Summary: When the worst comes our way it is the voice of God that brings calm.
Carmelo and Teresa Sarabia were watching television on a rainy Monday night three years ago in their Laguna Canyon, California apartment. Their nine-month old baby, Tiffany, was asleep in her crib in the next room. Teresa’s first clue that something was wrong was when the television screen flickered, then, went black. The power was out.
"I heard an explosion like the mountain was moving," she later told the Los Angeles Times, "and I took the baby from the crib." Holding her husband’s hand, Teresa clutched the baby close to her body, bracing herself. Within seconds, a river of mud smashed through the apartment wall.
Teresa tried to shield her baby, positioning herself so the mud and debris would hit her instead of the child. Carmelo, in turn, tried to shield his wife and child. Strong as he was, determined as Teresa was, they were swept down the hill by the force of the current. Tiffany was tom from her mother’s arms.
"My mouth was full of mud, and I was cleaning it out so I could yell for help for my baby," Teresa said. "But I couldn’t scream." When they finally came to rest, she and Carmelo lay a few feet from one another, unable to move. Teresa could hear Tiffany crying in the distance, but she couldn’t see her. She began to call for help. Moments later, the baby’s cries were replaced by something far more terrifying. Silence.
What’s the worst that can happen? Everyone will have a different answer to that question. And your answer will largely depend on what you are most afraid of.
Dallas Willard says, "Fear is the anticipation of harm." The death of a loved one. Your own. The loss of a child. Never having one. Being alone. Losing your job. Terrorism. War. Crime. Everybody has a worst case scenario for their lives. Today I want you take it out and look at it.
Take out your Bible, too. I want you to look at Isaiah 43:1 - 3. In chapter 42, Isaiah describes the worst of all worst case scenarios. God has poured out his wrath on Israel.
Answer the question any way you want, the worst thing in all eternity is to face the wrath of God. So says Isaiah 42. Chapter 43 tells us how we can survive even that. We’ll hear our passage, then we’ll pray.
What use is faith when the worst happens? Near the end of Isaiah 42 there is a question; "Which of you will listen to this or pay close attention in time to come?"
Perhaps the most important thing faith can do for us in the middle of a crisis is to teach us to listen. The verses we just heard tell us what to listen for. Specifically, they tell us to listen for six words from God whenever we are overwhelmed by a worst case scenario.
The first two words to listen for are the first two words in Isaiah 43; "But now." With God there is always a "But now .... " The worst has happened. But now God wants to do a new thing in your life. The thing you feared most has overtaken you. But now God gives you a new perspective and a new promise.
Your worst case scenario has become a reality. But now God reveals his providential hand. When the worst happens, faith always hears, "But now .... "
In Matthew 8 a man has contracted leprosy. His facial features are slowly rotting away. His hands and feet end, not with fingers and toes, but useless stubs. The nerve receptors in his skin have died, so wounds he doesn’t even know he has fester and ooze with infection. His community has expelled him. His religion has condemned him. For their own sakes, his family has said goodbye.
But now he meets he meets Jesus. And with two words, Jesus changes everything. For the leper, God’s "But now," is "Be clean."
In Mark 4 the disciples cast off from the pier and begin to row across the familiar Galilean waters. At least four of them have spent almost as much time trolling these waters as they have traveling the shore lines. They are as familiar with the tides and currents of the sea as they are the streets and alleys of their home towns. And besides, Jesus is asleep in the stem. What could go wrong?
Sailors say two things about storms at sea; no two are ever alike, and respect the sea or it will kill you. The puffy clouds that billowed on the horizon have turned black and angry. The calm sea has begun to churn. The wind now lashed their faces with salt and spray. Then the storm descends with a vengeance. Never have they seen anything like it. No sooner than their little boat crashes over one wave, it begins straining to climb the next. They are ankle deep in sea water and taking on more than they can bail. In minutes -- perhaps seconds -- they will capsize and sink. Their worst fears have become a reality. So they cry out to Jesus.