Learning to Walk

This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.

My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.

– 1 John 1:5 – 1 John 2:2 (NLT)

Step, step, step. Left foot forward, then right foot. Walking is such a simple process once mastered, but such a challenge to the little ones who are learning it! Here in 1 John is this image of a child learning to walk in the Spirit of Christ, teetering back and forth — “if we…go on living in spiritual darkness”, “if we are living in the light” — trying to find his balance in this new way of walking — “if we claim we have no sin”, “if we confess our sins” — occasionally stumbling and falling — “so that you will not sin”, “if anyone does sin” — but always getting back up and trying again in the strength of Christ — “the one who is truly righteous”.

About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water.When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

“Yes, come,” Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

– Matthew 14:25-33 (NLT)

Peter also had a new way of walking to learn. Like a child learning to walk for the first time, he stumbled and tottered. Like the good big brother He is, Jesus “immediately reached out and grabbed him” when he faltered.

Each of us at one point or another sees Jesus out walking on the waves. We may not recognize Him at first, because He is neither what nor where we expected him to be. But once we hear His voice and know it is truly Him out there doing these amazing things, we are presented with a choice. It is a choice we often miss because we do not think we actually have any choice at all. But we do, and we should be challenged by it every time we hear His voice calling out to us: Will we join Him on the waves or stay put in the relative safety of our boats?

Most of us stay in the boat most of the time. We know the boat and are comfortable in it. It gives us the illusion of having some control (never mind the waves and storms all around us that threaten to capsize us at any moment!). However, the boats we are in are relatively small and cramped. They do allow for some mobility in the storms of life, but we cannot really get where we want to go and it is next to impossible to walk around in them.

But there is another option available to us. We see what Jesus is doing and we can embrace His life extended to us and follow Him to the places where He is and in doing the things we see Him doing. Just as He walks by faith and in the Spirit, we can do the same. All we need to do is ask, “Lord, if that’s really you out there, tell me to come to you and do the things I see you doing.” If He bids us come to Him, we know He will provide us with the ability to do so!

Walking is so easy once mastered that we do it without even thinking about it. It is like breathing — second-nature, performed unconsciously. But to the toddler, walking appears to be a miracle. Nonetheless, every child desires to walk and so looks to her elder for guidance and encouragement and takes a step. As long as her eyes remain focused on her elder, her walking seems easy and light, almost effortless. But as soon as her eyes look downward and she concentrates on the act of the walking itself and all of the things that could go wrong and all of the obstacles that lie in her way, she stumbles and would fall if not for the helping hand extended to catch her.

As we learn to walk in the Spirit, we will falter. The secret to walking confidently is to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ. And when we stumble, we can count on His hand to be extended to us to save us from a fall. He will always save us from ourselves. Then, we block out the cares of the world (Matthew 6:25-34) and the things of the world (1 John 2:15-17), and refocus our whole selves on Him (Romans 12:2).

Sooner or later, in our own strength, we will wear out. We will be inundated and overwhelmed. We will give up. We will return to our boats. But we can be greatly encouraged by this truth — Jesus will come back to the boat with us! (Matthew 14:32) He will never leave us or forsake us. And with Him with us, the storms of life subside. We know His peace and have His life in us, smoothing all of life’s waves.

It won’t be long, though, before Jesus is back out of the boat doing amazing things in ways we could never predict. And we will have the choice before us again: Will we join Him where He is? May you be encouraged to do so — real life is in Him and real living is being where He is and doing the things He is doing. May we each long for the day when we are so full of His life that we leave the boats behind for good!

Jeff Herron

Homeschooling dad of two boys. Husband of one terrific woman. Disciple of and disciple maker for Jesus. My cup runneth over!

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