So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink.

The main passage (above) for this episode is culled from the narrative in Matthew 14:22-33 (NLT). It includes the familiar story of Jesus walking on water. If you are not a believer and you will rather stick with the laws of physics than that of the story of a man walking on water, I implore you to momentarily suspend your unbelief to make sense of the point I want to get across here.

Jesus had just fed five thousand men, after which He sent His disciples off on the boat so He could go to the mountain to pray alone. Deep into the night, the disciples’ boat encountered some waves and boisterous winds in the middle of the sea, and later in the early hours of the day (around 4:00 am), they saw someone walking on the sea. Naturally they were terrified, assuming what they saw was a ghost, until they realized it was Jesus after they heard Him speak out, admonishing them not to be afraid.

Peter, probably in the euphoria of the moment, called out back to Jesus saying “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water” and Jesus answered him: “Come!” On hearing that word, Peter got out of the boat and started walking toward Jesus. The Amplified version of what happens next reads “…But when he saw [the effects of] the wind, he was frightened, and he began to sink, and he cried out…”

What I want you to focus (oh hey!) on here is what happened between the time Peter started doing the naturally impossible, walking on water, and when he started sinking. When Peter saw the strong winds and the waves, fear took over his mind, shifting his focus from what got him walking on water. It was not as if the boisterous wind suddenly appeared out of the night in the middle of his miraculous walk, but the moment the wind became a problem was when Peter saw it! The dangerous winds and waves were already in existence in the situation, but were never an issue because Peter was focused on something far greater than the threatening conditions around him. The sinking started when Peter took his eyes off his destination; Jesus in this case. It started when he stopped paying attention to the word that got him walking on water. It started when he lost focus, allowing the ‘realities’ of his surrounding to literally pull him down.

We are certain to encounter difficult situations at various stages in our journey in life, circumstances in which what is working against us would seem to outnumber what is working for us, scenarios in which there are genuine reasons to self-doubt, give up and fail. More often than not, those are the moments that make or break us; the more challenging the situation, the bigger the reward in the end. The path to greatness is usually the one with the most resistance. To get to the other side in these moments, a single-minded attitude is required, because not having a laser-like focus would give room negative emotions such as doubt and fear: Two crippling emotions that only serve to bring people down in any situation. The second habit of highly effective people by Steve Corvey is that they begin with the end in mind. Having a clear picture of what you want to achieve or where you are heading to will give you something to focus on when the going gets tough. Focusing on the task at hand or the destination in front is usually a good way to keep the negativity at bay.

Apart from focusing on the goal in front, remembering the reason(s) you started out is also an effective way to push through the distractions and resistance you encounter on your journey (to success) #majorkeyalert. For example: At a crucial time during the course of my PhD study, I encountered a technical problem that appeared so overwhelming I felt there was no solution, and no solution means no dissertation. No dissertation, no graduation. The longer I kept dwelling on the magnitude of the problem, the farther I got from finding a solution, and not surprisingly the more depressing my predicament appeared. Fortunately I was able to pull out of the doldrums then by remembering and focusing on why I enrolled in the PhD program; I reminded myself I was a brilliant and innovative engineer (among other qualities). About nine months later, I was wrapping up my dissertation and making presentations for my final exam.

Two focus points are demonstrated in the story with Peter. (1) He could have kept his focus on what initiated the journey across the waters when doubt and fear started creeping in. Instead of seeing the waves, he could have remembered Jesus’ word “come!’ that got him walking on water to start with. (2) He could also have kept his focus on his destination, which was Jesus, who gave him the command to walk on water.

Your experiences in life do not have to be supernatural for you to apply this principle of focus. A simple everyday example could be you leaving your house for a meeting, but it starts raining right after you stepped out. Two things could keep you going: The decision you made to go out, and/or the meeting you want to attend. But if you dwell too much on the rain as an obstacle, you would lose focus of the destination and ultimately turn back home. Stretch of an analogy but I hope it made some sense to you. Doubt and fear are negative emotions that could either slow or drag you down, even if there are legitimate reasons to doubt or be fearful. The golden rule of tightrope-walking is to never look down. Do not see (focus on) distractions. To dispel fear and doubts when they arise, focus on where you are going and why.

It will be a disservice to you if I end this without sharing my ultimate cheat code for this message. This was how the story ended (for Peter): “…he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”” There is always an escape in Jesus if you run to Him, He will never leave you nor forsake you. Even when you make mistakes in life and start drowning, all you need do is to call on Him for help, and He will come and save you.