Hi, this is pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…Are we there yet?
When I was a child we spent a fair amount of time as a family traveling by car. For the better part of the first half of my upbringing we lived in areas far away from our hometown in Western New York State. For several years we lived in Columbia, South Carolina where my father attended Bible College and then we moved to the Susquehanna Valley of Eastern Pennsylvania, where he pastored his first church. Occasionally, we would travel home from either of those far-away places back to visit family in familiar territory. Each of those trips took place in the car.
In preparation, mom would pack our clothes, sandwiches and drinks, as well as the other necessary things to keep my brother and I busy for the duration of the trip. Dad always had the task of figuring out the puzzle that was required to get all of it to fit in the trunk, so that the back seat could be left free for two boys to play, argue with one another, and sleep during the trip. It really did feel like a journey in those days. The national speed limit back then was still 55 miles per hour, and as much as we complain about the condition of roads now, they were much more difficult to travel then. Many of the four lane highways we use these days were only two lanes during that time. Consequently, the trip from Eastern Pennsylvania back home took 6 to 7 hours and when we were traveling to or from South Carolina…those car rides could last upwards of 18 to 20 hours. Even prior to the constraints of children’s car seats and safety belts, with all those hours to travel, my brother and I would quickly tire of being restricted to confines of the back seat. It usually didn’t take long for one of us to pose the question asked by every kid at one time or another, “Are we there yet?”.
As a parent, I came to understand just how annoying that question can be. I can only imagine the number of times my parents heard it on one of our longer trips. In actuality, it is a good question to ask. Why? Because it indicates a level of trust. The child who poses that question believes they will at some time safely arrive at their destination, they just want to know when. It might be more accurately asked, “How much longer will this trip take?”, but it usually comes out as “Are we there yet?”. There was an occasion recorded in the Bible when I think Jesus would have welcomed the question, “Are we there yet?”.
In Mark 4:35-41 there is an account of one of the many journeys Jesus took with His disciples. Allow me to read it to you from the New Living Translation. 35 As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. 38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” 39 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”
As I said a moment ago, I think Jesus would have preferred it if His disciples had roused Him to ask if they were there yet. Instead they abruptly woke Him up to ask “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”. After Jesus calmed the storm by commanding it to cease, He had a question of His own for His disciples. He asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”.
This was an interesting exchange, one that I think holds some important truths for us to consider. The beginning of this passage is key to understanding where the disciples went wrong, and why Jesus had to ask them if they still had no faith. Verses 35 & 36 say As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). The scripture records that Jesus said Let’s go to the other side of the lake. This statement is very important. The men He said that to had recently seen Him do all kinds of miraculous things. They had been witness to Him enabling a paralytic to walk and completely restoring the skin of a person with leprosy. In fact, they had seen Him heal all kinds of illnesses and infirmities. They had even watched Jesus tell a man with a withered hand to hold it out in front of the entire synagogue congregation and when the man did so, his weakened hand full of atrophied muscles was fully restored and as strong as anyone’s. So when Jesus said, “Get in the boat guys, we are going to the other side of the lake”, they should have known they were going to get to the other side of the lake…come hell or high water! They heard clearly from Jesus what the destination was and there should have been no doubt in their minds about if they would safely arrive. The only question they should have had if any, would have been…“Are we there yet?”.
I firmly believe that the reason Jesus was able to take a nap, and that once aroused by His disciples he asked if they still had no faith, was because Jesus had zero concern they wouldn’t arrive at their destination. He said they were going to the other side and He knew they were going to get to the other side. His question to them was really one of, why they didn’t believe they were going to get to the other side. After all they had witnessed they should have understood…without any doubt…that when Jesus said something would happen, it happened, 100% of the time.
What about us? What do we do when this perfecting journey we are on with Jesus intersects with great trouble? Do we focus on the fact that Jesus said He will never leave us nor forsake us, or do we wonder where He is in our time of need? Do we remember that He promised that He would turn all things, even the really difficult ones for our ultimate good as He uses them to make us more like Himself, or do we wonder how much more we can take before we break. Do we by faith take joy in our various trials knowing that they produce endurance in us which makes us perfect and complete and leaves us needing nothing? Or instead do we wish we could avoid most of our troubles and just enjoy some smooth sailing?
Jesus’ disciples had to learn a valuable lesson that day. We walk by faith and not by sight, that means that faith is all about focus. Those men should have been focused on the trip, not the travel conditions. Jesus told them what the destination was…that ought to have been enough. I’m not suggesting they should have ignored the storm, only that it ought not have been their highest consideration. True faith would have allowed them to discuss what important ministry they might be doing once they reached the other shore and noting that the high wind and the waves would give them a remarkable story they could tell people about when they got there.
Paul reminds us that Jesus has determined and pointed out our final destination as well. Philippians 1:6 says, And I am certain that God who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Later in Philippians 3:12 Paul wrote of his own personal journey. I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things, or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race, (the journey) and receive the heavenly prize for which God through Christ Jesus is calling us.
So now, understanding that life is a trip, keep your focus on the destination instead of the difficulties…and go be awesome!