Stay in the boat. Stay in the ark. Only those on the ark were saved, after all. I heard this preached for years as a way to tell people to stay in the church. For almost as many years I have had one question come to mind… didn’t Noah get off the ark at some point?
Of course Noah got off the ark. The ark was a place of safety and deliverance for a time. But when dry ground reappeared after the flood, I’m fairly certain that there had never been people more grateful to leave a ship than Noah and his family were. So why are so many people taught today to never leave the boat?
Another man left a boat one day- in a storm and still on the water. Peter often proved that he didn’t tend to think ahead, maybe especially where Jesus was concerned. So, sailing on a dark night, in the midst of a stormy sea, Peter saw Jesus walking on the water and said, “Lord if its you, bid me come”.
Ridiculous! Peter had fished that sea all his life. He knew the water. And he knew that getting out of a boat in the middle of the sea, in the middle of the night, in the middle of a storm was, well… less than intelligent. But Jesus said come, and he went. Right over the side of the boat. And he walked. Sure, he saw the wind and waves and sunk. But Jesus was there. He took Peter by the hand and got him back in the boat. How did he get there? He most probably walked.
The thing is, Peter left the boat at Jesus’ bidding. And in the middle of the night, in the middle of a storm, in the middle of the sea, Peter didn’t drown, and he didn’t lose Jesus. And the story was written down, and has been preached on a lot. But to walk out to Jesus, Peter left the boat!
There are times in some of our lives when its good to leave the boat. Noah and his family, with all those animals, would have been in a very unhealthy situation had they refused to leave their boat. After God had delivered them by the ark, they could have refused to leave, and their deliverance would have become their prison, and eventually their tomb. All because they were afraid to leave the boat.
Peter would have been saner had he stayed on the boat. But Peter stepped out by faith, and he walked with Jesus on the water. Not for long, but Jesus bid him come, he went, and he walked. I’ve always felt that Jesus loved that impetuousness in Peter. Peter was rough, he didn’t often plan ahead, but he trusted Jesus. He had a fascinating amount of raw faith that later made him a great witness and leader in the church. Peter didn’t have to leave the boat, but he stepped out by faith, and he didn’t suffer for leaving it that night.
Some people love the water. They spend their lives by the water, earn their living in the water… others get seasick. A ship is not a safe haven for everyone. Is church? What if it’s unhealthy to stay on the ship? What if Jesus bids you step out of the boat?
So why do we hear that we have to stay in the “boat”, the church, all our lives? Name one person in history that spent their entire life on a boat! Its a good thought, and I know that the message involves faithfulness and dedication. But dedication and faithfulness to God, or the church? Can we be faithful to God without being dedicated to church? I think the answer is yes. Christians have done that through centuries of persecution. The Jews didn’t often go to Tabernacle in many times in history, due to distances, financial constraints… and even due to corrupt priests (Eli’s sons, for instance).
The first time my faith was severely shaken, I was permanently expelled from a church (by phone) because someone believed a lie. Someone who, it appeared, was possibly at fault themselves. I didn’t even know someone could be expelled from a church, and never dreamed that I would be. The following months were some of the lowest of my life, and sometime early into that time, as I prayed, I told God: God, I’m at the end of my rope. And I’m tying a knot in the end and hanging on with both hands, my feet, and my teeth. If I fall, catch me… and please stick my teeth back in my mouth, because they’ll still be stuck in that rope!
I’ve fallen off that rope several times through the years. God has always caught me, and I still have all my teeth! I’m not sure why I even insist on having a rope to be at the end of, or an ark for safety. God is my strength and my refuge. He’s an ever present help in times of trouble. Will I stay in the boat, or step out of the boat?
It’s time to step out.