Lord, how deep is the water You expect me to walk on? I'm willing to try two or three feet. (If I go under in three feet I can probably struggle to the surface and survive.) But 1,000 feet or more ... Lord, don't ask me to walk in mid-ocean."
Which is easier, walking on water two or three feet deep, or 1,000 feet deep?
The question, of course, is ridiculous. Or is it? It could be. For even from our figurative viewpoint, it would seem obvious that walking on water is walking on water. It is the act itself that is miraculous. If you can walk on water, it shouldn't matter whether it is two feet or 1,000 feet deep.
Well, perhaps not. But let's ask the question in a different way. Which is easier, walking on a six-inch-wide plank two feet from the ground, or 500 feet above the ground?
You get the idea, don't you?
The plank is the same. It is just as solid, just as wide at 500 feet as it is at two. But if you have ever tried walking on a narrow plank two feet from the ground and on that same plank when it is placed twelve feet up, you know the difference.
Psychological? Probably. For it stands to reason that your balancing faculties function as well at twelve or 500 feet as at two. Nevertheless, the problem becomes very real.
It is interesting that Ellen White, thinking, apparently, along lines such as these, writes that we should "walk the narrow plank of faith" (Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 167).
There are those who can walk not only a plank at 500 or 1,000 feet but a thin wire at 1,350 feet.
One August morning in 1974 the attention of thousands of people in New York City was attracted upward to a heart-stopping sight. Outlined against the sky a tiny figure could be seen moving across the space between the twin towers of the World Trade Center, 1,350 feet up.
The tightrope walker, a 24-year-old Frenchman named Philippe Petit, had managed, with the help of companions, to stretch his wire between the buildings, and now, balancing pole in hand, he was walking confidently across. And for 45 minutes he moved back and forth with great aplomb between the towers, even lying down on the wire on one occasion.
The man who performed that death-defying act did not begin his career of tightrope walking by starting at 500 feet. I imagine that, at a very young age, he practiced in a modest way, going on to more and more difficult efforts until he could perform that astounding feat that claimed the attention and imagination of people worldwide.
It's that way with walking on water-being able to exercise faith. Faith increases by exercise. As it is exercised it grows stronger, and as it grows stronger it enables God to lead us to deeper and deeper waters and, as He may choose, onto more and more turbulent waves.
Faith in God is an attitude. It is simply taking Him at His word, leaning our whole weight on Him.
For Christians to have faith "all they have to do is to believe God's Word, just as they believe one another's word. 'He hath said it, and He will perform His Word.' Calmly rely on His promise, because He means all that He says. Say, He has spoken to me in His Word, and He will fulfill every promise that He has made."-Ellen G. White letter 32, 1903. (Of course, it is recognized that we cannot claim the promises if we do not meet the conditions.)
Faith grows through prayer. "If there was more praying, more pleading with God to work for us, there would be a greater dependence on Him, and faith would be strengthened to take Him at His word." -Review and Herald, April 8, 1884.
Faith expands through usage. "You have to talk faith, you have to live faith, you have to act faith, that you may have an increase of faith; and thus exercising that living faith you will grow to strong men and women in Christ Jesus." - The SDA Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, on Luke 17:5, pp. 1121, 1122.
One of these days, whether we like it or not, whether as individuals we are ready or not, we Seventh-day Adventists are going to find ourselves in mid-ocean, as it were-over the 36,198-foot Mariana Trench in the western Pacific, the deepest spot in all the world's oceans.
And it isn't going to be a sunny summer sea when we are there, either. It will be as a fearsome tempest whipping the waters into a fuming, terrifying tumult. It will be a storm to end all storms, so to speak.
We have read the words "It is often the case that trouble is greater in anticipation than in reality; but this is not true of the crisis before us. The most vivid presentation cannot reach the magnitude of the ordeal." - The Great Controversy, p. 622.
"The 'time of trouble, such as never was,' is soon to open upon us; and we shall need an experience which we do not now possesses and which many are too indolent to obtain." -Ibid.
"The season of distress and anguish before us will require a faith that can endure weariness, delay, and hunger-a faith that will not faint though severely tried." -Ibid., p. 621.
"Those who exercise but little faith now, are in the greatest danger of falling under the power of satanic delusions and the decree to compel the conscience. And even if they endure the test they will be plunged into deeper distress and anguish in the time of trouble, because they have never made it a habit to trust in God. The lessons of faith which they have neglected they will be forced to learn under a terrible pressure of discouragement." -Ibid., p. 622.
"The time of trouble is a fearful ordeal for God's people; but it is the time for every true believer to look up, and by faith he may see the bow of promise encircling him." -Ibid., p. 633.
Walking atop the Mariana Trench will be high drama for God's people. And for the universe. Not since Calvary, that pivotal and unparalleled event of all ages, will such a scene have taken place in the epic story of sin and salvation. Angels and unfallen beings from a billion worlds will view it with the most intense interest.
The human players in that stupendous episode will have been preparing for their individual roles for decades, for a lifetime.
But there is nothing necessarily dramatic about the preparation.
It begins with the confidence that with God, all things are possible. Obeying Christ's command, "Come," the Christian accepts Jesus' word, steps on the water, and finds he is walking on it; gaining conquests over habits and tendencies he never really surmounted before; he finds he is able to do things he was not able to do previously, and which he had thought impossible.
But he is grateful to God for accomplishing this in him. God has been considerate. He has tempered the wind and the waves to the dimensions of the Christian's faith. God knows that the individual's faith and character must strengthen to meet the tempest that is coming.
So God permits the wind to blow and the waves to roll from various directions. Sometimes He permits a strong gale and rough waves, so that the walker may perceive his weakness and needs and look to Jesus to find wisdom and strength to correct them.
Thus, in often quiet, unobtrusive ways God works here a little, there a little, to build up the soul, adding something here, strengthening another point there. So patience, resolution, endurance, humility, faith, forgiveness, self-distrust, self-control, submission, love, and a hundred other qualities needed so that the Christian may stand unmoved in the final, tumultuous tempest over the Mariana Trench, are slowly but solidly added to the character of the willing, always cooperative, one.
Meanwhile, from time to time God increases the depth of the water, as it were, as He sees we have now the faith to walk on it-or that by this time we should have that faith. He permits squalls of increasing strength to sweep down to test us, to reveal the lack we still have, and to keep us aware that what we are accomplishing is not of our own doing. And He wants us to learn that, no matter how difficult a situation may be, in dependence upon Him is perfect safety, and in His enabling presence is found all the power that we need to meet the situation.
When difficulties drop upon us, then, we must not complain or be surprised or disappointed. The particular trial that may seem almost unbearable to us may prove to be a great blessing, not recognized during the stressful time, but seen to be such in future days.
And each step we take is a step with Jesus closer to the throne of God. And each step with Him, even amid struggle, stimulates us to take another, and another.
After Peter's faith failed he appealed desperately to Jesus for help. The Lord reached out His hand, caught him, and lifted him to safety. Then, together, they walked toward the boat. Peter could not sink now.
"And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased" (Matt. 14:32).
Jesus could have stilled the winds at the moment He lifted Peter from the waves. He could have subdued the tumult in a moment so that He and Peter could walk pleasantly together toward the ship. But it was not until they stepped into the boat that the elements were calmed.
Thus it will be when God's people are caught in the final, terrible fury of sin and Satan, sustained by God only because of their faith in, and constancy to, Him. They will be sealed, eternally secure now. Saved by the hand of their Redeemer, they walk close by His side, taking the final steps that lead through the portals of heaven.
The tumult will still swirl around them. Satan will still endeavor to destroy them, and God will permit this final test to try their faith. "The people of God-some in prison cells, some hidden in solitary retreats in the forests and the mountains-still plead for divine protection, while in every quarter companies of armed men, urged on by hosts of evil angels, are preparing for the work of death ....
"With shouts of triumph, jeering, and imprecation, throngs of evil men are about to rush upon their prey, when, lo, a dense blackness, deeper than the darkness of the night, falls upon the earth. Then a rainbow, shining with the glory from the throne of God, spans the heavens and seems to encircle each praying company ....
"By the people of God a voice, clear and melodious, is heard, saying, 'Look up,' and lifting their eyes to the heavens, they behold the bow of promise .... Again a voice, musical and triumphant, is heard, saying: 'They come! they come! holy, harmless, and undefiled. They have kept the word of My patience; they shall walk among the angels;' and the pale, quivering lips of those who have held fast their faith utter a shout of victory." - The Great Controversy, pp. 635, 636.
The tempest is ended. Almost forgotten, it is replaced in memory by the marvels of subsequent swift-flowing events. From the tumult of earth the saved are swept up to meet their waiting Saviour. And now He transports them to eternal "quiet resting places."
Because these, the ransomed of the Lord, have by faith walked steadfastly upon the most tumultuous waves, He now leads them to another sea, one tranquil with the serenity of heaven, one that appears to be "a sea of glass mingled with fire" (Rev. 15:2).
All who, through the ages, have walked with Christ on water on the earth will join with Him upon that sea of glass. And only those who. have walked on water will be there. Together the multitudes from among men who are saved "sing the song of Moses, the. servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,
O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are thy ways,
O King of the ages!
Who shall not fear and glorify thy name, O Lord?
For thou alone art holy.
All nations shall come and worship thee, for thy judgments have been revealed.'''
Rev. 15:3, 4.