Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Are you willing to take Him into your boat?

This month I've been reading Max Lucado's "Celebrating Christmas with Jesus."  It's an advent devotional that reminds us that God not only came to us (the reason we celebrate Christmas), but that He stayed with us because He cares for us and wants to experience life with us.  The devotional walks  through the life of Jesus and the monumental moments of His story, beginning with His birth and ending with His death and resurrection, and His activity through others since.

This morning I was reading from the book of John, where Jesus walked on the waters. John 6:16-21:

16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake,17 where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. 18 A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough.19 When they had rowed about three or four miles,[a] they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” 21 Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.

I've heard and read this story so many times before.  Yet today, something stood out that hadn't before.  I am sure there have been hundreds of sermons written on this already, but this was new revelation to me.  Verse 21 states that once Jesus' disciples were willing to take Him into the boat, immediately they reached the shore where they were heading.  This left me pondering many things.

If you look more closely at this scripture, it gives us some solid direction.  Digging into verse 21 I see two major themes.  First, Jesus' disciples:

(NIV):  "were willing to take Him into the boat..."
(The Message):  "they took Him on board."
(KJV):  "they willingly received Him into the ship..."
(NLT):  "they were eager to let Him in the boat..."

And second, once they did this:

(NIV):  "immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading."
(The Message):  "in no time they reached the land- the exact spot they were headed to."
(KJV):  "immediately the ship was at the land whither they went."
(NLT):  "immediately they arrived at their destination."

How many of us have walked through seasons in life where we are just aimlessly wandering?  Where we see, know, or dream of our destination and it seems we will never reach it?  Where the waters rise and there seems no hope for an end in sight?  Where darkness and storm threaten to overtake us and we can't see the way ahead?  We feel stuck.  Or frightened.  Hopeless.

I wonder if Jesus' disciples felt this way that night on the rough waters.  The NLT version of this scripture states that the disciples "went down to the shore to wait for Him.  But as darkness fell and Jesus still hadn't come back, they got into the boat and headed across the lake toward Capernaum."  I wonder what would have happened had they waited for Him before heading out.  Perhaps they wouldn't have found themselves caught in a storm.

Sometimes in life, there are storms we can avoid if we would just wait for Jesus to lead the way and go before us.  But we grow impatient.  We don't wait on Him.  We rush in and try to take matters into our own hands.  Our own way.  In our impatience we choose to trade in future Isaac shores, and then find ourselves in immediate Ishmael waters.  But I also know that God wrote this story for us because there will be times in this life in which storms cannot be avoided.  They are unavoidable.  So He gives us hope and direction in the midst of them.

Looking at the first half of verse 21 gives us a clue as to what to do when we find ourselves in rough waters.  Just as Jesus' disciples did, we need to be willing to take Him into our boat.  We need to invite Him on board and willingly and eagerly receive Him onto our ship.  He waits for us to call Him and and invite Him in.  He doesn't desire for us to walk through this life alone.  He wants to be our anchor, our light that shines in darkness, the calmer of our raging seas.

The second half of verse 21 tells us what to expect when we do just this...we reach our destination, solid ground, the place we are heading.  The place He has assigned to us.

A few versions of this verse say that Jesus and His disciples reached their destination immediately.  I'd like to think that if we keep our eyes on the Lord and invite Him in to steer our ships, this too will happen for us.  But this isn't always the case.  In fact, rarely it is.  While it's true that sometimes we prolong our personal storms and delay our own journeys, sometimes there is no fast route out of troubled waters.  We just have to ride them out.

But don't stop here, there's more hope to be found.  The Greek word for "immediately" is "euthos."  And yes, it does translate to "immediately" and "shortly,"  but it also means "straightway."  Jesus is our straightway.  Through calm or sea, He is the one who makes our paths straight when we place our trust in Him.

(Proverbs 3:5-6:  "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not onto your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.")

Even in troubled waters, we have One who can walk upon them and carry us through them.  He keeps us afloat.  He is our straightway.

A few things I learned from this text is that we need to let God go before us and lead the way.  This means we may find ourselves in a season of waiting.  But, wait on Him.  His timing is perfect for you.  It may just keep you away from unnecessary storms and strife.  We also can't try to take on life's storms on our own.  Sometimes, we see and believe that Jesus walked (walks) on water, yet we stand by and are unwilling to let Him into our boats.  We fail to invite Him in.  The waters rise and we cry out in doubt and despair, yet never fully receive and believe (or ask for) the help He has to offer.  We have to let go.  Of dreams and plans we have of our own.  We tend to whiteknuckle them (as if they are better and wiser than His).  We have our own crooked destination and we rage on trying to swim (drown) our way there, contrary to the straightway and destination He has intended.  Let go and wait.

The Jesus Calling devotional today runs tandem to this scripture in many ways.  The author writes,

"When you are plagued by a persistent problem- one that goes on and on- view it as rich opportunity. An ongoing problem is like a tutor who is always by your side.  The learning possibilities are limited only by your willingness to be teachable.  In faith, thank Me (God) for your problem.  Ask Me to open your eyes and your heart to all that I am accomplishing through this difficulty.  Once you become grateful for a problem, it loses its power to drag you down..."

So, if you find yourself in troubled waters, here are a few practical tips:

*Keep your eyes on Jesus
*Ask God what it is He wants you to learn from this?  Ask Him to open your eyes to the ways He is growing and using you.  Surely, there is spiritual purpose in it.
*Invite Him into your heart, and into your storm.
*Take Him on board and let Him lead the way (the "straightway").  Receive Him and all that He has for you.

They don't call Him the "Calmer of the sea" for nothing.  When Jesus approached the boat that night, He told His disciples, "Don't be afraid. I am here!"  He is here for you too.   Be brave and don't lose heart.  Let Him walk on your troubled waters.  He is the Solid Ground we are after.  And in Him we are sure to find our true destination.

1 comment:

  1. Very good Christmas message. Christmas is a reminder to let Jesus lead us. Hope your family has a wonderful day.