Rowing Against the Wind!

Rowing Against the Wind

Radio Message / Tract #29-M

clipart of a kayaker struggling against the wind

Disaster strikes! By the mind and muscle of man, and by the mercy of God, people have sometimes survived against the worst of odds. At other times, man has been no match for the forces of nature. Maybe you’ve had the experience of being caught in some sudden disaster. Maybe you know the feeling of “rowing against the wind”. These twelve men did.

It was late afternoon by the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus and his disciples had just finished feeding more than five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish. Mark 6:45 says, “And straightway he (Jesus) constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people.” Jesus ordered his disciples to get in their boat and start rowing across the sea to Bethsaida. Jesus gave them a direction and a destination. It's good to know where you're going, and how to get there!  This world has its share of aimless people;  people who don't know where they're going in life.  When Jesus is invited into a person's heart he gives their life a clear destination and a clear direction.  The destination he gives is Heaven.  If that's not your final destination, friend, do you know what is?  The direction, the way to Heaven is; loving, trusting, and gladly obeying your Lord, Jesus Christ.

Jesus dismissed the crowd, and sent his disciples to the boat. Verse 46. “And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray. 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; for the wind was contrary unto them...”.

After Jesus prayed a long time he stood up, looked out over the dark Sea of Galilee, and spotted the disciples' boat. After hours of rowing, they hadn't gotten very far at all. They were struggling, “toiling in rowing”, with a long ways yet to go.  What was the problem?  “The wind was contrary to them.”  It was blowing them backward almost as fast as they could row themselves forward. But they had to keep rowing, or they'd lose every inch they'd gained.  So they kept on struggling and going just about nowhere.  Does that sound familiar?  It's a description of many lives.  Destination and direction in life are good. But it's not enough to know where you're going and to know how to get there.  You need the power to move forward.  The disciples were rugged men. But they were no match for the wind. Pretty soon, they'd be exhausted, and blown right back to where they started.  They needed a power far greater than their own. So do we all.

Most of us want to go to Heaven.  Many of us know how to get there. But all of us who have chosen that destination find, at some point, that “the wind is contrary”.  There are forces in the world that sometimes make it very difficult to follow Jesus. Temptation may suddenly come your way; at work, on the bus, at the bank, or at home. You begin to muster your wits and your will, and try to control your racing thoughts.  Yet you feel like you're losing, being blown backwards, almost overtaken.  Or it may be a phone call; bad news.  A loved one was in an accident, or diagnosed with a terminal illness.  News that shatters your cherished dreams for the future.  And despair sets in. It doesn't take too many failures or tragedies before you finally admit, “I just don't have what it takes to live as a Christian should live”.  Even the great apostle Paul faced that fact in Romans 7:18. He said, “For I know that in me, that is in my flesh dwells no good thing”.  The wind is contrary.  The forces of the world, the flesh, and the devil are too much for us to row against and resist in our own strength.  But thank God, the story doesn't end there.  The verse says, “he (Jesus) saw them toiling in rowing”.

Jesus up on the mountain, saw them out on the sea, in trouble.  And it melted his heart. Jesus also sees the struggle you're in.  He's constantly watching your boat.  He knows your desperate desire to keep on course, to reach your destination.  What does he do?  What did he do here?  Verse 48 goes on to say, “and about the fourth watch of the night Jesus came to them walking on the water.”  At some point between 3 and 6 a.m., Jesus came down from the mountain and covered miles of open water, on foot!  Why?  Because he saw their struggle.  And he wanted to be with them in the worst of it.  He didn't walk on the water just to boost his reputation.  He did it to prove to us that there is no obstacle big enough, inside us or around us, to keep Jesus from being at our side in our time of need.  And just his being there makes all the difference!

Before we go on there's something that everyone needs to understand about the way Jesus operates. The end of verse 48 says, that Jesus came to them walking on the water, “and would have passed by them”. (See also Luke 24:28.) What's that mean?  Jesus Christ is very much a gentleman. He won't interfere in our lives without being invited.  He sees our struggle.  He draws near and stands by, just aching to strengthen us and deliver us from our trouble or temptation.  Yet he won't lift a finger until he knows that we know that we need him, and we ask him to deliver us. Jesus is not a heavenly busy-body, butting in where he's not invited.

Jesus once told his disciples,  “Without me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). Have you come to that conclusion yet, friend?  We can do nothing of any lasting good; any eternal value, without the influence of the Spirit of Christ. And that's a comforting thought. When we know that our best efforts have gotten us nowhere, and we hang all our hopes on Jesus alone, how quickly he changes everything! We may not even pray in words. It may be just a silent sigh. But Jesus heard it. It may be a cry or a shout, but Jesus heard it.  Let's see what happened to that storm-tossed crew.

Verses 49 and 50. “But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and they cried out: For they all saw him and were troubled.” It wasn't just one person's imagination. Twelve men, hopelessly exhausted on a stormy sea, were staring through the darkness, the wind, and the spray. They all saw a figure, not far from the boat, walking past them. They cried out in terror. But in that cry, Jesus heard what he was waiting to hear.  Verse 50 goes on, “And immediately he talked with them and said unto them, ‘Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid’.” The frightening figure out on the water said, “Cheer-up! It's me!” It sounded just like Jesus!  And that's just how Jesus speaks today to every follower of his when they cry out in fear or despair. What happened next?

Verse 51. “And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered.” He got in the boat, and the storm just stopped! All that night the wild tempest was raging. In an instant, it turned into a calm and peaceful sea. How did it happen? Jesus came near them.  They cried out in helplessness. They received him into the boat. And that made all the difference! Friend, has your life been a struggle lately? Are you caught in a storm of confusion or temptation? Were you hoping to conquer it all in your own strength?  Or have you finally realized that without Jesus you can do nothing? Are you ready to take Jesus into your boat?  Bow your head and make this your prayer.

“Dear Jesus, I'm no different than anyone else. Without you I can do nothing but lose. I need you so badly.  Forgive all my sins. Wash me in your shed blood.  Come into my boat. Come live in my heart.  See me through these storms. And be my Lord and Master forever.  In Jesus' name.  Amen.”

Jesus has promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5). To stay very close to him, pray every day. Read your Bible every day. Find a Bible believing church and attend there regularly.   B.T.

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Radio Message  #29-M

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