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Life Vest Theology

 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; Matt. 14:29

I spent 6 years as the Youth Director for the Southwest Region Conference of Seventh Day Adventists.  During that time, I would have to say that my favorite time as well as one of the most challenging times of my ministry there was the 6 summers I spent doing summer camp.  One of the most popular activities that children enjoyed was learning to water ski.  What made this activity particularly amazing to me was that we would teach kids to water ski that came not even able to swim, some of them actually afraid of the water!

The first critical step was to fit them in life vests.  There is no one who looks more awkward then a bunch of kids walking around in bulky life vests…ON LAND!  They just don’t seem comfortable with their surroundings because the gear they have been outfitted with is not to help them with land activities, it shows its true value in the water.

Next, we would put the kids in a shallow enclosed wading pool of the lake that came up to the knees.  The kids would splash around still looking awkward and some of them still questioning why they would even need a life vest to splash around in.  The answer is the vest is not so much for where they were but for where they were headed.

A little later, the kids (still with the uncomfortable life vests) would be taken into the lake up to their chests and for the first time the kids experience what we have told them all along, you cannot sink with the vest on properly.  To see a brand-new hope dawn on their faces was indeed incredible.  But their greatest test is still to come.  You see it is neat to discover that the vest works a bit but with their feet on the bottom of the lake, they know that they can always wade back to shore if they really try.  The vest is useful but not yet essential.

They are then taken into deep water where they cannot touch the bottom and they MUST learn to overcome their fear and trust the vest.  This is incredibly difficult for many and can take a while.   Slowly however, with much coaching from the teacher, they can relax and actually enjoy floating in the water.  Incidentally, no one thinks that the vest is cumbersome now!  Everyone feels grateful to have one.  It fits perfectly for where they are.  All leave the water on day one with a great sense of accomplishment.  For the first time, they have been out in the deep, conquered their fear of water and come back, alive and able to tell about it.  The only thing is, as accomplished as they feel, they have not yet accomplished what they came to do.  They have not yet water skied.   

Trusting in the vest is the foundational lesson that leads them to learn the skills that in time, and through many trials and failures, through much frustration and exhaustion, they one day rise from the waters and move across the surface of the deep as real live water skiers.  My friends I will tell you, there is no feeling as exhilarating as gliding across the water with the wind whispering in your ears especially  when you began afraid of water and unable to swim!  Now that’s a testimony!

I see so many lessons in with our spirituality.  God gives us this vest called faith (actually it’s an entire armor but that is way too long an article even for me).  It seems at first cumbersome and unnecessary.  It does not fit or seem useful at first because it was not designed to help us live lives like we have always known.  It finds its purpose not on the shores of life as we knew it, but out in the deep.  As we grow, God allows little things to test our faith and we find that faith works when things get a little deep.  It’s great to know that we have an alternative to walking back to shore but its also nice to know that I’m not so deep that I can’t make it on my own if I really try.  At this point faith is useful…but not yet essential.

Then there comes the day when God takes us out into the deep waters of life where we can’t touch the bottom, we can’t control our surroundings and cannot make it back to shore.  Life out here dictates that we can do nothing but TRUST THE VEST!  Some of our greatest testimonies come as we bob up and down in waters too deep holding onto every word the Teacher says.  We come out feeling like we have been through something.  

Have you ever felt that feeling with your faith?  You trust God out into waters where faith has more than purpose, it is essential for survival and you want to tell everyone that on Christ the solid Rock I stand…”  My brothers and sisters, I’ve been sent to tell you that as powerful as that testimony is and how much you feel you have learned…YOU HAVE YET TO ACCOMPLISH WHAT GOD INTENDED!!  God’s plan for us is not that we merely trust the vest to not to let us sink, but that we will one day, “through many dangers, toils and snares…”, through many times rising and falling (though not sinking), through frustration and even exhaustion we will one day rise up and move across the surface of the deep as water walkers, people who do the impossible!!!!  There is nothing quite like walking across the storms and tempests of your life with the Spirit whispering in your ear as you do what all believe is impossible.  Can you hear Him say of you, “This is my beloved in whom I am well pleased”?  Only you know the truth, that you had no idea what you were doing and if it had not been for the Lord on your side… Now THAT’S A TESTMONY!!