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   “ . . . so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”                 (1 Corinthians 2:5)

Holding a 43-pound balancing pole, he prayed out loud as he walked untethered across a 1,400-foot-long, 8.5-ton two-inch thick steel cable suspended 1,500 feet above the Little Colorado River. It was June 23, 2013 and 34-year-old aerialist Nik Wallenda became the first person to walk a high wire across this river gorge near Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. Just one year before, he became the first to walk a tightrope over Niagara Falls. Then broadcast officials required that he wear a safety tether in case he fell. This time, however, he wasn’t wearing a harness as he traversed a quarter-mile across the ravine.  Nik Wallenda, a member of the famous Flying Wallendas family of circus performers, learned to walk on a wire as a young boy making his professional debut as an aerialist at age 13. The Grand Canyon trek was the highest walk of his career, and he completed it in just less than 23 minutes. I remember thinking as I watched this event on TV – is this man fearless, faith-filled, or just foolish? Before beginning his journey, Wallenda prayed with Lakewood Church Pastor Joel Osteen asking God for strength and endurance. It was certainly uplifting to hear this daredevil calling out to heaven and saying “thank you Jesus” dozens of times during his walk. Indeed, much has been made of Wallenda’s deep faith, and He should be admired for his openness. But I wasn’t quite sure at the time whether I saw this act as a walk of faith or whether I just couldn’t help but wonder if deep down he was simply crazy.

Maybe that’s how the other disciples felt when Peter walked on the water toward Jesus. After He had ministered to a huge crowd of followers, Jesus instructed His disciples to get back in the boat while he sent the people home. He then went to be alone so that He could pray, and nightfall came. Meanwhile, the disciples found themselves in a boat “a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’  ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’ ‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’ And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God’” (Matthew 14:22-33). It’s important to consider that Peter and the other disciples embarked upon this journey in response to their master’s request. Like the disciples on that boat who would have been aware of the dangers of traveling on the Sea of Galilee with its sudden storms – we began our journey with an understanding that there would be risks along the way. We find that there are forces capable of upsetting our most carefully improvised plans. But we, like Peter, can discover that our Savior stands nearby ready to help us if we will but reach out to Him and accept his divine assistance.

Nik Wallenda and Peter provide a common lesson for us:  It’s important that we have a strong foothold and know who provides that strength. The Apostle Paul said, “do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:27). While Wallenda’s assurance may have been somewhat grounded in his years of training, Peter’s was at least for a short while based on His faith in His Lord. Peter’s attention was drawn from Jesus, the object of his faith, to the vigorous wind and waves around him. In a moment of confusion – fear overpowered his faith, and he started to fall. We should not be critical of Peter because that has been our issue as well.  Each of us has stepped out on faith many times and have taken our eyes off Him. The waves around us are as real as Peter’s waves were to him. And, like Peter, we may slip. We may feel the awful descent toward a dangerous outcome. I can’t claim to be free of fears or doubts, and I would suppose you can’t either. We are all humans on a shaky wire, walking to our own self-destruction unless God, by His grace, gets us to the other side. For each of us, it becomes a true walk of faith.

REFLECTION: Are there times when the storms of your life have influenced your faith walk? Has the concept of free will affected your faith and the ability to make decisions? How can you know if you are exercising your faith or simply using it to further another agenda?


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