The Faith That Walks On Water

  “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said. Then Peter… walked on the water and came toward Jesus.’

Matthew 14:28,29 NIV


by Mike Manto

August 20, 2002


In this well known story, the disciples are alone in a boat out on a lake when they see Jesus walking towards them on the water. At first they are afraid, and think it must be a ghost. But when their Lord reassures them that it is He, Peter asked the Lord to come out to Him on the water. Christ said “Come.”, and Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water towards Jesus. Volumes have already been written and preached on this popular bible story, for it affords a very vivid picture of faith in action. There is a lot we can learn about the nature of faith from this passage. Peter illustrates in it a quality of faith and trust in God which all of us, as sincere believers, desire to emulate in our own Christian walk - a trust in God to step out more fully into His will and purpose for our life and to see us through the storms. Our Lord never leaves us guessing in the dark, but has in His Holy Word given us all the light we need for our walk of faith this side of eternity. I believe that a close look into this passage of scripture will open to us a better understanding of the nature of biblical faith, the kind of faith that walks on water – which is the kind of faith we all need in our everyday life if we are “to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” 


A close look at Peter’s ‘walk on water’ reveals several key elements: First, we will notice that Peter asked. He asked Christ to call him out. Then, he waited for the Lord’s answer before getting out of the boat. Next, he obeyed when Christ said “Come.”


1. Faith Asks in Prayer


Why did the Lord call Peter out of the boat, and not the other disciples? There were eleven other disciples in that boat. Why was Peter the only one invited by Christ to step out of the boat? Simply, because Peter asked. The holy text gives no other reason for the Lord’s call to ‘come’ other than Peter asked. In his asking, Peter demonstrated a quality of faith that the scriptures repeatedly exhort us to: “keep on asking” (Mat.7:7 AMP); “in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." (Phil.4:6)


Jesus repeatedly taught His disciples to be persistent in prayer. “Ask, and it will be given to you.” (Mat 7:7). In Matthew 15:21-28 we are taught that it is the persistent asking of the Canaanite woman that gained her the answer to her prayer. It is the persistence of the widow before the unjust judge in Luke 18:1-8 that got her request granted. The friend at midnight got his bread because of his persistence in asking. So we are taught to be persistent in prayer. The Lord called Peter because Peter asked. The other disciples didn’t ask, and hence were not invited by Christ to step out. Don’t be afraid to ask. Our Lord is not offended by our asking, and will respond to our prayers. He may not always respond with the answer we had hoped for, but He will respond. The faith that walks on water is the faith that prays, and keeps on praying.


2. Faith Seeks God’s Will


What did Peter ask for? He asked for Christ’s Word: “if it’s you…tell me...” He sought the Lord’s will first, before getting out of the boat. Biblical faith always seeks the Lord first, to do His will. The goal of faith is, and must always be, obedience to the will of our Lord. Faith is not a tool to achieve our own agenda. Peter wasn’t making demands or claiming his ‘right’ to walk on water. He didn’t ‘speak words of faith’. He was humbly seeking the will of his Master. The faith that walks on water looks to Christ for His will, not our own.


3. Faith Waits On the Lord


After Peter sought His will in asking the Lord for permission he didn’t immediately jump out of the boat. Peter didn’t presume upon the Lord’s answer, but waited for it. This brings us to the next point: The faith that walks on water is faith that waits on God until He answers. This passage of scripture is a popular one among preachers who love the vivid metaphor it provides for believing God for great things. We love to hear about the action, the excitement of taking leaps of faith and ‘walking on water’. It’s highly visible and empowering. It suits our busy, externalized culture and modern temperament. But the waiting aspect of faith taught in this passage of scripture is often overlooked. There is a lot of ‘faith’ teaching around these days telling people to step out on promises and take risks. To many such preachers, Peter’s waiting would have looked like unbelief, and no doubt if they had been on that boat they would have been encouraging him to ‘have more faith’ and jump. But Peter didn’t jump into the water until after he had waited on the Lord and heard from Him, and this is precisely where many Christians go wrong in their faith. They ‘jump out of the boat’ without sufficiently waiting on the Lord, and end up in troubled waters.


Satan literally tempted Christ to take a similar leap of faith. Luke 4:1-13 gives the account of Christ being tempted in the wilderness. In the last temptation, Satan took Jesus to the top of the temple and challenged Christ to jump off, based on a promise of protection in the scripture. Satan even quoted chapter and verse. Satan was challenging Christ to step out on the promise of God. It is a legitimate promise in Psalm 91:11,12 that God will protect us and keep us from harm. Now, there is nothing wrong with God’s promises and every Christian knows that we are to trust those promises. So what’s the problem here? Sounds pretty scriptural, doesn’t it? But instead of jumping, Christ responded by quoting another verse, from Deut.6:16 - “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” Testing God means deliberately putting ourselves in a situation where He has to come through or we end up in trouble. The temptation here was twofold: to cherry-pick certain promises from the word of God without heeding the entire written word, and to test God by deliberately putting Himself in a risky situation so that God is forced to prove Himself. This is a common pitfall Christians fall into. We cast ourselves down on a single promise. We take a rash stand on a certain promise, without taking the whole counsel of scripture into careful consideration and waiting upon the Lord. This may result in placing ourselves in a risky situation in which God has to respond in a certain way or we end up in trouble. If Peter had jumped before receiving Christ’s word to step out, instead of it being a legitimate step of faith, he would have been putting God to the test.


Faith waits on the Lord, and takes the whole of God’s word into consideration. It requires that we heed the entire counsel of God in His written word and not simply cherry-pick the parts we like. Notice that Christ looked to the rest of scripture for the right response to this temptation, and didn’t make His decision based on a single promise. Faith isn’t about naming and claiming the promises, or insisting that God honor some ‘step’ of faith we’ve decided to take. It is about looking to Christ and seeking His will, and humbly waiting on Him that He may guide us. The faith that walks on water is the faith that waits on the Lord.


4. Faith Trusts and Obeys


When Christ said ‘Come’, Peter put his trust in God and climbed out of the boat. He didn’t let fear or the natural circumstances stop him. He obeyed Christ’s call, and into the water he went. Faith is always expressed by obedience to Christ, and unbelief by disobedience. Peter put his confidence in Christ’s Word, and didn’t look at his own inability to walk on water. God’s grace is sufficient for us. He isn’t expecting us to do anything on our own: “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” He will amply supply us with all the grace and strength we need to do His will: “My grace is sufficient for you.” When Jesus said “come”, Peter put all his trust in God and went. His confidence was based solely on Christ’s word, not in his own strength.


Implicit in Christ’s command is His promise to enable us, for He knows we are but dust and unable to do anything apart from Him. We can do whatever God asks us to do!  His command is the highest possible evidence that we can do it. Just as Peter possessed no natural ability to walk on water, so we are often called by God into areas we have no natural ability for. Obedience to the calling of God will often take us into realms we have no natural strength for. The written word of God has in it many commands that we are often unable to fulfill on our own. But that same word of God also promises us every provision we need to keep His word and to be holy, pleasing Him in every way. He knows how weak we are, and the wise Christian knows this too and places no confidence in the flesh. Our confidence needs to be solely on His word, and if we earnestly seek Him with all of our hearts and call out to Him faithfully, He will hear us and give “grace to help us in our time of need.” But His grace is promised only to do His will. Many Christians burn out because they are trying to do things God never asked them to. God never promised to strengthen us for things He hasn’t asked us to do.


When Moses lead the children of Israel out of Egypt and into the desert towards the promised land, they had no visible means of support other then God. In the desert there was no water, no food, no prospects for gainful employment, yet every day God miraculously gave them water to drink and bread to eat. When Peter was still in the boat, there was no visible way for him to walk on the water. Christ didn’t show Peter a hardened path in the water first, or give him a detailed explanation of how it was going to work out. God makes the way as we go. Only after Peter stepped out and walked towards Jesus did he see how God would make the way as He firmed up the water under his feet. Faith obeys God by getting out of the boat when commanded to do so, and then trusts God to make the way as we go. Just as Peter walked on water, God will enable us to do whatever He asks us to do. The faith that walks on water trusts in the Lord and obeys Him, and puts no confidence in the flesh.


5. Faith is Zealous


When Christ gave the word to come, Peter didn’t procrastinate. He didn’t stop to reconsider or ask Christ to supply some more details. He didn’t need to be pushed overboard by the other disciples. He didn’t need any further reassurance. In he went. He was obedient. He sought the Lord’s will first, and waited on the Lord for His answer, but when it was all said and done, Peter had a great desire to go. He was eager, and didn’t need to be invited twice. His eagerness is also shown by the initiative he took in asking Jesus to walk out. He was, as the scripture exhorts “eager to do what is good.” The faith that walks on water is a zealous faith, eager to do what is good.


Now, we all know what happens next in the story. Peter started out well enough, but as he went on his way toward Jesus he saw the winds and the waves, and began to sink. As he was sinking, Peter cried out to the Lord, and Jesus extended His hand to Peter and pulled him up. I don’t think there is a single believer who hasn’t from time to time stepped out in faith, only to find themselves sinking, whether due to a deficiency of faith or an honest error. Even the most sincere believers can step out in faith upon a course they genuinely believed was God’s will, only to find they’ve made an error. It is not the error of direction we need to fear so much as the error of heart. If our hearts are right with God and we sincerely desire to do His will, we can always trust the extended hands of our loving Savior to hold us up.


6. Christ is the Goal


Most of us have no doubt seen on office walls those motivational posters so popular in business. Usually they show a rock climber, a white-water kayaker, or a runner, with some motivational slogan encouraging you to strive for excellence and higher attainments in life, or to reach for your dreams. Many preach Christ as some kind of personal enabler, come from heaven to help us achieve our full potential in life. The story of Peter walking on water is a popular passage with preachers who turn it into a motivational message encouraging people to reach for higher goals, to take risks ‘for God’, to dream bigger dreams. They often sound like a religious  version of the many motivational speakers popular in business who make a living hyping people to “be all that they can be” and to “reach for your dreams”. The Bible teaches us otherwise. “Unless the seed falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone.” The gospel is not a motivational message from heaven to bring us into greater personal fulfillment. Christ did not come to earth and die on the cross to become our personal enabler so that we can achieve a better life. The goal of the gospel IS Christ, and to bring us to Him. Peter’s request was to “come to you on the water.” When he got out of the boat, he “came toward Jesus.” Peter’s desire and request was to go to Christ, not to walk on water. Walking on water is not about miracles; it’s about drawing closer to Christ in our personal lives. It is about coming to Jesus daily in personal communion.


The gospel of Christ invites us to come and die to self, our will, our dreams, our ambitions, our agendas and become servants of the cross. Unless we hate our life, pick up our cross and die to self we cannot be His disciples. It is no longer our path in life we follow, but His. The goal of Christian faith is always Christ, to know Him and obey Him. If that is not our overriding desire in all things, then our motivation is wrong, and if our motivation is wrong than nothing we do can be right with God. In our asking, our goal must always be to do His will and not our own. “Not my will, but yours be done.” The faith that walks on water has the person of Christ and His will as it’s supreme goal in all things.


7. Peter Didn’t Have the Power


There was no ‘impartation’ of power from God to Peter that took place. The next time Peter went fishing, he still had to use a boat. Peter didn’t retain within himself the power to walk on water. Nor did he go on tour with a miracle show. God only enabled him to do it for that time, in order to follow Christ’s command. The miracle was a by-product, not the goal, of Peter’s obedience to Christ’s call.


There are many Christians crowding the altar these days seeking more power from God. Most will never receive because they have in mind some kind of divine impartation which will place the power in their hands. I have actually heard it said from Christian pulpits lately that God will give us ‘all resurrection power in our hands’ and other blasphemous statements to that effect. This is the occult concept of spiritual power, not the Biblical. Occultists seek for a power that they can wield under their control, but the faithful Christian does not do this.


We have at this moment, as believers in Christ, all the power of Heaven at our disposal to do what Christ wants us to do this day. Nothing more and nothing less. If it happens to be God’s requirement for you to walk on water this afternoon, by the grace of God you’ll do just that. But we do not have that power in ourselves to wield at will; God retains all power. It may be no more than to get out of bed every morning with the peace and love of Christ in our heart to be His ambassador in the workplace. And as God sees we are ready, He will open the doors for more. The Lord is Sovereign, and He decides when and how to answer our prayers. Our job is to humble ourselves under His mighty hand and seek to do just His will, nothing more or less. And if we are doing His will as yielded vessels, seeking His glory and not our own agenda, He will enable us to do whatsoever He asks us to do.       


Some of You May Already Be Walking On Water!


Recently I’ve been in two different charismatic services in which the speaker was preaching a sermon about getting God’s power to perform miracles. On both occasions, the preacher sarcastically asked if anyone in the audience has walked on water. This sort of preaching has the unfortunate effect of causing Christians to feel their faith is somehow substandard because they do not have the miraculous ability to walk across their swimming pool. Many carnally minded preachers these days want a miracle working power from God that can be displayed visibly because it appeals to the crowds, but this is a very immature view of God’s power. And in their carnal mindedness they fail to recognize the dear saints around them who are walking each day in a much greater miracle power, albeit unseen by most.


It’s my view that taking a walk across a stormy lake would be a piece of cake compared to the difficult circumstances many dear saints rise above each day with the peace of God in their hearts. I know of a dear brother who, by faith quit his job and is now studying for the ministry full time. They have 3 young children and little money, but by faith his wife is taking up the slack with a grace and peace that defies the circumstances and surpasses understanding. That’s walking on water! I can think of many other precious saints who calmly face very trying circumstances with the peace of God in their hearts when many others would be panicking. That’s walking on water!   


Walking on water is walking by faith and looking to Christ for all we need. It is putting Christ first in our lives and seeking first to do His will. As we look to Christ and put our faith in Him, His peace will keep our hearts and minds and enable us to rise above the stormy circumstances. Those who are trusting in Christ will have a faith and peace that carries them through some very difficult storms. Others will see and want to know about this Peace. That’s walking on water!   



Why Many Christians Never ‘Walk On Water’


The boat represents our natural life: the visible means of support around us that we are so familiar with. The disciples were in the boat because Jesus had told them to get in. There was nothing wrong with them being in the boat. In our Christian life we often go along just fine in the ‘boat’ God has given us. It was God’s perfect will for us. He gave it to us and there is no sin in it. The boat is not leaking and there is no reason to the natural eye to get out. But if we are growing in Christ there comes a time when we will have to leave some comfortable place and step out in obedience to His command.


When we walk on water, we are walking away from what we find natural and comfortable and walking towards our highest goal in life, Christ. This isn’t about quitting your job and moving to Africa as a missionary. It isn’t only about making changes in your external circumstances at all, although that may happen as a result. It is about drawing closer to Christ. This may require you to give up something that you’ve been turning to for comfort or pleasure in order to make more time for Christ in your daily routine.


So why do so many Christians remain stuck where they are and never come into the purpose God has intended for them? I believe this story of Peter suggests a few reasons why this happens.


1.    First, as we’ve noticed, Peter asked. Prayerlessness is probably the number one reason why Christians remain spiritually stunted. Nothing of eternal value happens in our life apart from communion with Christ in private prayer. Without that, there will be no power, no life from God to reach loftier heights. We will only grow spiritually as we seek Him in prayer and feast on His word. Until we are doing this, we cannot expect God to call us to higher things.


2.    Next, we see the eagerness in Peter in that he boldly asked to do such an outrageous thing. Of all the maladies afflicting the Body of Christ today, one of the greatest must certainly be apathy. Once we strip away all our excuses, plain lack of desire for Christ is what is really behind our prayerlessness. We will always make time for what we really want to do after the inescapable duties of daily life. The redeemed of Christ are “eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:14). Christ counseled the lukewarm church to “be earnest” (Rev. 3:19). Among the other 11 disciples that remained in the boat, some I am sure harbored a desire to walk out to Christ as well, but not as much as Peter. Many Christians never “walk on the water” simply because they don’t want it enough to leave the boat. The question is not whether you love Christ, but how much do you love Him? Do you love Him more than all these other things, or are you allowing the cold water of worldliness to douse your desire for Christ?


3.    We will also note that Peter was willing to leave the boat. He wanted to walk out to Christ, and he was willing to leave the relative comfort of the boat to do so. Unwillingness to give up the things we currently enjoy keeps many of us back. It is much easier to stay comfortable where we are. Walking on water requires that we make some hard choices in life and give up some of the things we enjoy and comfort ourselves with so that we can spend time with Jesus. The boat that Peter walked away from was not sinful. It was perfectly legitimate and given by God. Christ had told them to get into the boat. But Peter walked away from it in order to have more of Christ. The worldly Christian remains a spiritual infant because they will not give up their grasp on something that may be legitimate, but takes them away from Jesus, all the while arguing for it’s innocence or harmlessness. They are simply unwilling to give up some carnal pleasure, such as TV, or a favorite hobby, in order to make more time to seek Christ in prayer and the Word.


4.    Many never ‘walk on water’ because they are letting fear and unbelief stop them from obeying Christ’s call. They are looking to the flesh – taking stock of their strengths, weaknesses, abilities and limitations – and not looking to Christ. Or they are looking at the difficulty of their circumstances. Either way, they are not looking to Christ. In short, they are saying ‘I can’t’ , instead of realizing that whether they can or can’t has nothing to do with it. Christ will give us the strength and ability we need to obey Him. The only way we will ever be able to take great steps of faith is to look to Christ and not self.


 5.    There are conditions to receiving God’s power, often overlooked by the               church today. Many never ‘walk on water’ because they haven’t met the            necessary prerequisites. Peter was a disciple. He had left all to follow Jesus. His boat, his employment, his family, everything he knew, to follow Christ. Jesus came first before everything else. Peter wasn’t perfect, but sin had been dealt with and wasn’t an issue in his life. He had surrendered his life to Christ completely and his  heart was undivided.


Many Christians are waiting for God to move in their life, to make some dramatic change, to open doors to greater power and ministry while they lounge in front of the TV for countless hours each week. It is an appalling thing to watch Christians who have been filling their minds with worldly filth during the week crowding the altars on Sunday asking God for more power. Like Simon the sorcerer in Acts chapter 8, they are asking in vain because they haven’t met the prerequisites. They haven’t dealt with some sin in their life; they may be harboring a secret lust in their heart; they haven’t yet died to self and given up their will for His; or they may be excessively indulging a passion for some worldly pleasure. They haven’t left all to follow Christ. God is waiting for them to grow up first, before He takes them out onto the water. Walking on water is for disciples only.




Everything we read in the bible has application to our daily life. All scripture is given for our instruction, admonition and growth in righteousness. No less this story of Peter. We Christians often get ourselves in trouble in one of two ways: We are presumptuous in our faith and try to get out of the boat before God has called us, or we are not trusting Him enough to ask and leave the boat when He calls.


Stay in the boat until God tells you to get out. Faith asks permission, so seek God’s will, not your own, and then wait on Him for the answer. Then put your trust in God and get out of the boat when He tells you to, but only as He leads. Biblical faith is obedient to God. Faith trusts God for His provision and grace to see us through; to firm up the water under our feet as we go. Faith doesn’t insist on a roadmap first, to have it all spelled out before hand. Faith doesn’t need to know how God is going to do it, only that He has said He would. The sure word of God is enough.


Walking on water begins with discipleship and communion with Christ. Peter asked, but he didn’t ask for just anything. He didn’t ask for the miracle power to walk on water. He asked to come out to Him. Christ was his goal, not to walk on water. The faith that walks on water isn’t seeking for miracles, but desires Christ above all, to be with Him and to do His will. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” Put Christ first in your life and make it your goal to please Him in all things. Make time for Him each day. Start by giving up those unnecessary time wasters most of us use to pass the time and amuse ourselves. For most of us, turning the TV off would free up plenty of time to get alone with our Bible and our Lord in order to draw closer to Him. Start with these few simple steps, and before long you’ll find yourself walking on water.