Faith and Faithfulness
February 7, 2021
When Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!" (Matthew 14:29-30).
“Poor impetuous Peter,” some would say. “His belief in Jesus got him out of the boat, but his lack of faith nearly caused him to drown.” Not so.
The word ‘believe’ is pisteuo and means ‘to have faith, to trust, to commit one’s self to’. The word ‘faith’ is pistis and means ‘assurance, belief, faith’. Though spelled differently, in the Bible these two words are used synonymously.
John wrote (John 20:31), And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. The Gospel of John includes the concept of faith throughout, but he didn't use the word. That’s because there is no distinction between faith and belief in Scripture.
In American English the word faith has a deeper meaning than belief. Belief refers to accepting a set of facts. Faith refers to trusting in those facts. Many people believe Jesus existed, but not so many (comparatively) trust in Jesus. Almost everyone believes Abraham Lincoln was our 16th President. No one would trust in Abraham Lincoln today to do anything because he’s dead. In John 20:31 we would say to believe that Jesus is the Christ is to intellectually assent to the facts about Jesus, while that believing you may have life in His name is to exercise faith in Jesus to save you. But Scripturally they mean the same thing.
So, how should we understand what happened to Peter? Well, did Peter believe in Jesus? Yes. He believed he saw Jesus, and not a ghost walking on the water. Did Peter have faith in Jesus? Yes, otherwise he wouldn’t have asked Jesus to let him come to Him on the water. Did Peter trust in Jesus? Yes, otherwise he wouldn’t have gotten out of the boat and onto the water. So, what happened?
Peter’s faith in Jesus, like the faith of many Christians, was imperfect and incomplete. His faith was genuine, but it hadn’t matured. He put his faith in Jesus when he got out of the boat and onto the Sea. But when he took his eyes off of Jesus and saw the wind and waves, he began to doubt. Did Jesus know this about Peter? Yes. Then why did He let Peter to come to Him? Our Lord will take us as far as our faith will go. Then, when we begin to doubt and fear and call out to Jesus, He will demonstrate His faithfulness and reach out to us. These moments cause us to realize the true weakness of our faith and the true faithfulness of our Lord.
“Thank You, Lord Jesus, for Your unwavering faithfulness to me despite my weak and limited faith in You. As the father of the poor demon possessed boy asked, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.’ Help my unbelief Lord. To Your honor and glory I ask, Amen.”