Summary: The storms of life distract us from focusing on God – learn what Jesus focused on in times of trouble.
Most of the time in our lives we focus on what to do if things go wrong. We come up with contingency plans in case we are late for a flight. We sometimes even have redundant systems in place in case of failure. In fact, on the space shuttle, most of its systems are backed up by quadruple redundancies. That means five systems would have to fail.
We have a saying around our house – we plan for something to go wrong, then if it doesn’t we are pleasantly surprised.
We are ready if everything goes wrong. What we don’t often do is consider what happens if everything goes right. What if you land that perfect job, what if your business suddenly gets really successful, what if everything you touch turns to gold – what then?
We might be tempted to say – super – bring it on. But success has its pitfalls. In fact, career expert William S. Frank says “too much success can kill you.” Now, while Mr. Frank is talking about the sacrifices we make to succeed – when it comes to ministry – sometimes the worst thing for us is success – not only because it leads us to sacrifice our personal lives – but because it alters our personality.
In ministry, when the Lord is really working through you – it is easy for it to go to your head. Your self image is several times bigger than your hat size. That’s the problem Jesus faces with his disciples. They have just been part of an incredible miracle. Through their hands thousands of people were fed from a couple of loaves of bread and some fish. That’s heady stuff.
What Jesus does for his group of ragtag disciples is right after the miracle – He refocuses them away from the success of the ministry, to the reality of the miracle worker – Jesus. And how He does it can help us refocus ourselves in the face of both failure and success.
2 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.
Why did Jesus immediately send the disciples away? John’s gospel tells us that is because the people were about to make him king by force. The disciples might have thought this was a good idea but Jesus wasn’t ready to usher in His kingdom yet – so he shooed everyone away.
Why did Jesus go up on the mountain to pray? One commentator suggests that it was because the people wanted to make Him king – and that this was a temptation to turn away from His mission of suffering and death. Certainly the miracle and the wonder of the people would have been pretty incredible to witness. Imagine the awe focused in your direction – no wonder Jesus sent the disciples away.
You know – when God moves though us it is pretty awesome too. There is always the temptation to sort of bask in the glow of God and let just a few drops of it fall on our shoulders. There is a danger there. God wants to move through you as a servant, not a business partner.
Now I’m not saying that if someone compliments you on a song you sing, or a word you say of encouragement that you should just say “well, it wasn’t me.” That in itself can be a kind of false humility. Receive the compliment but make sure the person knows the source of the goodness. In other words, if you tell someone the gospel and they get saved and somehow start saying that you are the best thing since sliced bread, then turn them to the Jesus – “yes, isn’t Jesus wonderful?”
Personally, I think Jesus went up on that mountain for none of these reasons. Remember last week? A great prophet, a co-worker, a relative of Jesus had just been beheaded. Jesus was trying to get away when all of this happened. I think Jesus finally got the time He needed to pray and process through the death of John the Baptist.
I can’t leave this section without also encouraging you – if Jesus needed and sought time alone with the Father, we need to do the same. Jesus was a busy guy – yet he made it a priority.
When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
John tells us that the disciples had rowed 3 or 3 ½ miles. Mark tells us that Jesus actually watched the disciples “straining at the oars.”