Both triumphs and trials teach us many spiritual lessons. With a teachable attitude, we can overcome the obstacles and adversity in our path. Whether it takes a lengthy process or it comes quickly, may we all grow stronger through the difficulties we face.
Every time I read this passage of Scripture, I seem to consider it carefully for several days.
“He (Jesus) saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them.”
I meet people daily who feel they have been “straining at the oars” to the point of exhaustion. Although they believe that God strengthens and guides them, they also believe He stands aloof, oblivious to their struggle and disinterested in helping. The winds of physical illness, financial lack, personal attacks, and a multitude of other things blow against them.
Can you relate?
God desires that we uncover key concepts through this passage that will assist us.
Christians sometimes hold a misconception that if we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior the rest of our lives will be heavenly bliss here, now, and forever. But the disciples of Jesus obeyed Him completely, yet the storm hit with fierce force.
“Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. ”
At first, I thought the disciples made a mistake by going “ahead” of Jesus. But out of full obedience, they followed and trusted His instruction.
“After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.”
As day turned to night and darkness settled over the landscape, Jesus prayed. The disciples leaned into the oars and rowed. All night long, Jesus prayed and the disciples strained. Miles from shore and through thick darkness Jesus “saw” them “straining at the oars.”
The word straining comes from the Greek word meaning “to examine as by tortue or torment, buffet as of waves.” The darkness, the straining, and the wind presented a test — a means by which the character and convictions of the disciples would be examined.
Jesus didn’t cause the wind to blow against them. But while they were being tested, Jesus used the circumstances to reveal their hidden beliefs. So, He prayed.
During our obstacles and adversity, just like theirs, Jesus prays we will overcome. He intercedes with the Father on our behalf. He wants to see us rise to the challenge and learn strategic lessons to equip and prepare us. Our God never sleeps or slumbers.
“Who then is the one who condemns? No one, Christ Jesus who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”
I remember watching my little children struggle as they learned how to feed and dress themselves. Often, the results were messy and the effort led to frustration. Eventually, however, they developed the necessary lifeskills.
Jesus could have spoken a word, stilled the storm, and stopped the wind. Instead, He watched and prayed. All during the night, however, the disciples missed what we often miss. Jesus knew something they still did not yet understand.
“. . . Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified . . .”
Why would Jesus come to them, but be prepared to walk right past them? Has this passage perplexed you as much as it has me?
Yesterday, my husband and I had lunch with a physician and his beautiful wife. He shared how, as a physician, he cannot help anyone without their permission. God works the same way! He will not impose Himself upon us, even when it is for our good.
Although I perceived my children needed help, they, too, often refused my assistance. They stubbornly tried to overcome obstacles on their own. Sometimes with success, other times stopping in defeat.
How often Jesus comes to us with the very help we need. Yet because He comes in a way we don’t expect, we would rather shrink in fear than give Him permission to enter our tottering “boats.”
Then Jesus spoke surprising words into their frustration and fatigue.
“. . . Don’t yield to fear. Have courage. It is really me. I AM.”
Mark 6:50 TPT
The same words God spoke to fearful, exhausted Moses, He spoke to twelve fearful, exhausted disciples. “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14).
“Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down.”
The wind tested the disciples ability to overcome not just this obstacle but every future adversity. They failed the test miserably,
“for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.”
What does the miracle of the loaves have to do with wind, waves, and straining at the oars?
Every miracle contains a message.
The miracle of the loaves and fish occurred only a few hours before the storm. Jesus blessed and broke the bread and fish. Then He divided it, giving portions to each of his disciples (Mark 6:41-44). The disciples then broke the bread and fish as they divided it, giving portions to 5,000 men plus women and children.
Jesus possessed power and authority over natural elements. He empowered and authorized His disciples to do the same. They contained within themselves the power and authority of Christ to influence outcomes.
The disciples completely missed the message of the miracle! They saw Jesus divide and multiple, but they quickly forgot how they also had divided and multiplied. Because their “hearts were hardened (Strongs 4456 — like a stone, petrify, stupid, calloused, unresponsive, harden),” they missed the significance of what happened by Jesus through themselves.
Every time we experience Jesus in our lives without it affecting our hearts, we become hardened toward Him. Every time we read the Word of God and our lives remain unchanged, we become petrified toward His voice.
With grace, Jesus invited them, as He does us, “Stop fighting the wind! Stop straining at the oars! You speak to the wind! Allow courage rather than fear to motivate and control. Take hold of and release all that I have given you, and you will prevail. You possess the authority to overcome all obstacles and adversity. Soften your hearts to My voice, to My way, and to My will.”
Could it be that simple? Sometimes it is.
I have experienced futile, sleepless straining. Until prompted by Holy Spirit, I arose in Christ’s power and authority.
When we welcome Jesus into our “boats,” co-operating with Him, the wind either stills to a whisper, or God equips us to proceed unaffected by its raging.
Jesus knows every dark trial we face. He knows how we ache under the strain. He intercedes for us to lay hold of the same truth He gave His disciples.
“. . . All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go . . . And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
In times of struggle, they forgot that Jesus had already given them authority (Mark 3:15) over both the spiritual and the natural world (Luke 9:1). As believers and followers of Jesus Christ, we possess that same authority. We are overcomers through Him. As long as we strain in our own strength, we won’t get far. But when we learn the message of the miracle, we will overcome all obstacles and adversity the enemy lays in our path.
“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”***********