Straining Against the Oars

Jesus was quietly praying, while the disciples were in huge trouble. After the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus told his disciples to climb into their boat and set sail for the other side of the Sea of Galilee.

Jesus knew he could catch up with them (after all, he walks on water!). So he stayed behind on land to get a little quiet time with his Heavenly Father.

In the boat, the disciples encountered a huge storm. And they were doing everything humanly possible to make progress and get into a safe haven on shore.

The sun set as the disciples were still in the middle of the lake. It became pitch dark. The wind was driving against them and the huge waves were buffeting them.

But Jesus saw them straining at the oars, trying to get to safety.

Even from shore, Jesus, the Son of God, saw what was happening to his beloved disciples through the deep darkness. And he went out to rescue them.

Are you “straining at the oars in deep darkness” right now? Are you trying to make some small progress against the storm that is raging all around you?

Be confident that Jesus sees you.

Here’s an interesting thing, though. The Bible says that Jesus first saw the disciples straining against the oars “when evening came.” Yet, his arrival to assist the disciples is not until the “fourth watch of the night.” That is, between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m.

Why did Jesus wait so long? Sometimes Jesus leaves us straining against the oars a while so we can clearly see that our own efforts don’t really lead to any progress. For true progress, we need his supernatural intervention and power.

And yes, we may have to be patient as we wait for him to intervene. But when he does, get out of the way… and be amazed!

“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…” (Mark 6:50b-51, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Sunday, February 22, is Exodus 31:1 – 33:6, Mark 6:30-56 and Psalm 25:1-7.

Lord Jesus, help me to take courage and not be afraid. The storm rages. It is dark in my heart. But you can help me. And I believe you love me enough to do so. I will get out of your way. Amaze me with your love and power, your mercy and grace, your forgiveness and your hope!

Header image based on "Oar Splash" by Townend, CC By 2.0

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I'm married to my beautiful wife Julie and have five kids whose names all begin with the letter A. I'm a pastor at CrossWalk Church in Phoenix, AZ. I love Jesus, my wife, my kids, and my grandkids. Huge Arizona Cardinals fan! Reading, hiking, camping, travel, and fishing are my top 5 downtime pleasures.

2 thoughts on “Straining Against the Oars”

  1. Thanks for this devotion Pastor Jeff. Right now we are staining at the oars a little bit, we are working hard and not making a lot of progress. I am not sure what “watch of the night” that it is, but thanks for the reminder that Jesus sees me. I am looking forward to him getting in the boat soon!

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  2. Our Bible reading for Sunday, February 22, is Exodus 31:1 – 33:6, Mark 6:30-56 and Psalm 25:1-7.

    He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, (‭Mark‬ ‭6‬:‭48‬ NIV)

    because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (‭Mark‬ ‭6‬:‭50‬ NIV)

    Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, (‭Mark‬ ‭6‬:‭51‬ NIV)

    Heavenly Father, the world can be cold place. We’re often treading in the cold water looking for the shore. It’s your love, it’s all our hope in you that we find our way. It’s your promises that guide us home, to that safe place we know and love. Thank you for that hope Lord! Thank you for the peace and knowledge that we are truly never alone.

    In you, Lord my God, I put my trust. (‭Psalm‬ ‭25‬:‭1‬ NIV)

    Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. (‭Psalm‬ ‭25‬:‭4-5‬ NIV)

    ~Paul Montenieri


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