Have you ever heard the saying “He bit off more than he can chew?” Or maybe “Life is hard.” Sometimes we get to a point in whatever we’re doing- school, job, family life, you name it….. that we begin to feel like we are all alone, standing face to face with an issue, and nobody knows what we are up against.
Of course, our faith in God should always tell us that we are not alone in this, that we’re not just “out there flapping” as I used to say in the Army. Still, every now and then we need that reminder. Recently, I needed that reminder as I faced some trying times in my job.
I went to lunch, sat down with my Bible, and just literally turned to this story. And wouldn’t you know it, it was exactly what I needed to hear. The story picks up right after Jesus fed the multitude with the 5 loaves and two fish. He told his disciples to get in a boat and go across the lake, and He’d join them later.
Mark 6: 45-52
45 Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.
47 When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 48 He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50 because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, 52 for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.
God has a wonderful way of showing us a lot of information in a really short story.
First, for just a minute, let’s examine the time frame here, and some of the facts of the story, so that their impact can really set in later.
Jesus had the disciples set off in a boat, then went up on the mountainside to pray. Notice in verse 47, it says “when evening came”. So the disciples had set off before sundown, and when evening came, they were halfway across. Making good time, but it was hard work. Jesus saw them straining against the oars, as the wind was against them. Keep in mind- that was when evening came.
In verse 48, it says Jesus headed out across the lake- walking! And it was the fourth watch of the night. The fourth watch was sometime between 4:00 AM and 6:00 AM!
OK- ya got the picture? Those fellas have been out on the lake struggling since before sundown, and here it is almost dawn.
So why in the world did Jesus wait so late to head out there? Several things jumped out at me- and a surprise I’d never seen before was tucked in there.
- First, consider who put them in the boat. Jesus did. And he would not have done so if He thought it wasn’t the best thing for the disciples to carry out God’s purpose. He KNEW what they were doing, and where they were going. And He did not worry- He knew Who was in control.
- Second, Jesus saw their struggles, quite clearly. He saw them straining against the oars. And yet He did not immediately go out to them. Again- He put them in the boat. And He knew they were going to strain and struggle. Yet he also knew that He had equipped them to handle it- they were fisherman! And they were working for His purpose.
- Third- and this was the thing that really jumped out at me…. notice the last part of verse 48….. “He was about to pass by them,”! They were straining against the oars, had been all night. And Jesus was walking across the water- not heading to them, but ready to go on past them! Only when they saw Him and became scared did they cry out in fear- and He went to them.
So how does all this apply to us?
First- whatever you face, you can rest assured the Lord fully understands it. In fact- He put you in the boat. And He does not do so lightly. He knows the water, the weather, the condition of the boat and the people in the boat with you. As His precious child, He will not put you in a boat that is not in some way, shape or form part of His good purpose for your life.
Next, God sees what you are doing. He sees your struggle. He sees the waves. In fact- the waves the disciples faced were part of God’s creation! In other words- He gets it. There’s nothing you can struggle against that will surprise God. And as a believer, you can know He will equip you for that struggle, and will be watching you, even in the toughest darkest time. Why wouldn’t He? You are His child carrying out His purpose!
So what about the whole “walk on by” part? What’s up with that?
Simple. Jesus knew He had sent them on His mission fully equipped to do His purpose. The Master was going on ahead because the servants were about His business. Only when fear gripped them- and diverted them from their purpose- did Jesus come to comfort them and assure them with His words, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
As a believer in Jesus Christ, we can take great comfort in the absolute assurance that in our life journey across the lake, He is watching. He put us in the boat, and He has equipped us to get across. Yes, we will struggle at times. The winds and waves will batter us, the water will get in the boat. Our muscles will be strained to the max. Yet we do not need to be afraid. Because He’s already crossed the lake- and waits on the other side with our reward.
Yet when we grow weary, when we are afraid, when the waves and wind and water and the storms of life buffet and better us, and we cry out in fear “Lord help me! Where are you!”, Jesus is there.
“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, if you have asked Him into your heart as your Lord and Saviour, I ask you to take a few moments to pray and consider this scripture, and thank God in prayer that He placed you in the boat, He sees your struggle in the boat- and He has prepared a reception for you on the lake’s far side. And through it all, you are never alone. You are rowing according to His purpose for His glory.
If you have not accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, I invite you to take some time and examine what it means to be a Christian, to be free from the bondage of sin and worry, and to become an heir to God’s Eternal Kingdom. It is the single most important decision of your life- in fact, it is the only one that truly matters, because it matters eternally. And if you’d like to know more after reading that, please feel free to contact me, or visit a Christ- centered church in your area, and ask the pastor to tell you more about God’s wonderful gift of Salvation through Jesus Christ.