Growing up I had always feared the weight room. I played organized sports my entire life but somehow, by playing football, basketball, and running track, I was able to avoid ever having an off season for weight training! It was not the weights that scared me, it was the other people I would find there. Now, my High School weight room was not the dwelling place of Arnold Schwarzenegger, but his picture was on the wall (an encouragement to participate in the Presidential National Fitness Challenge), and the weight room placed me in close context with other people who, no doubt, could lift considerably more than me. I lived in fear that I would have to share a workout with DeAngelo who would be bench pressing 250 pounds while I was struggling to raise the bar.
As an adult, I have a new found interest in weight lifting. I have found that the gym is a place where many people, just like me, are just trying to stay fit and “tone their core.” We all have roughly the same goal in mind. Sure, I may start with less weight on the bar than most, but raising that bar is still a good workout for me. Over time and with proper exercise, raising that bar will make me stronger so that I can lift more tomorrow than I can lift today. This is the progressive and proportional nature of weight lifting.
I was thinking of this story as I was reading Matthew 14:22-33. In this story, the disciples are on a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee amidst a fierce storm when Jesus comes walking to them on top of the water. What an amazing site this must have been! There were 12 disciples in that boat that saw Jesus walking on the water. Upon seeing the figure walking on the water, 11 of them decide that it must be a ghost. 11 of them keep their mouths shut. 11 of them tremble in fear. One of them speaks. In Matthew 14:28, Peter says, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” Jesus says, “Come!” and while 11 other men watch with wide eyes, Peter hops the side of the boat and walks ON TOP OF THE WATER in the direction of Christ. Now, after Peter gets a good distance from the boat, he begins to remember that he is walking on top of the water. This sudden realization leads to Peter taking his eyes off Christ and sinking into the sea.
When Peter sinks, Jesus speaks and says in 14:31, “You of little faith. Why did you doubt?” Now the question comes. Why would Jesus say this to Peter? Why not say this to the other eleven men cowering in the boat with their jaws on the deck. Why call Peter out? I think the answer to this question (while I cannot know for sure) is found in the weight room at the local fitness club.
You see, Jesus goal for every person is that they would grow in their faith in Him. Jesus wants us to trust Him. Though His goal for each of us is the same, by faith, each of us (at different times in our lives) can “lift” different amounts. Some can only “lift” the bar and others can bench press a mobile home. Spiritually speaking this translates to the fact that our faith grows over time as we exercise it. It is a significant faith step for a new Christian to trust God with their forgiveness, but it is an even greater faith step for the mature Christian to trust God with the death of a child or their cancer. Our faith grows over time, and as God grows our faith, each day/season/year is filled with different “weights” that God has placed on the bar. Based on who Peter was and all that Jesus had taken Him through (including the initial steps he took on the water) Jesus wanted Peter to persist in that faith and lift even more. For the rest of the disciples in the boat, their faith steps may have had less “weight.” Their faith step may have involved just ceasing to be afraid, or believing that Jesus could really perform such a miracle. This is the progressive nature of growth in the Christian life.
What about you? As you live out your life today, what are the weights that God is asking you to lift by faith? It is probably different for every person, but it has the same goal in mind . . . to grow in our depth and relationship with Jesus Christ. Don’t spend a lot of time comparing yourself to others, growing fearful of participating in the spiritual life because you don’t think you can lift as much as the next guy. Know that Christ has put the weight on your bar that is appropriate for you to grow in faith. Believe that and then trust Him. If you do, you will find that your faith is stronger tomorrow than it is today.