Intro – J. B. Phillips wrote Your God is Too Small in the 60’s challenging the impotent vision of God that governs most of our lives. We’ve a great God in theory – a small God in practice. We fear a cancer diagnosis, drought, illness, investment loss, the death of a loved one more than we trust the greatness of God. We trust doctors and teachers and counselors and our own wisdom more than we trust God. Our faith is small because our God small. John Piper says, “People are starving for the greatness of God. But most of them would not give this diagnosis of their troubled lives. The Majesty of God is an unknown cure.” We need the cure the disciples got. They start out fearing the wild storm outside the boat. But they end up far more fearful of the God with them in the boat. We need the same shocking confrontation with Him.
Jesus poses a critical question, “Where is your faith? Where is your faith?” We forget that the One in the boat with us is far greater than any circumstance we will ever encounter. And so we live tepid, anxious, fruitless existences. Our faith is MIA. So how can we change that and make God big in our lives?
I. Launch Out
Vv. 22-23, “One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out.” When Jesus says, “Go”, the disciples move. To experience God, we have to be moving! This means obedience in a mission. God has gifted every believer to serve other believers; it is our job to utilize that giftedness. When Jesus said, “Take me across the lake,” the disciples didn’t say, “But we only use our boats to fish.” They were at His disposal – ready to move at His command.
When I was a kid on the farm, I spent hours pretending to drive Dad’s tractors. I knew how to clutch, brake, shift and accelerate. I drove all over the world on those tractors without every moving an inch. Occasionally Dad let me sit in front of him, hands on the steering wheel while he drove. But one day when I was 6 he said, “Well, let’s go!” Man, I had a grin bigger than Texas. He didn’t have to ask twice. I started the engine, put it in gear and promptly popped the clutch! That’s how I learned you have to ease it out. The next thing I noticed was that when I turned to steering wheel while moving, it was easy to turn. When sitting still it was hard to turn the steering wheel, and the tractor still pointed the same way. I learned you can only steer a moving machine.
It’s the same with people. If you’re waiting for an email from God telling you what to do, you may wait a long time. You want God to be big in your life, put yourself in the game. Find a ministry? Pray, ask where volunteers are needed, evaluate your interests and launch out. You may not find the right place right away, but that’s okay. You’re moving, and God can guide a willing, moving target a lot easier than a blob that just sits there. Do you see? Find a need and fill it; see if God leaves you there. Help a neighbor. Invite someone over. Give someone a good book. Help with the kids, with community needs, Praise team. Get moving so God can steer.
I would never have become a pastor if I had waited for God to call, like most people think happens. Being a pastor was the last thing I wanted to be. Until I got to college all the pastors I knew were old and boring; I wasn’t interested. But I did like to teach. Started helping. Began with the young ages; found I didn’t do well up to about 3rd grade. Only way I could keep order was by bribing them. But the older kids, I got on great with. Began a Boy’s Brigade program that utilized all the things I loved – sports, competition, mountain climbing and kids. Got under some great preaching. That’s how God gradually tricked me into becoming a pastor! But you have to be moving. See?
II. Expect Storms
Here’s a news flash. God grows us through adversity. Expect difficulties. This is so hard. We look at difficulties as the exception. But they are the rule for those growing in Christ. God purposely sends difficult people, hard situations, temptations, trials because He loves us and this is the way we grow.
V. 23, “and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger.” Jesus is tired. He’s preached all day, ate in Capernaum and then set sail with His apostles for the eastern shore where He had a divine appointment with a demonized man next day. Meantime, He’s bushed. He curls up in the back and goes to sleep.
Mid-journey a vicious storm hits without warning. Bad weather hits often on this lake as cold air from surrounding hills blows down onto the surface. But this storm is unusually violent. Soon they can’t bail fast enough and are in imminent danger of capsizing. V. 24, “And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” Remember these not weekenders. They have lived on this water for years. They are experts at surviving Galilee – and they were scared to death. The pro sailors turn to the amateur carpenter for help. What an extraordinary scene. So what do we learn from this?
We learn that having Jesus in the boat does not guarantee against storms; it guaranteed the opposite. Do you think that Jesus did not know what was coming when they set out that evening? Of course He did. Yet, He got the party rolling and promptly went to sleep. Now, they are frantic with fear, but He sleeps on. Ever feel like God was sleeping through your storm? Way too often, right? But Peter, who lived this, later wrote in I Pet 4: “12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” Adversity is to be expected. It’s not strange; it’s normal! It’s God’s gift to test and expand faith. He may seem silent, but He’s there.
Now, here’s the warning. When storms hit, we have choices. We can cooperate or we can become hardened against God for the pain He is allowing. That natural tendency is to ask why and become hard. But that is when Jesus is asking, “Where is your faith?” Where is your faith? Is it in the blessing, or is it in the Blesser? Is it in the circumstance or is it in the Father?
Dr. R. A. Torrey was a great Bible teacher and founder of Biola University where I went to school and taught. His great, granddaughter is a student there today. The Torrey’s went thru a crushing heartbreak when their 12-year-old daughter was killed in an accident. As they watched the casket lowered, Mrs. Torrey said, “I’m glad Elisabeth is with the Lord and not in that box.” But hearts were still broken. Dr. Torrey said the next day as he was walking down the street, the whole thing broke over him – the long, lonely years ahead without her presence, the heartbreak of an empty house, personal treasures never to be touched again. He cried to the Lord for help and then he said, “And just then, this fountain, the Holy Spirit that I had in my heart, broke forth with such power as I think I had never experienced before, and it was the most joyful moment I had ever known in my life! Oh, how wonderful is the joy of the Holy Spirit! It is an unspeakably glorious thing to have your joy not in things about you, not even in your most dearly loved friends, but in the relationship with God springing up 365 days a year, greater than any loss or circumstance!” It’s a question of where’s your faith?
I’ve gone with my own brother to pick out a tiny casket for his little boy who had drowned. We were all broken-hearted. There are no words to describe losses like that. But I watched as Jon and Anne put their faith in God; we’ve seen how He sustained them through the pain; how He has turned their grief into ministry. They had to face the question – is your faith in the relationship; or is it God? Every adversity is a question from the Father – Where is your faith? Is God big in your life, or is the circumstance big?” John Newton said it this way: "Everything is necessary that he sends; nothing is necessary that he withholds." I go back to that, and back to that, and back to that. That's an amazing statement, but it is absolutely a great summary of all kinds of biblical teaching. Everything that comes into your life, you need!
Charles Spurgeon was the greatest preacher of the 19th century. Yet he was deeply affected by chronic ailments, most prominently a debilitating case of gout. Further he had periods of deep depression – unassailable depression. But here’s what he told his students: “Our afflictions are the health regimen of an infinitely wise physician. I daresay the greatest earthly blessing that God could give to any of us is health -- with the exception of sickness! If some men that I know of could only be favored with a month of rheumatism, it would be God’s grace to mellow them marvelously.” He went on, “I’m afraid that all the grace that I have got of my comfortable and easy times and happy hours might almost lie on a penny. But the good that I have received from my sorrows and pains and griefs is altogether incalculable.” Let the storm come – where is your faith?
III. Seek His Help
V. 24, “And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm.” In the middle of the worst storm they’ve ever encountered, Jesus remains calmly asleep. However, panicked we may be there is calm in the person of Jesus. He’s never caught by surprise – never at a loss what to do. He’s a great God who is supremely at peace. So we must get eyes off the storm and onto the calm that is in Him.
How can Jesus sleep when the disciples are panicked? Doesn’t He care? Well, in this case, He is still catching up on rest. But at a deeper level, He is waiting for the disciples to come to the end of themselves and seek His help. He knows we are at our best when we are weakest. God can be most glorified when we are at the end of our rope. Imagine these fishermen – pulling out every trick they knew to keep that boat afloat – trying everything before finally seeking help. Imagine us when the storm hits. Placing faith in our own experience, in the doctor, in the counselor, in the government. God is the last resort -- end of the line. People are big; God is small. He wants to reverse that, Beloved. He deserves to be consulted first, not last. I’m not suggesting we avoid docs or natural means of help – but let’s get God up where He belongs! He is at His glorious best when we are most dependent.
Now, this prayer was not very theologically informed! Not a great prayer, was it? Didn’t hallow God’s name, no confession! It showed almost no faith whatsoever. Really, it was a downright poor excuse for a prayer! But it had urgency! And was highly effective! “And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm.” Don’t you love the phrase, “there was calm”? The winds stopped, and the waves calmed immediately. Smooth as glass. An amazing display. Jesus calmed the waters.
He calmed the disciples, too. Why? Because He was growing in their eyes. V. 25, “ He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?” Amazing! After months with Jesus, after thousands of miracles and even resurrections, Jesus continues to amaze them. They are dumbfounded He can control nature. They ask, “Who is this then?” The answer is obvious. This is God. Who else could it be?! They are gripped in the boat with omnipotence! That takes a lot of anxiety out of life. It causes Peter to later write, “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (I Pet 5:7). He was learned that in the boat. The calm that resides at the heart of the Savior can pass to the heart of every believer as we begin to believe! When you’re with Him, you’re covered. Isa 55:6 urges us, “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.” Are you a believer? Then you are in the boat with the One who has power over nature, over demons, over illness, over death. It’s time to trust Him!
IV. Trust in Him
This is the great lesson of the passage. Jesus asks, “Where is your faith?” I’ll tell you where. It was in their own ability. This was their territory. Jesus was the preacher. They were the sailors and fishermen. They had to learn that He is greater than they even in their area of expertise. His strength is made perfect in our weakness and we must learn our weakness is everywhere. The disciples had to learn dependence in the area of their greatest strength!
What is it you think you can do? Where is your expertise? Where does your confidence lie? Where do you not even seek the Lord’s help because you already know how to do it? Your job? Your career? Your ability to teach? To love to others? To parent? Listen – where is your strength? That’s exactly where you must learn dependence. Faith must be in Him – not in our ability.
“Where is your faith?” The disciples had seen Jesus do for so many others. They had healed and cast out demons themselves. But now, they have to believe on their own behalf. This is the time when their faith should have been strong : “Hey, God’s not going to let this boat sink with Jesus on board.” But they didn’t get it. They could believe for others, but not for themselves. God works for others, but not for me. “Where is your faith?” How would you answer? “I don’t know, Lord. I seem to have misplaced it.”
Jesus is asking them to place their faith in Him and Him alone. For many of us, our faith is placed firmly and solidly in the answer. We are believing God for the miracle, and if the miracle does not come – now what? Because the one sure thing is that the miracle will not always come. That’s why they are called miracles instead of Wednesdays. They don’t happen every day. “Where is your faith?” If our faith is in the answer, in the blessing, in the result, it is misplaced. We are no better than the Romans. We are worshiping the creation rather than the Creator. When Jesus said, “Where is your faith” He was inviting them to do one thing and one thing only. Trust Him. Trust Him no matter what the answer. Trust Him no matter what the outcome.
Where is your faith, David? “You [Goliath] come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, . . . and he will give you into our hand.” (I Sam 17:45-47). Where is your faith, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? “O Nebuchadnezzar, . . . our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.” (Dan 3:16-18). Where is your faith, Paul? “But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me” (II Tim 1:12). Where is your faith, Job? “Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15). Where is your faith, Beloved? Only One is worthy, regardless of circumstance, regardless of difficulty, regardless of the enemy and regardless of the outcome. The One in the boat with you is incomparable.
Conc -- Alexander Whyte was an old preacher whose arm was caught in a thrashing machine as a child. Everyone thought he would lose it – everyone except a neighbor who would not allow them to take the boy to the hospital for surgery. The pain became severe, and Whyte’s mother summoned the neighbor again. She examined the boy and said, “I like the pain. I like the pain.” She was right. The arm healed. The pain was the first step to recovery. It’s the same spiritually, Beloved. It takes the devastation of adversity to teach us what a big God we have. “Where is your faith?” I trust it’s in Him. Let’s pray.