Turn with me, if you would, to Mark 4:35-41 (pg. 734).
And the same day, when the evening was come, he said 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, care 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?
No doubt, you and I both have been alarmed as we’ve followed the news about everything that’s going on in New Orleans this week. Most reports, if you didn’t know any better, sound as if they are coming from a third world country somewhere. The destruction left by Hurricane Katrina was immense. Sometimes it seems as though it would be easier to just evacuate everyone out and leave the city to the marshes that it was born out of. Just being able to drain the water will be a chore, much less trying to rebuild the infrastructure. Utter devastation has occurred in New Orleans.
But probably the flooding and wind damage done by the storm is the least of the city’s issues. The part that is so alarming, at least to me, is the survival mode that seems to have taken over. The massive amount of looting has left individuals who still have some personal possessions ready to kill in order to keep them. The lack of food for so long has made it nearly impossible in some areas to aptly supply the need because of the colossal crowds that rush the helicopters bearing the provisions. The higher priority of trying to keep as many people alive as possible has meant that taking care of the corpses of those recently lost has become a much smaller issue. The inability to really be able to maintain order has driven police officers to hand in their badges, or to even become looters themselves. This has made it easy for gangs to take control of parts of the city, for snipers to take free shots at rescue workers, and for criminals to roam the streets raping helpless women and girls. As a result warnings are being issued to lawbreakers that there are hundreds of soldiers hardened in Iraq who have landed in New Orleans and are armed and ready to kill.
It’s a picture of utter chaos. And to be honest with you, it’s pretty scary. For many of these people this has been the worst week of their lives. They live in constant fear. They live in complete desperation. Dignity has lost its importance. In many cases concern for their fellow man has been tossed to the wind. It’s become every man for himself. And perhaps, for many of those people who are caught between their fear and their immense need, tomorrow has become a great big question mark. Maybe some of them wonder if tomorrow will be their day to be evacuated. Maybe they wonder if tomorrow they’ll actually have some food. Maybe they wonder if they’ll even make it till tomorrow. Tomorrow’s a question mark.
Well, in our text this morning we find some men in a similar situation. No, they weren’t having to deal with snipers or rapists or gangs or looters. They may not have been in the same boat as our fellow citizens are in right now. However, like those in New Orleans, their boat was definitely not just rocked by endless amounts of water; but it was also rocked by fear, chaos, and desperation. And as our nation faces this storm I think we can learn some lessons from this very familiar Bible story. And it is my prayer that these lessons will encourage us, not just during this time of uncertainty, but in every situation or our own personal lives when tomorrow is a question mark.
I. He Is Present In The Storm
The first thing that I want to point out to you from this story is the fact that Jesus is present in the storm. You know, in times like these in our nation we often wonder where God is. I remember when 9/11 struck, four years ago next Sunday, people couldn’t help but ask if God was real, and if He was real, how could He have let this happen. Following the news this week I think it could be easy for us to wonder the same thing. Where is God when a hurricane takes the lives and homes of so many people? Where is God when all of this chaos is taking over? Where is God when our nation is experiencing something so awful again? People begin to wonder where God is.
All of us go through our own storms as well. Bad news from the doctor. A pink slip handed to us at work. An overwhelming amount of unexpected bills. The loss of a loved one. Times when it seems like our life is turned upside down. Times when it feels like we’re all alone. And when those times come and things are not going the way that we would like it’s easy for us to look around wondering if God is anywhere near. When we are going through a storm we find ourselves asking, “Where is God in all of this?” We are tempted to think that maybe God is too busy helping someone else; or maybe He just has had enough of us always begging for help so He’s decided He’s going to let us go at it alone; or maybe He just doesn’t care; or maybe we wonder if He even exists. We wonder where God is.
The disciples wondered about Jesus too. They had had a very long day. The multitudes had thronged to hear Jesus speak and to watch Him work. He had been working hard teaching the people and then working even harder helping His disciples understand what He was saying. It seems as though it has been a long and tiresome day, especially for Jesus. Because we see Him falling asleep seemingly very early after their departure.
And the disciples found Him sleeping in the back of the boat during the middle of this huge storm. And it bothered them. They woke Jesus up and said, “Master, don’t you care that we are perishing? Here we are in the process of drowning and you’re just sleeping back there. Don’t you care? Aren’t you going to help us out here? We’re scared to death, Jesus. Where are you in all of this?”
If they would have only realized that they didn’t have anything to fear. If they would have only realized that they could experience the peace of knowing everything was going to be OK simply because of the fact that Jesus was in the boat. Notice, just because Jesus was in the boat didn’t mean that storms would not come. Storms are a part of life. And they are impartial. They are part of the lives of Christians just as much as they are part of the lives of non-Christians. The Bible tells us that the rain falls on the just and the unjust. But many people think that if you’re a Christian it means that your life should be peachy and there will be no problems. Many preachers preach that way. But Scripture teaches us otherwise.
Look at the life of Joseph. He was very pleasing in the sight of God, but he was sold into slavery by his own brothers. And when it looked like things were looking up for him where he was serving in Egypt he was lied about and sent to prison and forgotten about. Was his life free of problems? Absolutely not.
What about David? Acts tells us that David was a man after God’s own heart. But he spent much of his young life running from a king who was out to kill him. Many of the Psalms that he wrote talk about the fact that he had many enemies who wanted to see his demise. Eventually his own son did his best to oust him from his throne. His life wasn’t free from storms.
And of course, how can we forget Job. God said that there was no man like Job on the face of the earth. He was blameless and upright; a man who shunned evil and feared God. But everything he had was taken from him. All his wealth. All his health. All his children were killed. And his wife and closest friends turned against him. You think he didn’t have to worry about storms?
Listen, just because Jesus is in your boat doesn’t mean you won’t have any storms to face. But can I encourage you this morning? If you are a child of God there is nothing that this life can throw in your pathway that you will have to go through alone. There is no storm that you will have to face by yourself. And while the storms may still come, you can make it through the storm because Jesus is always there.
We tend to forget that when we’re going through the storms. We tend to think that we’re all alone. We tend to think that God is far away. But God has promised every believer, “Lo, I am with you always.” God has promised His children, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Isaiah 43:1-2 says, “Fear not…When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you!” If you are a child of God this morning you can take solace in the knowledge that you will never have to face a storm alone. Just because He is quiet doesn’t mean He isn’t present. Just because things aren’t going the way we think they should doesn’t mean that God isn’t interested. Just because we can’t see or feel God doesn’t mean that He isn’t near. He is always there. Jesus is always present in the storm.
II. He Is Not Alarmed By The Storm
The second thing I think we can learn from this story is that Jesus is not alarmed by the storm. Jesus is in the back of the boat sleeping after a long day. And along comes this storm. The location of the sea of Galilee makes it easy for storms to creep up and surprise those who are on its waters. Because it is below sea level and because it’s surrounded by mountains the storms can seemingly come from out of no where and howl down those mountains and across those waters. And it seems that this is what happens.
A sudden storm arises. And it’s not just any storm. It’s the kind of storm that makes a career fisherman scared. Here these disciples were, fishermen by trade; they had spent endless hours on the water. No doubt they had been through a storm or two in their lifetime, probably several duzies that they told their kids about over and over again. But this one was scary. In fact, it was so scary that these fishermen thought they were going to die.
And all the while Jesus was peacefully sleeping like a baby. And finally the disciples cry out in desperation to their great Teacher, “Master, do You not care that we are perishing?” And when He finally was able to rub His sleepy eyes clear, He immediately went in a frenzy. He began pacing the deck of that boat as best He could through the tossing of the waves wondering, “What do we do, what do we do? We’re all going to die. I knew we should have stayed on the other side of the sea. I knew we shouldn’t have come out here at this time of night.”
No, He didn’t get all spastic and fearful. He just simply very calmly stood up and said, “Peace, be still.” Why? Because the storm didn’t catch Him off guard. It didn’t surprise Him. Jesus was not alarmed at all by the storm.
And this morning, while New Orleans may be facing a time of panic and desperation; and while the authorities there may be having to answer to the accusation that they weren’t prepared for something like this; and while you and I may look around and be alarmed by what all is going on, can I encourage you this morning by letting you know that our Lord was not caught off guard? He isn’t pacing the hallways of heaven wondering what to do. He isn’t in a panic to try and solve this problem. He is not alarmed by what has happened. He knew what Katrina was going to do. He knew the devastation that would occur. He knew the gas prices were going to go out the roof and we were going to run around panicky trying to find a place that even had gas to sell. He knew exactly what was going to take place before it even happened. He has not been caught off guard.
And I’m sure that if you haven’t already, you will face some times in your life when you don’t know what is going to happen. You will probably be caught off guard at some point. You will probably face some storms and some tough times that will make tomorrow just a big, round question mark. Maybe you’re in a time like that right now. But may I encourage you this morning? While you may be alarmed, your Savior is not. We are serving a God who is omniscient. In other words He is all knowing. He knows what’s going to happen before it begins. He sees the triumphs and the tragedies. He sees the good and the bad. And when it happens it doesn’t ever take Him by surprise. He’s not going to be throwing His hands up in desperation because He didn’t see this coming and now He doesn’t know what to do to help you out. No, He’s not going to be alarmed. But He knows the beginning from the end.
Aren’t you glad we’re serving a God who understands and sees everything, not just in the present and past, but in your future as well? And knowing that should give us a little more courage when those storms come. You know, I wonder what would have happened if in the middle of that storm, in the middle of their chaos those disciples would have stopped and taken a glimpse at Jesus. I wonder what would have happened if one of them would have said, “You know what guys, Jesus is perfectly at peace during this whole thing, and He’s the Master. If He’s not worried, I’m not going to be worried either.” I know it’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback, but it seems as though Jesus would have liked for them to have thought that way. It seems as though He didn’t want them to fret. Because when it was all said and done He looked at His disciples and said, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?”
You know, I think knowing that Jesus is not alarmed should give us a sense of calm and confidence when we go through a storm. We should be able to rest a little easier when storms do arise because we know that He isn’t ever taken by surprise. Knowing that our God, who sees all, is not pacing His throne room floor wringing His hands in frustration and alarm should give us more determination and ability to walk in faith and to have a peace of mind. If God isn’t taken by surprise; if He isn’t caught off guard; if He isn’t alarmed; then why should I be alarmed when those storms arise? Yeah, I may be taken by surprise and I may be caught off guard, but the simple fact that God is not should give me a sense of security knowing that He sees the beginning from the end. He is not alarmed by the storm.
III. He Is In Control Of The Storm
And lastly this morning, not only is He present in the storm, and not only is He not alarmed by the storm, but I’m glad to be able to tell you that Jesus is in control of the storm. When He got up from His sleep that night, with the disciples fearfully looking on, Jesus simply raised His hand over the waters and said, “Peace, be still.” And instantly, the wind ceased from its tempestuous blowing and the rain quit falling and the waves were stilled. The Bible says, “There was a great calm.” The storm ceased simply because Jesus told it to be still. He had complete authority over the wind and the waves and the rain. He had complete control of the storm.
King Canute was once the ruler of England. The members of his court were continually full of flattery. "You are the greatest man that ever lived...You are the most powerful king of all...Your highness, there is nothing you cannot do, nothing in this world dares disobey you." The king was a wise man and he grew tired such foolish speeches.
One day as he was walking by the seashore Canute decided to teach them a lesson. "So you say I am the greatest man in the world?" he asked them. "O king," they cried, "there never has been anyone as mighty as you, and there never be anyone so great, ever again!" "And you say all things obey me?" Canute asked. "Yes sire" they said. "The world bows before you, and gives you honor." "I see," the king answered. "In that case, bring me my chair, and place it down by the water." The servants scrambled to carry Canute’s royal chair over the sands. At his direction they placed it right at the water’s edge.
The King sat down and looked out at the ocean. "I notice the tide is coming in. Do you think it will stop if I give the command?" "Give the order, O great king, and it will obey," cried his entourage. "Sea," cried Canute, "I command you to come no further! Do not dare touch my feet!" He waited a moment, and a wave rushed up the sand and lapped at his feet. "How dare you!" Canute shouted. "Ocean, turn back now! I have ordered you to retreat before me, and now you must obey! Go back!" In came another wave lapping at the king’s feet. Canute remained on his throne throughout the day, screaming at the waves to stop. Yet in they came anyway, until the seat of the throne was covered with water.
Finally Canute turned to his entourage and said, "It seems I do not have quite so much power as you would have me believe. Perhaps now you will remember there is only one King who is all-powerful, and it is he who rules the sea, and holds the ocean in the hollow of his hand. I suggest you reserve your praises for him."
King Canute understood that there is only One who can control the seas. He understood that where a king is powerless, Jesus is all-powerful. Where a man can do nothing, God can do anything. The Old Testament speaks accurately when it says that God “calms the storm, So that its waves are still,” and “He stirs up the sea with His power, And by His understanding He breaks up the storm.” God is in control.
You know, I think it can be easy for us to be like those disciples. Sometimes we can get a little desperate when things are going haywire in our life. Even if we know that God is there and even if we know that He is not alarmed, it’s hard for us not to be alarmed and afraid. The moment something goes wrong we begin looking around wondering if God even cares that we’re about to go under. Or if He does care we begin to wonder if He really is able to do anything about our problems.
But I’m here to tell you this morning that the same God who had the power over the storm His disciples were facing is the same God who is in control of the storms you face today. Aren’t you glad that Jesus isn’t just looking on seeing everything that is happening right now, but He is in control of everything that is happening? And not just on a national level, but He is in control of everything that is going on in your life right now. He’s not wringing His hands because of the surprise and neither is He wringing His hands because He can’t do anything about it. He’s not powerless to intervene. He’s not unable to step in. No, He’s in control. He has all the authority. He has all the power. The wind and the waves are at His command. God has dominion over the storm.
Hallelujah. We can be still and know that He is God. We can rest confidently knowing that He has full control. We can rest confidently knowing that He’ll never put more on us than we can bear. You may be feeling as though this load is too heavy on your shoulders. You may be feeling as though this storm is too strong for you. You may be feeling like you’re going to go under. But if you would just be still and know that the Lord is God; and if you would remember that He is in control; and if you would listen to His calming assurances that He’s not going to let you go under
When we don’t know what to do, He has all the answers. When we are powerless to bring ourselves out of the storm, He is mighty to save. When we are hopeless to do anything about our problems, He is already working to fulfill His purpose. And when life’s unexpected hurricanes and tidal waves come sweeping over us and we’re busy worrying about what’s going to happen, He is reaching down through the storm trying to get us to just trust in Him. Because He is in control. Hallelujah. We can rest assured in the fact that the world is not spinning out of control. When our nation is facing storms or when we are going through our own personal storms, we can live confidently in the knowledge that our God is the Master of the sea.
This morning, I want to encourage you, in a time when it seems like our nation is in a chaotic mess; when it seems like everything is going haywire, Jesus is the Master of the sea. And if you are facing a time in your life that you battling a storm I’m glad that I can tell you that Jesus is present with you, He is not alarmed by what is going on in your life, and He is in control of the storm.