We’re not all in the same boat!
Mark 4: 35-41
If ever you are caught in a storm at sea remember there are others in boats far less seaworthy than your own. We can be on the same ocean, in the same storm, but in very different boats! Feeling a little queasy on a large passenger ship on the ocean, or a ferry crossing the North sea, is not the same as being in an overcrowded dinghy being overwhelmed by the waves. We are all in the same boat is not a phrase I agree with — but I do want to help people into my boat. Or jump in with them and help them safely reach the shore.
Refugee Week starts today so the images of frightened people being rescued from the sea are profoundly powerful reminders that our boats are very different. I prefer to be on the rescue ship not the sinking dinghy, but where is Jesus in the raging storms of life? If only we were all in the same boat!
‘We are all in the same boat” can become a casual dismissal of others who are sinking in the storm with fear of drowning while we sail on in the comparative safety of our boat. We are in the same storm, on the same ocean, but we are not in the same boat!
We can leave the crowds behind and head off for the other shore knowing Jesus is with us, but there are also other boats following (verse 36). They don’t have Jesus for company in the stern to wake up in their time of need so how do they feel when the storm hits?
Who is in the boat with you giving you hope when you confront the storm and do you trust that he can calm the wind and waves? Really, truly, trust? Or is it a hopeful prayer that becomes your last resort?
As I can’t swim I am sure I would be terrified, like the disciples, as the waves swept over us and we were trying to scoop the water from the bottom of the boat to avoid drowning. I would also be angry, very angry, that while I was drowning Jesus was sleeping when we most needed him.
How often have we felt like that about people at work, or in church, who don’t seem to be doing anything to prevent us from sinking. Wake up! We’ve got a job to do!
As I wrote those words the text spoke to me of a fundamental lesson: if I am confident in the presence of Jesus in my life before I panic, and am overcome with fear, I can wake him up and prayerfully ask for help through the storm. If Jesus is in our boat why are we so afraid of the storms?
However strong the storm prayer should be our first port of call not our last resort in desperation. Prayer will be the calm that helps us through the storm if not the calming of the storm itself. Be still and know that I am God….and find the calm that He will give.
We are so like the disciples who are committed to following Jesus but don’t understand the full extent of his power. When we wake him up we don’t know what he will do, but need him to do something, even if it is bailing water from the bottom of the boat.
Our church can be our boat and if we fear it is sinking we can wake Jesus up and prayerfully ask for his help. He will do much more than we expected. When faith overcomes our fear we will know who Jesus is and make him better known to others caught in the storms. Instead of asking, “who is this?” as we get to know him better we will know there is One in OUR boat who will calm our storms.
From our boat we can see other boats full of people who want what we want, but they don’t know him like we do. They are following because they have heard he can show the way to the kingdom of heaven, but they are not close up to him like we are. They are on the same lake, in the same storm, but don’t know what is happening in the boat between us and Jesus.
We are all refugees from the world seeking sanctuary in a new kingdom, but we don’t know what it will look like when we get there. It is a journey to the unknown that we take in faith which is about being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see! This is good, old fashioned faith for which people like Abraham were commended for! (Hebrews 11: 1-2) We don’t know where the journey will take us or what is going to happen on the way!
If Jesus says to us today, “let’s go” we will be quick to ask “where to?” and expect a clear vision of how we will get there to be discussed by a number of knowledgeable people who will check the weather forecast and any health and safety issues before starting the mission. We will see the storm ahead and advise Jesus against travelling because with such a vision we will surely perish!
Our mission as a church can be so carefully planned that all risk is eliminated, but I invite you to reflect on this storm in the context of a chapter in which Jesus warns us that our faith will face adversity. The chapter starts in a field field in which the seeds are sown, but burning sun, hungry birds or choking weeds will stop the growing and it finishes on the lake with storms threatening to sink our boat.
All the boats are caught in that same physical storm over which we have no control, but there is the spiritual storm that plays havoc with our emotions and causes us to fear and doubt our abilities to reach the shoreline of our hopes. It’s that inner fear that as a child had us running to the bed of our parents for reassurance when lightening flashed and thunder roared in the night. Now we can wake Jesus when the emotional storms rage within us and he will give us the calm reassurance to overcome the fear of wind and waves, or thunder and lightening. We’ve got Jesus in our boat!
As we seek the kingdom of God the water won’t always be calm and there will be adversities to overcome. If we plan to avoid the challenges our vision will perish so God won’t warn us of the bad weather ahead because it is the experience that will shape us.
How often have you volunteered to do something and found yourself out of your comfort zone or feeling overwhelmed by the challenge confronting you? Would you have done it or gone where you went if you had known what to expect? I would never have gone to Kenya if I had known what I would have to do because I would never have thought I could do it, but the experience shaped me into who I am. The disciples would not have tried crossing the lake if they had seen the storm coming, but going through it helped them know Jesus better.
If they had not experienced the storm they would not have seen that Jesus can do more than they ever imagined. When they reached the other side of the lake they saw him drive out an evil spirit, raise a girl from the dead and heal a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years before they were sent out to drive out demons and heal the sick. (Mark 6: 6-13)
Our ministry today will grow through adversity and will survive the storms because God isn’t going to let us sink when we follow in faith and is going to make sure the harvest grows so that we can know the answer to our question: “Who IS this?”
From our boat we can see other boats on the same lake, caught in the same big storm, and with people struggling with their personal inner storms of fear and doubt. For some it can feel as if God has gone to sleep and doesn’t care what happens to them, but all we have to do is ask and trust to find that spiritual calm within us that will help us through the physical storm.
Having said all that I have said I woke up this morning realising that what we need to do in the storms is wake-up the Jesus within us and we won’t sink and our ministry will grow as we make him better known to the refugees in the other boats who seek what we seek….
Brother, sister, let me serve you, let me be as Christ to you; pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too. We are pilgrims on a journey, and companions on the sea; we are here to help each other through the storms, to be set free…. Jesus IS in your boat so wake him up!