Receiving Life Freely – Part 5 (Video)

This is the fifth video in a series about the gospel of John – the only book of the Bible whose primary purpose is to tell non-Christians how to obtain eternal life and a future home in heaven (John 20:31). This video looks at the fifth miracle of Jesus recorded in the gospel of John involving His miraculous walking on water (John 6:15-21).

The movie clip subtitles are from the Good News Translation. All other Scripture are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted. Gospel of John pictures are used with permission from, Sweet Publishing /, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing /, David Padfield /, The Edge Group and Lion Hudson Ltd. /, or they are creative common licenses. The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site, The Gospel of John movie clip is used with permission from You may view the entire Life of Jesus movie at

Why does God allow Christians to struggle? Part 2

16 Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into the boat, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come to them.” John 6:16-17

The second reason why God allows Christians to struggle is to EDUCATE US ABOUT HIS PLAN (John 6:16-18). “16 Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into the boat, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come to them.” (John 6:16-17). The disciples were being obedient to Christ. He commanded them to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. “Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away.” (Matthew 14:22). This was His plan for them while He went up on the mountain to pray (cf. Matthew 14:23).

So the disciples started to cross over the Sea toward Capernaum, but trouble was coming. A story is told about a tourist who was sports fishing off a Florida beach, and he capsized his boat. He could swim, but his fear of alligators kept him clinging to the overturned craft. Spotting an old beachcomber standing on the shore, the tourist shouted, “Are there any gators around here?!” “Naw,” the man hollered back, “they ain’t been around for years!” Feeling safe, the tourist started swimming leisurely toward the shore. About halfway there he asked the guy, “How’d you get rid of the gators?” “We didn’t do nothin’,” the bum said. “The sharks got ’em.”

Just like this man, the disciples were in a heap of trouble. It was getting dark, but more importantly, Jesus had not come to them. They had started rowing across the Sea of Galilee toward Capernaum, but stayed close to shore, because they were going to pick up Jesus along the way. But it was not working out that way. “Then the sea arose because a great wind was blowing.” (John 6:18). A strong northwesterly wind began to blow, driving them farther and farther south, so much so, that they lost sight of shore and the possibility of picking up Jesus.

The sea of Galilee is 600 feet below sea level, in a cuplike depression. When the sun sets, the air cools and rushes down over the hillside, resulting in winds churning the sea. Since the disciples were rowing toward Capernaum, they were heading directly into the wind, making very little progress. Matthew is very graphic in describing the storm. “But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary.” (Matthew 14:24). The storm was raging. The wind was against them. The waves were immense. The sea was engulfing their boat and threatening their lives. Although these fishermen had experienced storms before, their experience probably taught them that you don’t go out on the lake in this kind of weather!

Imagine how the disciples must have felt. Here they were trying to cross the sea just like Jesus told them to do, but the storm prevented them from fulfilling Christ’s command. They were exerting themselves to the max against the winds and the waves, yet they were unable to make any headway. They must have felt alone. After all, Jesus had sent them out here. Did He somehow forget all about them? Didn’t Jesus care about the fact that they could lose their lives in this storm? What was going on?

Have you ever felt this way? Have you ever wanted God to use you only to have your life become more difficult? You know what God wants you to do, but circumstances don’t allow you to do it? You try with all your might and strength to obey the Lord, but you can’t go where God wants you to go. You can’t do what God has told you to do. And you feel as though God has betrayed you. Like He has played some mean trick on you and set you up for failure. Why does this happen? Why do people who want to be used by God find themselves facing more problems? Problems too big to overcome in their own strength. Because God is trying to teach us about His plan. His plan cannot be carried out without His power. As long as we keep trying to do the will of God in our own strength, we will fail.

Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5).  God never expected us to live the Christian life on our own. We must let God live the Christian life through us. What this means is you must come to the end of yourself. And often times a storm will bring us to that point where we give up on ourselves and give in to God.

When I was about seventeen years of age on a canoe trip in Minnesota’s boundary waters with my church youth group, my Dad and I had to paddle across a large lake with two passengers in our canoe. I was in the front of the boat and my Dad was in the rear, with our passengers on the floor of the canoe between us. One of our passengers had accidentally made a deep cut across her hand while whittling on a piece of wood at our campsite. We left half of our camping group at the campsite to take the woman to a ranger’s cabin to radio for medical assistance. When we were in the middle of the lake about a half mile from the shore, I looked behind me to see a storm heading toward us with a wall of torrential rain. The wind was blowing extremely hard now, causing the waves to rise above our canoe. I felt helpless and out of control. My only recourse was to cry out to God for help.

When I did, my Dad and I could see a light swinging from the ranger’s cabin on the shore, about a quarter of a mile from us. Eventually we were able to safely arrive at the shore only to discover that the ranger cabin had been vacated. After the storm passed, my Dad and I paddled all the way back to our campsite with our passengers. I will never forget God’s presence with us in that storm.

God allows storms in our lives to educate us about His plan for our lives. He uses difficulties to bring us to the end of ourselves so we will surrender more fully to Him.

Prayer: Gracious Lord of the universe, thank You for teaching me about Your plan for my life through the storms You send my way. Many times I have set out to do Your will only to be impeded by a storm. Each storm has a common theme – to bring me to the point where I give up on myself and give in to You. You alone have the power to carry out Your plan for my life. Every storm reminds me of this important truth. Apart from You I can do nothing of eternal value. Right now my Lord and my God, I surrender everything to You. I give all that I have to You, Father, to You, Jesus, and to You, Holy Spirit. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

Why does God allow Christians to struggle? Part 1

14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, ‘This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.’ 15 Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.” John 6:14-15

Some Christians are taught that once you come to Christ, you will not experience hardship or suffering. However, the apostle Paul would not agree with this conclusion. He writes, “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” (Philippians 1:29). Being a Christian does not exempt us from suffering in this life.

What about you? Have you experienced some storms in your life? The storm takes many different forms, and affects our lives in many different ways. But all storms contain some common elements: they usually come on rather suddenly, they take us by surprise, they tend to fill our hearts with fear, and they test our faith.

Think of some of the storms of life which have invaded your life or someone’s you know: the storm of illness – sudden or prolonged death – the death of a loved one – a child, a partner – especially one not expected to die; rejection – divorce, separation, abandonment; unfair criticism; emotional trauma – hatred, anger, resentment, bitterness; the storm of physical loss – loss of home, loss of job, loss of money, loss of security;  an accident, or some event which may change the course of your life in an instant of time.

You may wonder why does God allow Christians to struggle or suffer? Why does He allow me to suffer? Perhaps you have asked the Lord to use you for His glory, and life has suddenly become tougher for you. Take heart: the disciples of Jesus were not exempt from difficulties either. They, too, struggled. In fact, it was Jesus who sent them into the storm. Let’s look in John 6:14-21 to discover the lessons God wants us to learn about suffering. Why does God allow me to struggle?

TO ELIMINATE MY PRIDE (John 6:14-15). After Jesus miraculously fed thousands of people with a happy meal, the crowd perceived that Jesus was the Prophet whom Moses spoke of in Deuteronomy 18:15. 14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, ‘This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.’ 15 Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.” (John 6:14-15). Now the crowd wanted to make Jesus King by using force. They were seeking a political leader with power who could lead them against the oppressive Roman government. They weren’t ready to trust Jesus as the Messiah-God, but they were willing to use Him to accomplish their own agenda. They focused on Christ as someone who could serve their physical needs, but they had no interest in Him spiritually.

But don’t we do the same thing? Have you ever become angry with God because He didn’t give you what you wanted? I don’t know if you have done that, but I have. I have been very upset with God sometimes because He did not do what I asked Him to do. I am ashamed to admit this, but it is the truth. This event in John 6 is given to teach us that this is not the kind of relationship that we are to have with God.

Jesus was not tempted to yield to the crowd’s desire to make Him King, but the disciples may have been tempted. After all, they saw the huge crowds following their Lord; they saw His miracles of healing and multiplication of food; and now the people wanted to crown their Jesus as King. So what does Christ do? Matthew tells us, “Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away.” (Matthew 14:22). Jesus sent them into the storm. Why does our Lord do this? Because He wanted to eliminate their pride – to keep them from thinking that they had something to do with His growing popularity.

The apostle Paul states, “So that I would not become too proud of the wonderful things that were shown to me, a painful physical problem was given to me. This problem was a messenger from Satan, sent to … keep me from being too proud.” (2 Corinthians 12:7 NCV).  God allows struggles in our lives to keep us from thinking to highly of ourselves. Maybe you have battled an ailment for years that causes you pain and limits your ministry. You have asked the Lord to take it away, but He has chosen not to and it may be because this ailment keeps you from becoming arrogant and self-sufficient. It reminds you of how much you need the Lord Jesus every day just to do what He has called you to do.

Charles Spurgeon, one of the most powerful preachers in the Victoria Era, had a lifelong battle with depression. He viewed his depression as God’s instrument to keep him dependent on the Lord and more compassionate toward others who suffer pain. It was in his weakness that he experienced the compassion of Christ. Again and again, Spurgeon would speak about the tenderness of Jesus. He longed for any in his audiences who were discouraged or prone to give up, to approach the Lord Jesus for His gentle and healing touch.

It is through suffering that we not only draw closer to Christ, but He also draws near to us to walk with us through the storm. He is a compassionate and gentle Savior who knows how to comfort and console those who are alone in their pain. He also was alone in His pain when He died in our place on the cross. Through His sufferings, He was equipped to be our sympathetic High Priest (Hebrews 4:15). He understands our struggle and He invites us to come to Him in the midst of our storm (Hebrews 4:16).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, when I look back on my life, I see Your gentle and thoughtful orchestration of many storms in my life that were intended to take me deeper in my relationship with You. Some of those storms were much worse than others because of my prideful resistance to Your leading. Thank You for not giving up on me during those times when I was so stubborn. Without Your intervention in my life, my pride would have destroyed me. Thank You for sending me into those storms which eventually removed my pride and brought me closer to You. You are a good and faithful Friend. I am so glad I have You in my life. In Your name. Amen.