Every Wednesday, 8:00 AM - 8:15 AM
Straining at the Oars
By Phil Tedeschi
Mark 6:7-12 (NKJV) 7 And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits. 8 He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff--no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts-- 9 but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics. 10 Also He said to them, "In whatever place you enter a house, stay there till you depart from that place. 11 And whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!" 12 So they went out and preached that people should repent.
Mark 6:30-50 (NKJV) 30 Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught. 31 And He said to them, "Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while." For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. 32 So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves. 33 But the multitudes saw them departing, and many knew Him and ran there on foot from all the cities. They arrived before them and came together to Him. 34 And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things. 35 When the day was now far spent, His disciples came to Him and said, "This is a deserted place, and already the hour is late. 36 Send them away, that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy themselves bread; for they have nothing to eat." 37 But He answered and said to them, "You give them something to eat." And they said to Him, "Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give them something to eat?" 38 But He said to them, "How many loaves do you have? Go and see." And when they found out they said, "Five, and two fish." 39 Then He commanded them to make them all sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in ranks, in hundreds and in fifties. 41 And when He had taken the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and the two fish He divided among them all. 42 So they all ate and were filled. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of fragments and of the fish. 44 Now those who had eaten the loaves were about five thousand men. 45 Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He sent the multitude away. 46 And when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray. 47 Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land. 48 Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by. 49 And when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out; 50 for they all saw Him and were troubled. But immediately He talked with them and said to them, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid."
Of the many lessons I’ve learned during times of hardship and struggle, one of the best is that Jesus is never far away, nor am I ever out of his sight! Consider the plight of the disciples in this passage. Jesus had sent them out two by two to preach repentance, drive out demons and heal the sick. They had done so with great authority and returned telling Jesus of their accomplishments.
It is interesting to note that they were amazed at all they had done! In other words, they came back a little full of themselves and their newfound abilities! I believe that this was not lost on Jesus, who immediately gave them a challenge they could not handle. He told the disciples to feed 5,000 hungry men (not to mention all the women and children - v.37). These proud missionaries, who had seen miracles performed at their command, were now groping for physical solutions to a supernatural problem! So, Jesus showed them that it is God who provides and supplies by multiplying 5 loaves and 2 fishes into a feast for 5,000 men with 12 baskets left over.
Then, just in case there was any pride left in them Jesus sent them on a little boat ride. From different accounts in the four parallel gospels, we know that the disciples set out in the evening and, because of stiff winds, had only progressed to the center of the lake 3½ hours later! (It normally would have taken no more than 2 hours to cross the entire lake.) Can you imagine rowing for 3½ hours and only being halfway to your destination! Even if they took turns at the oars, these were some tired guys.
Now we get to the heart of the story: Verse 48 (KJV) says that Jesus saw the disciples “straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. . .”, yet it was not until the fourth watch (about midnight) that Jesus went out to them. I think every one of us knows what it’s like to strain at the oars. And most of us know equally well what it’s like to strain at the oars with a strong headwind. But be sure of this one truth: Jesus knows our struggles and is only a short walk away from us. He is with us in our trials and as we go through them, we will more intimately know Him and his character!
The disciples had few choices in the boat that night. They could have given up, stopped rowing and let the wind take them where it would, or they could try to return to where they came from, but if the wind was from another direction, that may have been no easier. Or, they could continue to struggle to reach their destination. When we’re faced with trials, we have the same choices. We can lose heart, give up and just let the winds of hardship blow us completely off course. We can get discouraged and say, “this is too difficult, I’m going back where I started”, or we can endure the hardship and look for Jesus coming our way to meet us!
When He arrives, you can be sure He’ll say, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Because when you’ve arrived at the place that He wants you to reach by His divine plan, he’ll climb into the boat with you and immediately the wind will die down. Those who give up and turn around or let the winds carry them in any direction will never know that peace. They may look like they’re okay where they are, but remember, when we reach the destination God has mapped out for us, we’re in a place of safety, assurance and calm.
My declaration today is in agreement with Philippians 3:14 that says I will press onward toward the goal to win the prize for which God called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.