[BOOK REVIEW] John Ortberg, If you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat, 2003

ortberg-walk-on-waterI’ve heard many people recommend this book, and it’s on my list of books to read properly in the future. My mum has it on her shelf and I’ve flicked through it. Reviewers describe his style as engaging, compelling, profound, without being too heavy, and plenty of references to humour (what texters would describe as LOL humour).

On p17, Ortberg summarises his challenge:

If you want to walk on the water, you’ve got to get out of the boat.

I believe there is something, Someone, inside us who tells us there is more to life than sitting in the boat. You were made for something more than merely avoiding failure. There is something inside you that wants to walk on the water – to leave the comfort of routine existence and abandon yourself to the high adventure of following God.

So let me ask you a very important question: What’s your boat?

Your boat is whatever represents safety and security for you apart from God himself. Your boat is whatever you are tempted to put your trust in, especially when life gets a little stormy. Your boat if whatever keeps your so comfortable that you don’t want to give it up even if it’s keeping you from joining Jesus on the waves. Your boat is whatever pulls you away from the high adventure of extreme discipleship.

Want to know what your boat is? Your fear will tell you. Just ask yourself this: What is it that most produces fear in me – especially when I think of leaving it behind and stepping out in faith?

He continues to use the analogy against Peter’s story from Matt 14:25-32, explaining the fears Peter felt when he ‘saw the wine’, and started to sink (p19):

We all know what it is to ‘see the wind’. You being a new adventure full of hope. Maybe it’s a new job; maybe you’re testing an area of spiritual giftedness; maybe you’re trying to serve God in a new way. At the beginning you are full of faith – it’s blue skies.

Then reality sets in. Setbacks. Opposition. Unexpected obstacles. You see the wine. It should be expected – the world’s a pretty stormy place. But somehow trouble still has the power to catch us by surprise.

Many avoid stepping out of the boat because of these fears. Rather than couch potatoes (p22):

Millions of people in churches these days could be called ‘pew potatoes’. They want some of the comfort associated with spirituality, but they don’t want the risk and the challenge that go along with actually following Jesus. Yes Jesus is still looking for people who will get out of the boat. He is looking for someone who will say, if you’ll pardon the expression, “I may be small potatoes, Lord, but this spud’s for you.”

And as we will see in this book, both choices – risk and comfort – tend to grow into a habit. Each time you get out of the boat, you become a little less likely to get out the next time. It’s not that the fear goes away, but that you get used to living with fear. You realise that it does not have the power to destroy you.

On the other hand, every time you resist that voice, even time you choose to stay in the boat rather than heed its calls, the voice gets a little quieter in you. Then at last you don’t hear its call at all.

I look forward to reading more than the first chapter (with exercises at the end of each chapter), and the idea of challenging our fears (of failure, often) is something I’ve been taking on since reading Susan Jeffers, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway – including scuba diving where I was told off for saying that I’d “failed” my first assessment – I’d just not completed it in one go, and learnt more in the process!

Prepared for use as an Oak Hall Leader