Summary: 1. Storms will come. 2. Jesus will be with us in the storm. 3. Jesus will calm the storm. 4. It is only in the storm that we really know who Jesus is.
It has been interesting to watch the blame game during the recent disasters which hit the southern part of our country. The mayor was to blame. No, it was the director of FEMA. No, it was the governor of the state. No, it was the people who refused to evacuate. No, it was the people who built the levees. No, it was the president. You know what? It was a storm! And when a storm that size hits, no amount of human intervention could have prevented what happened. There will always be enormous loss of property and lives. Storms will come and stuff will happen.
Storms came in the life of Jesus as well. He and the disciples found themselves in the middle of a ferocious squall out on the lake. This was nothing unusual on the Sea of Galilee; it is in a basin surrounded by mountains and notorious for furious storms. Rising just to the North over the lake is beautiful Mount Hermon. Mount Hermon is capped with snow, and sometimes the cold air from the top of Hermon rushes down the mountain and blows across the lake. The force of the cold air meeting the hot moist air around Galilee can be explosive, as it was on the day in our story. Jesus and his friends are in the middle of the lake when the squall hits. It is terrifying and it looks as though they will not survive the storm. What happens next is something for which neither the reader nor the disciples are prepared.
Allow me to point out some obvious and simple lessons from this story. The first is: Storms will come. The apostle Peter reminds us: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12). There are many who do not seem to understand this. The disciples seemed to be shocked that they were in this position. After all, wasn’t Jesus with them? Wouldn’t God protect his Messiah, and therefore protect his followers? How then could this happen? I sometimes meet people who have the same feeling of shock when some storm comes into their lives. Didn’t I do all the right things? Isn’t God supposed to watch out for his own? Doesn’t he protect those he loves? How can this be happening to me? I am sure those are the questions which were marching through the heads of the disciples.
I was reading in the book of Hebrews this past week and I came across a fascinating passage. It was talking about Abraham and the wonderful promises God made to him, but then this verse popped out at me that says, “And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised” (Hebrews 6:15). I was reading it in the original language which puts it much stronger. It uses the word macrothumia which can be translated “longsuffering.” That would make it say, “And so after longsuffering, Abraham received what was promised.” God made a great promise to Abraham, but in order to receive it, Abraham had to go through longsuffering. This is life, even with the promises of God. Endurance and faith are the keys, and these things are only possible because of the promises and faithfulness of God. The Bible says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19).
There are some people here today in whose life a storm is raging. For some of you it is financial. For others it is a health issue. Still others are being swamped in the area of relationships. You have tried to be a good person and do the right thing, and yet you feel like you are sinking, and you want to know the same thing the disciples wanted to know: “Jesus, don’t you care if I drown? Are you aware of what I am going through?” What is interesting is that when Matthew and Luke tell this story in their gospels, they leave out this question about whether Jesus cared about them and their perilous situation. Matthew and Luke simply record the words of the disciples as, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” (Matthew 8:25, Luke 8:24). I’m sure that these words, and many others, were said as they shouted in fear for their lives. Some Bible scholars conjecture that Matthew and Luke thought the words of the disciples were extremely inappropriate. How could you say that to Jesus? But they did, and those were their true feelings. They were in a storm. They were frightened, and they could not understand how or why this was happening.
Here is what a storm in your life does not mean. It does not mean that God does not love you. It does not mean that God is angry with you, or that he is paying you back for something. God is not toying with you. Sometimes the storms that happen in our lives are self-made. But many times it is just that storms happen, and trying to analyze what happened or assign blame is a fruitless activity. We live in a fallen world. And as Jesus said, “[God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). In other words, good and bad happen to all. The important thing is whether or not we are prepared for them.