“The ship was . . . tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.” As Jesus walked on the sea toward the boat, his disciples were frightened. “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid,” He assured them. Anxious for an adventure, Peter called out, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” Peter started to walk toward the Savior. But looking down at the waves with fear, he started to go down. “Lord, save me!” he called. Christ reached for him and brought him up, and they returned to the ship together. Our hearts and our instincts may tell us to “step out”: like Peter, we may “fail,” but there is always a hand reached out for us.
The Lord created the plan of salvation knowing that He would ask difficult things of us, and sometimes we would step out and fail to complete our tasks alone. We would need to combine our efforts with the gifts and strength He would give us.
An Athlete’s Vision
As an athlete, I sometimes think of Florence Chadwick, who chose to step out of her comfort zone to become the first woman to swim the English Channel. Like Peter, she was probably confident, expecting success—at the beginning.
Florence had to cope with cold choppy waters, potentially dangerous sharks, engulfing fog, overwhelming fatigue, and many other obstacles. She gave it her all and kept swimming.
But as she approached the end of her swim, Florence realized the fog was closing in on her, and the frigid temperatures and fatigue were weighing on her. Figuratively she, like Peter, looked down—recognizing danger, feeling overwhelmed, and knowing she could go no further.
Though she had prepared, trained, and put forth disciplined efforts, she had tried to step out alone, without that all-important outstretched hand. In the fog she had not been able to see the coastline; inadequate vision had caused her to stop, actually very close to her goal.
On her next attempt, conditions were the same. However, this time Florence kept in her mind a clear vision of her target coast line.
Despite fog, doubts, and fears, she kept that vision at the front of her mind. She completed her goal. To step out with a vision made the difference.
Would Florence have stopped trying if her second channel swim had failed? I don’t think so.
“Success isn’t the absence of failure, but going from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm.” This comment has been credited to Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill—among many others. 1 Considering the “failures” and successes of these two top contenders, I can believe it.
A Disciple’s Vision
As we step out to accomplish our spiritual goals in this life, our necessary vision is the same as Peter’s. We must move toward and with our Savior.
We may, like Israelites leaving Egypt, need many years to accomplish our goals. The Lord led them, blessed them with his presence, and provided them with food.
We must also depend on the Lord, keeping Him as the main focus in our lives. When the Israelites lost that focus, they experienced failure requiring 40 years.
Abraham never lost his focus on God as the center of his life. He had challenges, but he did not step out without the Lord’s presence.
Paul’s challenges might have destroyed many, but did not destroy Paul. His vision told him when he needed to step out and keep going. He was with the Lord and the Lord was with him.
A Family’s Vision
Our family kept our focus on the Lord when we felt guidance to go as a family to do volunteer service in a foreign country. This would be a financial risk, as we had just started a YouTube channel and did not know how we would pay for the trip or recover from lost work time.
We knew we would need to step out and give the Lord our own best efforts as we requested His. We gave concerts in our home inviting donations, gaining the price of the plane tickets. We spent a month in Guatemala, giving and receiving service and friendship from the people.
When we returned, we found more people were watching and subscribing to our channel than we could have imagined. Our profit for that month was just the amount needed to make up the deficit from our trip.
I consider this a clear message from the Lord that He is aware of all of our needs—also a reminder that my efforts alone are my efforts only. When He is with me, He will make sure I can do as He asks.
As Vern W. Stanfill taught, continual focus on Christ “lifts us and pushes us to become better.” When we struggle, we may feel that we are part of an “imperfect harvest” of God’s children.
Elder Stanfill assured us that there is no imperfect harvest with the Lord.
We are measured by our personal devotion to God that we manifest in our efforts to follow Him in faith. As we accept the Savior’s invitation to come unto Him, we soon realize that our best is good enough and that the grace of a loving Savior will make up the difference in ways we cannot imagine. 2
In spite of treacherous waves, hostile people, and tasks beyond our own strength, as we step out and keep God in the center of our vision, He will make our failures part of His perfect harvest.