Get to the Back of the Boat with Jesus

by Edrin Williams at Creating Options Together™ 2016 — 25 January 2017

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If you’re involved in the work of the Gospel justice, if you are serving in ministry, there’s something that is critically important to figure out early. This is not a sprint. It is a marathon. And endurance is a critical part of this work.

We need to know what it means to take care of ourselves. I want to talk about you finding rest in the storm.

The Violence of Busyness

We need the Gospel because we know there is something wrong in our world. Cornelius Plantinga, the great thinker from Calvin College, says, “It is accurate for us to say that this world is not the way it’s supposed to be. Something is broken, and it’s wreaking havoc on humanity and on creation all around us.”

In his book Rest in the StormDr. Kirk Byron Jones points us first to all of the things that are broken in the world, but also to something else that’s broken. He points us to what he calls a violence we do not normally talk about—that is the violence we do to ourselves when we do not take seriously this need for self-care and rest in ministry.

He quotes Thomas Merton: “There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful” when we are not rested and cared for.

Jesus Rested. You Should Rest.

So what does Dr. Jones suggest, and what am I suggesting? He says very simply that we need to get to the back of the boat. He points us to Mark 4:35:

“On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” Mark 4:35-39

Usually when pastors preach that text, we go straight to the part where Jesus wakes up and speaks to the storm. But I think one part that is important to realize is that Jesus, after a long day of ministry, got onto the boat with His disciples and He went to the back of the boat and He went to sleep.

We always quote that “Jesus wept.” But Jesus also slept.

My hope for you is that you would find a way to get to the back of the boat.

How to Get to the Back of the Boat

Getting to the back of the boat is slowing down. It is breaking from this activism of life—this constant perpetual activism and this rigor of ministry. It’s finding a time to be centered, to be steady, to process. Getting to the back of the boat is pursuing margin, breathing room. It’s allowing ourselves to enter back into the work of the Gospel refreshed.

Here are four suggestions of what that could look like:

  1. Acknowledge and accept that you need to get to the back of the boat. Push aside the addiction to adrenaline, affirmation and achievement and say, “It’s important for me to find time for rest and self-care.”
  2. Learn to say “no.” (This is the hardest one on the list.)

    One more time: “No.”

    That word, in the Greek, means “no.”

    As pastors, as leaders, as servants, give yourself permission to say no.
  3. Unplug and slow down. With the 24-hour news cycle and the craziness that is social media, we can sometimes feel there is never a dull moment. There’s always another hashtag. If we’re not careful, we will suffocate under the weight of it.

    Sometimes we need to learn to relieve ourselves of the pressure to jump into the melee. Sometimes you just have to let your family members be crazy and sound dumb. You don’t have to correct them. Unplug and slow down.
  4. This is the holiest of all of these: Get some sleep. Perhaps the most holy thing you can do sometimes is take a nap.

My desire is that you would be refreshed and able to run this long race that we’re in together. My hope, brothers and sisters, is that you would find rest in the storm.

Edrin Williams has been the Pastor of Equipping and Formation at The Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis, MN since 2013. He holds a Masters of Divinity in Preaching and Communication from Bethel Theological Seminary.

Edrin is married to the woman of his dreams, Shanequa, and the two have a 5-year-old daughter. Follow him at

This article was based on a talk given at the Creating Options Together Conference in August 2016. You can listen to his whole message here and enjoy further media content from the Creating Options Together Conference here.

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