Stay in the Boat
During my life I have had a few times where a question has occurred to me almost by accident. It isn’t conscious and I am often not really seeking an answer, but, sometimes when I go through difficult times, a question presents itself; ‘Why me?’. It is common for those who have been victims of crime to ask this question and wonder why they may have become a victim. In fact, in resolution and situations where victims are able to come into contact with those who perpetrated the crimes they were victim to this is often the first question they ask, often with an unsatisfactory answer. However, the situation does not need to be as extreme for us to have this question involuntarily well up in our minds, often, if we dwell on it for too long, we can become addicted to asking the question. As Christians, we are certainly not immune from this question. In fact, we may ask it more. Shouldn’t we be better off than the rest of the world simply because we are Christians?
Recently, I have been thinking about this question a lot. I have been praying about times I have felt this way and what I may do to prevent this question arising quite so often. This was all in my ind when we came to study Jesus calming the storm in Matthew 8:23-27 as part of our ‘Year of Jesus’ preaching schedule I found great encouragement as I witnessed how the disciples and the Christ dealt with storms in their lives. Far from asking ‘why me?’ we may learn these two truths from Matthew’s account of Jesus calming the storm.
Storms will always arise.
Sometimes, during my time as a Christian, I have wondered during troubles why God does not keep me from storms. I mean, surely I will be spared from the difficult parts of life? I’m a Christian after all. I love God after all. I recognise Jesus as His Son and my Saviour. Surely, I, of all people, will be spared from the adversities of life? If I’m closer to Jesus I’ll be spared …
Not so much.
If anyone could claim to be close to Jesus, surely it’s the twelve? They walked everywhere with Him. Out of every person alive at the time, they were specifically chosen by the Lord and Saviour to be His followers; those so close they would share everything. While I was reading John a while ago I found myself imagining the 13 of them walking into a town together. As they walked in and the town buzzed with the news that the rabbi Jesus was on His way, do you think any were ever unsure of which one He was? The disciples were so close to Jesus that when they walked into towns they may have actually been mistaken for Jesus. For the Christian, we who seek to emulate Jesus’s life and teachings, this is the pinnacle of the Christian walk. To think, you could be close enough to be mistaken for Him.
And yet, here they are, in a small boat in the middle of a storm, so afraid that they panic and cry out; ‘We are about to die!’ The lesson I take from this is that storms will always arise. We will never be exempt from trouble or trials in this life. We cannot always be prepared or predict storms and we will never be immune. The apostles may have thought ‘why me?’ hose who had given up everything for Christ now seemed adrift and He seemed to be of little help …
There are times when I have felt the same way. A storm arises, I feel adrift, I feel like asking, ‘why me?’ and Jesus seems to be of no help. But, there is a simple reality illustrated in this miracle. There will always be storms.
The disciples were not victims of a storm. No force of nature or supernatural force directed a storm to target them. It is the same way with storms in our lives; we are not victims of the bad things that happen or difficult situations. They just happen. And yes, even to us who are Christians.
In a way I have found this outlook oddly encouraging. Knowing that you are not suffering due to your own shortcomings (of which I have many) and that you have not been marked for suffering frees me to do something that the disciples also managed to do; look to Jesus. Okay, they panicked and Jesus rebukes them, but they were looking for help in the right place.
Storms may test our faith.
When I read this miracle again I often think Jesus is being a bit harsh in His rebuke of the disciples, ‘O you of little faith,’. How can they be those of little faith when they were the only twelve people chosen to be in the boat out of a whole world full of people? And how can Jesus rebuke them when they are reacting to a normal h
uman instinct to survive?
Perhaps this lesson is one the disciples were supposed to store for the future. Here, the disciples look out at the storm and the waves crashing into the boat, coming over the sides and they look to Christ, and He is asleep.
And because He is asleep they don’t think He can save them.
This, at first glance, seems completely reasonable. However, remember that not long into the future they would staring into the face of another storm and Jesus would not simply be asleep, He would be dead, crucified by a baying crowd and cruel leaders. They were afraid that because He was asleep He could not save them when months later the fact that He was dead would not prevent Him from saving the world from sin. If they cannot trust Him to save them now, will they trust in Him when He is in the grave? Storms will arise in our lives, possibly storms that are not physical but spiritual in nature. And, like the disciples, we may see no way out. We may see the wind and the waves crashing over the side of our boat and dragging us down and that may test our faith.
But, maybe that’s okay …
Because, apart from these two facts that I see in Matthew 8:23-27, I see an encouraging call in these verses.
When storms and waves arise, when they test our faith so that we are not sure whether or not we will make it to the other side there is a lesson we can learn from the example of the disciples: stay in the boat.
Throughout my Christian life I have seen so many face storms. Some have faced storms and battles of their own making, fighting their own bodies and minds for control of their lives. Some have faced storms brought on by circumstances and the world we must live in. Each have dealt with the storm in their own way. Some, sadly, when that storm arose, when problems came up, when things in their lives seemed desperate, some chose to get out of the boat. Some have chosen and continue to choose to step away from the Christ.
But, what is waiting for the apostles if they get out of the boat? The same storm, more water, and no Saviour to see them through and call, ‘Peace, be still!’ When we step away from the Christ, we do not solve our problems, our storms do not melt away. They are there, throughout life, just as they are for everyone in this world. But, we have given up our help and comfort, our Lord and Saviour. So, don’t get out of the boat. Don’t give up. I have been in positions and had times where it feels like everything will be better if I simply let go, give up and get out of the boat. But, it is never better. Being in the boat, facing the storm next to Jesus, even if you are just hanging in there, is always better than stepping out, into the deep sea, without Him.
We will always face storms in our lives, but would we not rather face them with Jesus in the boat. There is no salvation awaiting if we leave …