When the Going Gets Tough

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Mark 6:45-56 (Jesus Walks on Water)

INTRODUCTION: I wish I could tell you that when you come to Jesus, all your problems will be over. I wish I could tell you that when you give your life to God, it will all be clear sailing. I wish I could tell you that following Jesus means an easy life and an easy road. But I can’t tell you any of those things, because I would be lying. Life is tough for everyone, Christians included.

In fact, in some ways life for the Christian can be even tougher, because God tells you to do hard things. Let me tell you right now, if you are a follower of Jesus, you are going to face some tough times in life. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

And so as we look at this miracle of Jesus walking on the water today, I would like to give you three things to remember when you are going through a tough time. Three things to remember when the going gets tough:

    1) You are never out of God’s sight,
    2) You are never out of God’s reach,
    3) You are never out of God’s care.

Everyone goes through tough times in life. But when you are a Christian, you have these three promises from God to help you when the going gets tough.

I. You are never out of God’s sight (verses 45-48a)

First of all, you are never out of God’s sight. The disciples were in a tough spot. They were out in the middle of the Sea of Galilee at night fighting a strong headwind and not making any headway. But how did they get into this spot? Verse 45 says that Jesus sent them there.

Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. (Mark 6:45)

Jesus “made” his disciples get into the boat. This is a very strong word in the Greek meaning “to force or compel.” Now I don’t think Jesus threatened the disciples or used actual force, but he certainly commanded them to get into the boat and go on ahead of him. And so the disciples were in a tight spot because they were following Jesus’ commands.

So much for the idea that following Jesus will never get you into trouble. But the important thing to remember here is that just because you are in a tough spot does not mean that you are not right where God wants you. Sometimes following Christ means going through trials. Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of him because he had a purpose for the trial they would face.

So Jesus sends the disciples across the sea in the boat, he dismisses the crowd, and then he goes up on the mountain to pray. Look at verses 46-48:

After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. 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, because the wind was against them. (Mark 6:46-48)

So the disciples are stuck in the middle of the lake fighting the winds, and Jesus is up on the mountainside praying. Was he praying for the disciples? We don’t know. But as he looked down on the Sea of Galilee, he saw the disciples in their predicament.

I believe this is actually the first of three miracles we find in this passage. The Sea of Galilee is about four miles across, and so the disciples were at least two miles away at this time. Now maybe on a clear day from an elevated position you might just possibly make out a small boat on the lake from two miles away. I doubt you could identify the boat or its occupants, but you might be able to spot it. But at nighttime with the wind whipping up the water and the waves? There’s not a chance. And so I believe a miracle of seeing took place here. Jesus somehow was able to look out over the lake and see the disciples straining at the oars.

But whether this was a miracle of seeing or not, the principle for us is the same. You are never out of God’s sight. You might feel that you are stuck out in the middle of nowhere far away from God’s watchful eye, but it’s not true. God sees it all. He knows your situation. He knows what you’re going through. Whenever you are in a tough spot, remember this. You are never out of God’s sight.

II. You are never out of God’s reach (verses 48b-50)

Secondly, you are never out of God’s reach. Look at verse 48:

About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. (Mark 6:48b)

Jesus was on land, and the disciples were out in the middle of the lake. It would seem they were out of Jesus’ reach, but then Jesus comes walking right out to them. Now this is the big miracle of the story – Jesus walking on the water. Once again, skeptics have tried to come up with all sorts of explanations for what happened here. One is that the disciples saw Jesus walking around the shore of the lake in the shallows. Of course it doesn’t explain how Jesus spoke to them or climbed into their boat from two miles away.

No, this was a true miracle, Jesus walking on top of the water, demonstrating his power over nature and his own true nature as God. In the Old Testament only God walked on the water and had power over the sea. Job 9:8 says, “He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea.” And so by this miracle Jesus was showing that he is truly God.

Mark continues in verse 48:

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. (Mark 6:48-50)

Here the disciples were stuck out in the middle of the lake, and Jesus comes to them to help them, but they don’t recognize him. They can’t comprehend a human being walking on the water, so they assume he must be a ghost. Jesus was about to pass right by them, and they almost missed him. You are never out of God’s reach, but sometimes you don’t recognize it when God comes to rescue you. Sometimes God’s rescue seems frightening, because you don’t understand it all. God can be right there ready to help you, but you need to be ready to respond.

You need to realize that wherever you go, God is there. Psalm 139 says:

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. (Psalm 139:7-10)

You might feel like you are stuck out in the middle of the sea going nowhere, far away from any help or rescue, but remember, God is always there. You are never out of God’s reach.

III. You are never out of God’s care (verses 51-56)

You are never out of God’s sight. You are never out of God’s reach. And finally, you are never out of God’s care. Look at verse 51. The disciples were terrified when they saw Jesus, but

Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened. (Mark 6:51-52)

You are never out of God’s care. When you are in a tough spot, it is easy to believe that God has forgotten you, or that God has abandoned you, or that God just doesn’t care. Nothing could be farther from the truth. God does care for you in the midst of the storm, and we need to trust his purposes even when we don’t understand them.

I don’t know why Jesus let the disciples battle the wind all night long before he went out to them on the water. I mean, Mark tells us he saw them struggling early in the evening, but he didn’t actually go out to them until the fourth watch of the night. The Romans divided the night up into four watches with the fourth watch lasting from 3-6am. So the disciples had been at it pretty much all night when Jesus came out to them about three in the morning. I don’t know why God sometimes allows us to go through such difficult times, but I do know that God uses our times of trial to teach us, to train us, to develop our faith and our character.

Unfortunately, we have this terrible tendency to push God away when we need him the most. What if the disciples had pushed Jesus away after he identified himself? Can you imagine Jesus just standing there on the water while the disciples rail against him: “Why are we out here in the middle of the lake going nowhere? Why did you send us out here to begin with? Why did you take you so long to get here? What, do you think we’re going to let you get into the boat with us now?”

But that is exactly what we need to do when we are in trouble. Trust God’s purposes even when you don’t understand. Believe God cares for you even when life hurts so much. Don’t let Jesus pass you by, but welcome him into the boat with you. Don’t push God away when you need him the most. Jesus climbed into the boat with the disciples, and that’s when the third miracle in this passage occurred – the winds died down and everything was calm again.

Mark tells us that the disciples “were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.” (Mark 6:52) The disciples still needed to grow in their faith. Jesus had just fed a crowd of five thousand with a few loaves of bread. God’s miraculous provision of the loaves in the past should have taught them that God would take care of them in the present. Jesus had already calmed an earlier storm. Now he walked across the water to them, got into the boat, and did it again. But they still did not fully understand who Jesus was yet, and so these things continued to astonish them.

Mark finishes off this section with a summary passage of Jesus’ healing ministry. Look at verses 53-56:

When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went — into villages, towns or countryside — they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed. (Mark 6:53-56)

Notice the contrast here between the disciples and the people. The disciples thought Jesus was a ghost and almost let him pass them by. The people recognize Jesus as soon as he comes ashore. The disciples were amazed at Jesus’ power because they still did not understand. The people believe that Jesus can help them. They go running all over the place bringing the sick to Christ. They believe they can be healed even just by touching the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.

Once again Jesus’ love and compassion shine through as he goes about healing the common people and ministering to their needs. The message is clear. God loves you. He wants the best for you. You are never out of God’s care.

CONCLUSION: You know, when we talk about God, we often talk about how God is all-knowing, he is all-present, and he is all-powerful. Those are the three “omni” words you sometimes hear about God: God is omniscient, he is omnipresent, and he is omnipotent. The word “omni” means “all,” so omniscient means all-knowing, omnipresent means all-present, and omnipotent means all-powerful. And those line up perfectly with the three points of our message this morning. You are never out of God’s sight, because God is all-knowing. You are never out of God’s reach, because God is all-present. You are never out of God’s care, because God is all-powerful.

Perhaps you are going through a difficult time right now. Perhaps you feel like you have been stuck out in the middle of the lake for a long time. Maybe you feel like God has forgotten you, or he has abandoned you, or he just doesn’t care. That’s when you need to remember these three things. You are never out of God’s sight, and so that means God has not forgotten you. You are never out of God’s reach, and so that means God has not abandoned you. You are never out of God’s care, because God loves you so much he sent his Son to die for you. He is the all-knowing, all-present, all-powerful, all-loving God who knows your troubles and will rescue you in his perfect timing.

Don’t push Jesus away when you need him most. Trust him; believe him; invite him into the boat with you. When the going gets tough, remember. You are never out of God’s sight. You are never out of God’s reach. You are never out of God’s care.

© Ray Fowler

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