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Christ watches over us (Holland)


One last piece of counsel regarding coming to Christ. It comes from an unusual incident in the life of the Savior that holds a lesson for us all. It was after Jesus had performed the miracle of feeding the five thousand from five loaves of bread and two fishes. (By the way, let me pause here to say, Don't worry about Christ running out of ability to help you. His grace is sufficient. That is the spiritual, eternal lesson of the feeding of the five thousand.) After Jesus had fed the multitude, he sent them away and put his disciples into a fishing boat to cross over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. He then "went up into a mountain apart to pray" (Matthew 14:23).

We aren't told all of the circumstances of the disciples as they set out in their boat, but it was toward evening, and certainly it was a night of storm. The winds must have been ferocious from the start. Because of the winds, these men probably never even raised the sails but labored only with the oars—and labor it would have been. We know this because by the time of "the fourth watch of the night" (Matthew 14:25)—that is somewhere between three and six in the morning—they had gone only a few miles. By then the ship was caught up in a truly violent storm, a storm like those that can still sweep down on the Sea of Galilee to this day.

But, as always, Christ was watching over them. He always does, remember? Seeing their difficulty, the Savior simply took the most direct approach to their boat, striding out across the waves to help them, walking on the water as surely as he had walked upon the land. In their moment of great extremity, the disciples looked and saw in the darkness this wonder in a fluttering robe coming toward them on the ridges of the sea. They cried out in terror at the sight, thinking that it was a phantom upon the waves. Then, through the storm and darkness—when the ocean seems so great and little boats seem so small—there came the ultimate and reassuring voice of peace from their Master. "It is I," he said, "be not afraid" (verse 27).

This scriptural account reminds us that the first step in coming to Christ—or his coming to us—may fill us with something very much like sheer terror. It shouldn't, but it sometimes does. One of the grand ironies of the gospel is that the very source of help and safety being offered us is the thing from which we may, in our mortal shortsightedness, flee. For whatever the reason, I have seen investigators run from baptism, I have seen elders run from a mission call, I have seen sweethearts run from marriage, and I have seen young couples run from the fear of families and the future. Too often too many of us run from the very things that will bless us and save us and soothe us. Too often we see gospel commitments and commandments as something to be feared and forsaken.

Let me quote the marvelous James E. Talmage on this matter:

Into every adult human life come experiences like unto the battling of the storm-tossed voyagers with contrary winds and threatening seas; ofttimes the night of struggle and danger is far advanced before succor appears; and then, too frequently the saving aid is mistaken for a greater terror. [But,] as came unto[these disciples] in the midst of the turbulent waters, so comes to all who toil in faith, the voice of the Deliverer—"It is I; be not afraid." [Jesus the Christ, 3d ed. (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1916), p. 337]

Brother Talmage used there the word succor. Do you know its meaning? It is used often in the scriptures to describe Christ's care for and attention to us. It means literally "to run to." What a magnificent way to describe the Savior's urgent effort in our behalf. Even as he calls us to come to him and follow him, he is unfailingly running to help us.

Finally recognizing the Master that night, Peter exclaimed, "Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water."

And Christ's answer to him was as it always is, to all of us: "Come," he said.

Instantly, as was his nature, Peter sprang over the vessel's side and into the troubled waves. While his eyes were fixed upon the Lord the wind could toss his hair and the spray could drench his robes, but all was well—he was coming to Christ. Only when his faith and his focus wavered, only when he removed his glance from the Master to see the furious waves and the black gulf beneath him, only then did he begin to sink. In fear he cried out, "Lord, save me" (Matthew 14:28–30).

In some disappointment the "Master of ocean and earth and skies" (see "Master, the Tempest Is Raging," Hymns, 1985, no. 105) stretched out his hand and grasped the drowning disciple with the gentle rebuke "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" (Matthew 14:31). (See also Frederic W. Farrar, The Life of Christ[Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1994], pp. 310–13.)

Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. This is his true and living Church. He wishes us to come unto him, to follow him, to be comforted by him. Then he wishes us to give comfort to others. However halting our steps are toward him—though they shouldn't be halting at all—his steps are never halting toward us. May we have enough faith to accept the goodness of God and the mercy of his Only Begotten Son. May we come unto him and his gospel and be healed. And may we do more to heal others in the process. When the storms of life make this difficult, may we still follow his bidding to "come," keeping our eye fixed on him forever and single to his glory. In doing so we too will walk triumphantly over the swelling waves of life's difficulties and remain unterrified amid any rising winds of despair.

I pray we will hear this very night that sweet utterance from the Savior of the world: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden. . . . And ye shall find rest unto your souls" (Matthew 11:28–29). "Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid" (Matthew 14:27). I pray this for you and for those you can help, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Fireside at BYU, March 1997

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