There are a lot of people in this world who wake up everyday with thoughts of fear in their minds because of the storms that surround us. The more and more news that floods our lives just builds this constant anxiety and stress; another school shooting, another terrorist attack, another threat. Every day when you pick up the paper there is another scandal, another liar, another murder, another rape or beating. All this just builds distrust in the world around you and you wonder when these stories will come too close to home.
On another level, our own homes and schools are filled with different storms that are all too personal. Broken relationships overwhelm many of us in this room. Mom and Dad are fighting again and this time you think Dad left for good. Divorced homes are becoming the norm today and the pain and frustration settles deep within whether you want to admit it or not. Some of you feel so alone every day even though you are in a flood of people at school. You’re struggling with friendships, trying to figure out what you are doing wrong that people don’t like you and why adults seem to not care. Some of you are dealing with the death or sickness of a loved one as cancer or other illnesses destroy their bodies. Some of you struggle with your self image because, as you flip through magazines and watch TV and movies, your bodies don’t line up with how people say “beautiful” or “sexy” really is.
Our world is in chaos as our peers and culture throw away all moral boundaries and adopt this “every man for himself attitude.” What’s ok for you is ok for you and what’s ok for me is ok for me…even if they completely contradict one another. Anytime someone talks about truth, it is questioned and almost instantaneously rejected. Our world says there is no absolute truth but yet really all that belief says is that there is no truth at all. Questions overload our minds with confusion as we walk through our lives on uneasy ground.
With everything building and piling up, with all the questions and doubt that fill your mind, so many of us just determine to hold it in and stuff it down deep. So often, we put our heads on our pillows at night and we just want to scream, or cry, or both!
Tonight, I want to spend a little time looking at how Jesus and the disciples handled a storm, quite literally, in their lives that will help us weather our own storms. Instead of simply reading the text tonight, I have a video clip that portrays this passage that is found in three books of the New Testament – Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
***Read Matthew 8:23-27***
The disciples had jumped into a relationship with Christ and left everything behind – their families, their jobs, their money and security – they left it all to follow this man named Jesus. As they followed him, their travels took them to the shores of the Sea of Galilee. As Jesus talked to a few people, the disciples readied a boat since most of them were experienced fishermen. Once it was ready, the disciples along with Jesus, set sail for the other side.
Suddenly, the text tells us, a storm arose and started pounding the sides of the boat. The disciples quickly jumped to action. They manned their positions and pulled the sails down so the boat would not get turned over in the violent winds. A few men grabbed buckets and began to bail water so they would not be weighed down too much. A few others quickly grabbed an oar and began trying to steady the boat.
After the disciples had tried everything else, they eventually realized that Jesus was in the boat with them and that maybe He could help. They ran over to Jesus and shouted, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” In another account of this story it says the disciples questioned Jesus. “Don’t you care that we are in danger?!”
Jesus responds with what seems a stupid question. “Why are you afraid?” he asks. “You have so little faith.” At this, Jesus stands up, rebukes the wind and the waves and suddenly, just as suddenly as the storm arose, all was calm.
This is a very common place that a lot of us find ourselves in when we are faced with the storms of life that surround us all too often. As we wrestle with pain, hurt, and anger we quickly try to fix everything ourselves. We try to wait out the storm thinking it will end soon. We try to take matters into our own hands as we try to navigate safely out of the waters. This comes in so many forms such as drugs, sex, relationships, video games, food, anything we can find to numb the pain and get us through life.
Sometimes our efforts work for a time, but yet we find ourselves damaged having taken on too much water and having been beaten by the waves and wind. Sooner rather than later, more storms arise. This time our efforts fail because of the damage we already have sustained and we find ourselves shipwrecked and drowning.
The question we need to ask ourselves though is why does it take us so long to go to Jesus and cry out for help? Somewhere along the lines we have been taught that we need to fix all our own problems and that it is not polite or appropriate to admit we even have problems. How many times a day do people ask us, “How are you doing?” Yet as we think of how to respond to that we have been taught that the right answers fall along the lines of “fine” or “good” and nothing more. If we need to ask for help or if we even show we are struggling we are considered weak. Instead, we try to do it ourselves.
What we fail to understand though is that Jesus wants us to cry out to Him for help and wants us to express our true feelings to him about these difficult storms that we face. In fact the Bible is full of situations like this that God welcomes. In Exodus, God waits for His people to cry out to him for help so he can deliver them out of slavery. The book of Job is an entire conversation between Job and God about the storms Job is facing in life. Many of the poems in Psalms and prayers throughout the book of Lamentations are filled with language of crying out to God for help and deliverance. In fact Jesus himself, just before He was arrested, sat and cried in the Garden of Gethsemane, crying out to His Heavenly Father for help.
As you go throughout life fighting the storms around you, know that you are not alone. But know more so that Jesus is sitting right near by and wants you to come and cry for help. This is one of the reasons that we have built the prayer room because we wanted to create a place of prayer where people could go and feel free to cry out to God. In fact, I would argue we built a place where God is waiting for you to come and cry out to Him for help. God wants to comfort you and be with you, God wants to change the world around you but he is waiting for you to ask and is not about to force Himself on you.
Once the disciples ask Jesus for help, Jesus response is so important to understand. The most important thing to note in this passage is not that Jesus calmed the storms but it is in His verbal response. “Why are you so afraid? You have so little faith” Jesus says to the men. He is not being a jerk here and He is not calling them idiots for asking for help.
Really what Jesus is saying to the disciples is, “Don’t you trust me to get you through the storms?” Now, for a moment here it might sound contradictory to what we just talked about. It might seem like He is reprimanding them for feeling scared and weak, but if that was the case Jesus’ response to them would have stopped right there. He would have said, “Why are you scared? Sit down and shut up and we’ll be to the other side in a little bit.”
Instead, Jesus has compassion on them, despite the growth that they need to go through. And then, just so His disciples will know firsthand the power that Jesus has over the storms of life, he calms them completely and the storm is gone just as quick as it came.
Jesus wants us to cry out to him our deepest thoughts and feelings about what is going on in the world. In some cases, I would make the argument that Jesus is waiting for you to ask before doing anything about it. Sometimes, Jesus will come to the rescue showing his power and might as he calms the storms in life immediately. Other times, Jesus won’t always calm the storms of life for you right away. He will instead hold you close and tight as you travel together through the storm to the other side knowing you will learn more and grow stronger enduring the hardships together. The important thing to remember though is that God is in control and that he has power over anything that can ever happen.