When We Hit Rough Waters

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The Gospel of John was written by the direction of the Holy Spirit as comfort, life instruction, and theology for every individual. John is a spiritually thrilling book. Its words and message are straightforward and so basic that this Gospel moves us to clearly understand the very heart of Jesus and comprehend why He came to earth.

Want a personal adventure? For 21 days straight, read just one chapter of John a day. Have a marking pen in hand and a notepad by your Bible to highlight insights that bless your heart. Use the pen and notepad to write down things you want to go back to or ask questions about.

As I read this book recently, I found myself in awe. John’s writing clearly and specifically reveals who Jesus really is. The first five verses of John can completely shake up weak theology. Jesus himself stated over and over where He came from and who sent Him, and who He was. He left no doubt then, and He leaves no doubt today how He relates to our troubled world.

Human condition
Our human condition is messed up. It’s not just COVID-19 but other messy issues as well: critical political friction, serious racial hatred, financial chaos, police abuse issues, wanton pollution of the earth, serious climate change.

Topping it off is the biggest issue of all: confusion of spiritual identity in the hearts of most of humanity. Human suffering and torment is a major epidemic that can find a solution only by discovering who Jesus really is.

Pursuing Jesus
A story in John 6 relates to our troubled times and how Jesus can help.

Early in John’s writing, Jesus healed an official’s son and, on the Sabbath day, healed a paralyzed man. The word about these healings and His teachings began to spread, and a lot of people went looking for Him.

Jesus got into a boat and crossed the Sea of Galilee with His disciples. When the crowds found out, they followed Him on the roads and trails to the other side of the lake. Galilee is about eight or nine miles wide. By road, this huge gathering of searching people walked perhaps ten to twelve miles around the lake to find Jesus.

Overwhelming need
They found Jesus sitting on a hillside with His closest disciples. When Jesus saw this large crowd coming into view, He asked Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” (v. 5).

Jesus already knew what He was going to do, but Philip was skeptical. He thought of the volume of food and enormous cost! To Philip, it was an impossible situation. One small boy had five small biscuits and two small perch. From that boy’s lunch, Jesus fed not only the five thousand men, but also the women and kids who were with them.

Study the possibilities. This could have been several thousand more than the stated number of just the men.

Good life
For the twelve disciples, life was good. Life was normal. Jesus was present. They were beginning to seriously believe in Him. The very power and presence of God was with them. They witnessed astounding healings and happenings.

After feeding five thousand men, plus women and children, the disciples were exhausted. They had just gathered twelve baskets of leftovers from that young boy’s small snack.

Danger and rescue
The disciples went down to the shore and got in their boat to cross back over to Capernaum, but Jesus stayed behind.

The disciples were worn out trying to row across the dark lake when a strong wind came up and the “waters grew rough” (v. 18). Exhausted, they rowed three or four miles.

Suddenly, off to the side, they saw someone walking on the water through the strong wind and waves. Gripped by fear, they realized it was Jesus! He walked on the water, right up to the boat, and said, “It is I; don’t be afraid.”

Once Jesus had identified Himself, the disciples were willing to take Him into the boat. Immediately, the boat reached the other side! Three or four miles . . . at the dock!

In this awesome story there are personal lessons for every one of us.

Sometimes life is difficult. Sometimes it gets downright hard. Sometimes the waters of our lives become turbulent. And sometimes the wind can blow us down. Solutions to our situations seem remote and impossible.

When COVID-19 first made the news out of Wuhan, China, many of us probably yawned. Then one case made the news in the US. Within days, the virus spread to about four states. Within a month, things grew worse: all states, millions sick, and now well over one hundred thousand dead. The waters have gotten really rough.

Personal storm

I remember hearing a couple of conversations when someone mentioned, “But I haven’t heard that even one member of the Church of God (Seventh Day) has it!” We weren’t being smug — just hopeful. But we didn’t know.

Soon we heard of a couple of members with COVID-19, then more. Added to the numbers were huge job losses in many of our churches: first, mainly in the Central District, then even more severely in the Northeast District. After that came the first report of a church member’s death. The troubled waters suddenly became personal, stormy, and dangerous.

We heard of more members in difficulty. Job losses increased. Food shortages popped up, and cases of the coronavirus spread among numerous churches. More members died, job losses mounted, and food shortage became critical. Rental eviction notices were a worry.

Taking action
Members realized we must do something, so we came alongside our leaders and churches and raised money. Our local churches stepped up, revealing the gift of giving in their hearts (Romans 12:8). One district with members in need raised over $25,000 and another district over $43,000. Distributions were made, groceries purchased, needs were met.

Now a few weeks/months later, people are returning to work, grieving over the losses, but the worst of this turbulent storm and rough waters is calming down.

Jesus coming down
What happened? In a time of rough water, with big waves of worry and fear, Jesus showed up! He revealed that He was the one John wrote about in John 1:1-5. In John’s account, the Word came down and blessed His people. This Word showed up again in the pandemic and moved His people to come alongside the boat to clear up the trouble and storm. He did not say, “Wish I could help, guys!” He said, “It is I; don’t be afraid! Here, let Me help you!”

In a time of serious trouble, when the disciples were willing to take Jesus into their boat, immediately they reached their desired place and were safe. Be willing to take Jesus into your life, especially into the troubled parts, and watch Him go to work for you!

Scripture quotations are from the New International Version.

Ken Lawson
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Ken Lawson is superintendent of the Central District. Previously, he served as pastor of CoG7 congregations in Mission City, BC; San Antonio, TX; Shawnee, OK; Lodi, CA; Visalia, CA; and Redmond OR. He and his wife, Sandra, live in Cottage Grove, MN, and attend the St. Paul Church. Ken loves fishing and spending time with their grandsons, Hogan and Jack.