"Losing Your Head"
Mark 4:37, "And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full."
This morning, the Bible continues to amaze with its richness and depth. After repeated passes through its pages over the years, I never cease to be amazed at what "new" things are found each time. Now matter how many times you squeeze the passages, honey keeps pouring out. One of the death knells of a disciple of the Lamb, and especially to a minister of the gospel, is to develop the mindset about Scripture and say, "I got that." Scripture warns about thinking we know something more than we do or have our situation figured out. (I Corinthians 8:2, 10:12) The study verse before us sits within a story that I have attempted to preach about many times in the past. The story is rich and full of doctrinal weight as well as practical lessons. Yet, for all my reading, studying, meditating, and eventually preaching on this lesson, I recently saw something that previous glances had missed.
The story before us is the wonderful account of Christ calming the wind and seas with a simple command, "Peace, be still." (Verse 39b) So many things take place that it is easy sometimes to fail to see some of the weight of the lesson. For example, the men in the boat are often chastised by us today for their lack of faith, and indeed Christ Himself rebuked them after rebuking the wind and sea. Have we considered lately their experience level? Many of the men in the boat were experienced and hardened fishermen. They were not novices. Yet, these men who had gained the mastery of life on the water were in great jeopardy to the point of thinking that their lives were about to end. (Verse 38) While Christ rebuked them as is within His purview, I grow less quick to point my finger at them as I consider how these masters of the sea were made to doubt. This was not their first storm to navigate, probably, but it "got to them." It reminds me of those live feeds when meteorologists and storm chasers realize that the storm is bigger than they thought or doing something they did not predict. The look of horror that engulfs their faces is how I imagine the disciples were. "We've never seen anything like this..."
Yet, there is a simple thought contained in our study verse that is rich to consider. They had been fighting this storm for a certain period because the boat was now "full" because of the waves. Having been on a few vessels that had slow leaks, there is something unsettling about watching water rise in the boat. Enough water from the waves had filled the deck so that inundation or capsizing certainly seemed inevitable. Now, put yourself in their place. You have been in situations like this, but now you are where you have never been before. It is just one thing after another, piling up over and over. Now, if one more thing happens, it is all over. In our struggles with the pressures of life, have we ever said, "I've had it up to here, and I can't take one more thing."? The disciples looked over their vessel and said, "It can't take another one." When looking through the lens from that perspective, I generally share in mortal man's plight in Scripture. While I would like to say that in the face of those trials I would stand tall, I fear that I would be dashing below deck to tell Christ, "We're goners!"
While growing up, there was an expression tossed around our house that is a variant of the cliché "use your head." My parents would tell us at times "use your good sense." When making decisions and trying to reason through things, the command was to utilize the teachings that we had been given to make the right decision. To use good sense means that we see things for how they really are not how they appear to be. Perspective is both powerful, and sadly, at times, crippling. To the men on the boat, the storm is too big. Reality: someone bigger was still with them. To us today, life seems roughshod and at times, perhaps unbearable. Reality: Christ is still on the throne. Using good sense means that we do not let circumstances determine our values but rather constantly lean on the unchanging fullness of our Almighty Friend.
The interesting thing about this passage is that it begins with Christ's simple declaration to them, "Let us pass over unto the other side." (Verse 35b) His final statement in the lesson is, "Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?" (Verse 40b) The simple lesson is this: 1. I told you we are going, 2. How did you think we would not make it? Consider the richness of Christ's promise to us that where He is there will we be also. (John 14:3b) Just as nothing would or could prevent the disciples making it to the other side, so nothing in this realm can or will keep us from being with Him in heaven. Had Christ desired it, He could have commanded that vessel to glide the rest of the way in the storm being full of water all the while. No matter what manifestation His power takes, He can overrule and overcome any problem that we face. Even if it seems that we are losing our mind with constant toils and struggles, there is more power with us than with anything we face.
Have you ever felt your boat to be full? Did it ever seem like you could not take one more thing or even part of one more thing? I freely confess that my life has had moments when I thought one more thing would crush me. Mortal man is prone to doubt and despair. Yet, before we lose our head about all that happens around us, let us remember that He who has all power loves us and watches over us. Nothing will plague us that is too much (i.e. more than we can bear) because of His lovingkindness to us. (I Corinthians 10:13) When it seems like we cannot take one more thing, let us recall to mind that we have one more thing with us that they do not: the Lord. He can mercifully take the monster in front of us away, as He did to the storm for His disciples. He can guide us through the storm in ways no man could have fathomed possible, or He can simply take us home to be with Him on the "other side." No matter the deliverance used, He can deliver and has promised to deliver.
One of the more amusing things that I have encountered since being in the ministry is how so many people seem to subconsciously equate it with Old Testament prophets. They ask me to predict the future and foretell things that will be. My patented answer now is something to the effect, "My crystal ball is broken, and the last technician to fix them died." So much of the future is murky that many things are impossible to tell. These days, the things that seem "likely" in the future are dark to consider. Yet, the thought that should drive the disciple daily is that no matter what comes of good or ill, Jesus is there! We may think Him uncaring at times like they did in this lesson, but friends, He always cares and will deliver His own. No matter how full life seems or how full the troubles make things, let us never become overwhelmed in mind and spirit to forget about our Powerful Friend.