In Matthew 14:22-33, the apostle Peter has an incredible moment with Jesus Christ. You probably know the story, if you don’t, read it again. Peter sees Jesus walking on the water and he asks Jesus if he can do the same. Jesus says, “Come on.”
There are a few things we can learn from this event in Peter’s life, things that we can apply in youth ministry.
Focus on the Call
Peter had his focus right where it should have been. He was focusing on Jesus-of course who wouldn’t find it easy to focus on someone walking towards you in the middle of the night on the water? That would get my attention!
I don’t know about you, but when I went into youth ministry I did so because Jesus said to me, “Come on.” God placed a calling in my life to minister to students. So when I stepped “out of the boat” to answer His call on my life, my focus was where it should have been. I was determined to do what Christ had asked and I was focused completely on Him.
The Distraction of the Bad
It is very easy for my focus to shift, and when that happens, my life usually goes off in a different direction than where God wants me to go. Peter took his focus off of Jesus and put his focus on his current circumstances. The moment Peter did that is the moment Peter began to sink.
As a young driver, I learned one important fact-I drive where I look. If I focus on something on the side of the road, then that is the direction the car will drift. I also learned in driving a tractor that if I’m not focused on the other end of the field that I’m plowing, then my rows tend to get a little wobbly. I can easily look back and see where I lost focus.
In ministry, it is easy to be distracted from the call on my life. It is so easy to move my focus from Christ and put my focus on my current circumstances, whether the circumstances are good or bad. We know that in youth ministry there are lots of circumstances to distract us.
Distractions can come in the shape of a poor relationship with the senior staff, trouble with a volunteer (or if you are a volunteer, trouble with the youth pastor), relationships within the church, church politics, the one student who seems to always have drama, complainers, the list could go on and on. Just like with Peter, these circumstances are like the wind and the water threatening to blow us away or suck us under. The key is to recognize the distraction and then focus back on Christ.
The Distraction of the Good
Distractions also come in the form of “the good times.” It is really easy for me to become distracted during the times when ministry is smooth sailing and all is well. When the ministry is running smooth, the youth group is growing, parents are on board, volunteers are committed and passionate, and support from the senior pastor is wholehearted, it is easy to go into cruise control and focus so much on how good things are going. I can soon lose my focus on Christ and on my calling.
I live and work near the Atlantic Ocean. Some days the water is smooth like glass. When the water is smooth, it is easy to forget how powerful the ocean is. Some days the ocean is churning and the waves are huge and pounding; when the ocean is like this I’m reminded of the power of the ocean. The days when the beach is the most dangerous is when there is a nice break in the waves and the water temp is just right, perfect conditions for a dangerous riptide below the surface.
The Distraction of Ministry
Sometimes I find that ministry is where I focus. Ministry is great, but when ministry becomes my focus rather than Jesus Christ, this is also when I begin to sink.
I don’t know about you, but I can become so consumed with youth ministry that my focus is on getting ministry done and not on my relationship with Jesus Christ. I can get so focused on turning out healthy believers from the youth group that I forget my own spiritual health.
One good signal that my ministry is getting too much of my focus is when I wake up in the morning and the first thing I do is pull out the computer and start working on the upcoming event, rather than pulling out the Bible or a good devotional book and focusing on my own spiritual health.
Keeping Focus in Check
It is easy to lose sight of focusing on Christ when all is smooth.
It is easy to be distracted from Christ when the circumstances are blowing and pounding my life away.
It is deceptively easy to lose focus on Christ when things seem good on the surface, but beneath the surface there is an issue waiting to rip my life apart.
Because in ministry there is the smooth, the rough, and the hidden circumstances, we must constantly keep our focus in check.