Don’t Miss The Wonder In The Work

Mark 6:51-52 – Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished, for they had not gained any insight from the incident with the loaves, but their heart was hardened.

How could the disciples walk and talk with Jesus, witness the miraculous things He was doing, hear the wisdom of His teaching, and still have hard hearts?

Surely if we saw and experienced what they did, we would never doubt or miss the meaning … or would we?

Let’s widen our view a bit to see the circumstances surrounding this failure of the disciples’ faith. Jesus had sent out the twelve in pairs to do the same work He was doing. They were given the authority to cast out demons. They were healing sick people. They were preaching the gospel, calling people to repent. They were so busy doing God’s good work, they barely had time to eat. After some time (we’re not told how long), they all came back together to meet with Jesus and report about the work.

Jesus could see that they were tired – physically and spiritually. If you’ve ever been in full-time ministry, you’ve experienced that same exhaustion, being with people constantly, meeting needs, and fighting spiritual battles. Unfortunately, as soon as Jesus drew them away to a secluded place, crossing the Sea of Galilee by boat, the crowds followed. When they arrived on the other side, they were met with yet more needy people, clamoring for Jesus’ teaching and healing. No doubt, they were not yet in the right frame of mind to meet this need.

Jesus saw into the people’s hearts and began once again to pour Himself out again through His teaching. It grew late. The disciples were tired. They wanted nothing more than a good night’s sleep, so they asked Jesus to send the crowds away, but to their surprise, He expected them to feed this relentless crowd. Immediately, their thoughts went to their own abilities and resources. What was Jesus thinking? They had nothing left to offer.

Jesus gently reminds them all He needs is what they have; in this case, five loaves and two fish. As He has done before many times in their presence, He performs a miracle and feeds thousands. At the end of it all, the disciples pick up the leftovers and exhausted, get back on the boat to return to the other side.

Later, Jesus comes to them walking on the water. I imagine they were taking turns resting in the boat and pulling the oars against the strong winds, still in a state of mental and physical exhaustion. They obviously weren’t discussing the miracles they had seen Jesus do and experienced for themselves. When Jesus gets in the boat and the winds stop (something which had happened previously), they were utterly astonished, for they had not gained any insight…their hearts were hard.

Mental and physical exhaustion can cause us to focus on the wrong things. We can miss the meaning and presence of the miraculous things God is doing in our lives and in the lives of others around us because we’re so caught up in the daily grind of getting through the day. If we’re not careful, like the disciples, our hearts can grow cold and hard.

I’ve been on mission trips before where the conditions are unfamiliar and unpleasant, and the work is uncomfortable and difficult. Full disclosure, instead of living in anticipation of what God might be doing in those circumstances, I’ve told myself, “I can do anything for a week or two.” In other words, I can “grunt through” this hard experience, focused on what I can or can’t do, entirely missing the miraculous joy of what God might want to do in and through my willing obedience. That’s a hard heart, just like the disciples had.

This happens in our everyday life as well, not just on mission trips or when we’re involved in some Christian service or ministry. We can be so caught up in the physical work of daily life that we completely miss the conversations God wanted us to have with that person we passed, or really looking into the faces of our loved ones and listening. We can default to our own abilities when God asks us to do something and forget that He can do the impossible through us and that the greater work probably has nothing to do with our physical responsibilities but is all about the heart. We can even be a bit resentful that He asks us at all, considering everything else that might be on our plate.

I kind of understand the disciples, and I can identify with where they were in their faith walk. What they missed was that Jesus was right there with them in the hard times. By their response when Jesus asked them to feed the crowd, we can see they were too focused on the task and not focused enough on Him. They could have said “Jesus, we know you can do the impossible, so please tell us how You want to accomplish this, and we will do as You say. We can’t do it, but we know You can.”

Sometimes we need to pull away to a secluded place and let God restore us, but if, on the way, He throws another assignment at us, we must fight the inclination to think it’s all on us. We need to stop and ponder the good work He is doing in and through us and ask for the insight that will fuel our spiritual growth and perseverance to continue. Let’s not miss the wonder by a short-sighted resentment of the weight of the work.

2 thoughts on “Don’t Miss The Wonder In The Work

  1. After reading the “5 Things to Consider When Launching a New Ministry ” am starting following in love to follow your posts, that article above has done me good, as am in the processing of starting a new ministry from the one I minister with as a pastor.

    Thanks my sister in Christ.

    Liked by 1 person

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