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Will we build a boat in the desert?

Dr. RB McFee

The other day I saw a photo of a modern and multilane highway leading into Dubai – a city recognized for amazing examples of dramatic architecture, including the tallest building in the world standing over half a mile into the air – and most of the road was covered with sand.

While much of New England has been facing floods, and I’ve been toying with the idea of building an ark, for some reason the image of sand covered roads was a bit soothing. Go figure!

That said, having experienced a sandstorm in Dubai, except for the occasional violent ones that can occur, most are visual reminders of God’s wind blowing towards us. And so I guess it really can be soothing – no different than a summer breeze reminds us everything is alright because the One Who makes the wind is as close as the wind itself.

From there thoughts went to Noah and a song I heard on K Love – a radio station (FM 95.5) that plays contemporary Christian music. Consider some of the lyrics….

“I will build a boat in the sand where they say it never rains

I will stand up in faith, I’ll do anything it takes.

With Your wind in my sails, Your love never fails or fades

I’ll build a boat in the desert place”

From Build a Boat by Colton Dixon ©Universal Music Publishing Ab

When I first heard the song, I thought how quirky – build a boat in a desert. Who does that except a wishful thinker, or someone with an 18 wheeler to transport it, or that desert abuts the Mediterranean, the Red Sea or Sea of Galilee.

Then I realized it was anybody who God has asked to do an unlikely project, embark on a seemingly impossible mission, or take up an assignment that on first blush seems so completely out of reality’s grasp, like building a boat in the desert that cannot possibly be launched, let alone moved, unless a flood of epic proportion were to intervene.

Has God ever placed in your heart a task that reflexively you asked Him “Are You joking? God You can’t be serious?”

Think about Noah, who in fact did build a boat in the desert. Although the Bible doesn’t likely recount the entire private interchange between God and Noah, I can imagine even a person known to be beloved by the Almighty, who walked closely with His Creator, would have asked God “you want me to build what?” Historically, notke it had ever been attempted.

Thankfully Noah wasn’t a fearful guy, and didn’t blurt out “but what will the neighbors think?” Yet I wonder, how often do we take into consideration what others would think of our endeavors, and let that influence our enthusiasm for starting the assignment God gives us?

Whose opinion really matters?

And yes it takes courage, determination, and staying power to hang in there with God on tasks that others might scoff at. The scriptures tell us Noah had to endure the jeers and taunts of villagers and neighbors for a lot of years. How many still remains a subject of scholarly debate.

How long?

Though this will be the title of an upcoming blog article, as for the story of Noah’s Ark, how long did it take to build?

There are some Jewish scholars who suggest less than 10 years, while other Biblical scholars have interpreted the statements in Genesis 6 and Genesis 7 to suggest anywhere between 80 and 100 plus years to build.

We can surmise with the construction methods of Noah’s era, and the number of people he had on the payroll, it is unlikely to be built in a few years.

Or the boat could have been built in much less than 80 years, with the remaining time used to stock the boat with animals, and then wait, and wait and wait, all the while feeding the menagerie of creatures and enduring the insults of those who were about to die and refused to repent.

And yet Noah obeyed. And we are blessed for it. Of course he could have left the mosquitoes behind, but that’s for another discussion.

Have you ever been inspired or instructed by that still small Voice of the Lord. The One that plants a seed one time, gives you an image of something similar another time, leads you to a group that could benefit from the idea, or a book or news article conveys a similar idea, and you eventually look up and say to the Almighty “ok I get it, you got my attention!”

Building an ark in the desert – obeying God and choosing to do what He has asked of you and me requires perseverance, courage, a willingness to endure. But first we have to say yes.

Take a moment, step back in time, and imagine building a boat in the desert, or some other similar and seemingly impractical endeavor – building a car while living in a swamp, or well you get the idea. Even a devoted Christian, attuned to the voice of the Holy Spirit and God’s mission for us would have to step back and wonder….what is God up to?

If God gives you an inspiration, I can guarantee there is a purpose, you will bless others, you will be blessed, and definitely there will be challenges. There will be pushback. There will be naysayers. There will be heartache. And there most assuredly will be joy, a sense of accomplishment, an authentic enthusiasm (Greek for God with us), and an emerging determination that both the journey and eventual outcome are worth doing, and matter.

And best of all, you will experience God along the way. He will show up when you most need and least expect His help. You will know His Presence.

“My Grace is sufficient for you, for My Power is made perfect in weakness.”

2 Corinthians 12:9

If we truly are Christ’s followers, and believe the Power of the Holy Spirit can enable us to serve our Savior, then invite God to inspire you to build some form of boat in a desert – a wasteland that only He can reclaim; ask God to make you His Noah.

As I review some of the boats in the desert the Lord led me to build – none of which took 100 years to accomplish thankfully – I recall some important truths. All took time and effort, plus thick skin, prayer, and staying focused on the mission. And without question, when I needed help, He provided it. God showed Himself, often from unexpected places – sources that could only have happened with His intervention.

Consider this ‘build a boat in the desert’ moments…. Starting a free clinic for abused and run-a-way teens out of whole cloth as a junior resident with a handful of awesome first year medical students; well putting it bluntly….doing this at a university medical school, it is about as boat in the desert as it gets in the world of medicine. We had no money, no political power. We were as low on the food chain as it gets.

Like Noah to marine architecture, what did we know about starting a clinic beyond my experience volunteering at a local church medical outreach program?

But then what did Noah – a preacher, farmer, and likely farm tool wood worker – know about building a boat? He lived surrounded by sand! Unless it was Dubai and he was a sand surfer, the answer is probably “nada.”

And that’s where God’s Light shines brightest through us – when a farmer builds a boat of epic proportions, when students start a clinic, when a nun inspires the world from one of the poorest and little visited places on earth (Mother Theresa), when you and I take a leap of faith just on His say-so, as the world watches, knowing in the natural there is little chance we can beat the odds, but knowing that our God can float a boat in the desert, turn a project started by 7 into a movement powered by over 100, the One Who creates and calms storms, and is greater than any challenge we face is by our side.

“I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me”

Philippians 4:13

Truly when we live this scripture we witness for our God while we help others in the process; God does His best work when we face the giant, the storm, the seemingly impossible task because He asked us to.

Will we always succeed as we envision? Probably not. It isn’t our expectations that matter, but God’s.

Consider after Jesus fed the 5,000 He sent the Disciples out on a boat at dusk, and said they should meet up on the other side (Matthew 14).

What do you think was the expected outcome in the Disciples’ minds? Was it the act of obedience – boating at night was highly unusual, but they did it? Was it merely getting to the other side? Was it the journey – a bonding experience? Was it mastering storm sailing?

We’ll talk about their “boat in the desert” moment in another blog (cliff hanger….). Point is, God’s objective may not match our expectation.

God does that with us, too. We think He wants us to accomplish X, when in reality there is an entirely unexpected outcome Y that He allows us to experience.

My students and I thought we were building a clinic. God let us build a movement that inspired folks from San Diego to Istanbul. We did not see this coming!

I actually am sad for people of faith who have not asked God if they can build a boat in the desert for Him, or who avoid it, preferring the sidelines, thinking perhaps they are alone.

Yet if God gives it, God is with it! Plus, part of being in faith community - you are never alone. Someone will help and encourage, you.

Noah wasn’t a mariner. Yet God led him to build one of the most famous boats in all of history. So famous in fact that world renowned marine archeologist Dr. Robert Ballard spent considerable time studying and searching for the ark and geological evidence of a flood.


Has God ever asked you to do something, and you start thinking of all the challenges, obstacles, difficulties, resources and time it would take to do it? As if the Almighty didn’t know these tidbits of information before He asked you, or placed it on your heart?

In essence are we second guessing ourselves, or God? When we ask Him did you back the wrong horse, are we in fact saying God goofed?

When we say yes to our Heavenly Father, to put us in situations that there is no way we can succeed without His intervention we are witnessing to a world on the sidelines about the power of faith, the Power of God.

What can we do with our present lives for God to build a boat in the desert? Situations where He invites us to use the gifts the Holy Spirit gave us?

And it doesn’t have to be a big boat. Great endeavors start by helping one person. Mother Theresa was asked to bring love to the unloved. Calcutta was a desert full of human suffering and God asked her to build a rescue boat. It took her a lifetime, and started with caring for folks one at a time; then her mission became a movement.

Sometimes the most vibrant boats in the desert are small ones setting sail to the home of a shut in, or as a place of rest for the weary, or a platform for something done from a place of love.

The question remains….Will we build a boat in the desert?


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