Take Courage - Bob Sawvelle

Take Courage!

Mark 6:45-56 tells the story of Jesus directing the disciples to get into a boat and cross over the Sea of Galilee to the city of Bethsaida. This event occurs right after Jesus performs the miracle of multiplying the five loaves and two fishes for the crowd that exceeded five thousand.

Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Vs. 50 NASB) Jesus steps into the boat, and the wind ceases. Jesus comes to them, not straining, but at rest in their moment of need.

Several elements occur that caused the disciples’ amazement. Jesus walks to them on the water, causing the disciples to wonder if He is a ghost or apparition, and suddenly the wind and waves calm. Shortly before this supernatural encounter, Jesus multiplies the loaves and fish for thousands with practically nothing.

The stories of the loaves and fish, and Jesus’ walking on the water, are related. Mark is pointing at something in these miraculous stories, more than just the deity of Christ.

Mark is alluding to the reality that Jesus is the Messiah, divine yes, but also fully human. Mark is explaining to the reader that Jesus, as Messiah, is Lord over wind and waves, bread and fish! He is enough, always!

Further, Mark is pointing to the truth that Jesus is both divine and human, as Israel’s Lord and Messiah. According to Anglican bishop and author NT Wright, “What we see now is his genuine humanness: this is the authority that humans were supposed to have over the natural world, and lost—forever, it had seemed—with sin and death.” [1]

But Jesus, the second Adam, has returned as Lord to restore what was lost. Jesus came to restore our relationship to the Father, and to restore us to the authority forfeited in the garden by Adam.

In other words, Jesus is demonstrating, from His humanity, that those who follow Him would have authority here on earth. These stories are about the divinity of Jesus to be sure, but they also tell of His role as Messiah, the God-filled human one like Adam called to put in order the garden—our world! It’s an invitation to His followers to walk in His authority to affect our world through His love and delegated authority.

Cross Over!

The Scripture indicates in vs. 45 that Jesus strongly urged the disciples to get into the boat and go to the other side, while He stayed behind to dismiss the multitude and to pray alone on the mountain. The disciples had no choice in the matter; Jesus strongly urged them to get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, but He had to convince the disciples to go. Why? I believe that the disciples resisted crossing the lake to the other side for two reasons.

First, the disciples knew that the Sea of Galilee was prone to storms during that time of the year.  As fishermen, they had experienced storms on the sea and knew that it would not be wise to venture out in the evening hours. Often God sends us into difficult situations that we would not choose and would be contrary to our natural understanding. Perhaps there is a greater purpose, and we are unaware of God’s plan through the circumstances leading up to the outcome. It’s during the “crossings of the sea”, going as He directs in our day-to-day lives, that our faith is tested. The question for us is, “Will we trust God even when it goes against our understanding?” The depth of our faith stems from the depth of our trust in our heavenly Father and His promises.

The second reason that the disciples resisted the leading of Jesus to cross the sea was that they had previously encountered a storm on the Galilee with Him. We see the event explained in Mark 4:35-41.  In this account, Jesus tells the disciples, “Let us cross over to the other side.” During their trip, a great windstorm arose, and the boat was beginning to fill with water. Jesus, however, was asleep in the back of the boat! The disciples awakened Jesus and exclaimed, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Jesus, arose, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!”  The scripture says that the wind ceased and there was a great calm.

How often we find ourselves, like the disciples, in the midst of a storm or trial, wondering why Jesus isn’t quicker to respond in our current situation. Perhaps it seems like Jesus is asleep, unaware of your situation, and your prayers seem unanswered.

I believe the Lord is reminding us today, “He is not asleep in our situations!” God is not asleep in our lives, nor in the difficulties we face each day. The God of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps! He is always watching over His people and waits for them to call upon Him to quiet the storms they are in.

In Psalm 50:15, we are encouraged to “Call upon Me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver you, and you shall glorify My name.” (NKJV) What a promise from our heavenly Father, who loves and knows us intimately!

Did God Leave?

In Mark 6:46, we see that Jesus sent the multitude away and then departed to the mountain to pray.  The disciples were alone on the sea, and Jesus was alone on the mountain. The disciples no longer had His manifest presence in their midst. It may have seemed to them like “God left”, but Jesus was in fact watching over them.

Have you ever felt like “God left”? One day His presence seems so strong, and the very next it seems like He is nowhere to be found! Jesus promises, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

Will we continue to trust God even when His tangible presence is no longer felt? To mature your friendship, God allows times of SEEMING separation—it may even feel like abandonment. Don’t give up on your pursuit of Him!

St. John of the Cross, a 16th-century Spanish Catholic priest and mystic, referred to these days of spiritual dryness, doubt, and estrangement from God as the “dark night of the soul.” Henri Nouwen, a Dutch Catholic priest and author in the 20th century, called them “the ministry of absence.”

King David, a man after God’s own heart, often complained in the Psalms of God’s seeming absence. (Psalm 10:1; Psalm 22:1; Psalm 43:2). God hadn’t really left David, and he doesn’t leave you or me.

Why do you stand so far away, Lord, hiding yourself in troubling times?” Psalm 10:1 CEB

Christians can experience a sense of isolation from God as they follow Jesus. It can be unsettling and painful, but growth occurs if you remain faithful to His call. When you are a new Christian, God often gives lots of confirming emotions. Sometimes even self-centered prayers are answered so that you’ll know that He exists! However, faith grows, and trust deepens, as we rely on His word and not our feelings.

Know that God’s omnipresence and His tangible presence are two different things. His omnipresence is a fact. He is always with us. However, His tangible or manifest presence is an awareness. YOU MUST KNOW God is always with you despite what your emotions or feelings indicate.

God wants you to sense His presence, but He is more concerned that you learn to trust Him rather than merely “feel Him.” It’s called the FAITH, not the FEEL!

Will you trust God even when you don’t sense His tangible presence? Don’t rely on what you see, feel, or are experiencing: rely on His word.

What intimate knowledge and care the Father has for us, the Holy Spirit sent to be our friend and comforter—He is with us always!

Don’t rely on what you see around you or what you may be feeling or experiencing. Stand on God’s word that declares He is always with you! Baptist pastor and author Henry Blackaby said in his book Experiencing God, You don’t know the truth of any situation until you have heard from Jesus!” How true. Our situations in life don’t dictate God’s truth.

God’s eye is on every bird that falls to the ground, He knows every hair of your head, He knows your sitting down and rising, and your thoughts from afar, oh what intimate knowledge and care He has for you!  He said that after His death and resurrection, He would not leave us orphans, but that the Holy Spirit would come to teach, lead and comfort us. Rest in the assurance that Jesus is always with you through the precious Holy Spirit!

Straining Against the Storm

In vs. 48 of Mark 6, we see that Jesus saw the disciples were toiling or straining at rowing because the wind was against them. The Greek word used here for straining is basanizo, which means to “vex with grievous pains of mind or body, to torment, to be harassed, or distressed”.

In this context, the disciples that evening were distressed, tormented, and vexed with grievous pains of mind and body as they were rowing. How often we find ourselves rowing against the storms of this life in our own strength, vexed with grievous pains, tormented, distressed, and harassed by the winds against us! Jesus saw their struggle that night, and He sees the struggles we are in! He knows when we are distressed and tormented by life’s storms, as we move ahead in His plans and purposes for our lives.

What are you struggling with today? Perhaps you are struggling with the cares of daily life. You may feel like the crush of the monthly bills and expenses are too much to carry. Jesus sees your struggle and knows the pain you are in.

In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus tells us not to worry about our lives, what we will wear, or what we will eat or drink. He says that after all these things the unbelievers worry and strive. Jesus said the Father knows what we have need of before we even ask of Him! He said we are to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and then these things will be given to us.

Jesus said several times in this passage not to worry, that worry wouldn’t change our height, much less our situations. It’s important for us to understand that worry won’t change our situations, but faith and trust in our Father’s ability to keep His word will!

Keep in mind that when Jesus spoke these words in Matthew 6 to the people of Israel, they were under oppressive Roman rule that exacted heavy taxes from them. The people were harassed, distressed, and suffering. He said not to worry and strive, but to seek first the Kingdom, and the Father would provide!

Perhaps you are struggling with finances, illness, or disease, or perhaps it’s a broken marriage, or maybe it’s a problem with one of your children. No matter the circumstance or trial, the Father promises to meet the need you have, and the provision has already been made through the atoning death of Christ. Jesus not only carried our sin on the cross, but He carried all our sickness, pains, and sorrows there as well.

The Father promises to meet your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus! Don’t allow the circumstances of this life to hinder your effectiveness in ministry or to prevent you from walking a victorious Christian life.

Psalm 55:22 says to “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.” (NKJV) We are to place all our cares and burdens on the Lord, allowing Him to carry the load, as we move ahead in our lives and ministries.

Some struggle because of sin in their lives. You may be rowing, trying to get across the sea, but the weight of sin is hindering you as you move ahead. We need to heed the admonishment of Hebrews 12:1 that tells us to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (NKJV).

I encourage you to turn from every sin and to let go of worldly influences in your life that would hinder your walk with the Father. The Father stands, waiting with open arms for us to return to Him, and as we take those steps toward Him, he runs to us, embraces us, and showers us with His love and blessings!  What love and care the Father has for us!  Receive His love for you today and know that His love for you is greater than any sin you may have committed.

Also, in vs. 48 of Mark 6 we read that Jesus came to them hours later, walking on the water, and would have passed them by. Can you see the contrast between the disciples, struggling, distressed, and rowing against the fierce winds, and Jesus calmly walking on the sea during the storm?

Walking with Jesus should not be a struggle, but a peaceful resting in Him as He takes us through the storms and difficulties of this life. We are to be yoked together with Him (Matt. 11:28-30) and He promises to carry our burdens and give us true rest.

Our life in Christ should be a calm walk through the storms and difficulties of this life because we are intimately yoked to Jesus, keeping our eyes constantly on Him. When we take our eyes off Jesus and look at the wind and waves around us, it’s then that we lose our peace and trust. In Isaiah 26:3, the prophet declares that “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”

Recognize Jesus!

In vs. 49 we see that the disciples were so busy rowing that they didn’t recognize Jesus walking to them on the water. Their fear of the situation prevented them from recognizing Jesus, the very answer to their problem. What they needed to do was stop rowing for a minute, seek His presence and cry out to Him!

We often allow the worries, fears, and cares of life cloud our view of Jesus.  We keep “rowing against the waves,” struggling, fearful, and relying on our own strength to overcome. But Jesus comes to us during the storm, and we don’t even recognize Him. Perhaps it’s a friend that stops by to pray with us, or maybe it’s someone coming to help during a difficult time. Perhaps it’s the gentle leading of the Holy Spirit to a passage in scripture that will encourage us during our trial, or that still small voice from Him that comforts and guides.

Dr. Victor Raymond Edman, the fourth Wheaton College president and a friend of the late Billy Graham, said “Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light.” Good advice! Trust what God has spoken above the circumstances you may find yourself in.

Take a moment and think of the ways that God has come to you in your situation today to help you.  Do you recognize Him and His hand at work in your life? Know that He is always near! Jesus stepped into the boat, and the wind ceased. He declared, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Vs. 50 NASB)

In the Amplified Classic, this verse reads, “Take heart! I AM! Stop being alarmed and afraid.” [Exod. 3:14] (Mark 6:50 AMPCE) A reference to when God appeared to Moses in Exodus 3:14, “I Am that I Am!” Think about this moment on the water, Jesus is declaring He is the great I Am to them!

Jesus is the great “I Am” declaring He is in our midst, do not be afraid! As we trust Him, He will calm the storms we are in too.

Hard Hearts

In vs. 51 and 52 we read that the disciples were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure when they saw the storm calmed by Jesus. They did not understand, because their hearts were hard and full of unbelief. The twelve disciples had been with Jesus, they had seen many miracles and had witnessed the power of God. They had even been used by God to heal the sick and cast out demons.  They had just witnessed the miracle of the loaves and fishes, yet their hearts were hard. Because of their unbelief, they were not able to apply His power and grace to their own situation.

They had just witnessed the miracle of the loaves and fishes, yet, they had a vision problem! Mark injects a shocking interpretation that explains much of the disciples’ perception problems: vs. 52 “their hearts were hardened.”

In this pronouncement, Mark used a carefully chosen Greek word, pōróo, a verb form for the word “hardened.” It indicates their problem was not bound up with this amazing encounter with Jesus on the sea.

Rather, the disciples’ hardheartedness was a lingering problem, and the grammar projects that this would become an ongoing dilemma. Like the Pharisees in Mark 3:5, the disciples with Jesus on the water were found “outside” with the same heart condition as Jesus’ enemies. [2]

Because of their unbelief, they could not apply His power and grace to help in the storm. Unbelief will stop the power of God in our lives!  Mark 6:5-6, In Nazareth, Jesus could do no miracles, only heal a few sick because of their unbelief.

Unbelief will stop the power of God in our lives! Amid trial, we may begin to doubt the goodness of God. Remind yourself of His love and goodness. “For the Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble.” (Nahum 1:7 NKJV)

Confident Faith

Keep in mind that it’s faith, not feelings, that pleases God and allows His grace and power to flow.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Heb. 11:6 NIV)

God is moved by your faith, not your situation or need. Faith is often hindered by unbelief, which can be rooted in lost hope, worry, and fear.

Hope deferred makes a heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.” (Prov. 13:12 NKJV)

Delayed answers or setbacks can cause hope to defer. If you lose hope in God, your heart (mind, will, emotions) will become weak, afflicted, and sickly. Loss of hope or perceived loss of hope will cause you to grow weak and sickly in your soul, which can also lead to depression.

Your hope must be centered on Jesus; He is your hope, not your circumstances.  Too many people place their hope in natural circumstances.

Worry leads to fear, and fear causes you to doubt God’s ability to perform what He has spoken. Fear is the opposite of Faith. Left long enough, depression sets in.

Anxiety (worry) in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.” (Prov. 12:25 NKJV)

One of the primary causes of depression in our society is worry and fear—which is often due to a lack of trust in God. You must cultivate your relationship with the Father to trust Him completely, this will rob depression of the fear and worry it needs to thrive!

In our story in Mark 6, Jesus comes hours later; He isn’t straining, just walking and trusting the Father. Can you see the contrast between the disciples struggling against the winds and Jesus calmly walking on the sea during the storm?

Paul tells us not to worry about anything!

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6-7 NLT)

Pray and ask God with thanksgiving, knowing that He hears and answers our petitions. He promises to then release His peace to us through our relationship in Christ. This will stop the voice of worry and will help prevent depression!

Difficulties and setbacks happen, remind yourself of the faithfulness of God, He will perform that which He has spoken in your life!

Our level of faith will depend on our level of trust in the One who has made the promise. A promise is only as good as the character, nature and ability of the one who has promised it. With God, He is not like men, who could possibly lie to us or turn back upon what they have promised. With our Heavenly Father, we can completely trust Him, for His promises are sure!

Many Christians know what God’s word says and what He has promised to do for His children; yet, they still have a hard time believing that He will answer their prayers or meet their needs. The root issue is this, “how well do we know our Heavenly Father?” The more intimate we know Him, the more deeply we can trust Him, and the more convinced we are that He will keep His promises.  I encourage you to draw close to the Father each day.

Unfortunately, many believers give God only a couple of hours on Sunday morning; but He longs to meet with us throughout each day! He desires for us to come near and sit at His feet for a while! As we do, our faith and trust in Him grows as we begin to know Him more intimately. He has not left us orphans, but has sent the Holy Spirit, to make this intimacy possible.

Others are Blessed

In verse 53, they arrived in the land of the Gennesaret, and when the people knew that it was Jesus, they ran through the region bringing the sick to Him wherever He went. The scripture says they laid the sick in the streets and as many as touched Him were made well. The entire region was touched by the Father’s love, and it began as a stormy boat ride for the disciples!

Can you imagine the joy of the people in that area, and what about the excitement and joy of the disciples as they witnessed God’s love and power change lives?

Final Thoughts

God often sends us into situations that may be difficult and contrary to what we would choose. We must trust Him more than our natural understanding. Remember, God is always good, but He is not always predictable!

To mature your friendship, God will often allow times of SEEMING separation—at times it feels like abandonment. But what did Jesus promise? “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20 NKJV) Know that He is with you, irrespective of your circumstances or how your feelings.

Remember, don’t “row against the wind” in your own strength. Make sure that you are not carrying needless weights that hinder your walk with God.

And don’t allow fear, worry, and doubt to hinder your faith. Unbelief is a root of worry and fear. Worry can lead to depression if left unchecked. Feed your faith on the Word of God, remind yourself of what God has done, and refuse to focus on the circumstances that are contrary to what God has promised.

Remind yourself of the goodness of God, that He is always with you, always for you, and will never leave you nor forsake you!

We often don’t see what is ahead for us, but our Father does. Yes, this life can be hard, and storms are frequent, but what joy when we see others touched by the Father’s love flowing through us!  God wants to use us, just everyday believers, to carry His love and healing power to a world that so desperately needs His touch. Will you go and will you trust Him on the “sea”, confident He will take care of you in all of life’s situations? Remember Jesus is with you always, even during the storm!


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For a deeper look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message “Take Courage”

[1] Tom Wright, Mark for Everyone (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 84.

[2] David Smith, Mark: A Commentary for Bible Students (Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007), 136.

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