Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry


By Jeannette Haley

What took place many years ago, when I was in my late teens, I shall never
forget. The experience was terrifying. Hanging on for dear life as the towering 14’
waves threatened to broadside and sink the small pleasure craft was accompanied
by uncontrollable seasickness. Even though my mother’s husband had been in
the Coast Guard and knew better, he opted to ignore the red storm warning flag
and take a chance on crossing the Straits of Juan de Fuca from Port Townsend
in mid-afternoon in order to reach San Juan Island for the night.

Pitching and tossing in a small boat, powered by only a single screw engine
in the midst of a wild, angry sea has a way of stripping a person down to the
basics; that is, life or death. Therefore, in between bouts of sticking my face over
a container as my insides “voiced” their miserable opinion, and desperately
praying that we’d make it to the safety of a bay, I tried to find a faith bigger than
my fear to no avail.

I’d love to be able to report of some glowing moment when, in a surge of
inspiration and authority, I commanded the wind and sea to “be still” and instantly
it obeyed. Better yet, I’d love to write that I saw Jesus Himself walking on the
tempestuous sea, beckoning me to join Him and that I heroically jumped
overboard and walked on water, but that didn’t happen either. On maybe a lesser
grand scale, I wish I could report that instead of being one utterly petrified
“puker,” that I became a prevailing preacher of repentance in order to save the
day. Instead, I think I remember when, after hours of being tossed around like a
rag in a wild washing machine, I shakily climbed up the old worn dock and
desperately wished no one was looking so I could fall on my face and kiss it. But
believe me, with my whole heart I thanked God for being alive, and for getting us
all, (including our little Pomeranian puppy) to safety.

Whenever I read the account of the disciples fighting to stay afloat in a
sinking boat while Jesus slept on a pillow, I can somewhat relate to their panic
and their lack of faith. The difference is, however, Jesus did not tell my folks to
assume they could outrun the predicted wind storm whereas He did tell the
disciples to “pass over to the other side.” Knowing that their Master had
instructed them to set sail should have given rise to an assurance that He knew
what they would be facing, that He loved them and would not let them perish.
Instead, they accused him of not caring if they perished. They never stopped to
consider that He could be testing their faith—faith that should have been secure
in the fact of Who He was. How could the boat sink to the bottom of the sea
when the Creator of all that is, both visible and invisible, was in the boat with

In Mark 4:39 we read, “And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto
the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” Then
He said to them, “Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?” At that
point, they transitioned from fear of perishing at sea to an even deeper, greater
fear. Verse 41 tells us, “And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another,
What manner of man is this that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Perhaps

they were familiar with the scriptures in Psalm 66:5, 6 “Come and see the works
of God: he is terrible in his doing toward the children of men. He turned the sea
into dry land: they went through the flood on foot: there did we rejoice in him.”
Perhaps Psalm 89 was well-known to the disciples, causing them to realize that
they were in the boat with the LORD God of hosts! Verse 9 says, “Thou rulest the
raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them.” Then there is
Psalm 65:5-7 which says, “By terrible things in righteousness wilt thou answer
us, O God of our salvation; who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth,
and of them that are afar off upon the sea: Which by his strength setteth fast the
mountains; being girded with power: Which stilleth the noise of the seas, the
noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people.”

It’s one thing for Jesus to be in the boat with you, and quite another for Jesus
to be outside your boat walking on the water. (See Matthew 14:1-33). But when it
comes to our little individual “boat of life,” the fact remains that Jesus knows
where we are, knows where we’re going, knows our challenges and fears, and is
with us even when we think that God is “asleep” and couldn’t care less.
Sometimes He lets our boat of life take on water and begin to sink in order to test
our faith and to reveal what we lack. Such challenges also reveal to us any deep-
seated suspicions, superstitions or downright secret and shameful attitudes we
harbor towards God. Do we really trust Him, or are we prone to accuse Him of
not caring if we perish?

When a roaring, pounding, howling windstorm becomes instantly quiet,
whether on the sea or on a prairie, it stuns a person into a hushed state of awe.
Rayola and I experienced such a miracle over thirty years ago when we lived in
Fenn, Idaho. Wild currents of wind from Hell’s Canyon often swept up and over
the Camas Prairie where we lived in an old two-story farmhouse. One day the
wind blasted and thudded against the house in a wild fury that ripped and tore
loose wooden shingles from the roof, flinging them like dry leaves into the air.
The sound was almost deafening as it roared, howled, screeched and pounded
against the house as if the fists of a thousand enraged demons were determined
to drive us out. At the time, I was standing in the small bathroom on the side of
house that was being hit the hardest, and Rayola was in her upstairs bedroom.
What happened next, we shall never forget. “Satan!” I screamed, “I am going to
serve God no matter what you do!” Immediately the wind stopped. Just like that.
It didn’t diminish, slow down, or gently blow. It flat out quit altogether! The sudden
silence shocked Rayola just as much as it did me. We both knew then that it
wasn’t any ordinary windstorm, but rather the enemy trying to cause fear and
doubt, disbelief, and discouragement.

In a way, we both had a taste of the awe the disciples felt at the incredible
power of God. For them, they also feared because they began to realize just
Who was in the boat with them—close up and personal. Perhaps they knew “God
is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we
fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the
midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the
mountains shake with the swelling thereof” Psalm 46:1-3.

In Acts 27 we read the stirring account of the great storm that arose in the
Mediterranean Sea when the Apostle Paul was being taken on a Roman ship as
a prisoner to Rome. The incredible details of the historic events that took place
paint a clear picture for us of the storm’s power, and greater still of God’s power.
Even though Jesus was not visibly in the ship as He was when He calmed the
wind and the waves, God was overseeing every one of the two-hundred and
seventy-six souls on board. In Acts 27:22-25 Paul declared to all, “And now I
exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among
you, but of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I
am, and whom I serve, Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before
Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. Wherefore, sirs,
be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.”
This, to me, is one of the most heart-pounding “adventures” recorded in the
Bible. Luke gives a most detailed description of the storm, the wind and the sea,
the fear and desperation of the ship’s crew, and the steps they took to try and
save the ship and all aboard. Spiritually speaking, I liken some of the events in
this story to the perils, responses and actions we all may face in our “boat of life”
and how the LORD’s presence is always with us.

At the beginning of the chapter, we read “when it was determined.” The
decision-making as to when they should set sail for Italy was done without the
prisoners’ consent just as others make major decisions for each of us in this
world whether we like it or not. (An understanding of Maritime Law confirms this
fact. All Americans are sold into slavery when they are born.) Thus, our “boat of
life” is already under an oppressive system that each of us is forced to work
under, submit to, and comply with even though we’re told we are a “free people.”
But God is with us and He makes a way for us when we love and trust Him. I
find it interesting how Paul was not friendless on this voyage as he had not only
Luke, but Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, who was one of his co-
laborers and also, later, a fellow prisoner aboard as well. (See Acts 27:2; 19:29;
20:4; Colossians 4:10; Philemon 24.) God knows that we need others to come
alongside us to hold up our arms in prayer, help in times of need, and encourage
us along the way. Even Julius, the Centurion who oversaw the prisoners, must
have been chosen by God because he was courteous and kind, and he kept the
soldiers from killing all the prisoners, of which Paul was one.

No matter where we are in this world in our little boat of life, we learn early on
that not all of life is smooth sailing no matter how hard we may try to control the
situation. All too often, when the Spirit shows us what will happen in a situation,
and we share it with others, they refuse to believe it to their own detriment. This
happened when Paul perceived “that this voyage will be with hurt and much
damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives” vs. 10. At this point
in their journey, however, the centurion “believed the master and the owner of the
ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul” verse 11. How many
times have you warned family, friends or even foes of the perils that they were
heading into, to no avail? The problem is, all too often their refusal to believe
what the LORD has shown you implicates your own boat of life to go with them

through the storm they’re sailing into. All you can do is fervently pray, do spiritual
warfare, and hang on to the LORD through it all.
Often before a storm hits a person’s life, there can be a short season of
“smooth sailing.” All seems well with the world. Acts 17:13 is an example of this,
“And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their
purpose….” Satan knows that people (saved or unsaved) are easily deceived by
“softness.” Sometimes the unsaved, who suppose they are “good” people, often
become prosperous in all they do by the “god of this world.” Assuming all’s well,
they never stop to consider that their boat of life is floating down a lazy stream
that eventually culminates in a cataclysmic waterfall into the abyss. Both the
saved and unsaved can have assumptions based on a self-serving, feel-good
philosophy, enforced by a rigid faith in “positivity” at the expense of truth. Such
strong assumptions are what powers their boat. Dangerous assumptions also
occur when nominal Christians cling to a pseudo belief of “softness” rather than
“soundness.” Unbiblical soft-on-sin preaching fuels assumptions that plunge one
into the depths of destruction.

After the soft south wind brought about dangerous assumptions, the ship was
caught in a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon. After that, the battle was on
and what a battle it was! The ship was “exceedingly tossed with a tempest” that
went on for fourteen nights. They did all they could to save the ship, just like we
try to do when our boat of life is in a seemingly endless, dark, sea of misery upon
misery. In the midst of the storm, they began to cast things overboard to lighten
the ship including tackling, anchors, and wheat. This reminds me of the Scripture,
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of
witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset
us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” Hebrews 12:1.
There comes a time in our boat of life when much that is weighing us down,
physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, has to be “cast overboard” so
that we can be set free to rise up and follow the Lord; and sometimes we have to
lose it all in order to gain it all.

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The Goal of Gentle Shepherd Ministries is to preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and to make disciples in compliance with the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19).

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