Walking On Water
Like Simon Peter, we can accomplish miraculous things following the Lord's invitation to come unto Him.
Thank you, thank you for that prayer in Spanish that I haven’t heard here for a while, thank you for the spiritual thought Lorenzo and also to Alyssa and Henrique for that beautiful performance. I feel blessed, really to the musical numbers that we receive. I have an immense appreciation to the BC choir that usually and every week uplift us with their beautiful music.
I feel honored to be here today, thank you President Kusch for inviting me to speak, and to everyone that has something to do in making this Devotional possible, they are remarkable well organized. Today from the stand and every week from the benches I feel blessed by your work, most importantly I want to thank all of you, President at this historic building today for participating online, by watching or listening to this Devotional later, for the faith and desired you demonstrate to be uplifted and inspired, especially today when our Devotional competes with Holiday plans and World Cup soccer games, especially Colombians here, very thankful that you’re here.
I earnestly pray that the Holy Ghost will be with us this time, and ask that you may join me in that prayer so that we may receive the spiritual promptings and answers we are looking for.
From the time I was a young missionary over 20 years ago, the story of Jesus walking on water found in the gospel of Matthew, has fascinated me. Especially because the version in this gospel differs from the others, with the apostle Peter actually joining the Lord in this miraculous act.
The passage reads: (Matthew 14:22-33)
22 And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away…
23 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.
24 But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.
25 And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
26 And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.
27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
32 And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.
33 Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.
At the beginning of the account, the disciple’s “ship [is found] in the midst of the sea, [being] tossed with waves [and] contrary [winds]” (Matthew 14:24).
Have you ever found yourself feeling like you are alone in the midst of the sea, tossed by ravaging waves and fierce winds blowing against you? Because I have.
In your case, it might be that you are dealing with feelings of anxiety or depression. Or maybe that you are feeling like a failure trying to manage important school, work, church, and family responsibilities.
It could be that you are feeling overlooked or unwanted in a new setting at school, church, or work. Or perhaps you just don’t know how you will be able to pay for the next semester at school, or that engagement ring.
I want you to know, that no matter how perfect others’ lives might seem to be, every single one of us has these feelings.
I remember a day many years ago when I was a BYU-Idaho college student on my third semester of education. I had only $400 in my pocket, and a $900 rent bill, accompanied with a $1,300 tuition bill that if unpaid, threatened my international student status in the country, both of which were due the very next day.
You see, as an international student, I was only allowed to work 20 hours a week at the school’s Idaho minimum wage, which was $5.15 at the time. I was working as much as I was legally allowed to do and did not want to break the very personal promise I had made to my Heavenly Father not to work illegally outside the school.
I just couldn’t sleep that night. I kept thinking about the situation and running through different scenarios in my mind over and over again. I had already spent so much time and effort trying to make things work, but I felt like I was at the end of the rope, and that there wasn’t anything else that I could realistically do.
I had been trying to live righteously. I worked as hard as I could. I even had been living on rice and water for several months in order to pay for things. I had gone to the Financial Aids Office pleading for help, but nothing had worked!
Brothers and sisters, I felt alone, I was exhausted, I was hungry, and I was downhearted... my ship was in the midst of the sea, tossed by waves and contrary winds. It was one of those moments when all you have left is your God.
So, I poured my heart out to Him asking for help. In terms of housing, I figured I could live in a friend’s car and shower at the school’s gym until I found a place to live.
But I told my Heavenly Father that if my tuition wasn’t paid, I would have to leave the country, and that I didn’t want to go back home empty handed without the education I felt I needed in order to be a more capable servant.
With tears in my eyes, I told Him of my righteous desires, that I had exhausted every possibility, that I had given it my all, but that I just couldn’t do, I couldn’t do it without Him. And that He was all I had left.
On the morning after my sleepless night, I got up and had the impression to go get the mail – yes, we received mails on those days. There I found two unexpected letters addressed to me. One was a check from the IRS for $400 correcting some mistake that had been made in my tax return earlier that year.
The other was a letter informing me that I had been chosen to receive a $500 one-time “Excellence in Student Teaching Leadership” scholarship, for my work as a Math Tutor in the school. A scholarship that I never applied for or knew even existed.
The Lord had answered my fervent prayer, the money I had, now added up exactly to the amount I needed in order to pay for tuition. So I rapidly ran to the bank to deposit what I had, and then again to the cashier’s office to make the payment. Now, imagine how I felt, when I was told by the sister working at the cashier that the tuition I was there to pay had already been paid.
How could that be? I had checked my account status just the night before, so I asked her to please confirm that what she was telling me was accurate. After inspecting my account, she said, “Oh, I know what happened… someone came in and paid your tuition in full earlier today, but there is also a note asking not to reveal their name, so please don’t ask, your tuition is paid.”
I still don’t know who paid my tuition that day, but the walk back home was filled with tears of joy, fillings of boundless gratitude and love, and the reassurance that Heavenly Father listened to my prayers.
Now, as we read earlier, although Matthew’s account of the Savior’s walking on water ends in a similarly positive note, with an increase of faith in the Son of God, as my story did. Where the Lord eventually “[came] into the ship, [and made] the wind cease.” The participation of Peter in the story teaches us some other interesting lessons that I would like to mention.
Matthew tells us that “Jesus went unto [the disciples], walking on the sea… saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.” To what “Peter answered… and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water” (Matthew 14:25-28).
To me, what happens next is extraordinary inspiring. Following the invitation of the Lord to “come”, Peter miraculously “walked on the water, to go to Jesus” (Matthew 14:29).
Illustrating the power that Jesus Christ has in our lives, Elder David A Bednar said:
“Not only does the Atonement of Jesus Christ overcome the effects of the Fall of Adam and make possible the remission of our individual sins and transgressions, but His Atonement also enables us to do good and become better in ways that stretch far beyond our mortal capacities. Most of us know that when we do things wrong and need help to overcome the effects of sin in our lives, the Savior has made it possible for us to become clean through His redeeming power. But do we also understand that the Atonement is for faithful men and women who are obedient, worthy, and conscientious and who are striving to become better and serve more faithfully? I wonder if we fail to fully acknowledge this strengthening aspect of the Atonement in our lives and mistakenly believe we must carry our load all alone—through sheer grit, willpower, and discipline and with our obviously limited capacities.
It is one thing to know that Jesus Christ came to this earth to die for us. But we also need to appreciate that the Lord desires, through His Atonement and by the power of the Holy Ghost, to enliven us—not only to guide but also to strengthen and heal us” (“Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease” – April 2014 General Conference).
In my life, I have been blessed to witness the example of some that, like Peter, and through the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, faithfully followed the Lord’s invitation and lived lives that resembled the impossible act of walking on water.
My mother, Adela Guerrero, was abandoned by her parents at birth and was raised by her alcoholic grandfather. She sold newspapers in the streets of northern Chile at the young age of 5, begging for food, or eating what she could find on someone’s porches. Later, she would suffer through bad relationships that yielded decades of physical and emotional abuse.
But following the Lord’s invitation to come unto Him, she eventually raised four daughters by herself, became a successful small business owner, listened to a couple of Mormon missionaries and accepted the gospel. My dear mother’s life left a legacy of courageous perseverance, love, and faith that blessed her children, grandchildren, and will bless future generations who will one day follow.
Her example inspired me to look for the help of the Lord to master a new language, become the first member of my family to serve a mission, and also the first to go to college. And today, I still have many more goals I want achieve, all of which I would never be able to accomplish without Christ’s enabling power. Because I am just a simple and ordinary man who greatly trusts Him.
But as we strive to come unto the Lord, following the example of those before us. It is important to know and understand that as imperfect mortals beings, they most likely experienced, as we will, faith-numbing self-doubts.
For example, playing the guitar is something that I had always wanted to do, but that I never had the time for. Well, last March, my wife signed me up for lessons as a birthday present and the experience has been delightful.
But a few weeks ago, I felt like I physically could not do what my instructor was asking me to do – my students sometimes could relate – because I was convinced that my fingers were too short. When I explained to my instructor the physical limitations that didn’t allow me to play the cords, he put his hand by mine. Showing me that his fingers were actually shorter than mine – yes, that’s possible. And explaining that I had no excuse to be any less successful at playing the guitar than he was.
Now going back to Matthew’s account, Peter seeing “the wind boisterous, [became] afraid; and [began] to sink,.. saying, Lord, save me” (Matthew 14:30). To which the Savior “immediately… stretched forth his hand, and caught him” (Matthew 14:31).
To the Nephites the Savior said: “Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive” (3 Nephi 9:14). The Messiah extends His arm of mercy to us, always eager to help us if we just choose to come unto Him.
In the wisdom of an all-knowing God, you and I will at times have to sink. But I hope that you realize that the failed attempt of Peter in his story, didn’t ultimately define him. The Lord didn’t give up on him or disregard him because he wasn’t able to follow Him perfectly. If we read about the life of Peter, we would see that he experienced failure many times again after that one occasion. But the important thing is that Peter never gave up, ultimately leading the Church and accomplishing many wondrous miracles.
Consider the analogy that Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf made:
“We have all seen toddlers learn to walk. They takes a small step and totters. They fall. Do we scold such an attempt? Of course not. What father would punish a toddler for stumbling? We encourage, we applaud, and we praise because with every small step, the child is becoming more like his parents.
Now… compared to the perfection of God, we mortals are scarcely more than awkward, faltering toddlers. But our loving Heavenly Father wants us to become more like Him, and… that should be our eternal goal too. God understands that we get there not in an instant but by taking one step at a time.
I do not believe in a God who would set up rules and commandments only to wait for us to fail so He could punish us. I believe in a Heavenly Father who is loving and caring and who rejoices in our every effort to stand tall and walk toward Him. Even when we stumble, He urges us not to be discouraged—never to give up or flee our allotted field of service—but to take courage, find our faith, and keep trying.
Our Father in Heaven mentors His children and often sends unseen heavenly help to those who desire to follow the Savior” (“Four Titles” – April 2013 General Conference).
So, following the inspiring example of Peter and my dear mother, and with all my doubts and imperfections, I too have been trying to live a life beyond the limiting mindset of those that don’t comprehend the potential that we all, as sons and daughters of a Heavenly father have when we choose to “repent and [come] unto [Him] with full purpose of heart” (3 Nephi 10:6).
I grew up in a social environment that continually told me that joy within families was no more than a far reaching fantasy, because men and women were simply incapable of putting off the natural man. The failed relationships and broken families that surrounded me, filled my heart with deep doubts. Sometimes I even wondered if anyone was truly fit to fulfill the “divine nature and destiny” in “the plan of happiness” that the prophets spoke of (The Family: A Proclamation To The World).
But going on a full-time mission allowed me to witness firsthand, for the first time in my life, a successful and happy family. I saw genuine respect and love between a good covenant making man and a woman. The family example of my Mission President and his wife showed me that the promises of the prophets were real. And broke the paradigms set earlier in my life.
Now, this doesn’t mean that marriage has been easy for my wife and I, but we share a strong faith, and trust that with the Lord we can treasure good times and endure the challenging ones. I love my family and cherish my wife, praying and trying every day to become the husband and the father that they would want to have by their side for all eternity.
As Elder Uchtdorf mentioned, it is also important to know that the Lord’s reaching arm comes often in the form of someone. For some, and for me it was an honorable Mission President and a devoted seminary teacher.
As a young man, a school teacher, most likely unaware of the impact of her words, told me that I didn’t seem to have what it took to get anywhere better in life. But the caring faith of my seminary teacher, Sister Aurora Olivares, who in this crucial period in my life saw me through God’s eyes and with her actions taught me of my worth.
For several years, this humble lady while I was the only seminary student in our ward, would walk miles every weekday morning and wait for me at church at 6 am to teach me the gospel. There were many mornings when I felt like I didn’t want to get out of bed, but Sister Olivares’ commitment to me, got me up and slowly helped me understand my worth and what I was capable of.
Thanks for listening to a little bit of my personal story today, I hope that you know that I feel like I am walking on water every time that I see my 3 children tickling mom and laughing in our bed.
Every time that I am worthy to visit the sacred celestial room in the house of the Lord. Every day that I am allowed to be married to a woman that brings sunshine into the lives of all who know her.
Every time that I realize the daily blessing I have to live in this country, work doing something I love, see the temple from my window, and continually receive countless tender mercies of God. More than I fell I deserve.
My brother and sisters, my beloved students, these are the fruits of living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, this is the true Plan of Happiness.
May I invite those of you now in the midst of the sea, floating in a ship tossed with waves, to join us in the journey to accept Christ’s invitation to change and become. To know that you are the child of a Heavenly Father, created in His image, with the potential to become like Him.
All those of you that have already accepted His invitation, to all of you that are walking on water, but feel like you are now sinking. Please allow the Lord to rescue you out of the water and never give up on trying.
I see many here that had met me many years ago and many new friends, I want you to know that all I am, and all I have become and all I will become is because of my God, all the glory is to him.
I leave you this morning with the exhortation and testimony that our dear Prophet Russell M. Nelson shared with us during the last Conference:
“I exhort you to ‘come unto Christ,’ we are followers of Jesus Christ. The most important truth the Holy Ghost will ever witness to you is that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. He lives! He is our Advocate with the Father, our Exemplar, our Redeemer… we commemorate His atoning sacrifice, His literal Resurrection, and His divinity. This is His Church, restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith” (“Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives” – April 2018 General Conference).
I know that President Nelson is a true Prophet of God. May we always remember that we are children of heavenly parents filled with purpose and a celestial destiny, is my fervent prayer, in the name of my Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Amen.