In The Boat

There is a meme going around which says, “We’re not all in the same boat”. This meme is meant to encourage a little more grace during the COVID-19 pandemic. This meme desires for others to consider that while we are all living through this pandemic, not everyone is experiencing it the same due to life circumstance, health, finances, family system, etc etc. While I understand the message, I do not agree.

Believer, in Christ we ARE all in the same boat. We are in the boat of salvation through Jesus. We do not need to fear because even the winds and the waves obey Him. However, being in the same boat does not make all things equal. Our location in the boat will largely determine the effects we experience. If we are on the open deck, we will get drenched in wave after wave of stormy gale. If we are below deck, we may not see the waves but we will feel the strength of the storm rocking the vessel. We may be tempted to put our hope in how many life boats there are or the availability of life preservers or our ability to swim. We experience the effects of the storm differently, but in Christ we remain in the same boat of salvation.

Our God is unchanging and sovereign. In the middle of the storm, it may be hard to remember that God remains in control of the situation and how He has historically proven Himself Lord over the storm. This is why we are commanded to tell and retell His redemption story as a reminder of His faithfulness. “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and our children’s children” (Deuteronomy 4:9). So when and how has He provided for His people during the storm? 

First things first, in the beginning. Going all the way back to Genesis 1, we see God’s control over the waters. Throughout this chapter we read, “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters… separated the waters… and the waters that were gathered together He called Seas… And God said, ‘Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures… and let [man] have dominion over the fish of the sea’… And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” Let us remember that our God is the Creator of all things. This includes all things that storm at us, whether literal forces of nature or minuscule viruses that shut down the world as we know it. He remains in control of His creation. When we fear the creation more than we fear the Creator, let us remember His words to Job, “Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’” (Job 38:8-11)

Now storms may come to test our faith, but sometimes storms are a punishment for wickedness. This is not a popular idea, but lets remember the first and greatest storm, the Flood. Flip a few pages in your Bible to Genesis 6-8. Here we read, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God… He did all that God commanded him… Noah- entered the ark…And the Lord shut him in.” The world had become thoroughly wicked “and the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him to His heart” (Genesis 6:6). Do not be fooled into thinking that we are free from punishment for wickedness in this life. Like Noah, we may experience the consequences of the wickedness of the world. But if and when that happens, remember that the Lord shut the doors of the ark. He sealed His righteous people safely inside the boat to protect them from the storm. He continues to seal His righteous people today against eternal destruction. “In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14). Just as God covered Noah with His protection in the ark, God has covered us with the blood of Jesus and sealed us with His Spirit. Noah entered the ark in faith and left the ark safely on the promised dry land. We enter the boat of salvation in faith, we wait through the storms (Noah waited 40 days and nights of rain, 150 days of prevailing waters, then at least 54 more days for the waters to subside), and we leave the boat when we enter heaven, our eternal inheritance as children of God.

We see the Lord through storms throughout the Old Testament: as a pillar of cloud and fire (Exodus 13), parting the Red Sea (Exodus 14), sending a drought over the land and sending rain in turn (1 Kings 17 and 18), and passing by in a strong wind and earthquake and fire (1 Kings 19). In these instances creation obeyed the Creator and acted in abnormal ways. When we encounter the impossible, let us turn in faith to our God who remains in control of the earth and everything within it.When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (Isaiah 43:2).

In the boat of salvation, Jesus remains with us through the storms. During His earthly ministry, Jesus used much of His time to teach His disciples. Despite walking and talking with Jesus day in and day out for years, and despite seeing His miracles and hearing His truth; when storms arose the disciples still reacted in fear instead of faith. In Mark 4:35-41, Jesus and His disciples were traveling by boat when a great storm arose. Several of the disciples were experienced fishermen, spending much of their lives on the water. Yet when the boat began to fill with water, the disciples were afraid. They found Jesus asleep and cried to Him for help. Jesus was not startled by the circumstances. He rebuked the wind and commanded the sea to be still. Later, in Matthew 14:22-33, the disciples are once again traveling by boat during a storm. The men were struggling to return to shore when they saw something out in the waves. They are afraid and think it is a ghost until Jesus speaks, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid” (v. 27). Peter believes it is the Lord and walks to Him on the waves. But his focus turned to the wind and fear arose in him and he began to sink. When we are in the middle of the storm, it is easy to focus on our circumstances and allow fear to control our hearts and minds. But all the winds and all the waves of any storm we will ever sail through must obey the Lord. Jesus knows our weakness and when we cry out to Him for help, He will answer. “Jesus immediately reached out His hand and took hold of [Peter], saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” (v. 31). Just as Jesus was with the disciples in the boat and walking beside them in the storm, so also the Spirit of God is with believers today. Jesus promised, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17).

Earlier we discussed how storms can be punishments (the Flood), but also we need to be mindful of how God might use storms to further His kingdom. In Acts 27-28 we read about Paul, a prisoner, traveling on a ship. The ship is caught in a great storm and the soldiers abandoned all hope and planned to kill all the prisoners to prevent any possibility of escape. But after hearing from the Lord, Paul encouraged them and they shipwrecked on the island of Malta, every person accounted for. This was neither their original destination nor part of their plan, but during their time on this island Paul was able to minister to the people. Later, Paul went on to Rome where he remained under house arrest. Paul could have looked at this shipwreck and house arrest as a hindrance to his mission. But he stayed true to his words a few chapters earlier, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). The storm may not be comfortable, but we should consider our testimony and attitude throughout the storm.

All of history is HIS story, the story of God and His reconciling His creation to Himself. We see His guidance and provision for His people throughout the Old and New Testaments, which He continues to do today. Look back at the stormy periods in your own life and how God has directed your steps and provided opportunities for you to praise Him, exemplify Him to the world, and bring glory to His name. In Christ, you remain safely in the boat of salvation through any and all storms in this life. You may feel the effects of the storm differently than your neighbor, but this provides an opportunity to walk forward as the family and body of Christ. We are able to strengthen each other and work together to display the goodness of our God to the watching world. So grab a paddle and walk in faith through the wind and the waves. Together in Christ we can be at peace.

*** If you are not in the boat of salvation and do not know a Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I would love to talk with you about Him! He is my solid foundation and constant through anything and everything in this world.

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