Follow Me... Christ, Deep Water and You
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Follow Me... Christ, Deep Water and You
Some of the most calming passages of Scripture are the well-known words of the 23rd Psalm. Here phrases such as "He makes me to lie down in green pastures" or "He leads me in the paths of righteousness" can grant sublime confidence of being in the care of the Great Shepherd of the Sheep, Jesus Christ.
Add to this the serene words of "He leads me beside the still waters," and we might easily be able to echo this psalm's opening sentiment of "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want."
But what happens when the "waters of life" are not still, but churn or run deep?
Remember as a child how happy you were playing in the shallow end of a pool? It's there that your feet could touch bottom and you could slowly move into deeper water as you bounced up and down, remaining secure as long as your toes could feel something under them. You could even scoot around the edges of the pool to avoid the deep, staying safely in your comfort zone.
But that's when we were kids. And now, as grownups, some of us may be experiencing an anxious sinking feeling because we can't touch bottom due to life's circumstances. Perhaps we've been jettisoned out of the comfort zone we planned for ourselves. We might be asking or even demanding in prayer, "Whatever happened to that God of 'still waters'?"
The deep waters of life serve God's purpose
Interestingly, the Bible speaks not only of "still waters," but many times it addresses deep water in relation to God's presence and purposes. He is crafting and molding us into spiritual completeness not found in the shallow and still moments of life.
When we find ourselves in deep water, we need to be reminded that "the Lord is great, and our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deep places" (Psalms 135:5-6 Psalms 135:5-6  For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.
 Whatever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.
American King James Version×).
Indeed, God created both the still waters and deep waters to serve His purposes. It's in these settings of proverbial deep water—like you may be floundering in right now, unable to touch bottom—that disciples of Jesus Christ come to experience some of His most sensitive and delicate work to enable them to follow Him. Intellectually we may all know this, but it's when our toes don't touch bottom, figuratively speaking, that we begin to panic.
When personal comfort zones dissolve
Such was the case at times with the original disciples of Jesus Christ on the Sea of Galilee. They had just experienced a whole day of Him expounding parables about His Kingdom (Mark 4:1-34 Mark 4:1-34  And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered to him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.
 And he taught them many things by parables, and said to them in his doctrine,
 Listen; Behold, there went out a sower to sow:
 And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.
 And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:
 But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.
 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.
 And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred.
 And he said to them, He that has ears to hear, let him hear.
 And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable.
 And he said to them, To you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but to them that are without, all these things are done in parables:
 That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.
 And he said to them, Know you not this parable? and how then will you know all parables?
 The sower sows the word.
 And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan comes immediately, and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts.
 And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;
 And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution rises for the word's sake, immediately they are offended.
 And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,
 And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
 And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirty times, some sixty, and some an hundred.
 And he said to them, Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?
 For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad.
 If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.
 And he said to them, Take heed what you hear: with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you: and to you that hear shall more be given.
 For he that has, to him shall be given: and he that has not, from him shall be taken even that which he has.
 And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;
 And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knows not how.
 For the earth brings forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.
 But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest is come.
 And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?
 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth:
 But when it is sown, it grows up, and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.
 And with many such parables spoke he the word to them, as they were able to hear it.
 But without a parable spoke he not to them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.
American King James Version×). Little did they realize they were about to have to practice what was preached. Their personal comfort zones were about to dissolve! Sound familiar?
After speaking, Jesus expressed a desire to cross the sea. He knew that the real class was just beginning. They compliantly followed, probably looking for those "still waters," especially after a long day of serving those who listened to the Master.
But then, as verse 37 mentions, "a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling." Talk about a sinking feeling! They weren't only bailing water, but their faith was being tossed overboard!
Have you ever noticed that life is what's happening that you haven't planned for? And that sometimes it comes in bucketfuls all at once and not on our time schedule?
Some scoff at the New Testament's record of such a powerful storm occurring on the Sea of Galilee—a lake 13 miles long, eight miles wide and 150 feet deep—that is, until they personally experience it. What makes it so susceptible to storms is that it lies at 700 feet below sea level. Thus, when cold winds come blowing in from the desert and Golan Heights to the east and are channeled through the canyons onto the lake, it creates unexpected, furious storms that can produce 20-foot waves.
Just imagine the suddenness and violence of such an event. And imagine that you're in the boat!
Hold your peace!
Where was Jesus as the tempest raged? He was sleeping soundly in the rear of the boat (verse 38). He may have been asleep due to physical exhaustion from speaking all day, or perhaps He had willed Himself to sleep for a far grander spiritual purpose.
His frightened followers—who had only recently heeded the call to "Follow Me" on that same lake's shores—now frantically shouted, "Don't you even care that we are all about to drown?" (The Living Bible).
The disciples were panicking even though they had already seen this same Jesus perform many miracles. But now it was about them! The "still waters" of instant miracles and wondrous teachings were forgotten for the moment.
Hastily awakened from His sleep, Jesus arose. Now would come an ageless teaching moment for all who would follow Him for all time. He issued a sudden command to the roaring wind and sea: "Peace, be still!"
The Greek word used here siapao, literally means "hold your peace." Stop roaring! "And the wind ceased and there was a great calm" (verse 39).
He then chided His followers by asking, "Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?" (verse 40). The immediate story concludes in verse 41 by describing how they pondered what they had witnessed. They asked each other, "Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!"
What's the lesson for them and for us?
They could never have asked these questions—or come to know the answers—by always staying in the shallow water. And neither can we!
Today we, too, experience powerful "storms" of life that can rush in on us and dramatically challenge our comfort zones—whether it be losing a job, the loss of our homes or savings accounts, the death of a loved one, a betrayal by a friend, our husband or wife walking out on us or the stunning disappointment that comes from a rebellious child. At such times, we reach down and we just can't seem to touch bottom and get our footing. It's deep-water time! Life was so much simpler in the shallow end.
On top of this, we live in a world of technological gizmos and information centers that promise immediate answers at the touch of a key. You can google all day long on your computer about faith, but ultimately real and living faith is supplied from a completely different venue.
When it comes to heeding Christ's call of "Follow Me," one of the most humanly daring steps in our walk with Him is simply to stop, be still, and hear and have faith in what God is saying rather than listen to what our trembling hearts are screaming.
Israel of old learned this when they had their backs up against the deep waters of the Red Sea. Here, the armored might of the Egyptian Empire was about to swoop down on them as much as the Galilean winds that impacted the disciples.
Moses' reassurance to a frightened people was this: "Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace" (Exodus 14:13-14 Exodus 14:13-14  And Moses said to the people, Fear you not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will show to you to day: for the Egyptians whom you have seen to day, you shall see them again no more for ever.
 The LORD shall fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.
American King James Version×).
God then told them to march forward into the sea where He miraculously provided a dry pathway as the waters stood like a wall on either side. No doubt they, like the disciples 15 centuries later, were concerned about drowning as they learned an important lesson about faith.
To be frank, exercising this kind of faith is one of the toughest marching orders for a Christian to handle and achieve!
Consider this for a moment as we return to the boat with Christ and the disciples. Jesus had no difficulty in bringing the stormy elements to a grinding halt. After all, He is the Lord of creation and could produce such an outcome at the snap of His fingers. But rather than always instantly calming the storms of life, God tells us to be calm, commanding, "Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalms 46:10 Psalms 46:10Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
American King James Version×).
God's focus is not in training and molding the wind and sea. Much more than that, the Great Shepherd of the sheep wants His ultimate creation, you and me, to voluntarily surrender our past, present and future to Him—not by a snap of His fingers but through the surrender of our preconceived comfort zones.
It's only then that He can make up the distance between what we know about Him in our heads and learn about Him when we can't touch bottom with our toes.
Peace within the storm
Wherever Jesus went in the course of His earthly ministry, be it roadside, passing another boat on the Sea of Galilee or greeting the masses in an open field, I would suggest that He would greet one and all with the common greeting of His people—Shalom, which means "peace." He even told His disciples to say this when entering people's homes (Luke 10:5 Luke 10:5And into whatever house you enter, first say, Peace be to this house.
American King James Version×).
But when the people of His day uttered these words, it was not simply a "kosher Hello," but a blessing and recognition of God's purposes beyond the moment. Shalom does not convey a conflict-free life without trouble, but a life that involves a God who provides and who will give us what we need to move through those moments of storms in our lives.
Jesus was more than familiar with the 23rd Psalm. He would not only know its beginning phrases, but would also remember what follows: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death [those deep-water moments in which our toes don't touch the bottom], I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and staff, they comfort me" (verse 4).
When a shepherd guided his flock to pasture through hills broken by steep and dangerous ravines, he was at his best in delicately leading his sheep due to the lack of unsure footing. Can the Great Shepherd of the sheep, your life's personal guide, be any less?
The Christian pilgrimage in heeding the call of "Follow Me" was never meant to be storm-free, but was designed to transform the storms of doubt in our hearts. It's been said that all the water in the world can't sink the smallest boat unless it gets inside. That can happen through a hole. And doubt is a hole. That's why the Gospels record this story regarding Jesus Christ, deep water and you.
We, too, have a passenger on board our life's vessel—the very same Great Shepherd who declares, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." And He says to us who follow, "Be still, and know that I am God!"