Called to step out
By Rev. Dr. Joshua Bogunjoko
In Matthew 14 Jesus appears to His disciples, walking on the sea as a storm rages. As the terrified disciples cry out in fear, Jesus reassures them, “Take courage. It is I; do not fear.” Peter responds, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus replies with a single word: “Come.” He invites Peter to cross an impossible barrier, to walk on water.
As far as we know, and looking at this account, Peter was the only one ever to experience the miracle of walking on water, apart from Jesus himself. All the other disciples stayed within the safe edges of the storm-tossed boat. While they witnessed the miracle of Christ walking on water, they never ventured out of the boat to experience it for themselves; only Peter did, sharing that unique experience with our Saviour.
We have been told that Africa is a poor continent, and indeed sometimes we’ve found it convenient to adopt a poverty mentality that says that we have so little to give and so little to contribute to the rest of the world. We may still consider ourselves receivers rather than givers when it comes to global mission, even though our Lord made it clear, as stated by the apostle Paul, that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). It seems that it has not yet sunk in that Africa is currently host to the largest Evangelical population in the whole world. We forget the historical fact that many of the so-called rich countries that have been giving and sending missionaries for many years were once poor in comparison to today’s Africa.
SIM took risks
It was said that in the 1930s, at the height of the Great Depression, SIM’s Director Rowland Bingham asked the SIM missionaries in Africa whether, in view of the prevailing economic situation, SIM should stop sending new missionaries. The response was that SIM should send more and more missionaries despite the current circumstances: it was like walking on water in a storm.
The natural circumstances were contrary to further mission expansion. Human instinct was to play it safe and remain in the harbour, to keep what we had, and to avoid risks. But SIM took risks because we knew the one who was calling us, inviting us to come. The Mission stepped out on the water of uncertainties, and the outcome was that we never ceased to find the resources to send new missionaries throughout the Depression.
Safety is not in the boat
“Come” is an invitation to commit, an invitation to trust, and an invitation to act. In addition, it is an invitation to experience the Saviour in a new dimension of who He is. As long as Peter fixed his eyes on Jesus, all was well. But the moment he shifted his eyes to the churning seas, he began to sink. The conditions never changed, but Peter’s focus did.
Economic circumstances are not a hindrance to the gospel, but God’s people can be. Staying in the safety of a boat when Christ is inviting us to come to where He is already walking on water prevents us from fully experiencing who He is. Keeping our eyes on the storm, instead of the Lord of Lords, will give us a sinking feeling. We are called to step out even when we have uncertainties or doubts, we are invited to come even when we have fears. Safety is not in the boat; safety is with Jesus.
If we ever find ourselves sinking because of doubt, having stepped out in obedience, the Lord will be there to take our hands with that gentle rebuke “why did you doubt?” Until we step out, we cannot experience Jesus on the open water of a storm-tossed sea.
It is time we stop focusing on the waves of our economic and personal needs and the storm of our political and family circumstances. It’s time for us to stand up – even in an unstable boat – and cry out, “Lord … bid me come to you.” It is time to rise up and cross barriers to those who will otherwise live and die without the good news of our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ.
Rev. Dr. Joshua Bogunjoko, SIM International Director