Summary: How do we give thanks in the midst of life's storms? Twelve disciples stuck in a leaky fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee may have wondered the same thing. Be thankful for God's Purposes, Presence, and Power.
Scott Bayles, pastor
Blooming Grove Christian Church: 11/24/2013
If you’re like me, you were probably a little distracted last Sunday when the weather alert system kept going off during worship. Thankfully none of the bad weather struck too close to home, but intense thunderstorms and tornadoes swept through Illinois causing damage and destruction in areas all around us. At least six people were killed and neighborhoods were leveled, leaving first-responders sifting through rubble in search of people who may be trapped. The suburban city of Washington, just outside of Peoria, was particularly hard-hit. An EF-4 tornado cut a path from one end of town to the other, knocking down power lines, uprooting trees and rupturing gas lines. Several blocks of houses have been erased from the landscape, leaving hundreds homeless and thousands without power.
With tragedies with this hitting so close to Thanksgiving, most of us are just thankful that we weren’t affected. But what about those who were? What about the people who were in the midst of the storm. What can they be thankful for? And, as if the physical storms weren’t bad enough, what about the figurative storms? You may be weathering one of life’s storms right now. By that I mean, maybe you’re facing some unexpected crisis or tragedy of your own. Storms come in all shapes and sizes. When debt-collectors are calling your house, or the doctor gives you the worst possibly news, or a family member is slowly succumbing to Alzheimer’s, it can feel like you’re being swallowed up by the storm. You might look around and wonder—what is there to be thankful for?
Twelve disciples stuck in a leaky fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee may have wondered the same thing. What we watched on the news cutting a path of destruction through the Midwest, the disciples experienced first-hand on Lake Galilee. The sky rumbled above them, the water churned beneath them. Their fishing boat bounced and spun on the white-tops of angry waves. And in the midst of the storm, one of them shouted over the crashing waves at Jesus, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” (Mark 4:38 NLT).
How many times have we said the same thing? “Don’t you care, Lord, that this is happening to me? Don’t you love me enough to do something about it?”
The experience of these twelve disciples may help answer all these questions. Let me read this story from the Gospel of Mark:
As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.
Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the water, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!” (Mark 4:35-41 NLT)
The lake which they had set out to cross was the Sea of Galilee, a freshwater lake in northern Palestine. It was about 13 miles long, 8 miles wide, 680 feet below sea level and shaped like a heart—a place of inspiring beauty. However, with mountains surrounding most of the lake, the fierce downdrafts of cold air from the higher elevations to the warm air of the sea, often made it victim to violent storms—which was the case this particular night. For these veteran fishermen to be afraid for their lives means that this was no ordinary storm. This was a raging tempest with gale-force winds.
But when we looks closely at the story, I think we can find at least three things for which we and Jesus’ disciples can and should be thankful for in the midst of life’s storms. First, we can be thankful for God’s purposes.
• BE THANKFUL FOR GOD’S PURPOSES
Jesus wanted to put miles of water between him and the multitudes of people on the western shore. Which is why Jesus said to his followers, “Let’s go across the lake” (vs. 35 NCV). This is important because it shows us that it was Jesus’ idea to cross the sea and go into the eastern countryside! Peter, James, John and the rest were simply following where he led them.
So the question is—did Jesus know that the storm was coming? And the answer is—of course, he did! Jesus unquestionably knew that the storm was coming, and it was within his power to prevent it, but instead he deliberately guided them into the storm. He did so for a purpose! It was the perfect storm designed for the express purpose of helping Jesus’ followers to trust him in every circumstance. No matter what storms we may experience, we can trust that God has a purpose for every problem.