PRAY – What God Can Do With a Boat

Water.

It’s powerful. It’s dangerous. It’s lifegiving. As we talked a few weeks ago, many missionary works in the world begin by meeting the basic need for clean drinking water for the people group being reached. Water can refresh you if you drink it, shock you awake if you are slashed with it. Kill you if you get some in your lungs. 

Water can be a pathway to transport between distances, an opportunity to test our strength, or even a way to retreat. Today we will look at some passages from the New Testament concerning Jesus, his disciples and traveling in a boat. Before we look into those, let’s learn a bit about The South American Region.

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South America Region

The South America Region of the Church of the Nazarene is divided into four areas:

  • North Andean – Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador. 
    • COTN has been ministering in this area for nearly 50 years.
  • Central Andean
    • Bolivia (1945) and Peru (1914)
  • Southern Cone
    • Argentina (1919), Chili (1962), Paragua (1980), Uruguay (1949)
  • Sub-Region Brazil – So large it is a sub region, rather than an area
    • 60 years here.

(I’ve provided links to these Areas’ websites so you can dive deeper into the work going on through them.)

As you can see, there were varying start dates in all these countries. The wonderful thing is that these areas do seem to cover the whole of the continent. The only countries that aren’t part of these 4 areas, are actually part of the Mesoamerica Region. Many times, these areas are of course divided up by physical location to each other, but also common language spoken by most. While much of Brazil speaks Portuguese, Guyana, Surinam, and Guayana Francesa are more in line with the English, Dutch and French speaking Caribbean countries.

So it seems that Peru was the oldest mission field for the work of the church of the Nazarene. And as works develop there, new ones sprung up in neighboring countries until we have the continent blanketed with the presence of Christian Holiness teaching.

What’s all this have to do with boats? The Peruvian Amazon is a river system that stretches east and west and splits off to head south at a certain point. It’s like God’s naturally made boat highway. In this last year, five boats were built in order to “optimize missionary and evangelistic work, planting new works and strengthening the churches of the Loreto district.” That from the Global week of prayer, prayer guide. If you think of the last time you were on a boat, it was most likely for recreational purposes. Fishing, boating, site-seeing. Perhaps it was to transport you to another side, but mainly we don’t use boats that much to get around. In South America, boats are very helpful in facilitating travel. Getting between ministry locations, or between remotely located homes and ministry locations could have been so much harder if it were not for the five boats made for just such a purpose. There are many other ministries going on in South America, but today I’d like to take inspiration for our theme from this wonderful  boat-based opportunity the people there have. 

Let’s turn to Matt 8:18-23

Using a boat to retreat

18When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. 19Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

20Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

21Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

22But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

23Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.

Matt 8:18-23 NIV

——

In this passage, Jesus gives the order, the direction to the disciples to push off on the boat. 

  • Maybe you have had a similar experience. You feel it’s time to leave a place. Whether you are visiting friends or family, perhaps you’re at a group or business meeting. Either way, it’s time to “shove off” so to speak, but yet something keeps coming up. It keeps trying to keep you in place. To Nail you down. I can do this to myself as I notice a few things at the end of my work day at the store, I say “I’ll just finish this or that up ‘real quick’ “ and suddenly it’s a half and hour to an hour later. Many times it is the idea of helping someone that holds me back from moving on. Perhaps you can relate. 
  • Jesus said the word: “let’s go!” …and that is when the requests, the demands poured in. A teacher of the Law proclaims his allegiance to Jesus. Jesus responds  giving the man a gut check, “If you’re following me to my home, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Other creatures have places of refuge, not me.” 
  • This idea made me stop and think. Of course he didn’t have a place to hide out and call his own. He was the place of refuge.
  • Someone else tried to see if there was any wiggle room with this whole “following Jesus” and he quickly learned it was an all or nothing, right now kind of commitment. He asks to go back to bury his father.  It’s this idea of familial obligation. Jesus makes it clear, to follow him is to put Him first…right now. These two disciples were not all in. And Jesus knew he needed to head to deeper water, separate himself and his disciples from these “disciples.” 
  • If you think about it, if the first man really wanted to follow Jesus wherever he went, all he needed to do was board a boat and follow him. The second learned there are deep costs, prices to pay to be a disciple of Jesus. 

The only ones who left with Jesus were his disciples. Sometimes you gotta retreat with Jesus when the world is pressuring you. Jesus used a boat to retreat from those unwavering pressures. And sometimes we use boats just to retreat. Peaceful waters where you can just be alone with Jesus & your thoughts. Perhaps that’s what the disciples thought was going to happen. They were in for a time of testing their faith. 

——

A Boat trip to test faith

“Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.”

Matt 18:24 NIV

Ok time out. Jesus was sleeping?! I think maybe he was taking this whole R&R business to the next level! Jesus is napping while water is splashing in their boat. Alright, verse 25:

“The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!””‬‬

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭8:25-27‬ ‭NIV

Remember these were His Disciples! They got into the boat. They went with Jesus. There were folks who didn’t with him, though they seemed like they wanted to. These were His Guys! And what do they do when riding in a boat with a sleeping Jesus? 

Fear for their lives. Wind. Waves. A Storm. 

  1. Even when Jesus is in your boat, you might still be worried if you’ll make it through the storm you’re in.

Some Christians have had Jesus in their lives for most of their lives. Maybe they don’t remember a time Jesus wasn’t in their boat. Yet hard times come, and they worry and wonder “will I make it?”

  1. Jesus is not scared, even when we might be. 

There are two great things about surviving storms with Jesus in your boat. 

  1. You survived. You’re still alive. 
  2. You have evidence that you can survive storms in the future. 

We will go through times of turbulence. Jesus has the opportunity to prove himself. 

And we have an opportunity to marvel at His awesomeness. “Even the wind and waves obey Him!”


The boat took him somewhere, of course. Boats are, after all, a form of transport, not just recreation. It led them to do ministry on the other side of the lake. Ministering to someone everyone else had already given up on. Sometimes you just gotta get in the boat and Go with Jesus in order to see him work in people’s lives. 

The Boat takes them to a shore where  they meet a demon-possessed man in the tombs. In Matthew’s account, there are two demon possessed men that Jesus frees from their burdens. That’s it. Job done. He gets back in the boat and it’s time to move on.

Our next stop on Jesus’ boat is his use of it as a teaching platform. Luke 5:1-3 says:

——

Using a Boat to Teach

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret,[a] the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

Luke 5:1-3 NIV

Here Jesus needed a little space. He needed room to teach. Have you ever tried to give instruction to people who are too physically close to you? It’s difficult. Next time you are on a crowded elevator, try to give some educational instruction to those around you. You will soon have all the space you need as they will find some way to get off and take the stairs. Some Bible scholars reason that Jesus wanted everyone to be able to hear him and see him. 

The interesting thing about this passage is…we don’t know what Jesus taught the people! The very next thing he does in the passage is finish talking then give fishing instructions to fishermen. Once his advice was heeded, the amount of fish caught was too numerous for one boat to manage. The Boat was a platform, a space, a tool for teaching to happen. With the Crowds and with the disciples.

—-

Maybe you don’t have an actual boat. I know I don’t. But the question we have to ask ourselves is what tool could be used by God in our context to travel to areas of ministry, retreat away with Jesus, and maybe even be a platform for teaching to take place? Well only you can answer that for yourself. As we have roads that clearly connect our cities, and motor vehicle will get us from point A to point B. 

Some churches in urban settings find bus ministry to still be helpful. When a church won’t fit all the people you want to reach, sometimes you’ve gotta have church in a public park. Up until very recently, many folks have had to rethink what regular ministry looks like. When various states were in different levels of quarantine, more churches went online. Not only just publishing their recordings but streaming a service or Bible study live on Zoom or Facebook. They can interact with those who are at home on their laptops or smart devices. 

What did we do? We had a unique situation. Our church had the mixed blessing of being small. During the total state shut down, churches and organizations that were not deemed “essential” were not allowed to meet in person.  

What did we do during this time? Well after we discovered it was going to be longer that a couple weeks, our leadership team decided to invest in radio air-time at WVRQ, one of our local radio stations. We had a half an hour slot for the message each week. People who could not get online to listen or read the message there, could join others on Sunday mornings and study God’s word. We did that for about 2 months. It was a leap of faith. Radio Air time, even in a small town like ours, is not cheap. 

After the Governor’s order was overruled by the state Supreme Court, any business (including churches) could open, but they had certain size restrictions. I’m happy to say that many of the restrictions out on our community and state have now dissipated. 

But without these constraints, without this adversity, churches like ours would have kept doing business as usual. No catalyst to push us further out and test our faith. The status quo rarely teaches anything. 

So again, as we leave this place today, think what has God given to you to use for his glory? It could be simple or complex.

Whatever it is, I challenge you today:

dedicate it to God. 

Much like the people who believed in sharing the gospel in Peru– they believed in it so much that they sacrificed so those 5 boats could be built. So people could get out on the water, away from the distractions of life. Get out onto the water, providing opportunities for faith in Jesus to be shown, and out on the water to teach. 

What do you have, what has God provided you, that you can use to share the good news?

Recorded at Viroqua Church of the Nazarene March 20, 2020

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