Image by Ivan Aivazovsky
By Jaime Luce
Is your storm raging? Are the winds against you? Have you been in this contrary position to the point of exhaustion? I have been in this place many times. That place where though you have seen God move on your behalf and maybe even seen the miraculous, here you are again in the midst of another storm. Today while getting my morning Starbucks as per my routine, I flipped through my Facebook while waiting for my drink. I came across the story of a woman who had been through one storm after another to the point of exhaustion and wanting to quit. Complaining to her father, he puts three pots of water on the stove to boil. Into the three pots he placed potatoes, eggs, and coffee beans. Exasperated by the watching and not understanding the daughter complains “what are you doing?”. Finally the father speaks and asks “what do you see?”. She says, “Potatoes, eggs, and coffee”. This isn’t helping and the father explains that all three of these items were put into the same situation but resulted in very different outcomes. The potatoes, though they went in hard, were changed and came out soft and unable to stand up to the heat. The eggs, though going in fragile, came out hard on the inside. The coffee, however, remained unchanged. Rather than the boiling water changing the coffee bean, the coffee bean used its circumstance to make use of the boiling water, creating something new and useful, coffee. Then the father asked his daughter, “which one are you?”. Then as I sat down to have a time of devotions I read the story in Mark 6. Which leads me to today’s muse.
Mark 6 has several different stories to tell but what I found is a deeper thread running through all of them beginning in chapter 5. Many times we read the stories of Jesus healing people and teaching the disciples but we don’t pay attention to what Jesus was dealing with Himself. This chapter immediately follows the account of Jesus healing the woman with the issue of blood and the raising of Jairus’ daughter back to life. Which on a side note has a beautiful picture of Jesus speaking to Jairus. When Jairus hears the words that his daughter is dead Jesus immediately tells him “Do not be afraid, only believe.” He spoke hope as quickly as the words of death were spoken. He always has compassion and speaks life to us in our moment of panic. Okay, side bar finished. Back to the topic at hand. After all this happened we see that Jesus went to His own country. This is so sad to me because He grew up there and no one believed in Him. They questioned who He was, who taught Him, and how He had done what people said He could do. His response to this is in Mark 6:4 Where Jesus says, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” Can you imagine how He was feeling? The ones He wanted to minister to most were the same ones He could do the least for, even in His own house. This can be such a lonely and discouraging feeling when your loved ones do not believe in you. For most this would lead to all kinds of dysfunction. Thankfully our Teacher always shows us what to do.
Then Jesus who continually cares about the Father’s mission and not Himself began to train the disciples to go out into the ministry on their own. He gave them power over unclean spirits and told them how to be received and how to be rejected. These things He knew from personal experience as we just saw. Once they came back they shared of all they had done, all who were healed, and all they taught. Then we see while they were doing the ministry, and doing it for the first time alone, they get the news of John the Baptists murder by beheading demanding them to stop to bury John’s body. All the disciples were dealing with great grief. You know the feeling. When you work and work to take care of everyone and in the midst of all your giving you get hard news. Another storm. Sometimes things just seem to come wave after wave, crashing over you. We know they were feeling overwhelmed because Jesus says in Mark 6:31, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” Jesus and the disciples were longing for time to recover. Another side bar, remember that your Pastors and leaders too, get overwhelmed and need a break. Be good to them. Pray for them. Encourage them as they are always giving and find it hard to take time to rest and be refreshed. Side bar closed.
At this point in the story I am desperately hoping that Jesus gets some time alone. But the crowds of people who always followed them saw where they were going and ran ahead of them so that when Jesus and the disciples got there a great multitude was there waiting for them. I mean come on, they need a break! But look at v. 34. “And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd.” So He began to teach them many things. This went on until way in the night. No one had eaten or had brought food to eat. Jesus tells the disciples “You feed them”. The disciples not understanding what He meant, questioned Jesus’ words knowing it was impossible. We are just like them. We don’t walk in the knowledge that Jesus is the miracle worker to do the impossible and if He asks us to do something, there is a way and He will perform it. We remain in our pattern of natural thinking. Jesus on the other hand knew what He was going to do. He was going to do what He always does. He tells us to bring Him what we have, that’s all. Just bring what you have no matter how insignificant. He will take it as He did, bless it, and then ask you to share it. He even shows them how to share it. And in doing this the multitude is blessed and their need is met.
We as humans make ministry too complicated. Just take what you have and give it to The Lord. Let Him bless it and then share it as He gives you direction. It’s that simple. Jesus said in Matthew 10:8 “freely you have received so freely give”. Our problem is the same as the disciples had. We bounce right back into natural thinking even after witnessing the power of God, without remaining firm in the knowledge of God’s provision. Then Jesus told the disciples to get into the boat and go to the other side so He could send the multitude away. Following Jesus’ instruction they are immediately forced to deal with another storm in the natural.
The scripture tells us that Jesus was longing for time to pray alone and be refreshed, yet He can see His disciples straining at rowing. They were struggling to go where they were told to go because the wind was against them. Let that sink in. Do you ever feel like “God I’m doing what you told me to do and yet the wind is against me. I’m struggling to get to the other side like you told me”. Well first can I tell you, me too. We all struggle with the same thing. The enemy loves to bring confusion to your mind about the very thing that the Lord has commanded you to do. You think you know what the Lord wants you to do but accomplishing it isn’t easy. It seems like maybe we heard wrong because surely if we heard Him correctly this would be easy, right? I really questioned the Lord reading this, this morning and asked Him to show me what I’m missing. In V. 48 it says, “Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch (which by the way is 3-6am, so they were straining all night and not making progress) of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by.” WHAT? HE WOULD HAVE PASSED THEM BY? How could He do that? Why would He do that? The one who always has compassion was going to just walk right past them.
Oh my goodness folks. When He showed this to me I got it. Jesus was walking without strain on the same waves that the disciples were straining against due to the wind. The Teacher was again teaching a lesson. Why do we strain when we know we have heard His instruction? He had just multiplied the food from nothing with no effort of theirs other than to assess what they had and give it to Him. Yes, there was wind and yes, there were waves which made it difficult and even a struggle to row, yet Jesus was walking on the waves with ease. They thought He was a ghost and cried out in fear. So Jesus of course says, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid” and got in their boat. Here is where we pay attention to what Jesus said. His first words were “be of good cheer”. This is our clue when we face opposition. You see there are different kinds of storms. The kind that can drown you and take your life if you let it. Then there are the storms that can’t really harm you yet can still cause you a lot of struggle and strain. This was exactly that type of storm. The wind pushed against them making it difficult to gain ground. The kind of winds that can wear you out. And remember they were already tired to begin with. They had ministered all day and into the night. That is usually when these kinds of storms come. You know those kinds of struggles. The ones that feel as though everything is pushing against you and are not for you. When there is nothing propelling you forward or giving you the lift you need. But Jesus told them what the answer was. “BE OF GOOD CHEER, IT IS I; DO NOT BE AFRAID.” Do you see it? The first thing they needed to do was have joy. Be of good cheer. Be happy! God has given the direction. So regardless if it is easy or not we should have joy because in 1 Thessalonians 5:24 we know, “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” That’s something to be joyful about. Remember how Joshua and the children of Israel were instructed by God on how to enter the promised land and take Jericho? They marched around for 6 days and then on the 7th day and the 7th time around they were to blow the trumpet and let out a great shout. Why do you think they were to do that? Well first when you lift up your voice in victory it gives you strength. It’s the “I can do it!” in our spirits. That’s why the scripture tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength. Jesus stands up in you and you feel the strength and the victory. You may ask where does the joy come from? It’s the understanding that we already have the victory. The knowledge that you don’t have to strain for it. Jesus said it and that settles it. It’s what He said to Jairus. “Do not be afraid, only believe!” You must walk the walk or fight the fight with joy. Paul called it the good fight of faith. Not every storm is bad. Sometimes they are lessons in victory.
Then, to shout with victory confuses the enemy. He isn’t sure what’s happening. The thing he sent for you to struggle against is making you joyful? How can that be? A cheerful spirit is a win, win! You go from strength to strength (Psalm 84.7) and from glory to glory. (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)
Then Jesus tells them “It is I”. We must remember you never have to fear Jesus or anything He calls you to do. “It is I”. He is there accomplishing something in you and for you. All we have to do is call out to Him and He will immediately join us. He told them “Do not be afraid”. We always seem to need reminding that there is no need for fear when you have His joy and know it’s Him and He’s with you. But the disciples did not understand this. Mark, the author, tells us why they didn’t get it in V. 52 telling us they had not understood about the loaves, because their hearts were hardened. This means that though He had just performed a great miracle from nothing more than what they had and fed over 5,000 hungry men let alone women and children, the disciples did not have the confidence that Jesus’ provision was enough to cross the wind and waves. They weren’t able to apply the knowledge of His provision in any circumstance. Their hearts were hard, like the analogy of the egg in boiling water, they were hard on the inside because of their storms.
Jesus just may pass on by if you don’t invite Him to travel with you. He was passing by because He was going where He told them to go. He didn’t even need a boat to get there. Just like He didn’t need a bunch a food to feed people. His provision is always enough. It’s enough even when the wind in against you. And just like the disciples, once His joy is with you the wind will cease. You will realize that a storm isn’t a storm if you have His joy. A storm isn’t a storm when you invite Him on your journey of obedience. A storm isn’t a storm when the Creator leads the way.
I know you may be facing some very real challenges and the wind is against you, but today ask the One who made the wind and waves to step into your boat and receive His joy. He is always trustworthy. The scripture says in Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Let Jesus speak to you before you panic as He did for Jairus. He has shown us that no matter what is going on He always has compassion on us. You may be in the boiling water of life. Which one are you? The potato, the egg or the coffee bean? Jesus is passing by. Don’t miss your opportunity to remain firm ,standing in confidence in your spirit, and change the elements outside of you and let His joy give you victory.