I have been blogging about God’s purposes for storms. Unfortunately, many falsely believe any storm we find ourselves in is a result of some sort of sin. This is an Old Testament belief which has found its way into people’s theology today. Yes, bad choices produce a multitude of problems and storms. No doubt. But not all problems in life are related to sin.
When we find ourselves swamped by a storm, the first question we need to ask is… “How did I get here? What did I do?” Let me quote again the text I posted yesterday.
22 Now on one of those days Jesus and His disciples got into a boat, and He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they launched out. 23 But as they were sailing along He fell asleep; and a fierce gale of wind descended on the lake, and they began to be swamped and to be in danger. 24 They came to Jesus and woke Him up, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And He got up and rebuked the wind and the surging waves, and they stopped, and it became calm.25 And He said to them, “Where is your faith?” Luke 8:22-25
Why did the disciples get into that boat and sail across the sea? This is very important. There is an answer. What great wrong or sin did they commit? They were simply following and obeying Jesus. My mother would say, “If so-in-so jumped off a bridge, would you?” My smart answer would always be…”Yes!” The truth is following Jesus’ instruction took them directly into the eye of the storm.
Here is the point…When we are in a storm, we may wrongly conclude we are out of God’s will. Some process God’s will like this…. “With Jesus in the boat there will not be storms, there will be no unmanageable waves and no fear.” This is simply not true! If you have lived very long as a believer, you know based on your own experience Jesus likes to captain sinking ships. I have said before that Jesus hardly ever got into a boat that didn’t sink at some point. Let me give you some advice… don’t get into boats with Jesus unless you are ready for a test. Jesus keeps a drill in His back pocket.
Fear became more an issue for the disciples because they did not trust or remember Jesus’ original word. If they had just thought for a moment, they would have remembered that He had said just a few hours earlier, “Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.” Luke 8:23 He didn’t say, “Let us go to the middle of the lake and be drowned.”
When you are in the ministry, this type of occurrence happens all the time. I call them “marks in time” or “dates with destiny.” It is when what you have been taught is tested in real life. Even though the disciples had no way of knowing it… this storm was a divinely appointed vehicle to teach them about God and His power in their lives. Suddenly that little word about “crossing to the other side of the lake” became a very big word. When you are facing death any word you have is big. Amen, if you have been there!
Without difficulties, without trials, without stresses, and even failures, we would never grow to be what the Lord wants us to become. Without adversity, we would be insufferably self-centered, proud, one-dimensional, and empty people. Faith must be tested before it can be trusted. (These are all preacher quotes, which happen to be true!)
To make matters worse, Jesus is fast asleep. What a picture. Mark’s account tells us Jesus found Himself a pillow to capture a little shut-eye. Bottom-line, the disciples interpret Jesus’ napping as Him being apathetic to their plight. When we are in a storm, we may wrongly conclude God doesn’t give-a-rip about our situation.
Learn this lesson… worry doesn’t activate God into action. If fact worrying, fretting, and complaining deactivates heaven. It shuts it up tight! It is even worse if you put your worries into prayer form. I have seen and heard a lot of prayer which was nothing more than a gripe session. If worried prayers moved God, then all the world’s problems would have been solved long ago. It doesn’t. Faith pleases Him.
Gordon Lightfoot offers a great theological summary on this point in his song The Ballad of the Edmund Fitzgerald, “Does anyone know where the love of God goes, when the waves turn the minutes into hours.” I have turned a few minutes into days worrying and wondering why God wasn’t responding. If you want to put heaven on stand-by, commence worrying, fretting, and complaining. Time will stand still!
Here is the big question… Was Jesus being detached, unconcerned, apathetic, or unavailable? Did He care? It is tough hearing God snore when you are panicking on the other end of a sinking ship. Have you ever been there? Yet how will God ever get us to act upon faith if He quickly takes charge, calms our fears, and moves presumptuously?
God has never promised our lives would be empty of pain, disappointment, or storms. Anyone who tells you otherwise is not teaching the truth of the Bible. What God does promise are the resources we need to journey through the raging waters. In fact, Jesus was right there with them in the ship, facing the same storm.
Listen up…there is a “WORD” in that storm you are going through or will go through! There is always a word. We may have forgotten it, not paid attention or lost it… But rest assured, the word was spoken before you reach your date with destiny.
Faith is commonly spoken of as “taking a leap.” The disciples didn’t need to take a leap of faith… they had a word. Jesus said they were “going to the other side.” So, if Jesus spoke it… then it was going to happen. No need here to react in fear, unless the word was forgotten or you simply didn’t trust the One who spoke it.
Soaked and no doubt shivering, terrified to the core, the men had strained to keep the boat headed into the wind. I can hear the Gilligan’s Island theme song playing the background. They just knew the next wave would take them to the bottom. In a near state of panic the disciples approached the sleeping Jesus in the stern of the boat, shouting to be heard above the wind.
As to what they said, their words differ slightly from one gospel account to another. Matthew records that the disciples cried out, “Lord, save us we are perishing” (8:25) which seems to be a cry for help.
In our text from Luke they are recorded as having said, “Master, Master, we are perishing,” (v. 24) seems to be a statement of eminent doom.
In Mark the disciples are recorded as having questioned, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” (4:38), which seems to be a rebuke of Jesus’ lack of action. I believe all of those things were said and probably more. Each writer may have quoted exactly what he heard from some disciple on board that day. I am sure they said more than what was recorded. I have accused the Lord of not caring.
Faith was paralyzed by fear. Fear is like an anchor; it stops us dead in the water. This is why Gordon Lightfoot said, “the minutes turned into hours.” They were afraid all of them would die, including Jesus. There were all wrong of course, but so are we when we panic during difficult times. In reality, their problem was not the storm around them, but the unbelief within them. Their fear or lack of faith made too much of the problem and too little of God’s provision. Fear does this… it maximizes the problem and minimizes God’s provision and presence.
In the South, we know a lot about possums. I have always heard that possums were smart animals. You wouldn’t think so because you hardly ever see one except when it’s dead by the road. There’s an old joke which goes, “Why did the chicken cross the road? To prove to the possum that it could be done!”
But possums, it turns out, are smart. They won’t enter a hole if there’s just one set of tracks going into it. They know there’s something in there. But if there are two sets of tracks…one going in and one coming out… the possum will enter and not be afraid.
The question is.. “Can we be just as smart as possums?” If Jesus’ tracks go into the boat, we can rest assured we will be alright, because His tracks are not coming out. If He does come out, we can come out as well. If Jesus leads you to it, He will lead you through and out of it. We need to get a grip on the Lord’s process.