God helps when we have to sail against the wind

There are days when we turn on the spot and simply make no progress. “Don’t worry,” Chief Apostle Schneider says and explains how God helps even when we seem to get nowhere.

Five loaves of bread and two fish were enough to feed five thousand men, we read in the Synoptic Gospels. This miracle had really impressed the disciples of Jesus. That evening then, Jesus sent the disciples on ahead to the other side of the lake to Bethsaida while He went up into the hills to pray. They crossed the lake by boat. On Sunday, 24 January 2021 Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider conducted a divine service in Zofingen in Switzerland using the Bible text that describes this crossing: “Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land. Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by” (Mark 6: 47–48).

Straining at the oars

They were not in immediate danger, as the disciples had previously experienced when the boat they were on nearly sank and Jesus had calmed the storm, the Chief Apostle said. However, the disciples had been rowing for hours and were not making any progress; it was already the middle of the night and they were still on the lake. And above all, Jesus was not there, He was far away on the mountain.

However, Jesus was thinking about them: “He perceived their distress and wanted to encourage them and be close to them,” Chief Apostle Schneider said. And this wanting to be close to them reminded him of earlier events (Exodus 33–34; 1 Kings 19), he said: “Moses, and later Elijah, were both completely floored because everything had gone wrong. God wanted to comfort them and lift them up and passed by them to let them know: ‘Don’t worry. I am the almighty God, the God of mercy. I am here, close to you.’”

Reaching the goal

And this is how Jesus also revealed Himself on the lake: “‘Don’t worry, I am here.’ Then He got into the boat to be with them. The wind ceased and they reached the other shore.”

And what does this have to do with the present? Chief Apostle Schneider explained the parallel. “We have all been sent by Jesus and have all received two missions. The first: we are supposed to prepare ourselves for the return of the Lord, work out our salvation. The second mission: we are to serve the Lord in His church, we are to proclaim His word.” Sometimes we are very good in doing these things and sometimes less so, the Chief Apostle observed: “The good we want to do, we do not do, but we constantly do the things we did not want to do. We are simply not moving forward in our preparation work.”

“In this situation we receive the comforting message,” the Chief Apostle said. “The Lord knows. He is not sitting up there in a comfortable chair looking down on us. No, He participates in our suffering, He wants to help us, to comfort us.”

God helps …

And how does God help the believers? By what means can we recognise God’s comfort? Chief Apostle Schneider cited five examples.

  • In divine service: “God accomplishes this especially in the course of the divine services, where He shows us: ‘I know exactly how you feel.’ Even I experience this; it’s awesome!”
  • When we pray: “Another time it might be an answer to a prayer, and we realise that God has intervened.”
  • Through angels: “Or it could be an encounter with an angel, whom He has sent. – For this He also needs us. Let us always be sensitive when we receive such an impulse.”
  • By knowledge: “The Son of God has already been in God’s kingdom. ‘I have prepared everything for you; now I am waiting for you.’” “
  • Through divine encouragement: “This is how God can comfort and strengthen us: ‘I am the almighty God, trust Me and don’t give up!”

…and people do not always recognise it

Some situations make it difficult to perceive the nearness of God, the Chief Apostle stated. There are various reasons for this.

  • Dismay over a disaster or a misfortune: “We experience a situation and have no explanation for it; we are simply unable to cope with it.”
  • Not being able to understand something: “We were told that if we are faithful and obedient we will be blessed. And now things have turned out very differently.”
  • The faults of the ministers: “Jesus Christ does not serve us Himself. He sends us His servants, who are imperfect human beings. Sometimes they do things that really are not appropriate.”
  • When the gospel sends us a little jolt: “Jesus teaches us that we must love our enemies, that we should be perfect as the Father in heaven is perfect. Jesus says: ‘Leave everything you have, sell it, deny yourself and follow Me.’”

However, no matter what happens, Chief Apostle Schneider points out: “Jesus said, ‘Do not forget. It is I who says this. I have given My life for you. Trust me! I don’t want to punish you, I don’t want you to suffer. I want to save you. If you believe in Me I can help you and you will make it.”

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Oliver Rütten
Switzerland, Chief Apostle, Divine service