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John 21:17

The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."

Jesus said, "Feed my sheep."

November 22, 2000

Swimming Lessons

I can't swim.

Over the years, I've developed a lot of excuses why that's so. I don't like how it feels when water gets up my nose. Putting my head underwater gives me a splitting headache. I'm so nearsighted I can't see anything in the pool. My family never went to the pool or the beach when I was a child. I can't figure out the breathing thing.

All these things are true. And they're also excellent excuses, as far as I'm concerned. But if you press me hard enough, I might tell you the real reason.

I don't trust the water to hold me up. You know how when you're taking swimming lessons, someone always says, "You don't have to be afraid! Relax! The water will support you!"

Well, as a kid I tested that out when I took swimming lessons. First I made sure I was standing in water that wasn't over my head, so I wouldn't have to trust the water in case something went wrong.

I tried floating on my back. I sank unless I kept kicking. I followed the instructions for treading water. I kept going under.

I didn't deny that some people could actually swim. But when I tried it, I discovered that if "the water holds you up" is a law of nature, it didn't apply in my case.

Of course, there was a flaw in my test. Me standing defiantly on the bottom of the pool did not give the water a fair chance to hold me up. When you won't even try to swim, you never experience what swimming is like.

I've treated God the same way over the years. The main ingredient needed in a relationship with God is for us to have faith in him. That undergirds everything. If we don't trust him, the relationship's going nowhere.

But there's one trick to faith. It's not faith if you can see where you're going.

It's not for nothing that the writer of Hebrews said, "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1) as the introduction to a chapter listing all the heroes of faith—-and what made them that way.

And Paul knew what he was talking about when he wrote, "We live by faith, not by sight." (2 Corinthians 5:7).

One of my flaws is that I flinch when a decision requires faith. I want God to guarantee me ahead of time that if I tithe (give 10 percent) of my income to him, he will take care of me. I want to know for certain which church God wants me to attend, or what ministry to get involved in. And it sure would have been nice to have God's signature on a contract that says if I really do believe in his son, my life's gonna change and I'm going to spend eternity with him.

That's like me testing the buoyancy of water while I've got my feet on the bottom of the pool. It's never going to work. I have to believe first.

That means going over to the deep end where it's either sink or swim, and jumping in. That's what faith is like.

As I start living according to what God's promised in the Bible, I see that God indeed is faithful. He can be trusted. He will guide me and never leave me.

Faith. It's a pretty difficult step for someone who refuses to trust that water will hold her up. But I remember the swimming lesson: if I won't even try to live as a follower of Jesus, I will never experience what being his disciple is like.

Each time I come to a new growing point with God—-a place where my faith gets stretched again, and I'm asked to trust him even in this—-I don't acquit myself very well in my first attempts. I stay in the shallow end.

But God's got a track record of faithfulness with me now. And those Bible promises have never been broken yet. As I mature, the faith thing happens with less resistance. I walk over to the deep end and say yes to God faster now.

Is there a place in your life where you've been hearing God calling? Is it some place that you're not willing to trust to him yet? Have you been holding out for a written guarantee? Maybe it's time to go swimming.


We live by faith, not by sight.
— 2 Corinthians 5:7