THE PERFECT STORM
August 13, 2000
Late this past Monday night, I’d just finished studying for this weekend’s subject matter, when our telephone rang. The voice on the other end of the line informed my wife Lisa that a friend of mine–a guy I used to play basketball with, someone I’d worked out with, a young man who was the picture of health and had been a part of Fellowship Church for nine years–was dying.
When Lisa relayed the message to me, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I said, “Lisa, no way, not him.” We hung the phone up. I picked it back up and called the hospital. When I heard the head nurses voice shaking and trembling, I couldn’t believe my ears. She said, “Pastor Young, he just died.”
I jumped out of bed, threw on my clothes, jumped in my truck, and picked up another staff member on the way to the hospital. When I walked down those cold corridors, when I locked eyes with those children who’d just lost their dad, when I embraced this young widow, I thought to myself, “Man, what a devastating storm. What a tragedy.” I thought, “How will they navigate through this one?”
It’s amazing how quickly the storms of life strike, isn’t it?–Just like that, so many times out of no where. We’re going to look at the various storms in the Bible. As we peruse the pages of Scripture, we’re going to learn how God’s people, people like you and me, processed these storms. I believe their life situations really relate to where we are, even in August 2000. Navigating the storms of life.
The first storm we’re going to examine was the storm that I read before I walked on stage. It must have been a pretty significant one, because it’s mentioned in three different books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Let me give you the Cliff Notes before we get into this, because this is huge.
Jesus had just finished a very intensive time of teaching. Following that intensive time of teaching, as he usually did, he drew away. He asked his disciples to jump in a boat with him and said, “Guys, we’re going to the other side.” Jesus put his head down on a cushion, and the Scriptures record that he fell asleep. It’s so easy to sleep on a body of water. It kind of rocks us like a baby. Suddenly, though, a storm struck. Now, you’ve got to realize that they were on the Sea of Galilee. It’s 600 feet below sea level, surrounded by mountains, and storms can come up just like that. The disciples, these commercial fisherman, they were freaking out. You know it’s a bad storm when fishermen are scared. That’s just a good sign. So, they said, “Jesus, wake up, wake up! Don’t you care if we drown?” Jesus got up and he calmed the winds. He calmed the waves. Then he looked at his disciples and said, “Where is your faith?” “Why are you so afraid?” Christ asked. There are several observations that we need to lift from this text, observations that can help us navigate the storms of life.
The first one is: Life is a mall of squalls. I’ve had the privilege of traveling around a lot over my life, and I’ve seen a lot of different places, a lot of different places with stores. But I’ve never seen a place that has shopping like Texas, especially Dallas/Ft. Worth. Think about all the malls we have: Northpark, Grapevine Mills, The Galleria, Hulen Mall. You name it, we’ve got a mall for it. And the stores are so specific in the malls, aren’t they? From specialty shops to kiosks, you can get anything you want in a mall. I’m staggered at how specific the stores are. Life is the same way. The storms are the same way. Life is mall of squalls, and the storms are so specialized. There are so many of them.
What I’m saying is that every one of you who is hearing my voice right now is doing one of three things: entering a storm, engaging in a storm, or emerging from a storm. I think it’s interesting to note several things about this text. I think it’s interesting to note that, even though Christ was on board, the storm still struck.
“Wait a minute, Ed. You mean, I can be obedient to the Lord and still face storms, still face depression, or death, or sickness? I can still face that?” Yes. Jonah—we’ll talk more about him in several weeks—faced a storm because he was disobedient. The disciples, though, were obedient. They were with Jesus, and they still were involved in this storm.
Nowhere in the Bible does Jesus say we’re exempt from difficult times. Nowhere does He say, “Once you accept Me, once you invite Me to live on your craft, it’ll be a ‘three-hour tour.’” It’s not in there. Even though Christ was on board, the storm still struck.
Here’s something else we need to learn about this text. Even though Christ was on board, the disciples were still gripped by fear and doubt. We will have those momentary lapses of fear and doubt. They were fearful, as we’ll see in a little while, because they were out of control.
I’ve been fearful before. I deal with fear, and so do you. That’s pretty comforting to know that the disciples were fearful, even though Christ was right there.
Here’s another thing you need to know about this text. Even though the disciples had a little bit of faith, not much, Jesus still rescued them. Is that cool or what? How many times in my life have I had just a little bit of faith, a little bit of trust, but I’ve tried to put my little bit of faith and trust on something solid. It’s not the weight of your faith; it’s what you put your faith and trust in. We must put it in the rock. We must put it in the hands of the true and only captain. If it’s not in His hands, there is no way we’re going to navigate through the storms of life.
Another thing you need to download from this text: even though the storm was raging, Jesus was still sleeping. You have someone who was living out the perfect will of His Father, someone who can give us peace, someone who can give us assurance. That’s Jesus. Life is a mall of squalls.
There’s something else we need to learn about this text and just about storms in general, from these different accounts in the Gospels. Storms come in various forms. Yeah, life is a mall of squalls, but storms come in various forms. Think about the different forms. Some storms are self-inflicted. They’re caused by ourselves. Have you ever gotten a speeding ticket before? This is a self-inflicted storm. The officer didn’t cause it. You caused it. I don’t care what you say; you messed up.
Remember Samson? That he-man with the she weakness, that biblical body builder. Samson dealt with storms. Do you know why? He disobeyed God. God said, “Samson, do not hang out in the Philistine country. Samson, do not marry those women. Samson, do not…do not…do not…” But Samson spun on his rebellious heals and did it his way. And he hit storm after storm after storm. So many storms are self-inflicted.
Some storms, though, are caused by others. When Paul and Silas were in prison, that storm was caused by someone else. I’m sure, you’ve been hurt before. You’ve been violated before. You’ve been taken advantage of before. You’ve been ripped off before. Storms caused by others.
Sometimes storms are God-induced. Remember back in the Old Testament when Pharaoh and the Egyptians had God’s people in bondage. What did God do? God sent a storm, a storm of ten plagues. Because these storms and these plagues were so horrendous, Pharaoh let God’s people go, and, ultimately, they got to the Promised Land.
There are relational storms, too. Some of you, right now, are going through a marital storm. You haven’t told anyone about it. It’s like your little secret. You’re sitting here at Fellowship Church listening, but little do the people around you know that your marriage is about to fall apart. I encourage you to take a step, to pick up the phone, to call us, and to deal with a Christian counselor. There’s help for you in your marital storm. You can negotiate those waves. Maybe you’ve been hurt by someone close to you, and that’s a relational storm. Many feel rejected and all alone. That’s you’re relational storm.
There are some health storms, too, that people are dealing with. Maybe you’ve received a bad report from the doctor. Maybe you have this anxiety or stress you can’t shake. Maybe you feel like you live in a cave of depression. That’s a health storm. It’s real. It hurts.
Occupational storms are out there, too. You’re saying to yourself, “Man, I cannot work with this woman another day. I’ve got to face her again tomorrow morning!” “I cannot stand to work with this client or this coworker.” “I don’t know what I’m going to do. Where should I turn?” Maybe you’re thinking about changing jobs. I don’t know. Occupational storms are real.
Some of you here are dealing with spiritual storms. God has caused storms in some of your lives just to bring you to Fellowship, just to bring you here to hear this message, just to bring you here to connect with people who love the Lord. Maybe God has caused a storm in your life just so you will invite Jesus Christ into your craft. I don’t know. But it wouldn’t surprise me, especially in a crowd this size.
Storms come in various forms. Life is a mall of squalls. This past week, I was thinking and praying about this message. I thought about this: the evil one doesn’t care if we learn that life is a mall of squalls. He doesn’t care if we learn the fact that storms come in various forms. It’s no skin off his back. He doesn’t care if we learn all about the Bible. That’s not a big deal to him. You can learn this and learn that. You can learn about all the different little nuances in this story about Jesus being on board the craft and the disciples still dealing with fear and doubt. He says, “Fine and dandy. Good for you.”
I’ll tell you what makes the evil one mad. I’ll tell you what wakes him up and gives him the octane to attack you and me. It’s when we translate our learning into living. He doesn’t want us to change our lives. He doesn’t want us to bow the knee to Christ. He doesn’t want us to say, “Jesus, You navigate, you run the show, you take me through the storm. I’ve learned it, now I’m going to live it out.” That is what the evil one does not want to happen.
Amazingly, when storms strike—little storms, small storms, or hurricane-type storms—here’s what we do. We have this rrr-eaction. I’ve done this and so have you. We’ve rrr-eacted. When the storm strikes, instead of really translating our learning into living, we run from the storm. We jump into our little craft, our little dingy, and crank up the motor. “See ya’ storm! I’ll run from you. I’ll have a storm-free life.” That won’t happen.
This past summer, I was in a little boat in the middle of the ocean. We looked on the horizon line and saw five storms coming our way. My friend said, “Oh, we can get around the storm.” He gunned up the motor and stopped. The storm was chasing us. He turned around and went the other way. The storm was still chasing us. Finally, he said, “You know what? We’ve just got to sit here and ride it out.” And sure enough, we did.
We’ll discover this fact in this series: when you try to run away from God, you’ll end up running right into God. Here’s what happens. Usually, when we see a storm coming and we try to run from the storm, we end up inviting sinful sympathizers into our craft. These are people who have run from God for a long, long time, and they give us encouragement and pat us on the back. They identify with us, and we think we’re doing what we should be doing, instead of saying, “You know, God, this storm is coming my way. I’m not going to run from it. I’m going to do your will.”
Let me illustrate what I’m talking about. I talked to a friend who lives in the Southeast. This friend of mine was going through a serious struggle in his marriage. This Christian man, who told me for years that he loved God—instead of facing this marital storm, running to Jesus and saying what the disciples said, “Jesus, help me!”—has jumped in his dingy and tried to run away from the storm. He’s invited sinful sympathizers into the craft. Satan always has them out there to say, “Oh, it’s okay to have that affair on her. Oh, it’s okay to be involved in that illegal activity. Oh, don’t worry about it, boys will be boys and girls will be girls.”
Sinful sympathizers. I’m going to tell you something, folks. If you’re going to do it God’s way, you’re going to have to throw the sinful sympathizers out of the craft. You’ve got to jump into Jesus’ craft and let Him tell you what to do. My friend is running away from God, and, at the same time, he’s running right into God. I’ve tried to run away from God before, too. So have you. You always hit him face to face. It’s inevitable. So, some of us run from God. That’s the first “R.”
Others just resign ourselves to the storms of life. We say, “Well, the storm is here. I’m going to get wet. Better put my rain gear on.” You zip it up real tight. “I’ll get seasick. I’ll drown. This craft’s not strong enough. That’s just the way it is. What a horrible life.” Don’t do that. And don’t do this next “R” either.
Some of us just resent the storms. Yeah, we run from them. We resign ourselves to them. Some of us just resent them. We curse the wind, curse the waves, shake our puny fists in the face of God. We get all bitter and angry. I want to tell you something about the jerks in our lives. We all deal with jerks. It’s a part of living. Here’s what I’ve learned about jerks, negative people. Jerks and negative people are usually people who have been through a storm and have resented it. If you look at a negative person, someone who is raging on someone else and is angry, someone who cuts you off on the freeway, someone who’s just really upset—even at the drive-through—usually they’ve gone through some storm. Just try to listen for the rain, the wind, the waves.
Don’t do those things. Don’t “rrr-eact.” Do it God’s way. And here is God’s way. Here is how to translate our learning into living. We’ve got to realize several things. First of all, we’ve got to realize God’s proximity, God’s location. I bring you back to Matthew’s account in Chapter 8, Verse 23, “Then He [Jesus] got into the boat and His disciples followed Him.” Imagine if I said, “Okay, you can buy a boat at Bass Pro Shop and take that boat to the Gulf of Mexico. And, as you make this trip to Cuba, someone else is going to ride with you in the boat: God.” How many of you would feel confident? Boy, I would. I’d say, “Bring Cuba on. I’m ready. The Gulf of Mexico. A little bass boat. God, you’re driving. I don’t have any worries.” I think we’d all feel confident if we could see God right there. The disciples had God in the boat, and they didn’t realize it. I can cut them some slack, because they didn’t realize who Jesus was at this moment.
But I can’t use that same excuse and neither can you. For twenty centuries He’s been riding in crafts. He’s been helping people. He’s there for you. Hang on to Him. Love Him. Let Him captain your ship. Here’s what the prophet Isaiah said about storms. Isaiah 43, Verse 2 says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.” In other words, whatever you’re going through, remember that you’re going through. You’re going through. That gives me confidence, knowing that I will never face anything in my life alone.
What are you facing? Are you facing now the loss of a loved one? What are you facing? A career change? What are you facing? Relational turmoil? What are you facing? Sickness? Whatever you’re going through, if you realize that God’s right there by you, you’re going through. Realize God’s proximity.
Also, realize something else. Realize that God cares. God cares for you. Mark Chapter 4, Verse 38, “The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’” I’ve said that before in storms. Haven’t you? “God, do you really care? I mean, come on, God, I don’t really feel you right now. I can’t really see you right now. Do you really care?” I hope you didn’t miss what I just said. I don’t “feel” you right now. We get all focused on feelings and, often times, we miss God.
Yes, our relationship with God brings forth great feelings. Often times, though, it does not. Sometimes we don’t have that “feeling.” We just need to be obedient and follow the Lord. We need to realize that He cares for us, and then, as we do what the Word says, the feelings will follow. Christianity is not something we just feel our way into. “Well, if I feel a quiver in my liver, if I feel it, then it must be God.” No! You could have had some bad Domino’s pizza last night. That doesn’t mean that. Remember God cares.
I like what the master angler, Simon Peter, said about storms. He said, “Cast all your anxiety [all of you storm stuff] on Him, because He cares for you.” For many of us, right now, going through difficult times, difficult storms, we need to cast our anxiety daily, sometimes hourly, sometimes minute by minute, on Him. Why? He cares for you.