In Matthew 14 we read about Jesus feeding the 5,000. It had been a wonderful day of preaching the gospel and performing the miracle of feeding more than 5,000 people using just five loaves of bread and two fish. Afterward, He sent the multitude away, and He directed the disciples to go to the other side of the lake. Then Jesus went up into the mountain to pray.
The disciples were making their way across the lake when a storm arose, and the wind and waves tossed the boat around, threatening the lives of the disciples. As they were struggling to keep the boat afloat, they saw the figure of a man walking on the water. They became fearful and cried out, thinking it was a ghost:
“But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid’ ” (Matt. 14:24-27).
The disciples were in danger of their boat sinking in the storm; they could have lost their lives. They struggled through the night. But in the fourth watch Jesus appeared to deliver them, and He said, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”
The disciples were in the stormy situation by following Jesus’ directions. They hadn’t presumptuously placed themselves in danger. This is an important lesson to us. We don’t want to presumptuously put ourselves in harm’s way either, but sometimes we end up in a dangerous situation because we are following God’s will.
Although we may face challenging situations, we can be assured we are directed by God when we seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit every day, ask God for guidance in everything, ask God for wisdom to make good decisions, and trust that the Lord will answer our prayers. God promises: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye” (Ps. 32:8). We must learn to wait on the Lord for His direction in all things and all decisions.
One lesson we learn from this story of the disciples is that following Jesus is not always the easiest path. Following Jesus’ directions does not mean we will avoid problems in life. Yet, we can be assured that in every problem God allows to come our way there is a purpose. The purpose God has for us when He allows us to experience problems and difficulties is for us to get to know Him better as a loving, caring heavenly Father.
Another lesson we can learn from this story is by observing when Jesus came to deliver the disciples from the storm. It was during the fourth watch (Matt. 14:25). In the Hebrew culture there were four watches in the night: first watch, 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.; second watch, 9:00 p.m. to midnight; third watch, midnight to 3:00 a.m., and fourth watch, 3:00 to 6:00 a.m. The fourth watch was the last watch before dawn, which is the darkest time. Many times God comes to deliver us during the fourth watch, at the darkest time when all seems hopeless and lost. Our God is often a fourth watch God.
God does this because He wants us to learn to wait patiently and confidently on Him. Instead of worrying about the situation, in trusting peace we can rest on His promise to deliver and provide for us.
We see God acting in the “fourth watch” in the lives of many Bible characters. Throughout the Bible we read of situations God allowed to happen that required waiting patiently on God, even in the face of the most trying circumstances. We see this in the history of Abraham, Hagar, Ishmael, and Isaac. God waited until Abraham and his wife were beyond childbearing years to fulfill His promise of a son. God waited until the last second to stay Abraham’s hand when he was about to thrust the knife into Isaac’s chest. And God waited until Hagar had lost all hope of her and her son surviving in the desert to reveal water.
When we learn the lesson of waiting on God in patient, restful faith during our most trying times, we will have a peace that “passes understanding” and will bring glory to God (Phil. 4:6, 7). God wants us to learn not to worry or become anxious over any situation we find ourselves in. God has promised to deliver us. However, He often waits until the fourth watch to bring about our deliverance.
Personal Reflection and Discussion
1. Why did the disciples find themselves in a boat in the storm?
2. When did Jesus appear to deliver them from the storm?
3. What spiritual lesson do we learn from the story of Jesus delivering the disciples during the fourth watch?
4. List other Bible characters who were delivered during the “fourth watch”?
5. Why does God often wait until the “fourth watch” of our crisis to deliver us?
• Call your prayer partner and discuss this devotional with him/her.
• Pray with your prayer partner:
1. Pray for God to baptize you with His Holy Spirit.
2. Pray for God to revive you and His church.
3. Pray for God to lead you to trust Him, even into the fourth watch of any crisis in your life.
4. Pray for the individuals on your prayer list.
Excerpt From: Dennis Smith. “40 Days.”