"Man's extremity is God's opportunity." This is a very familiar saying.
No doubt we fully believe it, but when we find ourselves brought to our
extremity, we are often very little prepared to count on God's opportunity. It
is one thing to speak out a truth and another thing to realize the power of that
truth. It is one thing, when sailing over a calm sea, to speak of God's
ability to keep us during the storm, and it is another thing altogether to
prove that ability when the storm is actually raging around us.
Yet God is ever the same. In the storm and in the calm, in sickness and in
health, in pressure and in ease, in poverty and in abundance, He is "the same
yesterday, today, and forever" -- the same grand reality for faith to lean
upon, cling to, and draw upon, at all times and under all circumstances.
Our Unbelieving Hearts
But we are unbelieving! Here lies the source of weakness and failure. We are
perplexed and agitated when we ought to be calm and confiding. We are
looking about when we ought to be counting on God. We are calling for
help when we ought to be looking to Jesus. Because of this we fail greatly and
dishonour the Lord in our ways.
Without a doubt, there are few things for which we have to be more deeply
humbled than our tendency to distrust the Lord when difficulties and trials
present themselves. Surely we grieve the heart of Jesus by distrusting Him, for
distrust will always wound a loving heart. So it was with the disciples on the
occasion we are now considering. Let us meditate a little on the passage:
Mark 4:35-39 And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto
them, Let us pass over unto the other side. And when they had sent away the
multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with
him other little ships. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves
beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the
ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest
thou not that we perish? 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.
Here we have an interesting and instructive scene. The poor disciples are
brought to their extremity. They are at their wits' end: a violent storm -- the
ship full of water -- the Master asleep. This was a trying moment indeed.
However, if we are honest with ourselves, we will not be surprised at the fear
and agitation of the disciples. It is unlikely that we would have done better if
we had been there. Still, it is obvious to us where they failed, so we must learn
from their experience.
There is nothing more absurd and irrational than unbelief when we come to
look at it calmly. In the scene before us, this absurdity is very apparent. What
could be more absurd than to think that the boat could possibly sink with
the Son of God on board? Yet this was what they feared.
Faith Sees God Behind The Circumstances
It can be said that they did not think of the Son of God at that moment.
They thought of the storm, the waves, the rising water, and judging according
to nature, it seemed a hopeless case. This is how the unbelieving heart
always reasons. It looks only at the circumstances and leaves God out.
Faith, on the other hand, looks only at God and leaves the circumstances out.
What a difference! Faith delights in man's extremity, simply because it is God's
opportunity. It delights in being totally dependent on God -- where human
ability has been completely removed from the situation so that God may
display His glory. He loves bringing many empty jars so that God can fill
them (1 Kings 17:14-16). Such is faith.
If the disciples had possessed this faith, they would have been able to sleep
beside their Master in the midst of the storm. However, unbelief made them
uneasy; they could not rest themselves, and they actually stirred the blessed
Lord out of His sleep by their unbelieving fears. Jesus was weary from the
constant labour. He knew what fatigue was; He had come down into all our
He was found as a man in every respect, and as such, He slept on a cushion,
rocked by the waves of the storm. The storm and the winds beat against the
boat, even though the Creator was on board in the form of that weary,
Profound mystery! The One who made the sea and could hold the winds in
His almighty grasp lay sleeping in the stern of the boat and allowed the sea and
wind to treat Him as unceremoniously as though He were an ordinary man.
Such was the reality of the human nature of our blessed Lord. He was weary,
so He slept being tossed on the waves of the sea that His hands had made. Oh
reader, pause and meditate on this wondrous sight. Words seem inadequate;
we can only stop and worship.
Doubting The All-Powerful Love Of Christ
Master, carest thou not that we perish?
However, as we have said, unbelief roused the Blessed Lord out of His sleep.
The disciples woke Him and said to Him, "Teacher, don't you care if we
drown?" (4:38). What a question! "Don't you care?" How it must have
wounded the sensitive heart of the Lord! How could they ever think that He
was indifferent to their trouble and danger? How completely must they have
lost sight of His love -- to say nothing of His power -- when they could bring
themselves to say, "Don't you care?"
Yet, dear friends, is this story not a mirror in which we see ourselves reflected?
Certainly it is. How often in moments of pressure and trial do our hearts think,
even if our lips do not utter, the question: "Don't you care?" It may be that we
are on a bed of sickness and pain, and we know that one word from the God
of all power and might could chase away the disease and raise us up. Yet the
word is withheld. Or perhaps we are in need of material supplies, and we know
that the silver and gold and the cattle on a thousand hills all belong to God --
the treasures of the universe are in His hand -- yet day after day passes by,
and our need is not supplied.
In a word, we are passing through deep waters in some way or another. The
storm rages; wave after wave rolls over our tiny boat. We are brought to our
extremity; we come to our wits' end, and our hearts often feel ready to ask the
terrible question: "Don't you care?" The thought of this is deeply humbling.
To think of our grieving the loving heart of Jesus by our unbelief and
suspicion should fill us with the deepest remorse and sorrow.
The Weakness Of Our Faith
But consider the absurdity of unbelief! How can that One who gave His life for
us -- who left His glory and came down to this world of strife and misery and
died a shameful death to deliver us from eternal wrath -- how can such a One
ever fail to care for us? Yet we are ready to doubt, or we grow impatient under
the trial of our faith. We quickly forget that the very trial from which we hide
and under which we struggle is far more precious than gold. The result of our
trial is an imperishable reality, but gold will eventually fade away.
The more that genuine faith is tried, the brighter it will shine. Therefore,
the trial, however severe, is sure to result in praise and honour and glory to
Him who not only supplies the faith but also takes that faith through the
furnace and caringly watches over it.
But the poor disciples failed in their moment of trial. Their confidence gave
way; they stirred their Master from His sleep with that most unworthy
question: "Don't you care if we drown?" What creatures we are! We are ready
to forget 10,000 mercies in the face of a single difficulty.
David could say, "I will one day die at the hand of Saul." And how did it turn
out? Saul fell on Mount Gilboa, and David was established on the throne of
Israel. Elijah ran for his life when Jezebel threatened him, but what was the
result? Jezebel was dashed to pieces on the pavement, and Elijah was taken to
heaven in a chariot of fire.
In the same way, the disciples thought they were going to be lost -- with the
Son of God on board. But what was the result? The storm was hushed into
silence, and the sea became like glass when it was spoken to by that Voice
which called the world into existence. "He got up, rebuked the wind and said to
the waves, "Peace, Be still!' Then the wind died down and it was completely
The Loving Care Of The Lord
What a combination of grace and majesty is here! Instead of rebuking the
disciples for interrupting His sleep, He rebukes the elements that had frightened
them. This was the way He replied to their question, "Don't you care?" Blessed
Master! Who would not trust You? Who would not adore You for Your
patient grace and uncondemning love?
There is something perfectly beautiful in the way in which our blessed Lord
rises, without an effort, from the rest of perfect humanity into the activity of
essential deity. As man, weary from His work, He slept on a cushion; as God,
He rises and with His almighty voice hushes the storm and calms the sea.
Such was Jesus -- very God and very man -- and such He is now. He is always
ready to meet His people's need, to quiet their anxieties and remove their fears.
Oh that we trusted Him more simply! We have no idea of how much we lose
by not leaning more on the arm of Jesus day by day. We are so easily terrified.
Every breath of wind, every wave, every cloud agitates and depresses us.
Instead of calmly lying down and resting beside our Lord, we are full of terror
and perplexity. Instead of using the storm as an occasion for trusting Him, we
make it an occasion for doubting Him. No sooner does some minor problem
arise than we think we are going to perish, even though He assures us that He
has numbered the very hairs of our head.
He could easily say to us as He said to His disciples, "Why are ye so fearful?
how is it that ye have no faith?" (4:40). It would indeed seem at times as
though we had no faith. But oh, His tender love! He is ever near to shield and
to shelter us, even though our unbelieving hearts are so ready to doubt His
Word. He does not deal with us according to our poor thoughts of Him
but according to His own perfect love toward us. This is the solace and rest
for our souls as we pass across life's stormy sea homeward to our eternal rest.
Christ is in the boat! Let that always be enough. Let us calmly rely on Him.
May there always be, at the very centre of our hearts, that deep rest which
springs from a real trust in Jesus! Then, though the storms rage and the seas
run high, we will not need to say, "Don't you care if we drown?" Is it possible
that we could die with the Master on board? Can we ever think so if Christ is
in our hearts?
May the Holy Spirit teach us to make a fuller, freer, bolder use of Christ! It
must be Christ Himself who is laid hold of and enjoyed in the heart by faith.
Then all will be to His glory and our abiding peace and joy!
In conclusion, we should notice how the disciples were affected by the scene
before us. Instead of the calm worship of those whose faith had been
answered, they manifested the amazement of those whose fears had been
rebuked. "And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What
manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" (4:41).
Surely they ought to have known Him better. Yes, dear reader, and so should