In Mark 6 we read where Jesus fed over 5000 men at one time with only 5 loaves and 2 fishes. At the conclusion of this occasion Jesus told his disciples to gather up the fragments. They then took up over 12 baskets of fragments and fish (vs.43, 44). Afterward Jesus told the apostles to get into the boat and go to the other side. He sent the people away, and then went to the mountain to pray. Several hours later Jesus came to his disciples, walking on the water, in the midst of the sea. Jesus “saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against (contrary unto – KJV) them” Mk.6:48. The disciples had been rowing for at least 9 hours (the 4th watch – v.48 – 3 to 6 AM –t.t.). The same wind that blew over the land to distribute heat and rain was now causing them difficulty in crossing the Sea of Galilee. Jesus entered the boat and stilled the storm that had hindered them from getting to the other side. If we study this incident carefully we can draw a wonderful analogy about life. Let’s notice something about “The contrary winds of life.”
We are certainly sailing through some stormy seas today, Life in the 21st century is certainly not what we envisioned at this time last year. With the COVID virus and the political turmoil swirling around us we are living in perilous times. The winds are not blowing favorably, instead they seem to be “contrary winds” that make it difficult to live the Christian life. Life is not easy for us, but as the disciples of Jesus learned, it got much easier when Jesus was with them in the boat. When He is with us the struggles are much easier to overcome. He gives us the strength to overcome the difficulties. As Paul wrote. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Phil.4:13. When we are faced with some difficulty that is contrary, we can either give in and give up or we can ask Jesus to help us gain the victory. It is our choice.
We are don’t need to think we are the only ones who ever endured difficulties in life. OT saints such as Abraham, Moses, David, Job, Elijah, and many others did not give up on life when things were not going well with them. When they had to face the contrary winds of misrepresentation, betrayal, hate and persecution, their faith in God sustained them. They made the obstacles (stumbling stones) into stepping-stones for more useful service.
Joseph could not have known what the future held for him when he was sold into slavery by jealous and hateful brothers, and later had his reputation and name ruined by a conniving woman seeking to get revenge when he rebuffed her advances. Yet, the tribulations he suffered prepared him for a higher, more noble work for God. Years later after being reunited with his family, and the death of his father he told his brothers, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” Gen.50:20. The “contrary winds” he had encountered early in life strengthened him for his work in God’s scheme of things.
Moses, who became the great lawgiver of the OT “rowed” against “the contrary winds” of life for 80 years before he was ready to lead his people out of bondage into the promised land. Without the early trials of life, he could not have been the type of leader he demonstrated himself to be in later life.
The apostle Paul had to battle “the contrary winds” in his lifetime. Trained to be a great Pharisee, he came face to face with Jesus on the road to Damascus. After his conversion he became the apostle to the Gentiles. He did not have it easy. In 2.Cor.11:23-28 he described some of the “contrary winds” he had faced, things such as beatings, false imprisonment, lying brethren, shipwrecks, hardships of cold and nakedness, hunger and thirst. How did Paul look at these things? “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel” Phil.1:12. He may have lost his life serving God, but in the end he really won.
I read once of a mule that fell into a dry well. There was no way for the farmer to lift him out, so he directed his sons to just bury the mule in the well. The mule refused to be buried. As the boys threw the dirt in, the mule simply trampled on it. After a time, enough dirt had been thrown into the well that the mule was able to simply walk out of the hole he was in. That which would have been contrary in normal circumstances became the means to benefit him and save his life. The great people in life use the difficulties and obstacles they face in life to climb to higher planes in life. Those who have easy lives that seem to be without difficulty, remain the weak and obscure people of life. Facing and overcoming obstacles in life helps one to develop the strength, courage and determination needed to accept the responsibilities that come later.
The contrary winds in our lives are of various kinds, coming in different ways. Betrayal by supposed friends, persecution by enemies, lying tongues that hurt us, loss of health, the death of a loved one, disappointments in life are all contrary winds that affect our lives. As we experience them, we can use them as stepping-stones to a more useful, responsible life, or we can let them remain stumbling blocks to defeat us. They test us, and reveal our worthiness, or unworthiness to be saved. “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” 1 Pet.1:6-7. <Tommy Thornhill>