Calming the storm
The National Weather Service has Issued A Severe Thunderstorm Warning
During the day on March 12, the National Weather Service issued severe thunderstorm watches and warnings in most of the western counties in Missouri. As evening approached, tornado watches were issued and more counties were included in the watches and warnings. Then, late in the evening, several tornados formed, warnings were issued, and property and lives were impacted. By the time it was all over, 195 homes were destroyed in Southwest Missouri and 323 homes were damaged. The National Weather Service in Springfield issued a total of 53 tornado warnings and 34 severe thunderstorm warnings. A total of 12 tornados were tracked, some with a width of only 30 yards, but others with a width of half a mile with a total tornado path length of 40 miles.
The violence and fury of storms, and our fear of those storms, has been documented throughout the Bible. God once destroyed the earth with a planet-wide rainstorm, killing all but Noah, his family, and those animals in the ark. When God sent the plague of hail on Egypt, the Bible tells us it was the worst storm that had hit Egypt since it had become a nation. Job’s children were killed by a violent wind. Paul and his companion’s endured a storm lasting over two weeks while sailing in the Adriatic Sea.
We have a weather radio in our house, and when the weather is bad and the weather alarm goes off, it definitely gets our attention. And those of us that heard the tornado sirens sounding around 8:00 PM on March 12, still remember moving to the basement and wondering what the next few minutes would bring. As calm and rational as we may have tried to be, questions came into our mind: Would our family be safe? Would we still have a home in the morning? Will we survive the night? From a distance, storms, even tornados, can be a wondrous site to behold – perhaps even exciting. But no excitement or wonder was heard in the voices of those who lost loved ones, or whose homes were destroyed on March 12. When the storm is close, when it is upon you, fear and dispair often take over.
In Mark chapter 4, we read of what must have been a wonderful day of teaching. Jesus spoke to large crowds of people on the shore of the Sea of Gallilee – crowds so large that he stepped into a boat and moved a short distance from the shore so he could have room to speak to the crowd and be heard. He taught them through parables about God’s message falling on different kinds of soil, about being a lamp on a lampstand, about the kingdom of God growing to maturity like a plant, and about the importance of even a small amount of faith. We can almost hear the waves lapping against the shoreline as he teaches the people and as he says “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” The day draws to a close, and we pick up the story in verse 35 of Mark 4:
35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
There are several lessons we can learn from this passage, and I want us to take a close look at them in the time that remains this morning.
Life-threatening storms will come – Prepare!
As safe as we may feel from day to day, as invincible as our youthful years may make us feel, as much as it seems calamity has missed our own family, we know that dangerous storms will come our way. Some of these storms may impact us in a physical way. They may take the form of a weather storm, it may be a storm of illness and health concerns, or it may be a storm that impacts our job, our family, or our finances.
Storms may also be more emotional or spiritual in nature. They may take the form of an assault on our faith, a broken relationship, a feeling of worthlessness, or the threat of an addictive temptation.
The good thing about storms is that they don’t last. They are temporary. It is important that we remember that. Proverbs 10:25 states:
25 When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone,
but the righteous stand firm forever.
What helps us get through the storms that are certain to come? Our relationship with God – with our Lord Jesus. We must have godly wisdom to survive the storms that come into our life – a wisdom based on a life of following God’s teachings. An earlier passage in Proverbs tells us that the wisdom of God will not be there for those who have rejected God and his teachings. Let’s read together starting in Proverbs 1:24:
24 But since you rejected me when I called
and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand,
25 since you ignored all my advice
and would not accept my rebuke,
26 I in turn will laugh at your disaster;
I will mock when calamity overtakes you—
27 when calamity overtakes you like a storm,
when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind,
when distress and trouble overwhelm you.
28 “Then they will call to me but I will not answer;
they will look for me but will not find me.
That is frightening for us to read, but it serves as a strong teaching regarding the importance of a maintaining a strong relationship with God, if we want any hope of surviving the storms that are certain to come our way. Storms are coming, and just as it is important to prepare ahead of time with a radio for directions, a flashlight for illumination, and food and water to sustain us for those weather storms, we need to have God’s word in our heart to provide us with direction, to illuminate the dark path before us, and to feed and sustain us.
Jesus always cares
When storms are upon us, when they are near and we are threatened, we start to ask questions. What will happen to us? Will we survive? In the Mark 4 passage, the disciples were no different. The waves were breaking over the edge of the boat, they were taking on a lot of water, yet here was Jesus, sound asleep. They woke him, and you can just hear the frantic tone in their voice: “Don’t you care if we drown?” Jesus, don’t you care?
Intellectually, we have studied enough about Jesus’ life that we should certainly understand that he cares. We read stories of Jesus healing people, feeding the hungry, and lifting up the broken-hearted. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us:
7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
But do we always have that personal sense that Jesus really cares about us? About me? About what is going on in my life? Does he even know me and the storms that are in my life right now? The book of John helps us with this. Jesus is not some paid religious messenger, some disconnected employee with no vested interested in those who are in his charge. John 10:12 tells us:
12 The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.
Jesus cares about us because he knows us – he knows all about us – and still loves us deeply. Jesus cares that we are struggling in our job – he wants us to do well. Jesus cares about our broken heart, our broken relationships – he wants brighter days for us. He cares that we struggle in our finances, he aches with us in our sickness, he yearns for us to see that way of escape when temptation is so strong for us. He wants us to seek him out, to have that strong relationship with him so that he can shelter us and protect us.
“Do you care about us, Jesus?”
“Oh, yes, I care. I hope you know how deeply I want you to get through this. I know it may look bad, I know the storm is fierce, but believe in me and know that I will see you to the shore. I love you, and we will get through this together.”
He can bring calm to any storm
With only three words, and the strength of He who created all things, Jesus calmed the storm that seemed to threaten the lives of his disciples. “Quite! Be still!” The winds stopped, and it became completely calm. This was not simply the storm moving on through the area. We know this because of the disciples’ reaction. “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
Some storms may seem too big for us, the situation may appear to be too grave. Hope may be hanging on by a thread, if it is still there at all. But we have to remember who God is. We may be unable to control the calamity around us, but God can. We may not see the path out of the darkness, but God sees it clearly.
Matthew 19:26 – Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Luke 1:37 – For nothing is impossible with God.
Philippians 4:13 – I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
If you are like me, when you read this Mark 4 passage, you wonder how in the world anyone could sleep, through a storm that was tossing the ship, water splashing everywhere, the wind whistling through the rigging, people shouting orders as they struggle to stay afloat. I don’t understand how anyone could sleep through that!
There was obviously a peace that Jesus had – a peace that was based on a deep connection with his Father. An absolutely unshakeable trust that he was doing the right thing, that his Father loved him, and that he was accomplishing his mission, sharing the kingdom every way he could. Paul spoke of this closeness we should all have with God when he wrote the Philippian church in Philippians 4:4:
The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
This is the peace that Jesus felt. He was not anxious because he trusted God. He had a peace that is beyond understanding. But here is an important point for us to remember: He did not keep that peace to himself. He shares it, even today, with each of his children – each of those who follow him. Close to the end of his life on earth, he made this clear as he spoke with his disciples in John 14:27:
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
As Christians, Jesus has given his peace to us. And he doesn’t give as the world gives, with reservation, or in small, measured amounts. He generously gives his peace to us. His peace is a deep, abiding calm in our lives. It is a peace that tells the storms around us to be still. It is a peace that is so strong, we don’t understand it – we only know it is from God and not from within us. With his peace, we don’t have to be upset or afraid any longer. God will take care of us. It will all be okay.
Though we don’t always notice it, this is one of the miracles of Jesus that was foretold in the Old Testament. In Psalms 107:29, we read:
29 He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven.
31 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for men.
Is he even in your boat?
My question for you, for each of us today, is simply this: Is Jesus even in your boat? Storms are headed this way. Watches and warnings are being issued. Even now lives are being impacted. Do you have a relationship with Jesus? Is he there in your life so that you can turn to him to calm the storm? If not, will you seek him out today? He is waiting – waiting to share his peace with you. If we can help you in any way, won’t you come as we stand together and sing.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Mk 4:35). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Pr 10:25). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Pr 1:24). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (1 Pe 5:6). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Jn 10:12). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Mt 19:26). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Php 4:5). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Jn 14:27). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Ps 107:29). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.