Little Faith

The night had not gone well and sometime between 3am-6am, they found themselves out in the middle of the lake (Galilee) straining against a strong head wind. Dark. Windy. Water spraying up over the boat. And here came Jesus. Walking on water.

Walking on WaterYou may know the story. The disciples, exhausted from straining at the oars, are suddenly terrified by what they believe to be a ghost (Jesus). But not Peter. He apparently stands in the rocking boat and says, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” said Jesus. And Peter commences to set the unbeaten world record for walking on water.

I don’t know if Peter took 3 steps or 30. But at some point he notices the driving wind and finally “was afraid” (Matthew 14:30). He cries out “Lord, save me” and Jesus immediately stretches out His hand and takes hold of Peter.

Then comes the punchline I may have misread for years. Jesus says to Peter, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?

I’ve always imagined a bit of a sigh in Jesus’ voice. The sigh of disappointment. That sigh that reminds Peter he’s failed again. The sigh of weariness or perhaps a hint of disdain.

Plenty of times in my life I’ve seen the wind, dropped my gaze from Jesus, and sunk a little. A time or two I’ve sunk a lot! And when I’ve cried out Hosannah (“Save me”) Jesus has immediately responded. But in my spirit I’ve hardly made eye-contact with Him. Ashamed, I can hear the sigh again (and again): “O you of little faith.” It’s a gentle chiding, a little salt in the wound, the vocalization of my failure. Not nice…but understandable. I’ll try harder next time. I’ll try to have bigger faith in the next storm.

But I may have misheard the text.

“Little faith” in the gospels is not a criticism but a commendation. Jesus told His disciples that if they had faith as small as a mustard seed (that’s very small) they could move mountains (Matthew 17:20) or uproot mulberry trees with a word (Luke 17:6). Little faith is not a bad thing; no faith is.

Indeed, Peter’s little faith saw him walk on water. The story is not so much about Peter’s failure — which is how we tend to read it — but of Christ’s grace, power, and responsiveness to faith of any size. Perhaps the tone of Jesus’ voice was not frustrated disappointment but gentle admiration.

Feel like all you have today is little faith? Don’t beat yourself up. It’s enough for you to walk on water. Just keep your eyes on Jesus, and not the waves. Watch what He can do.

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12 Responses to Little Faith

  1. Heide Costa says:

    That is the most beautiful commentary I’ve read in years, thank you so much for this post Prof Timms…
    God Bless,

    • David Timms says:

      Heide, you can walk on water! Blessings to you, too. πŸ™‚

      • Heide Costa says:

        Hahaaa ~ David, I do β€œwalk” on water everyday (my disabilities have gotten where the Dr’s have talked about wheelchair for life & assisted living in my future – ah, I’m expecting another healing, amen πŸ™πŸΌπŸ™πŸΌπŸ™πŸΌπŸ™πŸΌ)
        Praise the Lord for His Word, which sustains me, feeds me, allows me to feel joy in the midst of a dark, strong storm, & Walk on Water when I am inclined to be bedridden (as recommended by my Dr’s & therapists… 😊)
        Can’t wait to fill you in on the β€œwalking/standing” miracle I expect to share (anyday now, come on & Thank You Lord!!!)
        Hahaaaa! Praise the Lord!
        Heide πŸŽšπŸŽšπŸ™‚πŸ™‚πŸ™‚πŸŽšπŸŽš

  2. Tim Lentz says:

    That was highly encouraging and a refreshing perspective! Thank you!

  3. Ed Skidmore says:

    I’m glad you wrote that Jesus’ words may have been more of a commendation than a condemnation. I read, concerning that passage, that Jesus words to Peter were more like “You are my little man of faith.” The way a father might commend his son the first time he tried something new. Water walking was definitely a new challenge for Peter. All things considered, he did rather well. At least he got out of the boat which Is more than can be said for the others. Thanks for the devotional encouragement.

  4. Great insight. I never thought of it that way before. An encouragement!

  5. Nonda Brown says:

    This is very timely for me. I slipped up already on my commitment for Lent! I’m an avid reader and more often than not I escape into my books too often. God has prompted me many times to let Him soothe my frazzled nerves instead of escaping into a novel, so I gave up reading a novel for one day a week. Doesn’t sound like much, but it’s huge for me. On Dunday, my chosen day I reached for my e-reader when I got home from church and started reading! However, Hod is faithful and said , Nonda ,” I am with you, you can rely on me.” I put my e-reader away. Praise God for His steadfastness .πŸ˜ƒ

    • David Timms says:

      Nonda, I love that you just got right back in the saddle. And what a unique and special fast for you! Thanks for sharing. By the way, don’t forget that Sundays (resurrection days) are NOT fast days during Lent. That’s the one day (unless the Lord says otherwise to you) that you can pick up your novel. πŸ™‚

      • Nonda Brown says:

        Wow! I didn’t think of that! I’ll change to Monday’s for fasting. I hope to add a second day to fast soon. Thanks for your encouragement.

  6. Tim Ross says:

    Excellent commentary… especially the emphasis. Not condemnation but admiration. I’ve always read it as chiding but in my head I had dissonance because why would Jesus chide Peter? It now makes sense. Thank you for opening our eyes. And good scriptural backup to justify your emphasis… indeed a mustard seed is little faith. God bless your study and reflections

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