something, do it. Don’t be afraid and have some faith you cotton headed ninny muggins. (Thanks, Elf.) Jesus himself says to Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

But as I have sat with this story and talked about it with different friends something new has started emerging for me:

Peter’s the only one that actually had any faith. Sure, the friends all worshiped God in the end after Peter almost drowned and they had hard core proof it was Jesus and not a ghost. Yet, not even one of them got out of the boat. None of them answered Jesus when he said come. Nobody even helped rescue Peter. They were total bystanders.

Fear does not mean the absence of faith.

Peter becomes the guy who is one of Jesus’ closest friends. Peter becomes the guy that Jesus says he will build his entire church on. Peter becomes the guy that is the leader of all the others.

What if we read Jesus’ words with the wrong tone in this story? What if Jesus simply meant, “You of little faith when nobody else in the boat has any. You dear one with a little bit of faith, you are getting it. You are starting the journey. You are stepping out. You are willing to walk toward me. You are willing to listen when I say, “Come.” Dear one, of little faith. You have it. Why did you doubt?”

Failure does not mean the absence of God’s approval.

I love compassionate Jesus. It’s the Jesus that I know. He’s not in the blame and shame game. But he is in the game of calling people out of the security of boats and into new territory that can seem absolutely crazy. And despite fear, despite sinking… somehow he is still God and we are still loved.

It’s a good story.


  1. “Fear does not mean the absence of faith.” Great thought! Faith comes as we hear the voice of God saying, “Wait! Go! Pray! Speak! Be still! Preach!” It’s God’s life being lived in us and through us by His Spirit. Overcoming fear is a joy; when we see God at work and know if it wasn’t for Him it wouldn’t even happen, like walking on water. Like preaching. Like church planting.


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