As pilots, we’ve been through many storms, and we’ve discovered that the only safe thing to do is to keep our eyes on the instruments. Jesus’ disciples didn’t have any fancy instruments for their boat, but twice they discovered that the only safe course for them was to keep their eyes on Jesus. What a lesson for us today! These two stories have been a great encouragement to us through almost fourteen years of ministry.
In the first story, found in Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:36-41, and Luke 8:22-25, we see Jesus and His disciples getting into a boat to cross to the other side of the lake. For days Jesus had been working so much that He hardly had time to eat or sleep (something we certainly can relate to). Desire of Ages page 334 says, “. . . overcome with weariness and hunger, He lay down in the stern of the boat, and soon fell asleep.”
The disciples didn’t mind. Several of them were fishermen. This was something they could handle, or so they thought. Suddenly a terrific storm overtook them. “Those hardy fishermen had spent their lives upon the lake, and had guided their craft safely through many a storm; but now their strength and skill availed nothing. They were helpless in the grasp of the tempest, and hope failed them as they saw that their boat was filling.” Ibid.
We certainly can identify with those disciples. How many times we have come to the point where we felt our ministry simply could not stay afloat! And time after time God has led us to this story for encouragement.
Absorbed in their efforts to save themselves, they had forgotten that Jesus was on board.” Ibid. It is amazing to think that the disciples could have forgotten something that important! But honestly, aren’t we just the same?
How often are we tempted to take care of God’s work on our own instead of turning to Jesus, who is our only hope? How often are we tempted to cry out, “Master, carest Thou not that we perish?” Mark 4:38.
Praise the Lord that we have such a patient, loving, compassionate God, for we are told that “Never did a soul utter that cry unheeded.” DA, 335. “When Jesus was awakened to meet the storm, He was in perfect peace. There was no trace of fear in word or look, for no fear was in His heart. . . . He trusted in the Father’s might.” DA, 336.Â Jesus knew nothing could happen to Him unless it was OK with His Father, therefore He was not afraid. Oh, to have that kind of peace and trust in our heavenly Father! We believe that is why God keeps allowing us to go through these difficult times so that we can develop that kind of faith.
As soon as Jesus heard the disciples’ cry for help, He stood up in the midst of that raging storm and said three little words, “Peace; be still.” What power in those words of God! That storm immediately calmed down. The beautiful, amazing thing is that God’s Word never loses its power. It is just as effective today as it was that night so long ago. We can claim that peace.
Another amazing thought is that as long as Jesus was in that boat, that boat could not sink! The same goes for God’s work. As long as Jesus is with us, leading and directing, His work will NOT fail! There is a beautiful song in Spanish that we love to listen to which confidently declares, “Jesus is my Captain; yes, Jesus is my Captain. I know my boat will not sink, because Jesus is my Captain!”
“How often the disciples’ experience is ours! . . . We battle the storm alone, forgetting that there is one who can help us. We trust to out own strength till our hope is lost, and we are ready to perish. Then we remember Jesus, and if we call upon Him to save us, we shall not cry in vain. Though He sorrowfully reproves our unbelief and self-confidence, He never fails to give us the help we need . . . and deliver us from danger in the way that He knows to be best.” Ibid.
The second story is found in Matthew 14:22-33, Mark 6:45-51, and John 6:15-21. Jesus has just fed the 5,000 men plus women and children with only five loaves and two fishes, truly an astounding story. Can you blame those people for wanting to make Him king right on the spot? But Jesus knew that would only lead to violence and insurrection, hindering the work of His spiritual kingdom (DA, 378), so He “constrained His disciples to get into a ship and go before Him unto the other side, while He sent the multitudes away.” Matthew 14:22. This time Jesus is not in the boat.
Sadly, we read in Desire of Ages, page 380, that the disciples were griping and complaining because Jesus had not allowed Himself to be crowned king. They allowed doubts to poison their minds and even questioned whether Jesus could be an impostor, as the Pharisees were saying!
How different this story could have been if they had followed the example of Jesus. He was praying! “For hours he continued pleading with God. Not for Himself but for men were those prayers.” DA, 379. Mrs. White goes on to say that “The memory of that precious, glorious day should have filled them with faith and hope.” Instead, “their thoughts were stormy and unreasonable, and the Lord gave them something else to afflict their souls and occupy their minds.” DA, 380
Another terrific storm hit them, a storm so violent that once again they feared their boat was about to sink. Have you ever tried to imagine what it was like to be in that boat? Have you imagined the driving rain, pelting you like bullets, chilling you to the bone; the fierce wind almost knocking you down; the fear you experience as lightening zaps all around you followed immediately by deafening cracks of thunder; the helplessness and hopelessness you feel as you madly bail out water with a little container only to have another huge wave crash over the side of the boat? (Those who have never lived outside their comfort zone may have a difficult time imagining this!)
Hour after hour the disciples battle on. One watch, two watches, three watches… How many times during the night they must have recalled that other storm and longed for the presence of their beloved Master, longed to hear those words, “Peace; be still.” Then comes the fourth watch. (Why does God always seem to wait until the last moment?!) More than likely by now all hope is gone.
But “Jesus had not forgotten them. The Watcher on the shore saw those fear-stricken men battling with the tempest. Not for a moment did He lose sight of His disciples. . . When their hearts were subdued, their unholy ambition quelled, and in humility they prayed for help, it was given them.” Desire of Ages, pg.381. Then Jesus did the most amazing thing. He calmly walked on water! Is anything too hard for the Lord? And that is when the disciples stopped looking at the crisis and looked instead at Christ! And Christ changed, wonderfully changed, that hopeless situation.
What wonderful lessons there are for us in this story! Jesus hasn’t changed. He loves to do the impossible for us, but we have to keep our eyes on Him, or like Peter, we are going to sink. Like the disciples, we have so little faith; we are so quick to doubt and fear; we are so concerned about ourselves, so self-dependent. But Jesus is our Captain. What an example He has given us of prayer, faith, fearlessness, unwavering confidence and total dependence on God.
Let’s get down on our knees, truly repent, thank God for the crisis He allowed to come our way to shake us out of our complacency, and keep our eyes on Christ!
Devotional by Becky Gates, mission copilot and wife of David Gates, co-founder of Gospel Ministries International, Inc.