I’ve never taken swim lessons, and to my recollection my older brother was the only one of my siblings that did. The little I knew of how to swim as a child I learned from him. We didn’t have the opportunity to swim very often, but I remember the times we were taken to the public swimming pool in our area. We’ve often laughed and given our mother a hard time as her last words before letting us out of the car were not “Be careful” or “Take care of each other”. They were “DON’T LOSE THE TOWELS!” She obviously believed enough in our abilities or those of the life guards to not be overly concerned about our drowning.
The phrase “sink or swim” was on my mind today. It means to succeed or fail based on your own abilities. It’s often applied to challenging situations that people face where they will have a limited amount of time to use their skills and either succeed or face failure. Once trained in areas of knowledge or skill, it is expected they will be put to the test. Those with competitive natures enjoy the challenge of the test and use it to develop even further. The world teaches us a lot about self-reliance, self-confidence, and self-discipline through the “sink or swim” mindset.
There’s nothing wrong with good, hard work to reach our goals and to accomplish our dreams. However, if we’re not careful, we try to take the world’s way of thinking and doing and apply it to our spiritual lives, rather than the other way around. When life brings a struggle, a storm, we very quickly begin to look at ourselves to see what we can do or how well we are equipped to handle it. Our minds immediately go into the “what am I going to do?” mode and we try not to panic. Drawing on all the knowledge and skills we possess, we begin to work as hard as we can in our own efforts to fix the problems or find the nearest shelter to escape the storm.
I am reminded of Peter when he stepped out of the boat to walk on the water towards Jesus (Matthew 14). We are all familiar with the story – a storm was raging and Peter saw Jesus miraculously walking towards them on the water. He asked Jesus to command him to come out on the water to Him. Jesus did what Peter asked and Peter was doing fine until he began to pay more attention to the storm than to Jesus. As long as he focused on Jesus, he could successfully do exactly what Jesus had told him to do: Come. But even when he began to sink, Jesus didn’t say “Peter, just start swimming! You can still get to me. You’re a fisherman, you’ve been around water all your life – you should know how to swim! You can do it, keep trying!” Jesus knew that Peter would never be able to get to Him by his own efforts. He immediately reached out and caught him.
And I would dare say that most of us, as believers, truly do look to Jesus when the storms of life are raging all around us. We are confident that He is there and able to help us. But what about when there’s peace in our lives? When things are going good and we don’t feel like we’re about to drown? Do we think we can handle it on our own? Do we see Jesus as the lifeguard, only needed when circumstances demand more from us than our own efforts can support?
Acts 17:28 says “In Him we live and move and have our being…” Are we living our lives as if we have any capabilities that didn’t come from God? Are we acknowledging that we can do nothing without Him – His strength, His help, His power? Why wait til there’s a storm? What could He do with us in our everyday lives if we depended on Him for everything?? He’s not just the lifeguard that will save us before we drown. He is the one Who is calling us just like He called Peter and the other disciples – He wants to use us to change the world!! When we begin to take this spiritual truth and apply it to our lives in every area, we are in position for God to do the impossible!
He’s not giving us swim lessons. He’s calling us to Him and saying “Watch what I can do with you if you keep looking at Me!”