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Stepping out of the boat

Every new year always brings with it a lot of emotions, feelings and intentions and most of us spend time reflecting on the past year and the changes that it brought about.

We also spend time planning and anticipating what the new year may hold. We set goals and make plans all in the hopes of progress. Our culture has this insatiable need for constant transformation and success.

We almost become obsessed with changing one or a few things about who we are or what we do each year. Many authors have capitalized on this craze by publishing self-help books.

Fitness and exercise centers are full for the first couple months of the year with people that have the hopes of losing weight or getting healthier. I have made similar resolutions in years past. Some of the goals that I have set, I have attained while others I have fallen short on completing.

I have even been guilty of setting a goal or resolution and never even attempting to make it happen. Maybe some of you can say the same thing. Setting goals is a good thing but simply setting a goal does not bring transformation or change.

Setting a goal, planning and executing a plan is the process that brings about the desired outcome. What keeps us from getting started? I will admit that most of the time fear is the one thing that keeps me from even attempting to meet the goals I set.

There is an interesting narrative in the New Testament that many people are familiar with. Matthew recorded a time when Jesus put the disciples in a boat and sent them ahead of Him while he stayed behind. The next time the disciples see Jesus they are still in the boat and He is walking on the water. This terrifies them at first because they think they are seeing a ghost. Once he realized it is Jesus, Peter cries out, “Lord if it really is You, command me to come to You on the water.”

Peter’s goal is made very clear at that point. Peter is essentially saying he wants to be on the water with Jesus. He doesn’t want to be in the boat any longer. Peter wanted to be nearer to Jesus even if that meant facing the elements.

Matthew tells us what Peter did once Jesus told him to “come.” Matthew wrote in 14:29b NASB, “And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus.” Peter resolved to be nearer to Jesus and knew he had to get out of the boat to be able to do that.

I have one goal, one resolution that never changes. It stays the same from year to year. It is based on verse 10 of the third chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. The goal I have that never changes is simple. I want to know Christ. I want to be nearer to Christ this year than I was last year.

This is what God desires from each of us as we embark on this new year. He is saying, “Come” to us just as He said to Peter. Our success in reaching this goal depends on our willingness to get out of the boat. What is it that keeps you in the boat?

Shawn Tipton is the chaplain at Fayette Regional Health System. He wrote this article as a member of the Fayette County Ministerial Association.