“…His [Jesus] disciples went down unto the sea, and entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them. And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew.” John 6:16-18
A great wind is blowing across our world today, and many of us find ourselves in a storm.
In my journeys to Israel, one of the most delightful times for me is to sit at twilight on the shores of Galilee. The tranquility is like a dream. You’re almost intoxicated by beauty as the sun sets over the Sea of Galilee. The Golan Heights across the sea from Tiberius turns a rosy color. You can hear birds nesting in the trees.
I believe the Sea of Galilee is one of the most beautiful bodies of water on earth. The old rabbis used to say that God created all the other seas, then He created Galilee just for Himself.
It had been a wonderful day. Jesus had been with His disciples, feeding the 5,000. The disciples were full of success and self-confidence when they climbed into their boat that evening. Then it happens.
The wind begins to rise. Clouds darken the moon. An angry wind beats the sea with its fists, and the water rises up and slaps the disciples in the face. That Sea of Galilee, quiet as a millpond, has now become dangerous. These seasoned sailors are filled with fear way out in the sea, and Jesus is on the shore.
Mark’s gospel describes it like this: “And when evening was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and He alone on the land. And He saw them toiling in rowing … and … He cometh unto them, walking upon the sea …” Mark 6:47
John’s gospel continues, “So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship; and they were afraid.” (v. 19)
Jesus sees them toiling and rowing. He never took His eyes off them. Jesus comes saying, “It is I. Don’t be afraid” (John 6:20). “Be of good cheer. It is I. Be not afraid.” (Mark 6:50)
Be Not Afraid
Some 365 times in the Bible—one time for every day in the year—God has told us in one way or another, “Be not afraid” or “Fear not.” The devil is the sinister minister of fear, but our Lord tells us not to be afraid.
Some of the disciples were seasoned sailors, but they are filled with fear. They bend their backs to the oars. It’s too far from the shore to swim. The waves are too boisterous. They have an idea that they are going down. And on top of all of this, where is Jesus? Why hasn’t He come to them? Why has He forsaken them?
Then they see Him. He’s walking on the water. That doesn’t bring them joy. Now their fear has turned to raw terror. Who? What is that walking on the water? Is it a phantom? A ghost? And then they recognize—it’s Jesus, the wave walker, walking on the water.
Are you in a storm? You say, “No, Pastor, I’m not.” Well I’m glad for you. Enjoy the trip. We’re fools if we don’t enjoy the good times of life. But just wait awhile. I’ve learned as a pastor that there is a heartache on every pew. We all have storms. Sooner or later, you will find yourself in a storm
If you are in a storm, my advice for you is to see Jesus, the great I AM. See Him walking on the water. It may be that God has engineered your storm; if not, He has certainly allowed it, because our God is over everything.
Know that Jesus sees you. He never takes His eyes from you. You say, “He doesn’t know where I am. He doesn’t know this difficulty. Why is He so far away? Why am I in the storm and He is on the shore?”
Friend, He is there, and He’s praying for you. He’s up there on the mountain looking down. He sees right through the dark. You can’t see Him, but He sees you. You can say, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”
The Word of God tells us we are seated in heavenly places with Him (Ephesians 2:6). You can’t drown with your head above water. That which looks like it’s over your head is already under His feet. He is the great I AM. God’s providence is over it all. You are governed by His providence. You are guarded by His power.
Do You Glow in the Dark?
Someone said that faith is like film. It’s developed in the dark. That’s when we learn to trust the Lord.
In the Bible there are correcting storms and there are perfecting storms. Jonah, who spent the night on a foam blubber mattress, was in a correcting storm because he was out of the will of God. He was running from God, so God sent a correcting storm.
But there are also perfecting storms. These disciples were not out of the will of God. Why were they in a storm in the first place? Because—don’t miss this—they were in the will of God! It was Jesus, Matthew tells us (14:22), who constrained them to get into that boat. He literally made them get in! They were in this storm because they were obeying Jesus.
Governed by His Providence
Why would God want them to be in a storm? Because He wanted them to grow. God is the master of the winds and waves. He is able to cause storms to come or to calm them. Psalm 107 says this clearly:
“…see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep. For He commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof…Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and He bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still…so He bringeth them unto their desired haven.” (v. 23-30)
I’ve often shared these words, written by Robert Browning Hamilton:
I walked a mile with pleasure; she chatted all the way.
But left me none the wiser for all she had to say.
I walked a mile with sorrow; not a word said she.
But oh, the things I learned from sorrow, when sorrow walked with me.”
Is that not true? In Psalm 4:1 David declares, “Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.”
Only a very shallow theology says if we’re in the will of God, we’ll always sail smoothly on the sea of life; we’ll have no sickness, sorrow, no disappointment, know no separation; there’ll be no problems in our family.
The “joy boys” get on television and say, “You just believe God and send me an offering, and you’ll never be sick. Everything’ll be fine.” This is the gospel of cash and Cadillacs. There’s a Greek word for it: baloney. No, friend, we’re going to have difficulty. When it comes, be assured God’s providence is over it all.
Growing By His Plan
God’s plan is not to indulge you; God’s plan is to enlarge you. Remember Psalm 4:1? “Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress.”
Those of you who’ve walked a long time with the Lord, when did you grow the most? When everything was fine? When there was smooth sailing? Or when the storm came? Did you not grow more in the storm, in distress, when you were crowded to Christ, and when you had to call upon Him? This is growing by His plan.
Immediately, We Will Be On Shore!
“But He saith unto them, ‘It is I; be not afraid.’ Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.” John 6:20-21
Jesus Himself brought them through. Andrew Murray said, “God is willing to assume full responsibility for the life totally yielded to Him.” Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
In this world we encounter tribulation, and it’s growing more, not less, intense. Where is Jesus? Jesus has overcome the world. That’s what He’s telling you and me.
Worldwide, the spiritual barometer is falling, and all of us who can read the signs of the times know a storm is gathering. The Bible tells us that. But soon our Lord, who has been on the mountain of His glory praying for us, is going to rise from His throne. And then, walking on the water will be child’s play. He’ll come stepping on the clouds. He’ll come in His glory.
And those of us who are here on the sea of time will immediately be on the shores of eternity just like that when He comes. Won’t that be a day?