THE FOURTH WATCH OF THE NIGHT
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.”
Naturally, every human being desires and enjoys security. The most prominent reason for this is the uncertainties of life. Let's do this simple test; which of these people would you rather rescue you if find yourself in the middle of a great ocean, being overwhelmed by a wild storm? Would it be the diver who is a very good swimmer but can only do so much to save himself, let alone save you under the conditions described above, or would it be the man who would come walking on the ocean without a shred of fear of the angry waves threateningly tossing here and there, comfortably reach out his hand to you, pull you out and walk you to safety? The latter would be your choice I guess. The fact is your logical choice isn't an imagination, fiction or a mirage. It actually occurred and the man at the centre of this one-time epic event was and still is Jesus Christ.
In the story from which the scripture above is an extract, we're told the disciples, after they were some considerable distance from land, were buffeted and tossed in their boats by the waves because the wind was against it. Such is life. In the course of the journey of life, just when you think you are making considerable progress, that is when everything around you shuts down. You would come to a place where every situation around you will oppose you, throwing you hard and sharply in all directions with no hope whatsoever of a victorious escape.
You may currently be confronted with a situation which you may have done everything you could possibly do about it but, it prevails strongly in your face. It may even seem that anytime you try to tackle it, it becomes bigger and stronger. You may have been in this situation for so long that it seems like a lifetime; it has even become a lifestyle. It looks so hopeless that the only beckoning escape is doom. This is the period I call “The fourth watch of the night.”
The fourth watch of the night is about 3:00am in the morning and the disciples had been at sea for about nine hours already. At this point, they were exhausted from fighting the wind and the waves to stay alive just as you might be feeling exhausted and probably are giving up already but, that is when Jesus came to them. Some may ask, why did Jesus not come sooner or what if they had died? I don't know why He did not come sooner but one thing I can say for sure is that He knew they were not going to die and He came at the most appropriate time when they needed Him.
“The fourth watch of the night” is also when we are most frustrated, gullible and vulnerable. This is when we panic most and cry out desperately out of fear just like the disciples. It is at this point that the devil through people and several other means, sneaks dangerous alternatives into our lives. What if some of the disciples had said, “The way this boat is swaying, I could hit my head against its side or floor and die so I would jump overboard, that way, I will have only the waves to battle with”? Then, they would have missed Jesus' rescue and most certainly died. This may not sound logical but nothing sounds logical once you are in a state of panic and fear and that is what the devil takes advantage of. The paradox here is that, this is when we need to fight harder and stronger. In the parable of the ten virgins, we are told that when the bridegroom delayed in coming, they all slumbered and slept, yet, five of them were referred to as wise. Why? Because they braced themselves for the challenging times ahead so that at the point of frustration, they did not miss the bridegroom and the celebration. Don't yield to the deception of the enemy.
It is also during “the fourth watch of the night” that we may be likely to miss our rescue. At this point, if we are not careful, we may grow so pessimistic, negative, unbelieving, inferior and cynical that we might think nothing good can ever happen to us. This is when Satan can deceive us into thinking that there is no God, or God doesn't love us, or there is no escape for us, or we are the only people in the world who suffer this way while the world looks on. This is the kind of mindset and belief that could make you miss your breakthrough because just like the disciples, when your breakthrough comes to you in the form of Jesus gloriously walking on the very ocean which is overwhelming you, you would call Him a ghost. With this mindset, you would only believe that even if there is going to be a breakthrough, it is not going to be in such a glorious fashion.
Let me disappoint you by saying that during “the fourth watch of the night”, that is exactly how Jesus operates – He comes walking on the water in a glorious fashion to make a glorious rescue. Do you remember the scripture “…Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think…” in Ephesians 3:20? That is enough proof of how Jesus operates. Just when you begin to think, “There is no hope for me” or “I will settle with this or whatever outcome there may be”, that is when Jesus comes and makes a remarkable and a breathtaking rescue. He is more than a diver. He actually created the ocean and the wind so they obey Him and He can most certainly afford to walk on the ocean and through the storm that seems to be overwhelming you.
In Isaiah 54:16-17, God said, “See, it is I who created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work. And it is I who have created the destroyer to work havoc; no weapon forged against you will prevail…” In Job 38:8 and 11, the Lord said, “Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I said, 'This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt'”? You may be in your “fourth watch of the night” where the waves are buffeting your boat here and there. You might not know what to do now but I encourage you; do not give up the fight! Don't give up your faith! Hold on tighter because the creator and holder of the wind and ocean is coming to you walking on it in a grand and glorious fashion. He is faithful! He will not abandon you! He will pull you out and walk you to safety. He says to the proud waves, “Halt!” and they halt. He says to the ocean, “This far you may come and no farther!” and it obeys. Be of good cheer! Do not be afraid! Just trust Him and keep on trusting Him and you will experience His amazing and breathtaking rescue.