Back in July of 2005 my wife and I had made arrangements to spend a week alone at our favorite campground in the Plumas National Forest in northeastern California. This special vacation was to be in celebration of our 30th wedding anniversary. It would mark the first time that we had spent a whole week alone on vacation since we had kids beginning in 1980! Sure we had been on week long conventions for the church over the years without the kids, but they were filled with classes and workshops throughout each day and night and left little alone time!
We had both been looking forward to this adventure for quite a while and when the day to leave finally came, we were quite excited. As we pulled onto the highway in Piper’s big green Suburban pulling our 17 foot Nomad trailer all was well and content… until we traveled about five miles and came into the city limits of the town immediately south of our home town. When suddenly, “Blink!” the Check Engine light came on!
To put it mildly, I was NOT a happy camper (or in this case… camper to be!) as I told Piper what was going on and saw her normal smile turn down into a frown! So what did we do? Yes, you got it… we prayed as we continued to drive along highway 101. After a few moments of prayer we both felt like we were to go on! So with a deep swallow and a confession of faith, we headed south to the town of Petaluma where we would turn east and be off to the mountains.
Well, to make a long story short… after we were about four hours into the six hour trip the Check Engine light finally went out! Once we arrived at the campground and got the trailer maneuvered into position (which was a challenge I always enjoyed… contrary to my Dad who hated that part of camping with a trailer…), I popped the hood and immediately started laughing as I spotted the cap to the oil reservoir sitting upside down on top of the engine, where I had put it some eight hours before when I checked the oil level before our trip! Needless to say, the rest of our trip was fantastic and we actually ended up making arrangements to stay a few extra days.
The memory of the beginning of our first weeklong… and so happened to be our last… vacation together without the kids, came to my mind over the weekend as I read from Matthew 14:31. This verse is part of the familiar story of Jesus walking on the water in the midst of a big storm, to His disciples who were trying to cross a lake in a small boat. You’ll recall that during the adventure, Peter asked Jesus to call him to come out onto the water with Him. So Jesus said “Come” and Peter stepped out onto the water and began to walk to the Master, and that is where our verse comes into play. Peter was doing well until he took his eyes off of Jesus and took notice of the adverse wind that was blowing and causing havoc all around them.
Once his eyes were diverted from Jesus, he began to sink and quickly called out to Jesus to save him and “Immediately, Jesus reached out, caught hold of him, and said, ‘You have so little faith! Why did you doubt?’ " (God’s Word ©) What grabbed my attention was the fact that Peter must have been pretty close to Jesus when he stopped concentrating on reaching his goal of walking to Jesus. Every translation I checked states the same thing. Jesus didn’t have to run or dive in and swim to get to Peter. He was close enough that all He needed to do was reach out His hand and grab hold of him.
So what’s my point? Peter was almost at the finish line! He gave up too soon! He was just about to finish a fantastic experience of faith when he started to put more faith in his immediate surroundings than on Jesus’ command to “Come!” I have the picture in my mind’s eye that the other disciples in the boat were just staring at Peter with their mouths wide open when he stepped out of that boat. They were most likely amazed at his faith… until he gave in and began to sink!
Peter’s example is a little opposite to Piper’s and my example as we began our anniversary trip. While we had opportunity to give up and turn around and go home at the beginning of our long planned vacation together, Peter was at the end of his adventure when he turned away from his “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)
Over the last ten years of our faith stand for my wife’s health, we’ve faced lots of opportunities to give up and throw in the towel. We have seemingly had every kind of distraction working to get us to take our eyes off of Jesus. From strange, incorrect or simply un-Biblical suggestions from folks we trusted to the pretty horrendous physical changes happening to Piper right before our eyes. But you know, Jesus answered our questions and told us, as well as Peter and the other disciples in that boat back then, exactly what to do when the storms of life come unexpectantly and shake your boat!
When the disciples were terrified at the sight of Jesus walking on the water toward them in the middle of a storm, Jesus told them to do three things. He immediately called out to them across the waves declaring, “…"Calm down! It's me. Don't be afraid!" (Matthew 14:27 God’s Word ©)
When the challenges of life suddenly pop up and it looks like all will be lost, Jesus tells you and me to:
1) Calm down!
2) Get your eyes back on Jesus and the Word
3) And after that: Don’t be afraid!
You don’t know how many times I have employed those three actions when an emergency unexpectantly popped up with my wife over these last ten years. And once I acted them out, I suddenly had the peace of heart and of mind to make the right decisions, to trust the Lord in the midst of what was happening at the moment and do exactly what I needed to do!
One of the biggest things we have seen over this time has been the effects of fear on a person’s mind and actions. Fear makes one do and say all kinds of crazy, unthoughtful and potentially dangerous things to those in need! Fear takes and keeps one’s mind, mouth and actions away from Jesus and His Word… which is the ONLY power that can and will help you!
So, we had a GREAT time celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary up in the breath-taking Sierra’s back in 2005… because we didn’t give in to the lie of engine problems, but instead went directly to prayer for the source of our help. And as with that example, we have also made it through some rough storms as we continue to face and deal with my wonderful wife’s health needs. But whether it is a car problem, health emergency, financial need or any other type of personal problem that one may face, the answer is always the same! Calm down! Look to Jesus and His Word and Don’t be afraid! From what Piper and I have learned… It works every time!
Have a great new week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “To Whom am I expecting to look to when the emergencies of life come to me?”