God Arrives in the Fourth Watch of the Night
47 Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 48 He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50 because they all saw him and were terrified.
Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, 52 for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.
Training Through Trials
Everyone goes through trials. Some trials seem longer and more difficult than others. The worst ones are where you feel like you are fighting for your very life. Your circumstances are pulling at the very fabric of your soul, and your strength has been depleted by non-stop battering. You feel like just after a fresh gulp of air the waves come crashing over your head, and you get water for what you thought was your next breath.
The disciples were fighting for their very lives. Life on the Sea of Galilee could be very dangerous. Storms would often appear out of nowhere, and for a small fishing boat, capsizing in the water at night with high waves was a terrifying thought. But we need not be terrified by our trials, for God is sovereign and has everything under control.
James has this to say about our trials:
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Trial of Trust
When fighting for your life in a trial isn’t enough, it seems that God adds insult to injury by letting us struggle through it for a very L O N G time. We cry out to God, but often He doesn’t seem to answer immediately. We wait and wait (and wait some more), and no help comes. This is the trial of trust.
God has this way of showing up in the fourth watch of the night. The night back in the time of Jesus was set up in four – three hours segments:
- First Watch: 7:00 – 9:00 pm
- Second Watch: 10:00 – 12:00 pm
- Third Watch: 1:00 – 3:00 am
- Fourth Watch: 4:00 – 6:00 am
The fourth watch was the longest watch of all. Most of the night had already passed, and through exhaustion and anticipation of daylight, it made the fourth watch go very slow. Jesus had seen in the night that the disciples were struggling, but waited until just before dawn to go out to them. This allows our faith to be tested, to see if we really believe that God is going to intervene and help us with our needs. This is the secondary trial of trust – patience.
Jesus has a tendency to wait until the very last minute to come and help us with our problems. He is trying to show us where we are in our understanding of His sovereignty, character, and love for us. By denying us immediate relief, we must decide whether we can trust God to act as our situation becomes more bleak second by second.
As you feel like you are trying to stop tumbling down a mountainside, you can see the cliff in front of you that drops thousands of feet. Unable to stop, you fight for your life. It is just before you go over the cliff, or sometimes after you start falling, that God will intervene. He does not do this to cause us emotional harm, but to give us the opportunity to trust Him more. If you have prayed that God would help you to trust him more, expect these types of trials to enter into your life. This is about on the same level as praying for patience.
Regardless, it is the timing of the response that careful attention should be paid. God has a plan much larger than our myopic short-term vision. Each and every moment is moving towards an unstoppable event – the second coming of Christ, and the end to sin. We need to remember as we are in the storm that God’s timetable isn’t always ours. That is why “trust and obey” is our only way…
When God does calm the storm, we are often just as amazed as the disciples were when Jesus stepped into the boat and everything calmed down. Jesus demonstrates that He is sovereign over all. Sometimes, the storm doesn’t stop until we pass away into glory, but nonetheless, the storm stops. We can be assured that whatever our problems are, God is working through His plan to bring glory to His name. For there is no purpose of God that can be thwarted, and God works everything to good for those who love Him.
Regardless of the emotional, financial, and/or physical damage that the storm has wrought, we can confidently rest in the knowledge that when God does come, He will help us to pick up the pieces. And we will have the scars to remember His help, and never forget what we went through to get there. It is also important that we don’t allow our hearts to be hardened by our training through trials.
A Qualifying Question
Let’s ask a question: Are we trusting in God’s goodness, mercy, and grace as we are fighting for our lives in our trials?
A short prayer of preparation:
Father in Heaven, You are full of mercy and grace, and your mercies never cease, but renew every morning. Grant me patience as I trust in You to deliver me through my trials. Help me to overcome through perseverance, so that I may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. Give me the strength to endure the trials I am facing, and guard my heart against the attacks of the enemy as they taunt me and tell lies about You. Father, help me to remember Your word, that Your promises will never be far from my heart or my lips. For You have promised to never leave me nor forsake me. You have promised to work all things to good for those who love You. You have promised that none can snatch me out of Your hand. I will stand on Your promises, oh God, so that Your name may be glorified and magnified, regardless of the outcome of the trials. This I ask in the precious Name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.