Peter walked on water alone. But was it foreordained that only one man should step out of that rocking boat that gray morning? There were eleven other disciples aboard. Couldn't each of them have said, "Master, bid me also come to You on the water"? Would He not have said, "Come"?
Of course, we must not make too much of the fact that none of the others did. Their failure to do as Peter did does not necessarily prove that they had less faith than he. But it may. In either case, the fact that they did not ask Christ to call them illustrates the problem that the individual who is walking on water sometimes has. He may find it hard to realize that others are walking on water. In this he may be like Elijah, who in discouragement said to God, "'I, even I only, am left'" (1 Kings 19: 10). But God set him straight:
"'I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him'" (verse 18). Seven thousand may not have been many compared with the millions in Israel. But it was many more than Elijah thought were around.
"God has in reserve a firmament of chosen ones that will yet shine forth amidst the darkness, revealing clearly to an apostate world the transforming power of obedience to His law." -Prophets and Kings, p. 189. With that law inscribed upon their hearts by the transforming Holy Spirit, they will delight to do the will of God. Many of these are now unobtrusively, but nevertheless truly, walking on water day by day, moment by moment. Farther and farther they are moving away from the world; closer and closer they are drawing to Jesus, and more and more perfectly are they reflecting His flawless character. Nevertheless, they are a small number compared with the masses of people in the world, and even with the many in the church.
After I had been in the ministry for a short time an older man came to our conference who some of us preachers thought leaned a bit toward the fanatical side. I never heard anyone speak derogatorily of him, but there was the occasional little comment that revealed opinions. He studied and accepted the Spirit of Prophecy as from God, and therefore tried to follow the counsel in healthful living. He believed in adhering to "’every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’" (Matt. 4:4).
This reads like an indictment of some of the rest of us ministers, suggesting that possibly we did not believe in the Spirit of Prophecy. Not so. We believed in all its teachings fully and unquestioningly. But at the same time some of us were lax in our eating and drinking habits, and perhaps in some other things. We were not insincere, or hypocritical; we were inconsistent, and did not clearly perceive it. There was no excuse for this. We had the information and should have followed it. But that is the way we humans sometimes are.
It is quite possible that that minister, looking at some of the rest of us, may have wondered in his heart, Who else is really trying to follow all the counsel of the Lord? Who else is walking on water? He could have asked those questions with some justification, no doubt.
In studying the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy, it is impossible to avoid seeing that" 'many are called, but few are chosen'" (Matt. 22:14).
On one occasion Jesus asked the question, "’When the Son of man comes shall he find faith on earth?’" (Luke 18:8). The import of the question is, When Christ comes will He find a persistent faith such as was possessed by the widow in the parable? The structure of our text in the original language seems to indicate a negative response: No! So low will the flame of faith have burned that only the ashes of a cold profession will remain.
Frequently in the case of questions implying negative answers in the Bible, the No must be understood in the relative rather than in an absolute sense. Those possessing such a faith will be relatively few. But when Christ returns there will be some who will still have faith.
The individual who is determined to do everything God's way, as he understands it, may sometimes be led to wonder whether he is going a bit too far.
Convinced that there are topics of conversation that should be avoided on Sabbath, he notes that other church members plunge into them without a moment's thought, apparently.
Driven to the conclusion that the large majority of television programs are spiritually ruinous, he hears other Christians discuss knowledgeably some that he knows tarnished his own love for Jesus. And he wonders.
That coffee is destructive of health is common knowledge. But he sees some church people-prominent people-use the beverage.
And so, on and on. And the application can be made to institutions, as well as to individuals.
So a person asks himself, Are those relatively small things really important? Does following the counsel matter, or is it simply a question of choice, or inclination?
But if those things are important, then who else is walking on water?
Often, after Ellen White was given a vision of the condition of the church as it really was, she was tempted to give way to discouragement and deep depression. Sometimes she felt the situation was well-nigh hopeless, that the church was going the way of the Israelites and would suffer a similar fate.
Much of her writings warn individuals, or the church in general, of sins in the life or in the corporate body, and of the terrible dangers inherent in failing to follow God's way completely.
There is another segment of Ellen White's writings that could be seen as going in the opposite direction, that some see as being almost dichotomous. Instead of warning and reproving, it encourages and builds up, almost giving the impression that the church is flawless.
This is not strange, or contradictory. We find the same in the prophets.
"'Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins,''' God told Isaiah (Isa. 58: 1). God also said through the same prophet,
"Surely they are my people, sons who will not deal falsely; and he became their Savior" (chap. 63:8).
The church is always made up of two groups of individuals: those who are only half-converted, and are therefore trying to serve God and mammon simultaneously, and those who are genuinely dedicated to Jesus. God must speak to both groups, the first to arouse, it is hoped, to see their sins and need and so commit themselves to Him, and the second group to encourage to persist in the face of trials, temptations, and discouraging conditions, even in the church. They must be made to realize that heaven is ever near to sustain and comfort and bless. They must be encouraged to continue walking on water.
The message for this second group is not for the first. However, the unconverted in the church are sometimes prone to apply the more comfortable passages to themselves. The message is for the church. They are part of the church, therefore the approval expressed must be for them. Thus they soothe themselves when God does not comfort.
Who else is walking on water? Always a minority. "From what was shown me, but a small number of those now professing to believe the truth would eventually be saved-not because they could not be saved, but because they would not be saved in God's own appointed way."- Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 445.
The majority will not walk on water, because doing so requires the giving over of all to Christ, submitting everything to Him, implicitly. This they are unwilling to do.
The Christian walking on water, then, must not be swayed by others who do not seem to be. Instead he must "gather warmth from the coldness of others, courage from their cowardice, and loyalty from their treason."-Ibid., vol. 5, p. 136.
The time will come when one hundred percent of the church will be walking on water, for only such will be left. All the others will disappear beneath the waves when the real tests come.