Towards the end of August, I thought I ought to preach a couple of messages entitled "Sensing God During The Storm." So I'll begin this morning and walk you through a beautiful story, when the disciples were out on the lake during the storm, and Jesus came to them. And then next week I'll pick up where I leave off today and talk to you about how we personally grow and develop through the storms. I love this story -- I'm going to read it. I think it best describes some of us at times in our own life when things are not going like we really want them to. It's entitled, "Enough is Enough." You've been there before haven't you?
The central figure of the story is a person who accepts everything that happens as manifestations of divine power. And he said, "It is not for me to question the workings of divine providence." All his life, misfortune had been his. Yet never once did he complain. He got married and his wife ran away with the hired man. His daughter was deceived by a villain. His son was lynched. A fire burned down his barn. A cyclone blew away his home. A hail storm destroyed his crops, and the banker foreclosed on his mortgage, taking his farm. Yet at each stroke of misfortune, he knelt and gave thanks to God Almighty for his unchangeable mercy. After a time, penniless but still submissive to God, he landed in the county poorhouse. One day the overseer sent him out to plow a potato field. A thunderstorm was passing over, when without warning a bolt of lightning descended from the sky. It melted the plowshare, stripped most of his clothing from him, singed off his beard, branded his naked back with the initials of a neighboring cattleman, and hurled him through a barbed wire fence. When he recovered consciousness, he got up slowly on his knees, clasped his hands, raised his eye toward heaven and, then, for the first time in his life, asserted himself and said, "Lord, this is getting plumb ridiculous." Have you been there? Haven't we all, at one time or another, felt that we had more than our fair share?
Charlie Brown builds a beautiful sandcastle, works on it for hours. Finally he stands back, looks at it. It's wonderful. Just as he's admiring it, a storm comes up and blows over all of his sandcastle. Now, he's standing where his beautiful masterpiece was, on level sand, saying to himself, "I know there's a lesson in this, but I'm not sure what it is."
Every one of us has our sandcastles blown away. Every once in awhile we back up and say, "Why am I being hit with this storm of life?" Now, sometimes these storms are caused by the devil, sometimes by other people, sometimes by us. Sometimes they're allowed by the Lord. They come from different sources, but they do have a purpose in our life.
Storms of life reveal the following things about us:
1. The nature of my faith.
2. The strength of my commitment.
3. The level of my maturity.
4. The healthiness of my attitude.
5. The measure of my teachability.
Perhaps it's the last one that I want to dwell on. What do I learn and receive from the storms of life? Now, the setting of the story today is Matthew 14. It's the story of the disciples being out on the water and Jesus coming to them in the midst of the storm. Matthew 14, beginning with verse 22, are you ready? "Right away Jesus made his disciples get into a boat and start back across the lake, but he stayed until he had sent the crowds away. Then he went up on a mountain where he could be alone and pray. Later that evening he was still there. By this time the boat was a long way from the shore. It was going against the wind and was being tossed around by the waves. A little while before morning, Jesus came walking on the water toward his disciples and when they saw him, they thought he was a ghost and they were terrified and started screaming. At once Jesus said to them, 'Don't worry, I am Jesus. Don't be afraid.' Peter replied, `Lord, if it is really you, tell me to come to you on the water.' 'Come on,' Jesus said.
Peter then got out of the boat and started walking on the water toward him. But when Peter saw how strong the wind was, he was afraid and started sinking. `Lord, save m!,' he shouted. And right away Jesus reached out his hand. He helped Peter up and said, 'You surely don't have much faith. Why do you doubt?' When Jesus and Peter got into the boat, the wind died down. The men in the boat worshiped Jesus and said, 'You really are the Son of God.'"
First thing I would like to share with you is that everyone has storms. In fact, for many of you this morning, the clouds have already gathered. Many of you, perhaps, are in the worst storm of your life, but what I want you to realize is everyone has them. In fact, Jesus said in Matthew 5, "He makes the sun rise on both good and bad people. And He sends rain for the ones who do right and for the ones who do wrong." So you can see storms, problems, difficulties, trials come to all of us. There's no exclusion. Just because you're a believer, doesn't mean you're going to be excluded from the storms of life.
Now, some storms come because we are out of God's will. An example of that, of course, is Jonah, who deliberately disobeyed God's will in the Bible. God sent a great wind when he was out on the boat. Another example is in I Corinthians 11:30, where Paul was talking to the church about how they had unworthily came for communion and the Lord's supper and he said, "For this cause many are weak and sick among you, and many will sleep." A perfect example is in Acts 5. Ananias and Sapphira deliberately lied to God the church concerning their giving, and they lost their life. Perhaps the storm you're encountering could be caused by disobedience.
But some storms come because we are in God's will. Just because you're encountering a storm in your life, does not mean necessarily that you're out of the will of God or willfully disobeying him. In fact, there are beautiful examples in the story we're looking at right now. If you'll look at verse 22 it says, "Right away, Jesus made his disciples get into a boat and start back across the lake." The NAS translation said, "He prevailed upon his disciples to get into the boat." In other words, here these guys are out in the middle of a lake in the midst of a terrible storm. They're fishermen and they're still afraid, so you know it's got to be a bad storm.
Here they are out in the midst of the storm, but Jesus is the one who put them in the boat. He's the one that told them to get out in the middle of the lake. They're right in the middle of God's will but they're having the storm of their life. Job, of course, is our perfect example. We know that when Satan came to God concerning what was happening on earth, that God challenged him and said, "Look at Job; he's a perfect man." We know all about the boils head to toe on Job as he sat on an ash heap. Had he sinned? Absolutely not; he was faithful. He was a perfect man in God's sight and yet he was going through the storm of life. Joseph is another example. In fact, Job and Joseph in the Old Testament are probably the only two characters that the Bible records as being perfect. And yet we can see Joseph as he's being sold off into slavery and goes into Egypt and spends years in prison and is slandered by the wife of Potiphar. Joseph is in a very difficult time of his life, but he's in the center of God's will.
The Apostle Paul is a perfect example of it. Here we see Paul who has gone through a shipwreck, has been beaten. We see Paul who finally even dies a martyr's death. But he's a man of God, one of the great men in the history of the Christian church. He's in the center of God's will. I'm saying that it is possible for you to be obeying God, walking in all the light that you possibly could, be right in the center of God's will and yet at the same time encounter a terrific storm. You can never look at a person, see what they're going through, and say, "This person's doing right and that person must be doing wrong because this person is being blessed and that person is being cursed." Nonsense, that's not true.
I share that with you because I know a lot of wonderful people who really do love God, who really do obey Him. And yet because of life's uncertainties and the sin of the earth, life gives them a tough blow. When we have that difficult time, we have to have our feet on the ground and understand that storms happen to people in the will of God as well as outside of his will. Let me give you the background of this story. Jesus is popular at this time. It's probably the best time of his ministry in the eyes of the people. Many good miracles have happened. The feeding of the 5,000 has just occurred. But even though it's the height of the popularity of Jesus, the religious rulers of the time are becoming very unsettled because they see Jesus gaining in the respect of the common people.
It's a very difficult time for Jesus because Herod has just beheaded his cousin, John the Baptist. No doubt, Jesus and John the Baptist spent a lot of time playing together as cousins in their early years. And so as always, when the burden gets heavy upon his spirit, our Lord wants to withdraw. Therefore, He sends His disciples on the boat, gets rid of the crowd, and gets away to pray. That's the setting of the story. Now, let's ask the question:
What does Jesus do for us in the storm?
1. He prays for us (vv. 23,24).
In verses 22 and 23, we find that while the disciples were out in the lake during the storm, our Lord was praying. He prays for us. I want you to turn to one of my favorite passages of Scripture, Hebrews 4, would you? In Hebrews, Chapter 4, we have a wonderful story of our Lord and how He intercedes for us.
Hebrews, Chapter 4, beginning with verse 14. Are you ready? "We have a great high priest who has gone into heaven and He is Jesus, the Son of God. That is why we must hold on to what we have said about Him. Jesus understands every weakness of ours because He was tempted in every way that we are, but He did not sin. So whenever we are in need, we should come bravely before the throne of our merciful God and there we will be treated with undeserved kindness and we will find help."
Jesus came to this world to talk to us about God and He is now in heaven talking to God about us. The Hebrew writer said that Jesus intercedes for us in our time of need. And literally in the Greek it means, "In the nick of time." In other words, as we are here on earth encountering storms in our life, our Lord is at the right hand of the Father, interceding, praying for us. He comes to us and He ministers to us in the very nick of time.
Every Sunday you fill out fellowship cards with prayer requests. I think you know this, but they type up those prayer requests, single‑spaced with your name. Every week, I, and the rest of the pastors on the staff, get those sheets with your name and your prayer request. And every week we go over and pray for every one of them. In fact, when I was in South Africa, I had them send me those sheets so I could pray for you and ask God to be with you in times of need. And sometimes you have deep prayer requests. Sometimes you've lost your job. Sometimes you're losing your family. Sometimes you're getting ready to go into the hospital for an operation.
Sometimes I come into the sanctuary and walk throughout the auditorium, laying hands on the pews, as my prayer partners also do, and we pray for you. And sometimes when I know you're going through a difficult time, I'll even sit down in the area that you sit and just ask God to minister to you when you come to the church on Sunday morning. Because most of you sit in the same area every Sunday. Nothing messes me up more than to look in your area and you're not there. And then I look all around for you and then I find you three weeks later in another section. And you'll look at me and you'll give me that devilish smile of yours like, "I fooled you for a while, didn't I pastor?"
I was in Atlanta yesterday doing a large lay ministry conference for about 2,000 people. Literally hundreds of churches represented. And I shared with them how my prayer partners pray for me and how it helps and encourages me to have lay people praying for me. So I had laymen praying for their pastors and it was an incredible sight. Every one of us loves the sense and security of knowing that someone's praying for us, don't we? When I was in South Africa, that terrible shooting happened. Margaret said, "Well, the blessing is, as soon as I get news back home, the people will really pray for us." You better believe it. There was a great security.
It's wonderful to pray for one another. Bill Klassen's been my prayer partner for over 12 years. He's going to be with me on Tuesday, we'll pray together. I love that. I look forward to getting down with Bill; we'll pray together and I'll share my heart and he'll share his heart. And I'll give him my needs. I love for Bill to pray for me because when Bill prays, God answers prayer. Bill gets on his knees and God says, "Yes, Bill." I get on my knees, I have to introduce myself. It's just absolutely wonderful to have somebody pray for you.
Your pastor also prays for you. I believe that, outside of casting the vision, that's probably my highest calling. It's wonderful to have your pastoral staff pray for you. It's wonderful to have a prayer partner pray for you. It's wonderful to have a family member pray for you. It's wonderful to have the church pray for you. But the best news I've got for you this morning is, if you're walking through the toughest time of your life, Jesus is praying for you. He's interceding for you. He's caring for you. He's taking your need to the Father and he knows all about your needs because He's been there. He's walked where we've walked. He's felt what we've felt. He's seen what we've seen. He's heard what we've heard. And He goes to the Father and He says, "Listen, that's one of my children and I died for them." He prays for us during the storm.
2. He comes to us (v. 25).
During the storm of life, He's not an aloof God, but He enters into our storm. Look at verse 25, "A little while before morning, Jesus came walking on the water toward his disciples."
Do you know what Malachi says about God? That God sits as a refiner and purifies the silver. Malachi says that God is like a silversmith. I heard a silversmith one time describe his job. And in fact, I want to read something that he said. Listen to this very carefully. Here's what a silversmith says he does when refining the silver. He said, "I must sit with my eyes steadily fixed on the furnace, for if the time necessary for refining be exceeded in the slightest degree, the silver will be injured." And in that interview he said, "I never take my eye off of the silver in the furnace. I don't want to take it out too early because if I take it out too early, it won't be purified. But I don't want to leave it in too late because if I leave it in too late, it will be injured." So he said, "When the silver is in the fire, I focus. I don't let anything distract me, I let nothing take off my focus. I watch that silver carefully, waiting for that right moment to take it out." And they asked him, "When's the right moment?" And he said, "I know the silver is pure when I can see my face reflected in it."
Maybe this doesn't happen to you , but I always think I’m in the worst part of the storm. As soon as the storm comes, I'm saying, "Okay, God, bail me out. Here I am. Find me. Rescue me." But sometimes he doesn't rescue me. Sometimes he doesn't come. I have to have the assurance that He is the great silversmith and while I'm in the furnace, He focuses and watches. His job isn't a quick rescue mission. His job is to purify me. So He holds until the right moment and then He comes. Never too early, never too late. Just on time.
Note when Jesus comes to us...
A. He comes to us at the darkest hour.
"...a little before morning..."
That's when Jesus came. We know that the darkest hour of the night is right before the dawn, a little while right before the morning. We used to sing a hymn, "Just When I Need Him, Jesus Is Near. Just when I falter, just when I fear. Ready to help me, ready to cheer. Just when I need Him, Jesus is near."
He walks into the storms of life just at your darkest hour. The time when you're the most needy. The time when the silver is just right, that's when He comes out to the boat. Do you notice they'd been in the storm for quite a while? Was Jesus apathetic? No. Was he ignorant? Absolutely not. He saw everything. He knew where they where. He saw their fears. He heard their cries. But He didn't come until the hour was the darkest.
B. He comes to us victorious over our greatest fears.
"...Jesus came walking on the water..."
In other words, he comes walking on the very thing that frightened the disciples. Do you see it? What are they worried about? They're worried about the waves. That boat is being tossed back and forth. They're afraid they're going to drown. They're afraid it's going to capsize. They're looking at those high waves coming over the sides of that boat. They're bailing water as fast as they can. These guys are fishermen. They have been on the water all their life. They're scared spitless. The waves are coming and all of a sudden, on the very thing that fears them, those high waves, the place where their greatest fears are resting, Jesus comes walking.
In His quiet, majestic way, as He's walking on the water, Jesus is saying, "Guys, the thing that is the greatest storm in your life, I keep under my feet." If you're sick, He comes walking on your sickness. If you're afraid of death, what did He do on Easter? He came walking on the waves of death, "Oh, death where is thy sting? Oh, grave where is thy victory?"
He's standing on top of the stone. He's saying, "I'm able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than you can ever ask or think. I can do that which gives you the greatest fear, the thing which causes you to tremble, the thing which causes you to falter. I come walking on it. I stand on that stuff. I'm victor. I'm the one who reigns. " Hallelujah. He comes walking on the water. They're worried about those waves getting in the boat, and He's just coming right on across. And he says, "Fellas, you may be worried about it but I step on stuff like this." I put the quote by C. H. Spurgeon in your sermon notes: "When God allows us to be put into the furnace, he goes with us." Do you see it?
There's a great passage of Scripture, Isaiah 43: "But now, the Lord who created you, O Israel, says, 'Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name. You are mine. When you go through the deep waters and the great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through the rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up, and the flames will not consume you. Why? For I am the Lord, your God.'"
Well, there's a great hymn that we're going to have to sing around here. We haven't sung it for a long time. I'll have to get my music guys together and teach them a couple hymns. It's entitled, "How Firm A Foundation." Man, that's got 6 verses.
"Fear not, I am with thee. Oh, be not dismayed, for I am thy God. I will still give thee aid. I'll strengthen thee, help thee, cause thee to stand, upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, my grace all sufficient shall be thy supply. The flames shall not hurt thee; I only design thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine."
He's the silversmith. "And when through the deep waters I call three to go, the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow. For I will be with thee, thy trials to bless and I'll sanctify to thee thy deepest distress."
3. He ministers to us (vv. 26,27).
He ministers to us in the storm. Look what happens in verse 26 and 27, are you ready? "When they saw Him, they thought He was a ghost. They were terrified and started screaming. At once Jesus said to them, `I am Jesus. Don't be afraid.'"
He ministers to us in spite of our misunderstandings. They didn't know what was happening. They looked out and thought He was a ghost. They were scared to death. Now, they're even more scared. They don't have a grasp of the situation, and Jesus walks in and says "Don't worry."
You know, I run into Christians all the time who somehow think that they should understand everything. Do you know nowhere in the Bible does it tell you, as a believer, that you should understand everything? I run into Christians who feel guilty because they say, "I'm going through a terrible storm in my life and I don't know what's happening to me, and there must be something wrong with me because my connection must not be right with God or surely I could figure it out." Can I tell you something? There are things in this life that you and I are never going to figure out. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that you're going to know everything. In fact, Paul said, "We look through a glass darkly on this earth." We look through a smoky glass.
Now, He says there will be a time when we're with Him, when we're going to see clearly. But you're not going to understand everything. You've got a pastor that doesn't understand everything. I don't have all the answers. I don't even like pastors that have all the answers. I don't like Christians that have all the answers. I don't like Christians who, with little clichés will pass off stuff to you, as if giving you a little fodder, a little slogan, will take care of you. There are things I don't understand. I've got a top 10 list of questions I'm going to ask God when I get there, and it keeps growing every day. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that you're going to understand everything.
Now, Paul says in Romans 8, "For we know all things work together." Paul said we know it. Why do we know it? Because we know that God's on the throne and God's sovereign. We know that it's going to be okay because of God. But Paul doesn't say you understand everything. We're not going to figure it all out. You see, our security isn't what we know in our mind. Our significance is not what we know. Our security is in Who we know. So we're in the midst of the storm. We say, "I don't understand it. I'm not even sure it's fair. I don't like it. But I know who's sovereign over the storm."
And we can be just like Job. He wasn't a prosperity preacher. He had more sense. He said, "The Lord gives, the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." Job, do you like the ash heap? "Absolutely not." Do you like the boils? "No, thank you." Do you like your wife coming out the back door and saying, "Curse God and die?" "No, it doesn't really thrill me. But the Lord gives and the Lord takes away." All Job is saying is, "I don't understand it. Probably don't think it's right. Certainly don't like it. But I know who's in control."
A. He ministers to us in spite of our misunderstandings.
B. He ministers to us in spite of our fears.
Yeah, He does. You, see, the disciples have seen Jesus do some wonderful things. But they had never seen Jesus minister to them at the darkest, most difficult hour.
The ______________ of my faith.
The ______________ of my commitment.
The ______________ of my maturity.
The ______________ of my attitude.
The ______________ of my teachability.
1. ______________ vv. 23, 24
Jesus came to this world to talk to us about God, and now he is in heaven talking to God about us.
2. ______________ v. 25
A. He comes to us at the ______________.
B. He comes to us ______________ .
3. ______________ vv. 26,27
A. He ministers to us in spite of our ______________.
B. He ministers to us in spite of our ______________.