Would you rather swim in clean water or dirty water?
Silly question? Why? I see people swim in dirty water every day. I have done it myself. And then we wonder why we feel awful and can’t see very far. Well, maybe we should stop throwing so much garbage in the water.
Think about it. God gave you, gave me, gave everyone a clear purpose: love God, love people. And then we spend most of the day loving ourself.
As I think about it now, I can not wrap my head around how absolutely selfish I am. My day, by and large, revolves around me and my needs. It revolves around my comforts. My desires. My ambitions. Yuck. That’s some dirty water.
Certainly that can not be God’s intention. I wonder if Peter would have stepped out of the boat to meet Jesus on the water if it had been a calm, sunny, summer day. Seriously. I say that because I know me. Peter had already seen some pretty incredible things by Jesus, but maybe the fact that it was night and the wind was against the boat made it more likely that Peter wanted to get out. He could not find comfort where he was, so his option was to find it with Jesus.
Yesterday was a beautiful day where I live. The sun was shining all day. It was the first true warm, even summer-like, day of the year. All of the plants, flowers, bushes, and trees are blooming and growing. Simply gorgeous. Now, if someone had invited me out on a boat yesterday (no one did, hint, hint), and I saw someone walking on the water, I know what I would have done – stayed in the boat.
“If it’s you, Lord, why don’t you come here?”
Don’t we do that? We sit around, or swim around, in our dirty kiddie pool and wonder why Jesus wants to give us the ocean. It’s not that God can’t or won’t use you in your brokenness, but why do we have to make it so difficult for him?
This point was made and well-said at a recent retreat: “When we want to emphasize something, WE PUT IT IN ALL CAPS. When God wants to emphasize something, he repeats it.”
Well the words “stumbling block” appears 11 times in the New International Version of the Bible. Consider the first one:
Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord.
Remember the parable of the lost sheep? Remember that the shepherd left the 99 who were found so that he could find the one who was lost. In other words, you sheep, stop making your request for a refill at the trough to be the most important thing. There is a sheep who is lost. And your approach to purity can impact those who are lost. The blind do not see. The spiritually blind need to see the truth. The truth is that God is pure. God is holy. And he sets his children apart to be the same. Stop swimming in the dirty kiddie pool when God gives you the ocean.
There is a bigger purpose. A purpose much bigger than you or me. A purpose that is infinite in nature. And we will only see a glimpse of that while we hold these bodies of flesh. But we will see more if we stop polluting our water.
To say that you know everything about your spouse or loved one is foolish. To say that you have “experienced” God is foolish. These are ongoing journeys. God desires to have you know that he knows everything about you. And he loves you. That is why he gives you the ocean.
Gideon saw a bigger purpose. Judges 6 tells us that Gideon was threshing wheat in secret. He was protecting what God had given him. But Gideon was called to a bigger purpose – God’s purpose. Gideon, with something more like a student body than an army, defeated an oppressive nation. But Gideon had to remain pure to do so. He could not pollute the purpose with his own desires.
It can be overwhelming, really. To consider that the God who created the universe, watches over all of it night and day, wants to use you. Or me. But he does. We are the instruments of grace he has chosen to use. And when he calls us to step out of the boat, or the kiddie pool, we need to keep our eyes fixed upon him. How we walk is important. Others may see us and wonder why we would make the choice that we have. Our only purpose is to point them back to the One we follow. When God called Ezekiel and gave him a vision, God said, “And whether they listen or fail to listen – for they are a rebellious house – they will know that a prophet was among them.” (Ezekiel 2:5)
Whether they listen or not. You are not responsible for another person’s salvation. You never could be. But you are responsible for your walk. And your walk should be pure. A pure walk allows for a bigger purpose.
Peter made some of the best mistakes in the Bible. He is one of my favorites to study. And even Peter, the walker on water, was a stumbling block. He saw incredible miracles. He walked on water. But he was pretty sure that Jesus was not supposed suffer and die. Peter began to rebuke the Lord. Don’t we do that?
“No, Lord, that’s not how it’s supposed to go.” “No, Lord, I am not called to love just one person.” “No, Lord, that’s not the task for me.” “No, Lord, you don’t understand. This is my favorite show.” “No, Lord, I only get drunk on Fridays.” “No, Lord, she’s just a friend.” “No, Lord, it’s how I cope.” “No, Lord…”
Do you know how Jesus addressed that with Peter? Let me refresh your memory:
“Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23)
He did. We do. I do. We have to change our perspective. We have to see farther. We have to see bigger. And you will see farther when you get out of the dirty water in the kiddie pool. (Do you know what kids do in there? Gross!) Swim in the ocean for a while and then, listen carefully, start walking. The same faith steps that Peter was called to make is extended to you. Rise above your circumstances. Fix your eyes on Jesus. You can see even more when you are above the water of life.
Jesus reinstated Peter in one of the most beautiful acts of reconciliation ever recorded. Peter, stumbling block Peter, denier-of-Jesus-Peter, was told in love: “Feed my lambs,” “Take care of my sheep,” “Follow me!” (John 21:15, 17, 19) The same is true for you and me. We have to admit that we have been stumbling blocks. But today is a new day. You are walking on water today. Fixed on Jesus, we must walk purely in order to take care of the sheep – the blind, the lost – and follow Jesus.
No more kiddie pool.
Would you rather swim in clean water or dirty water?