"Sailing Through The Storms"   (July 2010)

Our weather here has been so unpredictable this summer.  We never know what it might do.  Many mornings we will wake up to a bright sunshiny day but before it’s over the rain has set in.  Other days we might wake up to rain but then the sun will come out and stay out the rest of the day.  Then there are days when it looks like the rain could start any minute but it won’t rain a drop all day.  We have also experienced days when it would rotate between rain and sunshine off and on all day long.  Life is a lot like this weather has been.  You can be going through life experiencing sunshine- no problems, no cares, everything is well in your relationships, your health, your finances, etc.- then all of a sudden the “clear” day turns “stormy”.  And vice versa- you might be going through difficulties and all of a sudden the “sun” is shiny again and all is well.  There is a story in the New Testament that illustrates this fact well.  It is the story of the disciples who were in the boat when the storm came.

When you read the Bible, you are not just reading black and red words on white paper.  The stories, accounts, parables, the things that happened to its characters were all written for our example so that we can learn from them in order to grow in our relationship with the Lord and live the abundant life that Jesus came to give us.  The words of the Bible, its examples as well as its commands, are applicable for us today.  “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)  “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10b)  Let’s look at this story and see what lessons we can learn from it. 

“And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.  And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship.  And there were also with him other little ships.  And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.  And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?  And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.  And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?  And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:35-41)  Life is like a “boat ride”.  When we are born, we are traveling from one destination to another- from one shore to another; birth to death.  It’s in the in between- from the point where we are born to the arrival of our death- where “life happens”.  And as I said earlier, you never know what to expect from life- it is unpredictable.  Job summed it up this way, “Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble.” (Job 14:1)  Everything in this life is not always sunshine, roses and pink fluffy clouds.  The question is not whether storms will come to our lives, but rather what do we do when they come.  As we look at this story we will discover what to do when troubles come (when storms beat upon our lives and threaten to drown us), and what to do when all hope looks lost and it doesn’t look like we are going to make it. 

But before we get into the “what to do”, I want to point out something first.  Just because storms hit your life doesn’t necessarily mean that you are out of the will of God or that there is sin in your life.  When troubles come, many people start questioning and wondering “where they missed it?”.  They begin to second guess whether they truly heard from God on a matter and are being led by Him.  Storms are not always a sign that you are out of God’s will or that there is un-confessed sin in your life.  (Sometimes they are.)  But sometimes they are a sign that you are right in the middle of God’s will and the enemy is fighting you to stop you.  Was there ever a time when Jesus was out of the will of God?  Was there sin in His life?  Of course not, yet He went through “storms”.  He was in the one we are going to talk about.  “And he was in the hinder part of the ship.”

Back to “what to do”.  There were four things that I discovered from this story that have helped me to handle the storms that rage in my life from time to time.  I want to share them with you.

1)  Remember that you are not alone in the storm.  “And he was in the hinder part of the ship.”  Often it may seem as if you are going through the difficulty alone.  You may even wonder where the Lord is.  You might wonder if He even sees what you are going through.  It may feel like He is a million miles away on the other side of the universe.  He isn’t.  He is right there with you.  He has promised to never leave you nor forsake you.  (Hebrews 13:5)  If He leads you to do something, He will be with you through it.  He told the disciples to get into the boat and go to the other side.  “Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth.” (Luke 8:22- this story is also found in Luke 8)  He never tells you to do something then leaves you on your own.
2)  Don’t forget who it is that is with you in storm.  Jesus was in the boat- but He was not just another man or another one of the disciples, He was God Himself in the flesh.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God.  And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:12,14)  The Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent God was right beside them.  The very One who calls the stars by name and created the universe by the words of His mouth was in the storm with them.  “He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names.” (Psalm 147:4)  “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:3)  “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:  And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” (Colossians 1:16,17)  “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” (Hebrews 11:3)  It was not just an ordinary man who was with them, He possessed all authority in heaven and in earth.  “Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18- NIV)  Jesus had power and authority even over the raging storm.  "And he arose, and rebuked the wind, And the wind ceased." (v.39)

The disciples became fearful because they forgot who Jesus was.  “And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" (v. 41)  Don’t we do the same thing?  We may not have any trouble remembering that the Lord is with us in our storms, but sometimes we tend to forget that He is much more powerful than the storms- “Even the wind and the sea obey him.”  We act as if the storm is greater than God or too big for Him to handle.  We often let what we see or feel influence our faith in God.  This story amuses me a little, because the response of the disciples is so much like our responses.  They woke Jesus up to save them because they were fearful of drowning in the storm, but when Jesus rebuked the storm and the seas became calm (when He answered their prayer), they were astonished.  What did they expect?  He did just what they asked Him to do.  I wonder how they thought He was going to answer if it wasn’t by calming the storm?  But again, we do the same thing.  We go to God for help and when He answers we are surprised.  “He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6b)  The problem lies in forgetting that God is who He says He is, and nothing is too hard or difficult for Him.  It doesn’t matter how fierce the storm may be, it doesn’t matter how destructive it may appear, it doesn’t matter how rough it may get, it is not bigger, stronger or more powerful than God is... and this All-Powerful God is who is with you in it.  It is so important that you not only remember that He is with you but who He is because if you forget that, the storm will always convince you that not only is it more powerful but that it is going to destroy you.
Not only do you need to remember that the One who is with you in the storm has all authority and power over the storms and that they obey His voice (Luke 8:25), but you also need to remember that He loves you.  The disciples accused Jesus of not caring about them.  "They awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?" (v. 38)  How many times have you been in a situation and felt like God didn’t care about you?  How many times have you wondered that if He really loved you He would not allow this or that to happen?  How many times have you felt like He was “asleep” during your time of trial or testing- unconcerned and unaware of what you were going through?  Jesus did care about them.  He never intended for them to drown in the sea and that was not going to happen.  The presence of storms in our lives is not an indication that God doesn’t love us.  He loves us with an everlasting love- a love that will never die.  “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” (Jeremiah 31:3)  Nothing can separate us from His love.  “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35,38,39)  Never let your situation convince you that He doesn't love you or care about you.  And if you do, if you ever wonder whether He really loves you, if the problems in life try to shroud His love from view, if the enemy tries to lie to you and make you think that He doesn’t care, then take a look at the cross.  “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.  No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” (John 10:17,18)  “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:16)  You will never see a greater expression, or demonstration, of love than you saw at the cross.  Jesus came to die.  He came to lay down His life for you.  Why?  Because He loved you!!!  The cross was all about the love of God reaching down to mankind.  “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

3)  The next thing we learn from the story is:  Don’t hesitate to ask the Lord for help.  "They were filled with water, and were in jeopardy.  And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish." (Luke 8:23,24a)  How many times do we try to solve our own problems before we go to God and ask for His help.  We tend to put Him at the bottom of the list of resources.  We usually wait and go to Him only after we have exhausted everything else that we thought might work.  

Why do we hesitate to ask God for help?  Perhaps one of the reasons is pride.  These guys were experienced fishermen- they knew the sea, they had been on it all their lives, they made a living from it.  Now a storm arises and they can’t “handle it”.  They not only couldn’t keep the boat afloat but they were fearful.  If we aren’t careful pride will hinder us from getting the help that we need from God.  We think we can handle it by ourselves.  We think we have everything under control.  We think that we have enough experience, education, money, clout, we’ve been a Christian long enough to know what we are doing, etc. to get ourselves out of the problem.  None of those things are our answer.  We need His help. 
Sometimes people hesitate to ask God for help because they feel that they are “bothering” Him.  Maybe the disciples felt this way, after all, Jesus was asleep, He had had a hard day preaching and needed the rest.  Besides who wants to be woke up when they are tired.  (I know, I am taking a little license here because the Bible doesn’t actually say that, but I know how us “humans” are and there is a very good possibility that they just didn’t want to “bother” Him with their problem.)  They may not have wanted to bother Him for several reasons.  It could be that they just didn’t want to wake Him from His rest.  Or they didn’t want to bother Him because He would see that they were afraid- I guess that one comes under the heading of pride.  At any rate, we tend to not want to “bother” God sometimes so we won’t ask Him for help when we need it.  Never think that you are going to "bother" Him with your problems.  Never think that what you are going through is too big or too small to bother God with.  Never think that He is too busy to hear you or come to your aid.  Never think that He gets tired of helping you.  He is always waiting and ready to help His children when they call on Him.  “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” (Jeremiah 33:3)  He even gives us invitations in His word that tell us to come to Him.  “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)  He tells us over and over again in His word to ask for what we need.  And He tells us what the result of not asking is also.  “Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24b)  “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:13)  “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (Matthew 7:7)  “Ye have not, because ye ask not.” (James 4:2b)

When Peter was walking on water to Jesus, he got his eyes off of Jesus and onto the waves of the sea around him.  He began to sink.  In the moment he felt that he was going to drown, he called out to Jesus for help.  What did Jesus do?  Did He ignore Peter?  Did He keep on walking away from Peter?  Did He tell Peter not to bother Him or that He was too busy to help?  What Jesus did was reached down the moment that Peter cried out to Him for help and helped him.  Again, you are not going to bother Him by asking for help.  If you hesitate though, it might be too late.  If Peter had not asked for help he may have drowned.  “And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.  And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.  But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.  And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:28-31)  My husband has often made a statement in reference to our daughter.  There would be times when she would need help with something and he would say, “She never bothers me if she comes to me for help, but what would bother me is if she needed help and did not come.”  (I have a pretty good idea that this is the same way our Heavenly Father feels about us.)  We don’t bother Him in the least when we bring our problems and cares to Him or when we need His help.  But I am sure it saddens and grieves Him when we need His help and won’t come.  “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

4)  Put your trust and faith in the Lord.  "Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?" (v.40)  It's one thing to acknowledge His presence and remember just who He is when you are in the storm, but it has to go one step further.  You must put your faith in Him-- in the fact that He will do what He says He will do.  “Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth.” (Luke 8:22)  Jesus told them when they got into the boat that they were going to the other side.  He never said anything about drowning.  Jesus was going to the other side of the lake in obedience to God’s will- He had a purpose to fulfill.  He had a divine appointment in Gadara awaiting Him.  The enemy sent a storm to try to stop Jesus, but to no avail.  The enemy may fight you.  He may try to stop you from fulfilling God’s will in your life.  The situation you find yourself in may look impossible.  All hell may come against you.  Trials may arise.  But if God says something, regardless of what comes your way, His word will always prevail.  If He said they were going to the other side, ten storms could have come up on the lake but they would have passed through all ten and reached the other side.  God’s word is more powerful than the storms that try to destroy you.  It is greater than the enemy who tries to stop you.  Heaven and earth will pass away but His word will always remain.  “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.” (Mark 13:31)  This is the same word that spoke the worlds into existence and holds them in place.  “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” (Hebrews 11:3)  It is the same word that brought forth everything from nothing.  “And God said.” (Genesis 1)  God’s word does not return to Him void or empty.  “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:  So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10,11)  He isn’t like us, He doesn’t say something just to hear Himself talking.  When He says something, He means what He says.  What He says is always the truth.  And unlike us, He keeps His word.  “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19)  “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;).” (Hebrews 10:23)  Jesus accused the disciples of having no faith.  Why?  Because they didn’t believe His words.  If we are going to make it through the storms of life, we are going to have to put our faith in God’s word and believe what He says.

If we will remember and put into practice these four things that we learn from this story, we too will safely arrive at our intended destination- regardless of the storms.  “And they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, which is over against Galilee.” (Luke 8:26)  “And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes.” (Mark 5:1)