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Stilling the Storm Within

Jim Davis

Luke 8:22-25
One day Jesus said to his disciples, "Let's go over to the other side of the lake." So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Master, Master, we're going to drown!" He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. "Where is your faith?" he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, "Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him." (NIV)

In Marks account of Jesus calming the sea, he tells us Jesus and his disciples had left a crowd of people to get into the boat. There is little doubt but what Jesus had spent the day teaching and perhaps working miracles. Can you imagine the excitement of the disciples after listening to Jesus and watching him work with the crowd? No doubt they were having one of those mountain peak experiences. Then Jesus directs them to sail into a storm, which threatens their very existence.

Jesus simply goes to sleep in the boat. Many wonder why Jesus was asleep, but that’s not hard for me to figure out. I am never more tired than I am on Sunday evening. Teaching three classes a day tires you. Imagine, people pressing you all day for answers. Jesus was exhausted. So Jesus sleeps. That’s usually the first thing I want to do on Sunday evening after church.

Developing A Realistic Faith

The hardest thing in the world is to develop what we have learned in our minds into a practical way of living. Knowing Jesus, I have to believe he knew there was a storm ahead. Actually, there is always a storm ahead. He wanted them to see the correlation of what he was teaching to real life.

The disciples discover they are following the Messiah they do not understand. Imagine Jesus teaching a crowd as he works miracles, and somehow they are still asking one another in fear and amazement, "Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him."

In Marks account it looks like the disciples were even more afraid when the storm miraculously stopped than they had been while it still raged: "They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this, even the wind and the waves obey him?’" (Mark 4:41)

Jesus wants us to use our knowledge of him in the laboratory of life. Jesus no doubt places his disciples in this dilemma. He wants to help them make application of what he is teaching and doing. This is where real belief is forged. How can they spend all this time with Jesus and not transfer this knowledge to real life? How can we formulate religious doctrines and study them all our lives and not understand how it applies to real life.

All of us know what to do in the storms of life---you do whatever you need to do to maintain control of the situation. Everyone knows what to do in a storm. You reef the sails, you tug on the ropes, you bail water and it is no time for sleeping. They were probably expecting Jesus to get up and start tugging on the ropes or at least get a bucket and start bailing water out of the boat. You always have that last resort when all else fails--you can seek help—then you can ask God to put you back in control.

We want a faith in God that puts us in control of our own lives. We want to build responsible people who are in firm control of their lives. Being in control is one of life's virtues. We seek to emulate the discipline of the athlete, the successful professional, the wise investor, etc. We go mountain climbing, sail boating, and take up sports to sharpen our skills of being in control. We think facing a daring world head on will increase our skills of self-reliance.

The harshest judgments we make are against those who are out of control. It is a crime to allow your emotions to control you. When our children are out of control we are considered failures. When our finances are out of control it is irresponsibility. We want people who will take responsibility for their lives and the lives of others.

But there is a limit to what we control. We can't control our lives and have Jesus as Lord of our lives. We are responsible for the way we live, but ultimate control--final authority in our lives--rests with God, as we know Him in Jesus Christ.

Faith believes God never directs us to sail into storms he can’t still. You wonder if these scriptures ever came to their minds during the storm. Psalm 89:8-9: "O Lord God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O Lord, and your faithfulness surrounds you. You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them." Or perhaps they thought of Psalm 93:4: "Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea - the Lord on high is mighty." Did they ever really understand these scriptures in a literal since?

The only reason Jesus ever rebuked his disciples was for the lack of faith. Have you ever asked yourself, "Is my faith in God real?" The storms of life test the reality of our faith. "Why were you so afraid," Jesus asks his disciples. "Why do you let wind and waves scare you when I'm with you? Do you still have no faith?"

Faith is measured by what we do in the midst of the storm. We want God to make us independent. Especially make us independent of his help. We would like for God to be able to remain asleep somewhere in the back of the boat, without having to call on him. Often we are too proud to give God a wake up call.

Be Informed About Storms

Have you noticed life has a rhythm to it? The ups and downs in life are similar to the notes on the score of a song, which go up and down with the rhythm. After every mountain peak experience there is a valley into which we must descend. Life is designed this way. Some valleys are deeper than others, but the deeper the valley the higher the next mountain peak experience will be. We may walk through valley of the shadow of death, but we can rest assured with God the deliverance before us will be the greatest experience ever.

The disciples were on this lake that could be as smooth as glass one moment and treacherously deadly the next moment. At times you could call it Lake Placid. The lake was a 600 feet below sea level lying in the deep valley of mountains covered with deep ravines. The wind through those mountainous passages could blow up a storm without warning. At times those valleys and ravines would serve as a wind tunnel directing the winds on to the surface of that lake.

Our most terrible storms in life are unpredictable. All may be going well and something hits us right in the face. It always happens just when you think you can kick back and enjoy life. It comes out of nowhere in the twinkling of an eye turning our lives upside down as it dashes all of our dreams and aspirations. These unexpected storms are usually furious. However, God is in charge of world affairs and he can handle the storms in our lives. Scriptures testify to this fact.

Jeremiah 32:17
"Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: 'I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?'" (NIV)

Heaven is God's throne and the earth is his footstool. If you believe this you can survive any storm.

Colossians 1:16-17
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (NIV)

Stilling the Storm Within

The hardest part is stilling the storm within. The storms without do not pose our greatest threat. The storms raging within our own hearts are the most dangerous. The storm on that lake wasn't the real danger. It was the storm raging within their hearts that posed the greatest threat. At times there is a storm cloud inside me with high gusty winds. We may be able to manage our problems externally, but it is what's going on inside of us that really count.

Jesus asks, "Why were you so afraid," Jesus asks his disciples. "Why do you let wind and waves scare you when I'm with you? Do you still have no faith?"

Our biggest problem is our unbelief, not the storms. Our failure comes from within. We do not have the conviction that our God can or will do anything. It is more than believing he can. We must believe that he will. The disciples had heard Jesus teach. They saw him work miracles, but when it came down to it they had very little faith in him. They found themselves hopeless in the storm and terrified by what he did.

Hebrews 11:6-7
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. (NIV)

We hear echoes of Noah and the Flood - in which the life of the whole world was protected in a little boat bobbing on the waves. One thing Noah was forced to remember, as the storms were raging around the ark was that God was in charge. Through his faith we are all here today. I don't think it was a coincidence that the first thing Noah did when descended from the ark was to build an altar to worship God. The devastation he saw when he descended from the ark drove him to his knees.

The most important aspect of this story is that Jesus is in the boat with them. When we face our trials in life we must realize that Jesus wants to be in the boat with us. He doesn't wish to desert us. He is ever present.

Psalms 46:1-3
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah (NIV)

It is not the storm without, but the enemy within that poses our greatest threat. In Victor Hugo's story, "Ninety-Three," a ship is caught in a storm. The frightened crew hears a terrible crashing sound below. Immediately the men know what it is: a cannon has broken loose and is crashing into the ship's side with every smashing blow of the sea! Two men, at the risk of their lives, manage to fasten it down again, for they know that the unfastened cannon is more dangerous than the raging storm. Hillery C. Price made this application: "Many people are like that ship--their greatest danger areas lie within their own lives."

Out of chaos, God creates. Out of the storm, God speaks. Through testing and trouble God forges faith, the way steel is forged in fire. We think that things are going well with God when everything is peaceful and quiet, when our lives are in order, health is good, the marriage is strong, the family is at peace, the sky is blue, the sun is shining. But the Spirit's faith-work goes on in the storm, in the chaos of suffering, testing, temptation, in the unexpected hurricanes and tornadoes of life, when we suddenly realize we have no control over our lives.

They were as terrified of the remedy as they were the storm. After the storm, the disciples were still afraid. Even though the wind was quiet and the waves were calm, Mark says they "feared a great fear." They were terrified. "Who is this, this man who speaks to the wind and the sea and they obey him?"

Now they feared the one who had been asleep in the back of the boat. Better to fear the Lord than the wind or the waves. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." The fear of the Lord is the beginning of faith. Jesus said, "Do not fear those who can harm the body but cannot harm the soul. Fear the One who can destroy both body and soul in hell." Fear God, and you have nothing left to fear. The fear of the Lord means the end of all fear. The fear of the Lord swallows up all fear.

It is no small thing to be in the presence of one who exhibits the power of God even if he is asleep. The King James puts their question in a slightly different fashion: "What manner of man is this?" That’s a question all of us sooner or later must answer.

We Must Take Jesus As He Is

Mark says something in his account that Matthew and Luke do not say. Mark writes, "Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him." (Mark 4:36 NIV) There is nothing special about Jesus getting into the boat. There was nothing remarkable about Jesus when he got into the boat. It was the same Jesus who had been working in the crowd. There was no halo around his head. They didn't tell him to change clothes; they took him as he was. If you take Jesus, you must take him as he is or not at all.

To have Christ in you, you must accept him as he is. There is no other way he can get in the boat. Christ wishes to still the storm inside us. Paul writes, "Christ in you the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:27) Our hope for salvaging our lives is to allow Jesus Christ to get into our boat. For Jesus to be in your boat today, he must be in your heart. Christ lives in us through our faith in him.

You must take Christ as he is or not at all! Christ came to change us through the storms of life; he didn't come so we could change him. The Hebrew writer says, "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. (Hebrews 13:8) Christ can change you, but you cannot change him. Many would like to take Christ into their life if they could modify him somewhat! If they could only make him fit into their own little mold, or make his thinking coincide with theirs!

We limit God and Christ by not taking them as they are. We try to recreate them according to our own thinking and we render them powerless to calm the storms in our lives. When we do so we render God powerless to transform our lives through the storms.

Many would take Jesus into their lives if they could take him on their terms, or if they could dictate policy! We try to modernize Christ and streamline his teaching. Many would take Christ into their boat if they could separate Christ from the church. We want Christ, but we reject his church.

To refuse to take Jesus as he is denies him the authority to calm the storms in your life. We seek to remain in control of our own lives as we deny him authority over our lives. He cannot still the storm within if he is not in control.

Conclusion:

The greatest storm Jesus wishes to calm in our lives is the matter of salvation. He wishes to remove the turmoil sin creates for the purpose of salvaging our lives in the midst of the storm. However, we must let him into our lives.

We must come to Christ on his terms before he will enter our hearts. He want enter on our terms. If Jesus had done what the disciples expected out in the storm, they would have probably drowned. So we must allow him to do the unexpected.

Mark 16:15-16
He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." (NIV)

When you refuse to do what Christ commands he cannot come into your heart. M any say, "I believe in Jesus, but I don't believe you have to be baptized to be saved." When you are baptized, your faith is not in the water. Your faith is in Christ because that is what he commanded.

1 Peter 3:18-22
For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also-- not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand-- with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him. (NIV)

Jesus wants to save us from the same storm he saved Noah and his family. He wishes to do that through baptism. Baptism saves because Christ commanded it. It is an act of faith based upon the command of Christ.

A preacher said that baptism wasn't essential to salvation, but he said that you must be baptized to get into the church he was preaching for. Baptism isn’t essential for salvation, but baptism is essential to place membership in the church. It seems that makes the church he is seeking to build non-essential.

Much of what is being taught in the religious world is non-essential, but what Christ taught is absolutely essential. He cannot calm the storm raging in your heart until you listen to him.

 

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