Sermon: Boat Lessons

Written by Timothy

Boat Lessons
sermon transcript
year estimate 2000

Article from by Timothy Williams because Jesus said “sit down” and “count the cost” before following Him.

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This sermon transcription has been edited to a reader friendly format.

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Sermon by Timothy Williams

Boat Lessons

Everything has been completed. Jesus has died on the cross and ascended into heaven. He gives his disciples the following instructions.

Matthew 28:18-20 – Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

We are commanded and directed to go make disciples. A disciple, of course, is a believer. He is someone who is saved and always in the process of learning, being taught, being broken, being built up and strengthened. A disciple is a learner who is trying to be formed in the image of the teacher, namely, Jesus Christ. We must understand clearly that we are going to be put in the same situations because Jesus Christ has a lot to teach us.

Let’s look at the time Jesus Christ put his disciples into a boat and sent them out on a lake. We’ll also look a time when they got into a boat and went out on a lake all on their own. Let’s look at all those different situations and see how they apply to us as disciples. Jesus Christ is going to put us in boats and send us out. He will teach us things if we are willing to learn.

Matthew 8:16 – When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.

This is a Jesus that we like. This is the kind of person we want Jesus to be and we want him to remain at this point. However, Jesus Christ wants more than people who just believe in his miracles, and who trust him to heal them from demons. Jesus Christ wants disciples.

Matthew 8:17 – This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.”

Most people like to focus on Jesus Christ as healer. They want to trust God to deliver them from all of their troubles, pains, and sicknesses, but they do not want to be disciples.

Matthew 8:18 – When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake.

Jesus Christ turns to the crowds and says they’ve got to move on with these things. To really understand and appreciate these things, you’ve got to move out to the lake. Jesus Christ wants individuals who love him enough to follow him wherever he goes.

Matthew 8:19 – Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

We are just like the teacher of the law. We have our Christianity all laid out in neat little rows. We have certain concepts of what it means to be a Christian and we are very comfortable with those. A teacher of the law is someone who comes with principles and has his Christianity all put together. He gets up, goes through his routines, and his life is pretty steady. He is a believer, he goes to church on Sunday, and he may even go in the middle of the week. He has a prayer meeting, a Bible study, his little diary, and these nice little things all laid out like a teacher of the law. Everything is spelled out exactly as it should be and he’s very comfortable with the kind of religion that he has.

Matthew 8:20 – Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

“The Christian life is not defined,” is basically what Jesus is telling this teacher of the law who has everything defined in its proper place. There is no comfortable church to go to and say, “I’m settled in as a Christian. I have it all down and am completely comfortable. I should be able to handle anything that comes my way.” He’s saying, “If you’re going to follow me and be a disciple then the last thing you’re going to be is comfortable.”

Matthew 8:20 – Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

The animals have places they can call home and be comfortable in. Birds of the air have nests they can settle in and call home. People also want everything in a routine system. These are the sins that I’m dealing with. These are the things that I’ve grown in. And here is my family and we’re all arranged and in our places. These are the commentaries that I like, the tapes I like to listen to. My life is pretty orderly.

Mat 8:20 – …but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.

The teacher, the Son of God, has no place that he can say everything is defined and put in its place. He says, “I follow God wherever he sends me and those who follow me are going to be in the same position. The very last thing they are going to be is comfortable and settled in this world.” Indeed, the very moment that we begin to settle into this world, he’s going to have to shake us up because we will become a part of the world at that point. There is too much to deal with in our lives, too much sin that God has to purify and he doesn’t leave us comfortable for very long.

Matthew 8:21 – Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

No matter how noble the excuse, no matter how religious it sounds, we have to follow Jesus Christ. Very few of us are honest enough to go before God and say, “God, I just don’t want to do this today. I want to please my flesh and go over here and do something different.” We come with all kinds of religious talk, flowery words, and the best excuse we can think of. “Lord, I will follow you, but first let me go and bury my father.” After all, the Bible does say to honor your father and mother. We begin to quote scripture to Jesus Christ. Our flesh remains alive and self continues to do what it wants to do. In the midst of all this we quote scripture to Jesus Christ who’s trying to crucify our flesh.

Matthew 8:22 – But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Jesus Christ will say, “Forget it and follow me,” to the finest excuse you have which allows you to remain comfortable and secure in your Christian walk. The relationship must be alive where everyday he guides and directs. You can be certain it’s going to lead to the cross. It leads to a crucified life and away from the law. It leads to a relationship with him.

Matthew 8:23 – Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.

The disciples followed him. The crowds were not there. The disciples followed him into the boat. The teacher of the law did not get to come. You may have all kinds of things you can fathom in scripture and quote to me left and right. You may have the grandest excuse there is for doing what you want to do in the name of Jesus Christ and look holy to everybody else. But there will be that quality and fragrance that says you’re not following Jesus Christ. You are doing your own religious thing and having your own opinion. It may appear to be godly, but Jesus Christ says get into the boat. If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, he will place you into a boat and begin to deal with you. He sent the crowds home, but the disciples are blessed enough to get into the boat and begin to learn their lessons.

Matthew 8:24 -Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.

As we are walking along in our Christian walk and thinking we are on the right course, without warning a storm comes up on the scene. Of course, we immediately blame Satan or we blame somebody else. We blame some circumstance, but very seldom have I ever heard anybody say that it is Jesus Christ who has put them into a boat and a storm has come up all of a sudden that I didn’t see it coming. We’re not prepared for it but it is of his hand. Usually when these storms begin to rise and we are in the boat we begin to blame Satan and want out of the circumstances. We can’t figure out why God isn’t delivering us from the problems we are experiencing.

Matthew 8:24 -Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.

We begin to wonder where Jesus Christ is. Is he unconcerned, doesn’t he care? Here we are beginning to sink under all of our problems. We are praying, seeking God, fasting and doing all the things that we think will get his attention and all he does is continue to sleep. He waits because there is sin and self that has to be dealt with. There are things that he wants us to learn.

Psalms 42:7 -Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.

He puts us into a boat and then he begins to send the waves and they overpower us and are stronger than we can endure. He shakes up our nice little Christian life. He says, “There is more to me than all the Pharisees of the law can teach and more to me than just healing demon possessed people. There is more to me than all of your flimsy excuses and reasons about burying your father and going over here to do this Christian work.” If you want to fellowship and really have a relationship with him then you have to get into the boat so that self can be crucified and dealt with.

Matthew 8:25 -The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

Jesus Christ is asleep because he doesn’t care what he loses. They want to be saved from the problem and the turmoil. They think they are going to die. “Save us from the problem,” is what they are praying. Do they ask Jesus Christ, “What are you trying to teach me? What are you trying to show me? How is God going to be glorified?” No, we want deliverance from our problems, but we don’t want deliverance from the sin and self living within us. We want Jesus Christ to save us from the cross. They wake him up and they say, “Come on Jesus Christ care a little bit about us.”

To show whether or not Christians understand this teaching, I could take a survey in Christian churches today, and ask what gives one the most excitement in Jesus Christ. What is the ultimate joy for you in Jesus Christ in this world? What would be the answer?

James 1:2-4 -Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

The most exciting, purest, and holy thing is to consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds. We shouldn’t whine, complain, blame the devil, circumstances, the person that you live with, or anything else. Ask God what it is that he is trying to deal with you on? What is it that he’s trying to purify? What is that he’s trying to cleanse from your life?

James 1:3-4 -…because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

We say we want to be mature in Jesus Christ, but how many boats have we gotten into? We say that we want to be complete, and that we want his joy. How many lessons have we learned and how much self and sin has been purged? We claim all the blessings, and those are our supreme joy. If he heals us, we hold onto that for the rest of our whole life, but self is never gone. If he gives us a vision or a dream or he talks to us, we hold onto that as if that were the thing that saves us. Yet Jesus Christ demands that we become disciples. That we become mature and complete because that is where lasting joy is found.

Matthew 8:26-27 – He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

They don’t know their Lord! They don’t see Jesus Christ for who he really is. They want to know what kind of man he is. Their insight is really small, and they’re still looking at Jesus Christ from a religious, worldly point of view. They don’t see him as the Son of God. He’s not yet been made Lord completely in their hearts like he needs to be.

They are not surrendered so they can’t understand who Jesus Christ is. There are a lot of scriptures we can’t understand because we refuse to let self be crucified. We haven’t gone into those lessons, considered them pure joy and had self purified and cleansed. We haven’t had our lives so radically changed that we begin to understand who Jesus Christ really is and what it really means to be a Christian. Instead we’re terrified. Some new aspect of Jesus Christ begins to come to us and we’re terrified about who he is. We don’t understand that he really cares and his loving hand disciplines us that we might be purified. Instead we want to hang onto our pride, our excuses, our religious understanding, or whatever it is that we have. Anything but let go of self.

There’s another lesson of getting into a boat. The first lesson we just looked at was the fact that we just have to become disciples who step out into the storm with Jesus Christ. That’s where we’re going to learn. And there’s no escaping it. He will not excuse any of us. In this lesson we’re going to see that wisdom puffs us up real quick but that doesn’t mean that self is crucified.

Mark 4:33 – With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand.

Jesus Christ is explaining what it means to really belong to the kingdom of God

Mark 4:34 – He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.

As disciples we get special insight from Jesus Christ. We read a lesson or a teaching but he takes us alone by ourselves and begins to whisper to us what it really means. He begins to put life there. We rejoice in that and we’re excited about it, but the problem is we refuse then to get into the boat to have self broken. We’re happy with the insight and we think the insight makes us holy.

In 1 Corinthians it’s clear that knowledge puffs up. It’s easy to get, and God gives it quickly because he’s trying to prepare a people that are willing to get into the boat to learn what they really need to learn so that it’s inside their hearts. In verse 35 it says “that day when evening came.” That very day he’s explaining things to the disciples alone and in private. They have all this insight, and they’re excited about it. They’re rejoicing in it. But what does he say at the end of the day after all the teaching? Ok, get into the boat. Now’s the time to put it into practice. Now’s the time to act on it. Now’s the time to allow me to come to you with the cross to crucify self. That day when evening came he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” They’re tired, they’ve been learning, and he’s been giving them some grand insight. No doubt they would want to say, “Look we’ve had enough for today. This is comfortable. You taught us all these things. I’ve got my notes right here. I’ll go back and pray about them and I’ll get before the Lord. Everything will be ok. Right, Jesus?”

“No,” he says, “You’re going to get into the boat, because now you’re going to see that self must go.” There’s nothing worse than watching someone all puffed up with all kinds of spiritual wisdom yet self is fully alive. That kind of person is extremely destructive. Not only to himself but to everybody else.

Mark 4:35 – That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”

At first we’re not too wise about this. We think we’re on a little excursion with Jesus Christ. We haven’t learned yet what he’s really up to and how often in everyday situations he’s going to deal with something. So often we miss the lessons he’s trying to teach us. We just want to get through the day. We just want the blessing of the day, or some insight. But he says no, let’s get into the boat and let’s go to the other side. Watch out! He’s going to deal with self in the most startling of ways.

Mark 4:36 – Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him

The crowds know nothing of this. The crowds will experience the healings, hear the teachings, and see all the things that Jesus does, but it’s the disciples that are being crucified to self. There are lots of crowds in churches today that are not disciples, and they’re left behind. They have no understanding of what Jesus Christ is really about. Later on the disciples are going to have to go back and teach these crowds, “This is what it means. We’re here to make disciples, and you’re going to have to get into the boat. You’re going to have to be crucified.” You’re going to have to experience what he put us through.

Mark 4:36 – Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.

This is important to the next area that we’re going to look at. “…just as he was,” which shows they’re not trying to fashion Jesus Christ into something that they want him to be. We’ll get into the boat with Jesus Christ as long as he conforms to our ideas of what we think he should be. He’s not really God in our life. It’s significant that God says that they just take him in just as he is. They’re in the boat and there’s nothing fancy going on here. He’s going to begin to deal with them.

Mark 4:37 – A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.

You’re going to think you’re losing everything. You’ll get all filled up with wisdom and then he’s going to put you out in the middle of the lake. All of a sudden a storm’s going to come up and you think you’re going to lose it all. We all start out hearing all the grand promises about denying self and being crucified to self and we think, “Yeah that’s grand, I want that to happen.” But when we get out in the middle of the lake and the storm comes up then suddenly we say, “What’s happening?” as if it’s a surprise.

We are told constantly that these things are going to take place, and then when they do we still pout and complain. That’s why self must be dealt with. We must become mature and complete. In verse 38 it says Jesus was in the stern sleeping on a cushion. Now what kind of attitude do you think we’re going to have toward Jesus Christ who’s sleeping on a cushion? We’re going to take his own words back to him. “Look at you, indulging the flesh, and sleeping while the rest of us are in pain. Scripture says you’re not supposed to be in tune with your body. Here we are in all this suffering and pain, and you could care less. You’re all comfortable.”

Do we really want Spirit-filled leadership? You’re in the middle of a storm, you’re sinking, and the leadership is sleeping on a cushion? They act all unconcerned like “What’s your problem? What’s the big deal?” We want them to bail us out. We want Jesus Christ to be awake. Get up off your pillow and rescue us from this pain and turmoil.

Do you see why we never grow? We’re in the middle of a little bit of storm, I mean just a little bit. We see the clouds and we go running for cover. We claim a promise and the storm still keeps coming. We keep claiming more of the promise and the storm is still coming. We never go through the storm to see what it is that God wants to purify from our lives. And of course we can always find other brothers and sisters to make us feel comfortable.

Mark 4:38 – Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

What a charge to lay before him who is love. You see how little we know our Lord. We can’t figure out why he leaves us all alone to suffer through all these things. Where is his presence? I just don’t feel him there today. Why is he allowing all these things to go on in my life? We never go back as James says and ask for wisdom. He’ll give wisdom through all of these kinds of turmoil. But just realize that usually the wisdom is to show what needs to change in our life, what needs to be purified, and what sins need to be dealt with. But that’s not what we want to hear. We want some grand promise that will deliver us from the problem. We want Jesus Christ to wake up, tell the storm to be quiet and then it’s all over with. We’re satisfied and comfortable at that point.

Mark 4:39 – He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

Usually that’s when we get satisfied. It’s over with. We say, “Hallelujah, praise God, we’re out of the storm.” What were the lessons you learned? What was it about sin and self that He showed needed to change? The next day did they all discuss the things God wants them to change? They were just happy to be through the storm.

Mark 4:40 – He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

God delivers from these storms and he comes along so many times and delivers us quickly to teach us that we can trust him. So that when he doesn’t deliver quickly, when it doesn’t come easily, we know eventually he will come in his own good time.

When he’s through blessing us by turning us from our wicked ways, as Acts says, he will come to us on his terms, with the blessing he has in mind, and we will be a righteous people. But so many people get into these situations and admittedly God answered their prayers, but they went back to indulging self. They went back to the security of the Pharisees of the law. They went back to their excuses. They never really understood what Jesus Christ was trying to teach them, that they must have real faith so that when he comes along to deal with pride, they just don’t give up in self-pity. When he comes along to change their life radically and show them things in the word they need to obey, he doesn’t expect them to pout, run off and be mad like a bunch of little spoiled children. He’s trying to show them to have real faith and he will change, cleanse, and purify their lives.

In Mark4:41 it says they were terrified. They’re out in the storm and they’re afraid, yet when Jesus Christ rebukes the wind and the waves they become terrified. We’re like that in Jesus Christ. We go through the storm and when he tries to show us something different in his word, an aspect of Jesus Christ we’ve never seen before, we become more afraid of that than we were of the storm. We’re so boxed in with our opinions and ideas of who Jesus Christ is, that once he starts to crack open that box and bring in some new aspect of God, we become more terrified of that than the storm. They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this?” They don’t understand who Jesus Christ is. So is it any surprise to us that there are going to be times in our life where we’re going to say, “Who is this Jesus Christ and why does he behave and act this way?”

There are many times in my life when I was extremely frustrated and I wondered, “Who is this God and why does he act the way that he does? I don’t understand.” It’s a very frustrating place to be in, but he was trying to deal with my impatience and my flesh that just had to be comfortable. He was trying to say “I will fellowship with you, but this flesh has to go, that we might fellowship.” Even the wind and the waves obey him, but not their hearts. He who contained the storm can’t seem to even get through to our hearts at times, because we’re not learning. We’re not the disciples that we should be. We go through the storm, we get out on the lake, we follow him, but we’re not learning. We’re not seeing more self. Jesus Christ is not being formed in an ever greater fashion in our lives on a daily basis because we hold on to some opinion, idea, or concept. Again you only thought you were afraid. Wait until he begins to deal with the deepness of sin and self in you. Then you will be terrified. We need to let the miracles and the good things that God works in our life lead us to a place called the cross.

Matthew 14:21 – The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.

They see this grand miracle where Jesus Christ feeds all these people and immediately he makes them get into a boat to go out on the lake. Why? Because we get so puffed up in all the miracles that Jesus Christ does yet self isn’t crucified. We get all excited about the fact that he does things in our life and we want to hold on to those things. We need to treasure those, don’t misunderstand me, but the reason we need to treasure them is because he’s going to put us into a boat. He’s going to put us out on the middle of the lake. He’s going to cause the storm to come to crucify self and it’s at that point we would have to say to ourselves, “I remember this miracle. What is he trying to work? What is the really important thing that he wants to accomplish?”

It says in 1 Corinthians 14:22 that tongues are a sign for unbelievers not for believers. That’s why as Christians we don’t care about tongues. It’s not the miracles that excite us. We want to know what the tongue has to say. Prophecy is for believers. But how many people become excited about the temporal, small things. Jesus Christ says, “By the finger of God I cast out Satan.” By his finger, he’s flicking Satan away. And we’re all excited about the finger of God when there’s the whole aspect of who God is.

Matthew 22:14 – Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat.

It’s interesting that they had no choice. I think they’re getting wise at this point. They realized that this was not some little excursion they were going to go on or a nice ferry ride. You’ve got to get into this boat and you have no choice really in the matter. I mean you do have a choice, obviously, whether to get in or not but a lot of us just refuse to do so.

Matthew 14:22 – Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.

Already they are without his presence. Already they can’t feel and see him right there. How many times do we whine immediately when we don’t sense that Jesus Christ is right there? Our whole Christian walk is based upon the emotion of whether we feel God to be there every second of every day of our life. He’s the one who put us in the boat. He’s not unconcerned. He’s going to be praying for us and watching us. We just don’t feel him being right there at the moment. Have some faith! Press on and do what you need to do because there are things he’s going to show you.

Matthew 14:22 – Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.

The crowds are always being sent home. I can’t say that enough. The crowds will know nothing of this kind of victory or this kind of experience. Let us not be part of the crowds. Let’s become a disciple. Let us become uncomfortable.

Matthew 14:23-24 – After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

We are doing God’s will aren’t we? Didn’t he tell us to get into the boat? So immediately some waves come against us and we say, “Am I in God’s will or not? I know I’m going to die. I know I’m not where I’m supposed to be.” We begin to have a panic attack. What do we expect? We don’t understand our Lord. If he puts us in any situation in life, whether it be a blessing to other people or a discipline, it’s there to deal with our sin. It’s there to mature us in Jesus Christ. Time is short. God only has a short amount of time to deal with me, so every situation counts.

Matthew 14:2 – …but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

But we are still in the center of God’s will. If we heard him tell us to get in the boat, that’s where he wants us to be.

Matthew 14:25 – During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.

Why didn’t he come on the first watch? Where was he in the second watch? Maybe we have enough faith to get to the third watch. But by the fourth watch we have given up. We know we are on our own now. We know we have to row to shore. Panic has just set in at this point.

Matthew 14:25 – During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.

During darkest part of the might he comes out walking. At the last moment he arrives.

Matthew 14:26 – When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

They didn’t say, “Oh, praise God. Jesus Christ is almost here. We are almost rescued.” They don’t recognize their Lord at all. They say he’s a ghost. A new aspect of Christianity, a new aspect of Jesus Christ, and we panic. We think it’s a ghost. It’s foreign. It’s false prophecy. It’s false doctrine. We can’t recognize who Jesus Christ is or get a hold of him. We think he’s a ghost or some kind of phantom. We are not able to reason it out or put him in a box. It doesn’t fit with the laws of the Pharisees or with all of our excuses.

Matthew 14:26 – When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

Can you see these grown men crying out in fear? How many times have we been in a place where we cry out in fear? It’s not a question of words or a well-formulated prayer. “Dear Lord, we are really in trouble and could really use your help right now.” These guys are at the end of their self-confidence. These guys are at the end of even well formulated, put-together prayers. They are at the bottom. There is nothing left for them to do but be emotional about the situation and cry out.

So the Lord comes along to show us the pride that lives in our life. He gives us a little conviction and we say, “Yes, Lord, I repent of it,” and think it’s gone. Then he shows us a little more and we become a little more afraid. Then he shows more and we really humble ourselves at this point. We pray and fast and do an extra Bible study or get an extra quiet time. But when was the last time that he took us all the way down so the only thing we could do was cry out in fear. That’s why in the Psalms it says, “You hear my groans.” Sometimes that’s all you can formulate.

Matthew 14:27 – But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

If we would but listen we could hear him say, “This is me. You may not understand it. It may not be clear to you yet, but it is still me. You may not be able to appreciate all that I am right now and what I am trying to show you. Every question may not be answered, but it’s still me.”

When Jesus Christ tries to show us something we want all our questions answered. We are first graders that enter school and want the teacher to explain everything to us in one day. In our pride we have to have it all put together and we have to have it all arranged. We want Jesus Christ contained so we can deal with anything that he will bring our way. We want everything explained so that we don’t become ruffled, so we can outmaneuver him a little bit, and so we can get all prepared.

If we would just listen and hear him say, “It is I.” If we would learn to recognize his voice there will be a lot of situations he puts us in both to glorify his name and purify us, yet we will still have the peace, even when we can’t figure out what he’s doing. Hopefully I’ve grown a little bit so that when I wind up in a situation that I can’t quite figure out I can still see if it’s his voice, Satan’s voice or my own voice.

Matthew 14:28 – “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

We know Peter is going to fail before he gets out of the boat because he says, “If it is you.” He’s still not convinced. So what is he going to do? It’s called the test prayer. “Lord if you want us to do this certain ministry, or if you want us to do this certain thing, part the heavens, come down and send us 14 angels to show us the way.” We have to grow beyond all these test prayers that everybody throws out. They form a vicious cycle anyway. What if the test prayer comes partially true and then you have to test the test prayer. It never ends.

Matthew 14:28 – “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

It’s never enough for us just to hear from God, “This is my will, now proceed.” We don’t have the faith because self is still alive. We are going to be uncomfortable. The problem is we don’t want to be wrong or look stupid and foolish. But God wants us to get past that so that when he says, “This is me,” we know it’s his voice and we can just begin to proceed and work. How much time is wasted on test prayers and the work never gets done. We are so busy testing that we can’t determine whether it’s his will or not.

I remember I used to do this when I was a young Christian. It wasn’t just test prayers, I was claiming prayers for everything, and then nothing worked. I praise God that nothing worked, because it showed me that Tim was still praying, Tim was still claiming, Tim was the one doing the acting in Jesus’ name. Then I’d pray the test prayers and some would partially come true and that would throw me into more of a tailspin. Finally it just came down to either it’s God or it isn’t and either I act on it in faith or I don’t act on it in faith. If I am wrong then I will be wrong, and I will learn from that and see what about self needs to die. I will admit that I am wrong.

Matthew 14:29 – “Come,” he said.

Ok, you prayed the prayer. I am going to answer your test prayer. Come on, let’s go for it.

Matthew 14:29-30 – “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

He’s trying to show us that all this testing doesn’t give us faith. If anything it usually produces the opposite, because then we are out of the boat walking on the water and try to take another step we need another tested prayer to take the next step. It just never stops and we live our Christian life in one continual state of anxiety. There is no rest. There is no peace. There’s no fellowship with him. It’s testing, praying, working, examining, and reasoning.

Matthew 14:31 – Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

He is saying, “All you need is my hand.”

Matthew 14:32 – And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.

This time Jesus didn’t even say, “Be quiet.” He just got in the boat and everything started to settle down. When Jesus Christ finally enters into our life, when we can just take him at his word, whether that be with doctrinal questions or just events in our life, things calm down. Think about the things God tries to show us in the word and we have storms of questions. When we can just take him at his word, then everything will calm down. Then you can hear what he has to say and be at peace. When we finally take him in to the boat and he just sits down, everything will settle down and be where it needs to be.

Matthew 14:33 – Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Their insight is much deeper now. He is slowly breaking through the self and sin that’s there. “Truly you are the Son of God.” A little bit more insight. A little bit more rest. A little bit more truth. There’s still a ways to go, but they are learning and being broken.

Matthew 14:34-35 – When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him

Someday these disciples are going to have to teach the crowds what it means to be a disciple in Jesus Christ. He is putting the disciples through all these things so they can turn someday and tell others who Jesus Christ is and the blessings he came to bring. This is what it is to have the new life. That’s why Hebrews says we all have to become teachers. We all should grow to a point that we are able to teach others about the cross of Jesus Christ. But we haven’t gotten into enough boats. We have been so prideful and unwilling to learn. We have wasted years of good discipline.

Luke 12:41-42 – Peter asked, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?” The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time?

Everything these men are learning will be taught to others. That’s why Jesus Christ ends Matthew 28 and says to go make disciples. Prepare them for some boat rides. Prepare them for the storms of life and for the purity that my Holy Spirit will bring. Prepare them to go to Jerusalem to die. It all comes down to a soft heart. If we are going to get anywhere in Jesus Christ, we have to admit that the only reason we are not further along than we are now is that we have a hard heart. You cannot blame leadership. You cannot blame circumstance. You cannot blame anything else but yourself. Because if we had the soft hearts that we say we have, we would have the righteousness, holiness, and peace that are in him.

Mark 6:44-46 – The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand. Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.

Let us begin to praise God when we don’t feel his presence, because when he comes to crucify you you’re going to wonder where he’s at. As Jesus was on the cross even he said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” So when he comes to deal with our sins we are going to be taken back by it. We will wonder where his love and mercy are. People ask me about that in my message all the time. Where’s the mercy? Where’s the grace? You have to die to get to the resurrected life.

Mark 6:47-4 – When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars. . .

They were straining with their might and all the self they could muster. All the prayers, works, gimmicks, and things we think we can do in Jesus Christ to get moving on this lake. They are trying to do it and straining with all the strength they have.

Mark 6:48 – . . .because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them,

They rowed along looking for Jesus Christ and he almost walked by them. That’s why scripture says, “Let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Many times I’m running to catch up because he has passed me by. Don’t let Jesus pass us by. How many people continue to row and row and never see Jesus Christ. He just walks on by. They row with hallelujahs, prayers, and Bible study. They row with the Greek, the Hebrew, and all the things they hold on to-their excuses, reasons, and justifications. They row with all their might. They put forth a great deal of effort, but he will pass them by. If we have let Jesus pass us by, let us do so no longer.

Mark 6:49-50 – …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. Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

Jesus Christ passed them by, but they thought it was a ghost and they were terrified by this aspect of Jesus. We worship a holy God and we are surprised and terrified at how he acts and moves in our life. We worship a holy God yet when we read things in his word we can’t understand we find that to be surprising.

Mark 6:51 – Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed,

Why were they amazed? What is the source of their problem? Why are they so awestruck?

Mark 6:52 – …for they had not understood about the loaves;

It goes all the way back to the loaves incident. It has nothing to do with the boat ride. I am amazed at the questions people ask me. They want to ask me all these deep doctrinal questions, yet they haven’t even done the very basic things in Jesus Christ that would take care of self. There are people who pronounce all kinds of judgments about what I do or don’t do in Jesus Christ yet they haven’t even done the first basic things of what it means to hate their own lives. We have to get a soft heart. We have to understand the loaves before we can understand walking on water.

Mark 6:52 – …for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.

It had nothing to do with Bible knowledge or watching all kinds of miracles. It had nothing to do with any outward form of teaching, seminar, or tape. Their hearts were hard. So when I don’t understand something in Jesus Christ, which is plenty of times, the only thing I can say is that I have a hard heart. It’s not that I need some intellectual knowledge, it’s that I have a hard heart, and that’s why I cannot understand.

Mark 8:17 – Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened?”

How many times are we in Bible studies discussing all kinds of things in Jesus Christ and he’s sitting over there thinking, “Why are your hearts so hard? Why all these debates? Why all this discussion? Why all these judgments, pronouncements and ideas? It’s just a matter of softening your hearts.” If we are not able to deal with the small things in our life, why should we be surprised that we can’t understand the deeper things of God?

Mark 8:18 – Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” “Twelve,” they replied. “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” They answered, “Seven.” He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

You see it’s not the outward facts that convince a man or give him understanding about who Jesus Christ is. He had just laid out the principle of feeding multitudes, but they can’t comprehend it only because their hearts are hard. He sends us out on a lake; he puts us on a boat to break our hearts. That’s all he’s after is to break our hearts, and to break the sin and the self that is in us. How we fight. How we excuse ourselves. How we refuse to get into the boat. How we refuse to go die. All he wants to do is soften our hearts.

John 6:15 – Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

We figured this Jesus Christ out and we want him to be the king we want him to be. We have fashioned Jesus Christ into the idol and concept that we want him to be and try constantly to force him to fit that mold. So these people are coming to him and saying, “You will be our king and conform to what we want you to be.” We do that in our Christian walk, and what God seeks to do is put us on a lake so we no longer force him to be what we want him to be, but allow him to be who he is. It’s no wonder churches fail and we get ourselves into messy situations because we have forced him to conform to our ideas and concepts about who he should be. We get our doctrine down tight and we are not going to move out of that box no matter what happens. We are going to find a place that’s comfortable to worship at and we are going to stay there. We are not going to move. We are going to force Jesus Christ to be the king we want him to be. We are idolaters and we seek to fashion him into our own image.

John 6:15 – Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

He runs from these situations. He will hide himself and will not permit it. How many times God has left me empty and void and I couldn’t even get filled up with anybody else because I was forcing him to be what he is not. Jesus Christ is God and we cannot force him to be anything other than who he is. If we force him to be what he is not, we are selfish people and we are saying to God, “You will bless me according to my needs and the way I want you to do it.” It’s the height of demonic worship.

John 6:16 – When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake,

I don’t know what the timing or sequence was in terms of these outings on the lake, but you get the sense from the book of John that the disciples have picked up on the way Jesus works. Who sent them down to the lake this time? They are going on their own now. I don’t know if they have him figured out because scripture doesn’t say. My guess is (and you can take that and throw it out) that they have figured out that every time Jesus does something it’s time to go out on the lake and learn a lesson. So, they are going to go crucify themselves. He won’t be king or do what we want him to do, so we are going to go out on the lake and force him to be what we want.

John 6:17 – …where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum.

We think we have the system down, “He always goes to Capernaum. We always take these boat trips at night. I’ve read it in the scriptures. This is who Jesus Christ is, and this is how he behaves. I have seen him do this in the past with me. I think I’ll just repeat it. Now I can handle it. Now I have it under control, and I know exactly what I need to do.” Yet there’s a warning in the next sentence, “By now it was dark.”

John 6:17 – …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.

He gives us a ministry work to do and since we’ve done it before we know this is how it’s supposed to be done. We’ve reached out to people before. This is the manner in which we’ve shared the gospel before so we’ll do it the same way we’ve done it before. We are just out here doing what we want to do. Now it’s getting dark and we are getting kind of lost, all because he wouldn’t do what we wanted him to do. He wouldn’t bless our work.

Hosea 12:6 – But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.

Had they waited they would have heard whether to get into the boat or not.

John 6:18-20 – A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified. But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.”

It is the “I am. The crowds wanted to make me king by force. They wanted to force me to be something. But it is I.” It is the same “I am” as when they came into the garden to get him and he said, “I am,” and they all fell back down. “I am who I am. You can’t outguess me or second guess how things are supposed to be done.” This is a relationship of a total dependence upon God who gives you life and love. You’ve gotten yourself out 3 miles into the middle of the lake. “It is I, don’t be afraid.”

John 6:21 – Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.

Ah, here’s a colossal mistake. They get in the boat on their own. They get out to the middle of the lake. Jesus Christ answers their prayers and gets to them. He gets into the boat and immediately reaches the other side of the shore. Instantaneously they are where they want to go. How many of us come to the conclusion that it must have been God’s will for us to be out on the lake in the first place? We achieve our desired blessing so we falsely believe that because we acted in all this self will, because we made Jesus Christ conform to what we wanted him to be, because we made him king, that we must have been right all along. We never stop to ask, “Is it the presence of the Lord? What is the lesson he’s trying to teach me? What was my mistake? Yes, he blessed me. Yes, he worked through my mistakes.” Even though he worked through all the sins that you had committed, that didn’t make the sin justified or part of his will. It just means he’s a loving gracious God that in spite of our mistakes and in spite of our self will and stubbornness he will forgive and work. He will love and show mercy. But let us not get back into the boat and do it again. Let us not force God to bless us in ways that he does not intend to bless us. Above all, self must be crucified. Otherwise we fall prey to all these things and we cannot understand what he’s really trying to work.

Let’s pray:

Father we ask that you be God to us. When we demand things of you that are not your will that you do not answer those prayers. Let us, Father, consider it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds that we might become mature, able to fellowship with you, able to love others, and able to be with you forever. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Article from by Timothy Williams because Jesus said “sit down” and “count the cost” before following Him.

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Examining today’s wisdom, madness, and folly.