Impossible goals can be brought into perspective through faith.
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
Most people don’t know that when they use the word stress they really mean distress. Distress is the feeling caused when there’s a need to perform accompanied by a perceived lack of ability.
They also don’t know the other stress word, eustress. It’s the opposite of distress, a combination of euphoria and stress. Eustress is the feeling that comes when there’s a desire to perform accompanied by confidence in one’s ability.
With distress the perception is of impending failure; with eustress, it’s of certain success.
Distress causes a depletion of energy, compulsive behavior (which actually increases the probability of failure), a general sense of discouragement, and eventually, depression. To sum up, distress makes me feel like I have to perform, but I’m afraid I can’t.
Symptoms accompanying eustress are a wellspring of energy, propulsive behavior, a sense of well-being and confidence, (which improves the probability of success), and an intense desire to succeed. In other words, I want to perform and believe I can. See the difference?
Walking on Water
Peter experienced both these feelings when he stepped out of the boat on the Sea of Galilee. Initially, seeing the Lord walking on the water was a shock, but Peter’s childlike faith caused him to want the same experience. “Lord”, he said, “If it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come” replied the Lord. Before he had time to think, Peter was out of the boat and on (not in) the water.
Imagine the feeling, “I want to and I can.” That’s eustress. It’s what Peter experienced in those first few steps on the water. It’s the same feeling the conditioned athlete gets before taking the crucial shot at the end of a close game … or the experienced salesperson feels in moving to close the sale. It’s adrenaline and endorphin all in one.
But then Peter looked around at the impossible situation he was in and suddenly the feeling changed to distress. Now it was “I have to and I can’t”.
Peter could have focused on the Lord’s promise to him for one step at a time, he could have even swum back to the boat. But in distress one often acts compulsively, not thinking clearly.
Peter yielded to his fears, began to sink, and cried out, “Lord, save me.” Of course, the Lord did, but then He reprimanded Peter. “You of little faith. Why did you doubt?”
It’s easy to laugh at Peter. We forget that until that night no one had ever walked on water. And of the two who did, one was the Son of God, who created the water they were standing on. But for the other, there was no experience base, personal or otherwise, nothing to fall back on, to build his confidence with. There was only the Voice of the Lord, saying “Come.” It required too big a step of faith for Peter. His fear of failure was too strong to be overcome by his fledgling faith.
The other day, I spoke with a man who’s combined personal, business, and family challenges surpass anything I have ever heard of—certainly, anything I have ever experienced.
As we talked, I realized that a good portion of his life has been lived like Peter’s night on the sea. Listening to the Voice of the Lord saying, “Come.” Had Peter had this man’s experience in trusting the Lord, he could have walked across the Atlantic Ocean.
Learning What I’ve Taught
Reaching too quickly for an impossible dream can produce the distress that promotes compulsive, defeatist behavior, making failure the likely outcome. Taking the time to let your experience catch up with your dream by biting off and digesting small pieces can actually bring it within reach more quickly.
And just as our experience in achieving smaller goals brings the big ones into perspective, so our experience trusting God in little things builds the faith to trust Him more.
He gave us the faith to be saved. Now, as we turn more and more of our lives over to Him and trust Him for the outcome, we’re building it into the faith to walk on water. Like everything else in life, it only improves with practice.
What was my friend’s response when I asked him how in the world he was surviving? “By the grace of God, one day at a time.”
He knew he could never meet the challenges he faced in his own strength. But through experience, he had developed the faith to trust God for the outcome. An impossible goal brought into perspective through faith.