by Brian Shilhavy

I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” (Mark 9:23)

There is a lot of debate today over the meaning of the word “natural” in certain circles, particularly in the marketing of food products. What the word “natural” means in communication depends on the understanding of the one using the term.

For those starting from a Darwinian presupposition, for example, it means something like the “natural” course of the way things evolved. “Natural” in this sense is the result of random processes absent from any intelligence guiding it. For those starting from a creation or intelligent design presupposition, “natural” means something related to a design principle, and what the designer intended.

Science, in the strictest sense of the word, cannot prove either starting presupposition. Both positions start with a belief about what is true.

When we come to the term supernatural, however, there is no serious debate as to what the term means. The only debate is whether or not it occurs in real life. Darwinists, for the most part, have to deny the supernatural to conform to their belief system.

For the reader of the Bible, one encounters the record of supernatural events all throughout the pages of scripture. Jesus constantly interacted with the natural realm supernaturally, defying so-called “laws of nature.”

He walked on water, changed water into wine, created food supernaturally, instantaneously healed sick people, and even raised some people from the dead. The Acts of the Apostles and early followers of Jesus Christ in the Bible records that they too operated at times in the supernatural after Jesus left.

As the verses at the beginning of this article state, Christ taught that all things were possible with God, and that through him there were no limitations to the natural order.

So how does one move from the natural to the supernatural?

There is one supernatural event recorded in the Bible that I think is very instructive and can show us just how to act supernaturally through Christ. The event was recorded in the book of Matthew chapter 14:

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.

When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.

When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:22-33)

I have written a list of 11 observations regarding this supernatural event (although this list is by no means exhaustive!):

1. Jesus came to his disciples who were in the midst of a storm (a natural event).

2. The disciples were afraid when they saw him. He came to them walking on top of the water supernaturally, and this was not something they had ever seen or experienced before, so they doubted that they were actually seeing Jesus.

3. Jesus said to them “Take courage! It is I.” He apparently did not get into the boat at that time, but was close enough to the boat to communicate with them (shouting over the winds??)

4. Peter made a request. Peter was apparently not satisfied just looking at Jesus, as some had claimed he was a ghost. He wanted to go to Jesus and be sure it was really him, so he requested that Jesus tell him to come to him on the water.

5. Jesus responded to Peter’s request and said: “Come.”

6. Once Peter had the answer to his request, he acted upon it. He got out of the boat and walked on the water supernaturally.

7. As he walked towards Christ on the water, he doubted. He was doing something that was not “natural.” He was afraid of the storm.

8. Peter made another request: “Lord save me!” (from drowning in the water) Note that Peter was a professional fisherman and a probably a strong swimmer (John 21-1-9). This must have been quite some storm!

9. Jesus responded and saved him from drowning in the water during the storm.

10. Jesus spoke to him and told him what the cause was for his failure: he had “little faith” (but at least he had some!)

11. Jesus asked Peter a question: “Why did you doubt?” It is not likely that Jesus asked this question expecting an answer from Peter, or because Jesus did not know the answer to this question. He probably asked it for Peter’s benefit, so he could learn the answer.

Principles for Benefiting from the Supernatural Power of Christ

This story has many lessons for those of us who are believers in Christ, so let’s look at some principles we can use to experience the supernatural power that Christ promises to his believers:

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. (John 14:12)

1. The disciples’ worldview and belief system did not exclude the supernatural, or the spiritual realm.

Before they understood what was happening, they attributed their experience of seeing Jesus walking on the water as seeing a “ghost.” They understood that there were things in creation outside of the natural order. If one’s belief system does not allow for the spiritual realm or the supernatural, it is not likely you will ever benefit from supernatural experiences. You may experience something supernaturally in a negative way that challenges your belief system, but your unbelief will prevent you from experiencing Christ’s supernatural power.

2. All supernatural benefits and actions are the result of knowing Christ.

Peter did not just decide to jump out of a boat and walk on water one day. He had spent time with Christ, getting to know him, and had seen how Christ worked in people’s lives. Just prior to this story, Jesus had fed over 5000 people supernaturally from five loaves of bread and two fish. One has to know Christ first, on a personal basis, and that comes from the rebirth process where we are born again spiritually. Then we need to spend time with Jesus, watching how he works in our lives and in the lives of others, cultivating our relationship with him. If you cannot benefit from Christ’s supernatural power to overcome simpler things in your life, such as controlling your anger, or loving someone who is not very loveable, then don’t expect an invitation from Christ to walk on water.

There are of course other supernatural powers in the universe outside of Christ which operate in the spiritual realm, but they are all subject to Christ:

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:13-17)

The very life-force and fabric of the universe is held in place by Jesus Christ. No power is higher than him.

3. Christ initiates the experience.

Christ came to them during the storm. They did not recognize him at first, as they were not expecting him to be there. That is the way it is with many of the storms of life we pass through. We fail to recognize that Christ is with us in the midst of the storm. We can’t control the storms, but we can be victorious over them by understanding that Christ is there with us, and has everything under control.

Understanding that Christ always initiates a supernatural experience is very important. If we don’t understand this truth, we are tempted to believe that we ourselves can manipulate the natural order via the supernatural, and this is a form of “magic” that is outside of the supernatural power of Christ working in our lives.

4. We must communicate with Christ.

Once we come to recognize that Christ is with us in the storm, we need to ask him for guidance and help. It would seem that in this story Christ was just going to stay near the boat making sure nothing was going to happen to the disciples. But Peter wanted more than that. So he asked Christ if he could walk on the water. He moved from a passive observer of the supernatural, to an active participant. However, he had a history of communicating with Christ prior to this event.

5. When Christ speaks to us, we must act upon his word in faith.

When we ask something from Jesus and he responds, do we believe it? Peter did, so he got out of the boat and started walking on the water.

All believers are unique and have a unique relationship with Jesus, and we all need to cultivate that relationship, learning how to hear the voice of Jesus.

When Jesus walked the earth and spoke to the believers in the natural realm using his natural voice and body, he told his disciples that after he left the Holy Spirit would come and be their “counselor,” explaining everything to them:

All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:25-26)

Today we have the written words of Christ contained in the scriptures which offer us much wisdom and benefit. But knowledge of his written word leads to only an intellectual knowledge about Christ, and not a personal knowledge in a relationship with Christ.

We need both! The disciples on earth who were with Christ in the natural realm received direct teaching from him during a three year period. We now have much of that teaching recorded in the Bible. But just as intellectual knowledge about Christ was not enough for the original disciples, so too it is not enough for believers today. We must know Christ through the spiritual rebirth process, and be guided by the counsel of the Holy Spirit so that we have specific instructions from Jesus to act in faith when the storms come.

Intellectual knowledge alone will not lead to supernatural power. When Paul wrote a letter to believers in the city of Corinth in the first century, people whose lives had been radically transformed by Christ, he said:

When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

Paul lived a life in the supernatural.

God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. (Act 19:11-12)

He is the one who wrote the opening verse of this article above:

I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

6. When we fail, we must call out to Christ, because he is ready to act on our behalf.

Failure in acting in faith does not exclude us from further opportunities to experience the supernatural power of Christ. If you read about the life of Peter, he failed a lot! Even after this event, he would go on and deny Christ just before they killed him, acting once again out of fear. But Peter was considered one of the “pillars” of the faith, and one of the key leaders in the early church.

One of most beautiful truths of operating in the supernatural is that not only do our weaknesses and failures not exclude us from living a supernatural life, they are actually required! It is a paradoxical principle that Paul explained:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Jesus gave the key principle for us to live successful lives in both the natural and supernatural realm:

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)

Questions to ask yourself if you are not experiencing the supernatural power of Christ:

1. Do I truly know Christ, or do I only know about him?

When Jesus walked the earth in his natural body tens of thousands of people heard him preach, hundreds became his disciples, and twelve were his “apostles” and were with him the entire three years of his ministry. Of those twelve, there was an inner group of three who were closest to him (which included Peter), and we see two of those three performing most of the supernatural acts after he left. Today in his resurrected state, Jesus is not confined to a physical body, and we can be as close to him personally as Peter was who walked on water.

2. Has Christ approached me in a way where I did not recognize him?

3. Is there fear in my life, because I do not recognize that Christ is with me in a specific situation or storm in life?

4. What should I do about my doubt?

I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)