THE VISITING speaker at church, last weekend, spoke about the time the disciples feared they were going to drown while Jesus snoozed in the back of the boat. His message reminded me how easy it is for us to panic when things seem to go wrong.
The disciples weren’t making a fuss over nothing. They were experienced fishermen, having spent many hours out on the Sea of Galilee, so they knew the difference between a squall and a storm. If these men feared for their lives, then conditions must have been really bad.
I wonder if at any time as they bailed frantically and snuck a glance over at Jesus, snoozing in the back, they thought, “We’re about to lose our lives, and the only reason we’re going to die here, the only reason we are in this boat in the first place, is because we are following you!”
I’ve been there; terrified by the rising waters and certain I’m about to drown. Aware that I’m in jeopardy only because I have followed His directions as best as I know, and He doesn’t seem to care. You may have found yourself in a similar situation. Ministry, job, relationships; Jesus called you to go with Him, and then it all seemed to fall apart. And He napped.
Some people suggest that Jesus was pretending to be asleep because He wanted to test the disciples. Others offer that he slept because He knew everything was going to be OK in the end. Both explanations seem inadequate to me, suggesting an indifference to people’s fear that does not mesh with His character.
It’s one thing to believe God cares for you when you’re sitting on the shore, watching the sun set over the water. It’s another matter when you’re out in the middle of the lake, in the dark. His sleep awakens things in us. If you’re out there right now, shipping water and feeling abandoned, let me offer three encouragements from the disciples’ night in the storm.
His word can be trusted. Jesus hadn’t just said to them, “Let’s go sailing.” He told them, “Let’s go over to the other side.” (Mark 4:39). He knew where He was going, and He would not be prevented from finishing what He began. Hang on to what He has told you.
Our focus may be on the wrong thing. The other Gospel accounts just tell of Jesus rebuking the wind and the waves. Mark, however, describes how Jesus rebuked the wind but spoke to the sea, telling it, “Peace! Be still!” How interesting. The immediate danger was from the waves, but they were the effect, not the cause. Jesus was fierce with the wind; He commanded it. But He was gentle with the sea; He calmed it.
How often when panic sets in do we lose sight of what’s really going on? It’s understandable when the water’s pouring in over the bow, but we might do well to remember that it’s not really the swell we should be worrying about. We may be spending too much time cursing the waves, when we should be rebuking the wind.
He can intervene dramatically. Mark recounts how when Jesus spoke, the wind stopped blowing and “there was a great calm.” Galilee went from a roller coaster ride to glass in an instant, no gradual ebbing away. When disaster seems only a moment away, God can still change things in ways we cannot imagine.
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