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COLUMN: Deep sea fishing trip teaches lesson about faith
Ruffin on Religion

COLUMN: Deep sea fishing trip teaches lesson about faith

Mike Ruffin

Mike Ruffin

“‘You of little faith’, he said, ‘why did you doubt’?” (Matthew 14:29)

In the late 1970s, I vacationed frequently at Nags Head. I remember one summer in particular when several of us decided to go deep-sea fishing in the Gulf Stream. It is not far from North Carolina’s Outer Banks and offers some of the finest dolphin fishing that a charter boat captain can offer.

We awoke early that morning because we had to be at the dock by 5 a.m. It was windy and our charter boat captain told us that it would be rough going through the Oregon Inlet.

You may have never heard of Oregon Inlet, but it has a reputation among seasoned boatmen in North Carolina. It can provide some of the smoothest waters an inlet can offer. However, when the winds are up, it is almost impossible to navigate. This narrow inlet -- where the ocean meets the sound -- has capsized more than its fair share of boats and brought an early and sometimes tragic end to what should have been a day of fun and excitement.

My friends didn’t know enough to be afraid. I had been through the inlet several times and knew that it was a rough ride at best. But on a windy day like this one? They had no idea of what was in store for us when we pushed off. In fact, our captain had already told us that it wouldn’t surprise him if we had to turn around. “Awe come on,” they said. “It’ll be rough, but it’ll be worth it when we get on the other side.”

When we got to the inlet, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I saw enough white caps to last me a lifetime. “No way,” I thought. “Let’s turn around and try it again tomorrow.”

Our captain idled the boat several hundred yards from the inlet. He just sat there, staring at it. I knew he was trying to make up his mind. His doubts made me even more fearful.

Finally, he looked at us for a nod of approval. “Go for it,” my friends pleaded. And away we went, full speed ahead!

Even though we made it through, it was a ride I would never want to take again. Several of us became seasick and the wife of one of my friends even started crying just minutes into the inlet. She finally realized the chance we were taking.

I thought of this experience when my pastor told the story about Peter walking on water. He analogized Peter’s experience to living on the edge and offered some great advice when we approach those inlets in our lives where faith and doubt inevitably confront one another.

Think about it. Peter thought he saw Jesus walking on the water, but it was night and he wasn’t sure. “Lord, if it's you", Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water.” Jesus replied, “Come.” (Matthew 14:28-29)

The Bible records that Peter didn’t give it a second thought. He got out the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. It wasn’t until he took his eyes off the Lord that he became afraid and began to sink. “Lord, save me,” Peter cried. Matthew reports that Jesus reached out his hand and caught him, after which he said, “You of little faith. Why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:30-31)

I know just how Peter felt. It’s easy to be a faithful, doubt-dodging Christian when things are going well. But when those storms come, the winds of doubt enter into the reaches of the mind where you thought only faith could dwell. And it’s there where you realize that you’ve come to a spiritual inlet and must make a decision to trust the Captain’s judgment.

Peter died with a faith in Christ that was second to none. I believe it came from a life filled with storms where somehow he finally learned to bridge the inlet where doubt and faith meet. Peter learned to trust Jesus.

God brings the same opportunities our way. And if we will just trust him, we’ll find that just like Peter, the wind will die down when we climb back in the boat with Jesus.

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