COVID-19, otherwise known as coronavirus, has been the centralized topic of conversation, news headlines, and social media sites for the past several weeks, and the sobering impact the virus has had on millions has caused much fear amidst this pandemic. Now, more than normal, it has become increasingly easy to shift our focus from God to the troubling news networks.
The apostle Peter faced a similar situation in the fourteenth chapter in Matthew's gospel. You may have heard this story before. After Jesus feeds the five thousand with only five loaves of bread and two fish, he sends his disciples ahead of him in a boat, so that he would have some time for solitary prayer. Later in the day, Jesus decides it is time to meet his disciples and walks out on the water towards them. The story picks up in the twenty-fifth verse.
"And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, 'It is a ghost!' and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.'
And Peter answered him, 'Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.' He said, 'Come.' So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, 'Lord, save me.' Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, 'O you of little faith, why did you doubt?' And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, 'Truly you are the Son of God.'"
Peter is often criticized for the mistakes he makes throughout the gospels, but he does make many right decisions. He initially listens to Jesus' command to walk out upon the water. Ultimately, Peter's faith wavers when he gives more power to the wind than to Jesus, and he begins to sink because of this fear. Being Peter's teacher and master, Jesus rebukes his disciple's lack of faith after rescuing him.
There will always be storms in our lives. Sometimes, the winds will only affect us. During other times, such as our current global situation, the winds will span across the nations. At no point are we to turn our focus or attention off of Jesus.
Our faith does not make us invincible. Our faith equips us to live out God's will for our lives. It is interesting that Peter does not run out unto the water without Jesus' command. The fact of the matter is that Peter could not have walked on water without Christ. Similarly, our faith is not a button we can push to give us powers or immunities. We as Christians should still look both ways before we cross the street, wash our hands (particularly now more than ever), and take the necessary precautions we need to stay healthy and safe. However, when God calls us to do things that we perceive as difficult or even impossible, our faith in him is what will equip us.
In this scary time, we, the church, find ourselves amid quite the storm. Will we allow these tumultuous winds to cause our focus to shift? Or will we continue to be attentive to the Holy Spirit's call on our lives?