Perhaps by seeing what they did, we might learn how not to solve a problem. Our story is a familiar one. It’s where the disciples find themselves in the middle of a storm out at sea, and they begin to wonder if they’re going to survive it (Mark 6:45-52). What mistakes did they make?

They Thought Jesus Was Unaware

The disciples thought that Jesus was unaware of their problem. Picture the scene. The disciples are trying to go against an incredible head wind and not doing very well. As far as they know, Jesus is still with the crowd they had left, doing his own thing, unaware of what’s happening to them. In reality, though, that’s not the case: “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” (verses 47-48). Jesus was well aware of their situation, and he is of ours too. Don’t ever forget that.

They Thought Their Problems Were Worse

The disciples actually thought their problems were worse then they really were. The gospel of Mark says that it was the fourth watch—between 3 and 6 a.m.—before Jesus went into the sea to do anything about the problem. In other words, Jesus sat on the mountain, looked at the storm and the disciples struggling in it, and he didn’t do anything about it for hours. In fact, “He was about to pass them by” (verse 48). Jesus knew the problem was not as bad as the disciples thought it was. He looked at them and knew they are having trouble; he knew they had to row hard. But that was good for them. He knew they were not going to go down.

We’re like that, aren’t we? Jesus said if you have just a little bit of faith, you can move mountains. Now that’s hard, but let me tell you something: it’s much easier to create mountains, and we’re good at it. I build mountains all the time. Someone once said, “Fear knocked at the door, faith answered, and nobody was there.”

They Confused the Solution with the Problem

The disciples confused the solution with the problem. When they first saw Jesus walking on the water, the disciples mistook him for a ghost and were terrified. Sound familiar? Let me explain.

One of the most important principles any Christian can ever learn is the principle of praise: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). That means no matter what happens to you, give God the praise. How? You can do it because he is involved in every circumstance of your life.

If you want to make your problems worse, see every problem as an accident. If you want to make your problems better, learn to see God’s hand in them. Learn to listen carefully and you can hear Christ’s words, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (Mark 6:50).

They Failed to Realize that Jesus Could Still the Storm

The disciples failed to realize that Jesus had the power and the willingness to still the storm. I don’t know about you, but I’m glad Jesus Christ controls the winds, whether they are financial, physical or spiritual.

Our real problem is that Christ isn’t in our boat to stop those terrible head winds. We haven’t asked him to come alongside us and help. Or we’ve sought his advice, but were unwilling to take it. We’re still convinced that we can handle our overwhelmed boat on our own. But we can’t, so the winds keep blowing, harder and harder.

They Forgot Past Victories

The disciples refused to let past victories deal with present panic. Look at the end of the story. After Jesus climbed into the boat, the wind died away. The disciples “were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened” (Mark 6:51-52). Get the picture. The disciples had just seen Jesus feed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish. Jesus kept breaking the bread and passing it until everyone had their fill and twelve full baskets were left over. Can you believe it? Later that same day the disciples were so frightened about the storm that they never imagined that Jesus would come to their rescue if they really needed it or only asked. This is a classic example of a very short memory. And we understand it all too well, don’t we? Our hearts harden too when we forget about past circumstances and past victories.

Remember the story in Joshua 4? God told the people of Israel to take twelve stones out of the middle of the Jordan River, and take twelve stones from the side of the river’s bank, and put them in the middle of the river as an altar. Why? So when their children would ask, “What do those stones mean?” they could answer, “It reminds us of the time when God dried up this river bed so his people could safely walk across it.” You ought to be doing that with your life rather than following the disciples’ example of failing to allow past victories to inform present panic situations.

Life is like an ocean, and we’re the sailors. Sometimes there are storms; sometimes there are leaky boats; sometimes there seems to be no way out. The appropriate prayer for a sailor is, “O God, your sea is so great, and my boat is so small.” That is more than enough. God will handle the rest.

Time to Draw Away

Read Exodus 14 & Acts 12:1-18

Do you believe that there are no accidents? Do you trust that God is sovereign, loves you and acts on your behalf? God is your rescuer and is in the business of doing “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). So don’t be afraid to trust him.