So many things have changed over the past two years, and leading God’s people through the gale force winds has not been an easy task. We are the generation of leaders God has entrusted to carry the gospel through this world-wide shift, so we want to lead well and stay calm and confident for those who follow our example.
How do we lead when everything around us seems fluid? The narratives and ideas being pushed into our lives from the cultural centers of power are often in direct opposition to what we know to be true in the Scriptures. The world is remolding itself, refitting itself, in ways that can seem threatening to God’s kingdom. It is certainly a difficult time in which to lead.
But, when difficulties come, God’s leaders look for opportunities. Peter did just that when he took a walk through the stormy waves that night on Galilee. The other disciples wanted to get to the safety of the shore as soon as possible; Peter saw an opportunity to be like Christ.
If he could advise us on how to lead in fluid situations, here is what Peter might say:
First, STEADY YOUR FEET. Having never walked on water before, being certain he could stand on it was his first objective when he climbed over the side of the boat. Really, we can accurately say, “He stood on the word of God,” since Christ told him to come to Him.
We must find our footing in the Scriptures if we are going to lead churches well through these societal headwinds. Otherwise, we will be easily blown about by the most convenient and logical “wind of teaching” being promoted by whatever group has the megaphone at the moment.
The news cycle intentionally keeps us unsteady on our feet, but the word of God is the solid rock beneath us. Around us we can see and hear the swirling, canceling, moralizing voices condemning all who disagree with them; the temptation is to stay within the safety of the boat and not take any risks that might “offend” sensitive souls.
Stay true and preach the Word to this generation; this is your assignment – don’t blow it! This current crop of complaining critics reminds me of children who have learned that screaming and crying in a store will get them what they want. Be like a good parent and stand firm for what is right; don’t back down from biblical beliefs because loud voices are demanding it.
Second, STEP FORWARD. Being obedient to Christ’s command meant trusting Him each step of the way. Peter took the first step and did what no one had ever done before or since – he walked on water!
He could have justified staying close to the boat. The waves were six feet high, the wind was blowing at around fifty miles an hour. He had stood on water, and that was spectacular enough, even if he chose to go no further.
Instead of just standing there, he took the first step, then the next and then the next because Christ had called him to “Come.”
We can all find reasons not to step out right now – the lower attendances, offerings, the unpopularity of churches, COVID, the antagonism many have toward the truth. But all we need to do is to take the next step; don’t worry about all the steps ahead of you. Just take the next step.
Third, STAY FOCUSED. Scripture reads, “when he saw the wind boisterous, he began to sink.” He looked away from Christ and saw the wind blowing the white caps off the waves. He felt the bullying breeze pushing at his robe. His focus became the storm around him.
He was single-minded when he stepped onto the water, but he became double-minded when his logic kicked in; his faith wavered and he felt the water rising to his knees, then to his waist and chest. It occurred to him his life would be in jeopardy if his head sunk below the waves in such a storm.
John tells us, “the sea arose because a great wind was blowing.” (John 6:18) That is what Peter witnessed. High waves, hard winds, dangerous currents. His focus moved away from the Lord – and that is when the sea began swallowing him.
Let’s keep our eyes fixed on Christ in 2022; He certainly is not worried or fearful about what is ahead. He is not staggering on the waves and being blown about by the wind; He is the master and commander of the sea! What seems wrenching and twisting and fluid to us is not disturbing the Ruler of the universe in the least.
If you find yourself sinking into depression and despair because of the gloomy gale around us, cry out to Him – and He will help you.
Fourth, when surrounded by the terrible tempest of the times, STRENGTHEN YOUR FAITH. Deepen your understanding of God; sharpen your prayer skills by spending more time with Him.
The disciples’ faith was secured after this storm.
“Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Truly You are the Son of God!’”
It intrigues me that they did not come to this conclusion after the feeding of the five thousand the day before! Maybe the reason was their lives were not threatened while they were on the safety of the shore. It was the catastrophic fear they felt when they first saw the robed figure approaching them on the water, thinking it was a ghost, along with the physical exhaustion of having rowed all night, that left them open to the idea that He was actually the Son of God.
If you are weary, feeling the fear that your dreams and hopes and aspirations may wash away with the tide, you are in the perfect place to go to Him and learn what He wants to teach you through these fluid times.
My prayer for you, pastor, leader, is that God will call you to know Him in a deeper understanding of how Who He is affects what He does.
Last, we need to look forward and SEE THE FUTURE. When the disciples and Jesus reached the other side of the lake, people began seeking Him out, desiring His aid, listening to His messages.
An entire community was transformed because these men, and Peter especially, had successfully weathered the historic storm. They had slept safely in their homes that night, but they knew how hard the wind had swept through their villages and towns. These men had crossed the lake and experienced the storm to bring them the Savior.
If you can but see the future, you will see the people who will be ready to receive the gospel of Christ as a result of this worldwide pandemic. Many will harden their hearts against God, but many will be more receptive to the truth than they were prior to the pandemic. That is where Christ is taking us!
Don’t fear the fluidity of the storm of ideas and contradictions and divisions around you; focus on Christ and do exactly what He tells you to do. If you will do these things, 2022 will be, I believe, your best year yet!
Dr. Lynn Hardaway