Straining At The Oars

“Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat…After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars because the wind was against them.” ~Mark 6:45-48

The disciples are in the deep water. Right where Jesus pushed them. He’s on the mountain. Praying. And he’s watching them.

He’s watching them as they strain at the oars because the wind is against them. They’re struggling. They’re troubled. They’re working, toiling, laboring against the wind. They’re disturbed inside, upset, as they battle the wind that’s keeping them from fulfilling Jesus’ command. Despite their best efforts, they’re actually being blown off course.

I feel that way all the time. Do you?

In my intense desire to follow Jesus’ will for my life, in my best and greatest efforts to obey my God, I feel like sometimes I’m beating my brains out against the wind. I’m rowing and rowing and rowing and not going anywhere. Or worse, I’m being blown off course.

And you feel it. I know you do, because there are so many things that fight against us, so many things that oppose us. Just living in the chaos of life in this godless culture. In this place, this world, where Jesus has set us, in the middle of crime and cancer and illness and death. We fight failure and rejection and ridicule and judgment. We’re distressed by division in the Church. We’re in turmoil over circumstances with our children or our grandchildren. We’re struggling with our jobs. We’re battling with our marriages. Temptation and sin and dishonesty and abuse. Vengeance and greed. Selfishness and lust.

And we strain at the oars.

Please take comfort today in the fact that Jesus is watching you strain at the oars. He sees you. And he’s so very proud of you. You’re in the middle of the lake. You’re four miles out. But it’s Jesus who sent you there. And he’s watching you. He knows. He’s aware of every struggle. He’s aware of every battle. He knows the things that are causing you distress and heartache. Be comforted in knowing that Jesus, the Christ, the Savior of the World, is interceding for you right now as he reigns at the right hand of our Father in Heaven. Hebrews 7 says he lives to intercede for those who come to God. It’s what he does.

He watches the apostles and he prays.

He’s watching you. And he’s praying.

Be encouraged by that today.

It’s Jesus’ mission. It’s his deal. And he’s going to make sure nothing stops it. Paul tells us in Philippians 1, “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” Take joy in that.

Have no fear. We do live in a very windy world. But, by the grace of God in Christ, we will reach the shore.

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The thing I like most about sports is the unpredictability. I like the surprises. I like the out-of-nowhere shockers. I enjoy the unexpected. Eli Manning and the Giants going into sub-zero conditions at Lambeau, kicking a field goal in overtime to reach the Super Bowl was not even a possibility three days ago, certainly not three weeks ago. That’s what I love about sports.

And that’s why I’m rooting hard against the Patriots.

I don’t like something to be universally predicted and expected and then for it to happen exactly the way everyone thought. I hate that. Where’s the thrill in that? Where’s the excitement? Why watch?

The national media and most every football fan in the country has been predicting 19-0 for Belichick’s boys since early September. The Patriots were dubbed perfect and the greatest team in the history of the NFL before the season was half over. And now they’re one win away from fulfilling all the predictions and robbing us of any sense of mystery or wonder about this 2007 season.

Admit it. You loved it when the Chargers beat the Colts last week because you didn’t see it coming. It’s why we love the NCAA basketball tournament, because you-didn’t-see-it-coming happens every day.

I understand, I suppose, wanting to see history being made. I get it, I guess, wanting to watch a flawless machine of a team execute at the highest level. That’s all OK. Whatever.

Give me an upset instead. I’ll take a shocker over the favorite winning every time.

I don’t know if the Giants can beat New England. It doesn’t seem likely. I like New York’s run game. Manning’s playing with tons of confidence. And the Giants defense may be capable of pressuring Tom Brady and covering his receivers. Maybe. I’m more concerned with Tom Coughlin’s face. He’s going to need about a jar and a half of Vaseline to take care of that freezer burn.

Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you.

Peace,

Allan

6 Comments

  1. Rob's Dad

    Eli Manning – he may be playing with confidence but he still has dumb-face.

  2. Allan

    As Blaine Nye once said famously about Clint Longley’s Thanksgiving Day miracle over the Redskins, “It was a victory of the uncluttered mind.”

  3. Bird lover

    Just living in the chaos of life in this godless culture….in the middle of crime and cancer and illness and death. We fight failure and rejection and ridicule and judgment. We’re distressed…We’re in turmoil… We’re struggling with our jobs. We’re battling with our marriages. Temptation and sin and dishonesty and abuse. Vengeance and greed. Selfishness and lust.

    Wow! That really sounds bleak. Does it feel that way to you, or are you just trying to make a point?

  4. Allan

    In the context of a thousand brothers and sisters here at Legacy or in the context of God’s Church as a whole in this country or around the world, is it an inaccurate picture? Isn’t every Christian living on earth dealing with at least one of the things in that list? And even if that one in a million person isn’t actually struggling personally with any of those items, that person is still bombarded with news and information regarding those kinds of things daily.

    It does feel that way to me AND I am trying to make a point.

  5. Bird lover

    Just wondering. Life doesn’t feel that way to me. To me it feels that life is a contant joy. I look forward to waking up every morning and find that life seldom disappoints. I can’t see life through your eyes, but was just wondering if things really look that bad from where you sit.

    Maybe you just haven’t gotten over the Boys big loss?

  6. Mel

    Oblivious indifference.

    That’s all you’re left with if you refuse to acknowledge the struggles of those around you.

    I don’t buy the claim of “constant joy”. If joy is the peak and sorrow is the valley and you are experiencing a sense of a constant then…

    …you’re flat lining.

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