“Don’t be afraid I am here” I can’t think of more reassuring words from the Lord than these.
Our lives are a journey of highs and lows, of spectacular sunsets and dreary rainy days, of times of plenty or times of famine. We often forget in the good times that in only a breath of time everything can change and we can find ourselves scratching around for things to make us feel good, to lift our spirits, to get us through each day. When we are experiencing good times its wonderful, every day feels lighter, smiles come easily and we treat others so much better because we ourselves are “in a good place”. We find it easy to give thanks, easy to pray, easy to be generous towards God and towards others.
It’s easy to look at someone who displays these qualities and say “what a wonderful Christian, always so thankful and prayerful and so wonderful to everyone, I wish I was more like them”. But you would not gain a true picture of a person unless you also observe them in hard times and see their reactions then. Its how we act in these times that defines our lives, and displays the truth we have within us.
The disciples were such a group of people; and so very like us. They heard the words of Jesus and set their hearts and lives to follow him, and as they travelled with Jesus, they experienced all the different emotions and experiences we all do in seeking to follow the Lord. We can learn such a lot from looking at their reactions if we are wise enough to learn from them.
In John chapter 6 we join the disciples on the far side of the Sea of Galilee surrounded by a huge crowd of people, all come to hear Jesus and to be healed, or to witness healings. Jesus then turns to Philip and asks him where they can get enough food for all these people. Shocked Philip explains that even if they worked for a month, they would not have enough money to buy food for all these people. Well we all know the story. A child donates their lunch and Jesus performs a spectacular miracle and over 5000 people are fed. Not only that but there is a whole load of food left over!
I don’t know about you but I have never witnessed a miracle like that, but I feel that if ever I should I would never doubt or fear ever again. What an amazing high, to see so many people fed with so little, to see Jesus demonstrate His power to such an extent, and to watch His love and concern for those who had come to hear Him that He saw they needed food, and miraculously provided it. Surely such a miracle would result in immovable faith in the Lord.
But later that same evening we again see the disciples together. This time they are down by the shore waiting for Jesus to join them (he had gone into the hills to be by Himself). They wait for a while and slowly the sun sets and it starts to get dark and a bit colder. I can imagine they sit and discuss what might be keeping Him, what they should do, wondering why He is away so long, doesn’t He realise they are waiting, doesn’t He realise it`s getting dark and cold? What could be keeping Him? Has He left and gone somewhere else, why didn’t He let them know He would be gone ages? Honest what are they supposed to do!? So they did what they thought best, what they usually did when they didn’t know what else to do they got into a boat and headed out across the sea.
This got me thinking. How often when I have been really blessed seeing the Lord do amazing things or heard brilliant teaching, or sat in exciting meetings where the Spirit of God seems so near I felt I could touch Him, I have expected this experience with the Lord to last forever, to be my `norm` from now on. I expected that I would never again doubt or fear or feel directionless. But in the story, we see how oh so quickly the disciples stopped waiting for the Lord, made their own decision and reverted to their usual solutions. They got into a boat. I have got into my boat more times than I care to say! I have come from these wonderful times with the Lord and when the feelings of closeness are not quite the same, or when difficulties cross my path or when prayers seem not to be answered I have not waited for the Lord, I have not sat quietly for His voice, for his direction, for his gentle guidance instead I have gotten into my boat and set out to sea.
We can learn such a lot from the next part of the story. There were the disciples rowing across and now gale swept lake over sea that was now rough heading towards Capernaum. They had been rowing for a few miles, plenty of time to reflect on the wisdom of the journey, plenty of time for blaming themselves, or each other for their predicament and plenty of time to doubt and question why the Lord had not come, why He had left them so long and why He had not been concerned for them! The Bible tells us at this point (John ch 6 v 19) that suddenly they saw Jesus walking towards them on the water and they were terrified. Why were they terrified? Did they not recognise Him, did they think He had been killed and they were seeing His ghost!? Maybe they thought He would be angry with them for setting off without Him or would chide or reject them for getting themselves into such a mess by not waiting for Him. All thoughts I've had during times of heading off on my own. But Jesus called out to them “Don’t be afraid I am here!” The bible says `then they were eager to let him into the boat and immediately they reached their destination.`
“Don’t be afraid I am here” I can’t think of more reassuring words from the Lord than these. No rebuke no questioning of behaviour no `well you didn’t wait for me so why should I help you!?` but the gentle words of love from a caring and loving friend and Saviour. Again, words I've often heard, words that have brought me to tears. Why is the Lord so gracious to us, why does He rescue us time and time again I don’t know I just know He does, because He loves us with an everlasting love not a love dependant on our whims or short fallings.
This reading has spoken to me over the last few days in a number of ways.
It’s great to feel close to the Lord, to experience His favour on our lives and we should be very grateful for these times, but it is important to realise that the Lord is the same Lord in good and hard times. Like the disciples, it’s easy to stop waiting when it feels like the Lord is far away, when it feels like He is not answering your prayers, when you feel deserted. Its tempting to resort to your own way, your own thoughts, your own solutions but they often do not lead you to the destination the Lord has for you, and they can be fraught with storms and problems. And the biggest danger is often after a time of blessing and plenty, we get complacent and forget how to wait on the Lord or how to stand by faith not by sight. We need to ever keep our eyes on Him, wait for Him and guard ourselves from becoming dissatisfied or dismayed and getting into our own boat and setting off in our own direction.
Thank You, Lord that you always watch over us and draw near to us when we might have strayed away. That Your words to us are always don’t be afraid I am here and thank you Lord when we invite you into our boat You lead us to our destination You have for us.
Author: Jan Pearson
May God bless and enrich your life
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