Being a friend of Jesus does not make us exempt from the storms of life. Todd presents five reasons trials come and three applications for living in their midst.
Putting the Pages Back In - A New Look at Devotion as We Begin Year 2
Jesus' Return to Nazareth - The Shocking Results
Come, Change, Confess: His Pattern to Touch Lives Then and Now
When Little Lambs Arise, We'll All Experience the Joy of Jairus
A Man Living Among the Dead Meets the One Offering the Gift of Life
The Storms of Life: The Reasons For Them, the Captain of Them, and Your Response to Them
Sow the Seed, Shine the Light, Feed the Sheep, and Wait for the Day
3 Sometimes, 3 Anytimes -that You Need to Listen to 1 Time: Jesus on Family & Pharisees
Christ's Change of Strategy - His Plan for Them Then and His Plan for You Now
Their Opposition and His Answer - Getting to Know God for Who He Really Is
Turn with me to Mark, chapter 4. We're going to finish that little section today and move into another section of the gospel next week, obviously. We've been walking through this little piece of Scripture that tells us more about this one who we say we want to learn to follow well. We're careful about the words we choose here, because words mean something. So we have chosen to embrace the term followers of Christ as opposed to Christians.
Certainly, we're not ashamed to be Christians, as long as that word is defined properly, but we've found it to be a divisive term. There are some "haves" and some "have nots," some ins and some outs. What we really want to make folks understand is it's not so much about putting yourself under some category that you check on a survey or a job application or a government form but what's going on in your heart.
What is the purpose of your life? Is it to be a follower of Jesus, not to categorize yourself as a descendant of somebody who worships in a certain type of building with a certain type of creed? Who are you and who do you say he is? So, as a group of folks who purpose to follow the Lord and follow Christ, we thought we'd take some time and look at his life.
What has been going on so far in Mark is simply that Jesus has begun to reveal himself. As he did, his popularity increased, and as he did, the people who were in control of the hearts and the minds of the people in terms of communicating to them who God was and how they were going to relate to him were offended by Jesus because he was talking about a new and different way.
Not a way that was going to be oppressive and not a way that was going to be conditioned upon the legalistic expectations and traditions of men, but a way that was going to come by a humble acknowledgment of who we were and who he was and the gap between us and how if God didn't bridge that gap we were without hope and lost.
We found that the leadership of the nation consistently tried to thwart the message of this man and consistently tried to put him down and shove him to the side and, in fact, going so far as to take what he did as an act of the Evil One, an act of demons, that he was an agent not of God but of Satan. That's where they tried to put him off.
In Mark, chapter 4, he changed the way he communicated. In fact, before that he began to call a smaller group of men to follow him who he was going to train and build his life into, that they could go out and take the message that was becoming increasingly more difficult for him to share because of the wild popularity of his ability to heal.
Folks were coming to him for healing, and though he wanted to heal for the purposes of authenticating that he was the man worthy of the message, he did not want to be doing a sideshow. He was much more concerned about the condition of the sick hearts of the nation and the people he came to serve.
So he called these twelve, and these twelve and others who followed him were going to be men he was going to make sure understood the purpose of God sending his Son, fully God, fully man, as we'll see so perfectly today, into this world to bring hope, to bring healing to a hurting heart, and to bring light to a dark world. In Mark, chapter 4, he started to talk in parables, to tell stories which exposed to folks truths that if they really wanted to understand they could, but if they were going to scoff at what he said they could scoff at the stories. There was deep meaning and truth in those stories.
We looked last time we were together that there were some stories in Mark, chapter 4, verses 1-34, that talked about how it's the job of the faithful one of God then and the faithful men of God today just to sow the seed, and it's going to have different responses depending on the soil and the condition of men's hearts that receive it, and to shine the light, and how foolish it is if somebody gives you a light and you're in darkness to take that light and stick it under a pillow.
We can't do much with what people do with the light we give them. All that God tells us is to do what Jesus did so faithfully, which is to shine the light. Don't be crazy and stick that light under a pillow, but if they just scoff at what you say and take your seed and don't let it produce fruit as you preach the Word, that's their business. You preach the Word. If they take your light you give them and shove it away from them and they want to continue to walk in darkness, that's their business, but you shine the light.
Jesus talked about how he came to shepherd the lost sheep of Israel; in fact, the lost sheep of the world. He tells us we should be concerned with the same, and then he says it's going to be different. There's going to be some time right now that the King is not going to be put on the throne on this earth, so wait for that day. But in the midst of that transition, you keep preaching about the coming King. You wait and be sure that he is King, and you wait and be sure that he will reign, but you sow the seed, shine the light, feed the sheep, and wait for the day.
The disciples pulled him aside after he shared those stories, and Jesus explained many of them to them, and that's what we looked at last time. Now, after that long day of preaching, he says, "Let's get away. Let's come away for a while and go spend some time alone." So Jesus in Mark, chapter 4, verse 35…
"And on that day [that I just described] , when evening had come, He said to them [the disciples he had called to be with him] , 'Let us go over to the other side.' And leaving the multitude, they took Him along with them, just as He was, in the boat; and other boats were with Him. And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. And He Himself [Christ] was in the stern…" The very back of the boat. Steer from the stern; you bow forward. Remember that from your little canoe class? So Jesus is in the back, sleeping away in the stern.
"…asleep on the cushion; and they awoke Him and said to Him, 'Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?' And being aroused, He rebuked the wind and said to the sea, 'Hush, be still.' And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, 'Why are you so timid? How is it that you have no faith?' And they became very much afraid and said to one another, 'Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?'"
Gang, what I love to do when we come to these passages… I had a chance to be with some lughead who did the Rams' chapel this last Thursday when they were in town. I was talking to them, and they read some Scripture before I got up. I said, "Guys, if I can leave you with one thing today… You're going to probably forget what I have to say, but I want you to know this: the Bible is not a good luck charm."
We're going to look at some Scripture together right here, but I don't want us just to read the Scripture. I don't even want us to know the story. You're never done reading your Bible until you ask yourself a question with two words in it…So what? That's a great story. You ought to know there was a time there was this guy who walked on this earth who had a group of men he was leading who he told to go across the sea.
On the way over there, a giant storm came up, and they were concerned. They woke him up and said, "What are you doing? Why are you sleeping? We're about to die. Don't you care?" That guy stood up and said, "Waves, be still. Guys, what's wrong? Let's get it together." That's a great story. You ought to know it. It happened. It's history, and significant history. But, I mean, really. So what? What does that have to do with you and me? How does it apply to our lives?
So we want to take a time to go through this passage and make some observations and pull out some timeless principles and then get some application for our lives, because chances are the reason God has preserved that story and recorded this event is because he wants it to be meaningful to us even as it was meaningful to them.
For whatever reason, God has chosen to reveal himself to us today through word, the written word that he has faithfully preserved. Beyond all other ancient texts and manuscripts, this text has been preserved, and there's a reason for it. It's because the living God cares for people today as he cared for people then. He wants the life of his Son to impact you the way he wanted it to impact the men in that boat.
See, the habits, the priorities, and the intentions of a disciple are forever the same. What you want to do is get in the way of the Lord, get in the way of Jesus. If you're here today, at least for this moment, you are a disciple. A disciple means nothing more than being a learner, somebody who's going to get in process of learning about what it is they're underneath.
Today, for whatever reason, God at least has us here where we're learning about this Jesus. You may choose not to follow him. Many of us already have, but we're glad you're here, and you're going to learn about him. Just like there was a multitude that followed after Christ then, there's a multitude that all over this world today are going to sit underneath his Word again. What we have to all decide is if we will go deeper with him. Will it make a difference in our lives?
Maybe you'll just hear enough today that you'll want to come back again to sit under his Word. Maybe you'll pick up his Word and read it and engage with it alone, but you will continue to be a seeker, a disciple, somebody who's learning about the King, who's following maybe at a distance, and then you'll come closer. As we've said so clearly already in earlier weeks, God is anxious for any to come.
He says he will turn nobody away who wants to come and be in his intimate group. Come, now is the time to worship, and not just in singing but with your life. You have to deal with this one. One guy just wrote this. As we get into the text a little bit, I want to give you a big-picture reason for why the writer of this particular book we're studying, Mark, wrote the way he did. Mark was the gospel that was sent out to the non-Jewish world, to the Roman world, and people were hearing about this great servant who was also a king.
This great servant had incredible ability to communicate, and he communicated with power, and the things he communicated were radical. Nobody has a right to communicate those things unless they have an inherent authority that men don't normally have. This King did some things to authenticate his words and to demand that you would listen to him, because he does some other things that are, frankly, stunning and cannot be explained by the natural, because he has to be supernatural to pull them off.
So maybe his words are supernatural and maybe his words give life, but you're going to see that this servant King is also greatly opposed. If you follow the servant King, you should also expect to be greatly opposed. Part of what Mark was doing was writing this little section of Scripture to encourage people in the face of the opposition that they, like their teacher, were going to face. This is essentially what one guy said:
"In light of seeing Christ in action, these communities facing intense stress and raging storm of persecution need to be encouraged. In light of hearing of Mark's record of what Christ did, the wild opposition of demons and the human beings that opposed him is all of a sudden not seen to be so deadly serious as it first appeared, but rather a phenomenon that is worthy only of a disbelieving shake of the head."
What this guy is saying is that when you understand who this Jesus is, the fact that even the demons of hell opposed him and the leaders of the world of the day opposed him shouldn't scare you; it should make you just shake your head in disbelief. What do they think they're doing taking on this guy? If this guy is who he claims to be, there's no reason to fight him. You lay down your sword and do everything you can to make peace with him.
What Mark is going to say is "If people come against you, as children of that King, just shake your head in disbelief. Tell them they should not mess with you. You're a child of the King. Even if they have victory in spilling your blood, that's not the end." Listen to what this guy goes on to write. "How do the 'rulers' dare to set themselves against the living God? Do they not know who it is they oppose?" Part of the reason Mark is telling you that Christ came against demons, against leaders, against the forces of evil is that he is saying, "He is victorious over all of that."
"Mark's depiction of the invincible power of Jesus as he spearheads the battle against the demonized world enables his community not only to conquer its fear of its enemies but even to join in the divine laughter that sounds forth [in Psalm 2, which says, 'He who sits in the heavens laughs. The Lord scoffs at them who oppose him.'] Let the enemy forces do their worst, striking even—as they think—unto the death. The joke will be on them…"
Gang, what we have to understand today is that this text, more than any other we've seen, is going to reveal a part of Christ that when you really understand who he is… He's not just a teacher who seduces people's hearts. He's not even a conjurer who can somehow deal with these people with fits of epilepsy or flat-out demon possession. He's not even a great physician who can straighten a crooked leg.
People who read the Scriptures aren't as uncomfortable with Jesus' healing ministry and maybe even his exorcisms, because they can come up with some scientific or psychological explanation for how he might have done those, but when you hear what he did today, you either have to say it didn't happen, it's a fairy tale, or you have to figure out what you're going to do with this man.
To oppose him is the height of insanity, because he's not just a man. He is supreme over the natural. He is supernatural. He is who he claimed to be: the living God. It ought to scare you to death to oppose him. Mark wants you to see it. There are people who read this text and talk about the problems that come in life, and sometimes they will tell you the reason the storm came is because somehow the disciples were disobedient.
You need to know this. The disciples were not disobedient. They did exactly what he said. He said in verse 35, "Get in the boat, and let's go to the other side." So off they were going to go to the other side. They left the crowd and took him with them, because that's where he wanted to go. Yet you'll see that right away trouble hits. I'm going to give you an application in a minute. It says being a friend of Jesus does not make us exempt from the storms of life.
What I want to do is walk you through very quickly a theology of suffering and a theology of trials, because too many times we've had individuals who tell us when there is a storm in our lives, some great havoc in our lives, that it must be because God is angry at us and we are bad people and God is coming down on us with some consequence that is well deserved.
You need to know that's a possibility, but it isn't the only possibility. Let me just click through a few of these things for you. Let me give you some reasons, a proper theology of why trials would come. These are the reasons biblically. There are five of them.
First of all, they sometimes come when we rebel. They come as a consequence of sin or foolish choices. That's the one most of us think. Most of us have been told if we cheat on our test at school and we don't deal with God, there's a good chance that school bus will not pick us up but will run us over. We live in fear like that. God is this policeman who takes great notes, and he will bust you, and he will find you. America's "most wanted" and God's "most wanted" are always caught.
So when something happens, you kind of figure out, "What did I do to deserve this?" I can remember the very first time I bought a car. My very first car was this little Chevy S-10 Blazer that I loved. It was fun for me to have my own car that I actually had purchased. It was used. I was at Bubba's Chicken over here on Hillcrest. I got some chicken. I was listening to a praise tape in my new car.
I dropped some money when the lady was handing it back to me through the drive-through, and I opened my door to get the money. The person behind me was nudging up. They wanted to come. I didn't want to hold them up, so I got the money and started to drive forward without shutting my door. There's a little pole you can't see that shut my door for me. I pulled up and went, "Oh no!" I got out and looked, and there was this big dent.
The first thing that went through my mind was, "Hey, man. I was listening to praise music. What gives? My day went bad. What did I do? What did I do to deserve this?" That's a terrible way to live, and it's an unbiblical way to think. It is true that sometimes we experience things because we're foolish, because we make willful decisions to disobey the record of wisdom God has given us. A proverb you ought to know is Proverbs 19:2-3.
It says, "Also it is not good for a person to be without knowledge, and he who makes haste with his feet errs. The foolishness of man subverts his way, and his heart rages against the Lord." In other words, you sow a seed of disobedience and there's going to be a consequence to that. You grow that fruit, and then you're mad at God because you got what you sowed. Don't be deceived; God is not mocked. A man will reap what he sows.
It is true that sometimes trials come. Wives leave because we are idiots as husbands. Sometimes kids are dysfunctional because we have been neglecting them as fathers. Sometimes hearts are broken because we've entered into a relationship and formed bonds of emotional and maybe even physical intimacy with people we have no business engaging with. So hurt and pain come sometimes because we're fools.
But what happens if it wasn't because of something you did? What are some other reasons trials come? I'll give you number two. Just flat-out because of the presence of evil in a fallen world. The Bible doesn't hide it. There is in this world, according to God's permissive will, a day when evil will act in times that looks to us to be in unrestrained ways. It always filters through the Sovereign God's hand, but he's going to let evil have its day.
Sometimes God allows evil to come across our lives, and he allows us to feel the effects of evil. Christ himself felt the effects of living in a fallen world and doing business with an Enemy that hated him. Job is the perfect example of that. His résumé in the book titled after him said that he was a blameless man, innocent in all his ways, righteous in the eyes of God, and, oh, to look at the things that guy went through.
He lost his wealth. He lost his family. He lost his friends' confidence. He lost his respect. He lost the intimacy and support of his wife, all because of the presence of evil that God allowed sovereignly into Job's life. Let me give you another reason that sometimes trials come. Joseph would be the example of this. Sometimes the Lord wants you to have influence on others.
Sometimes evil or trial comes into our lives because the way we go through that trial is going to help other people or because that trial is putting us in such a place that sometime in the future we're going to be in a place, having experienced something or known something, or being comforted in a place by God so we ourselves can comfort those who are in need of comfort with the comfort with which we ourselves have been comforted. Paul's words, not mine.
So sometimes God is going to allow some things to come. I can show you places in Scripture where that's clearly the case. Joseph would be one of many examples of that. I'll give you another reason that sometimes trials come, and that's simply this: the influence the Lord wants to have on your character. Sometimes, gang, trials come because God is up to something sovereign and sweet in your life.
It's not so much that he wants to influence other people, but right now he's doing business with you. There's a great passage of Scripture in Malachi, chapter 3, the last book in the Old Testament. In Malachi 3:3 it says, "He [Jehovah God] will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi…" It talks about how God is going to allow some trials to come into the life of some individuals for the purpose of purifying them.
There's a woman who read this, and she went to go see a silversmith because she wanted to understand this passage. She walked into this silversmith's place of work, and she looked at him and said, "Sir, can I have a moment with you? Could I ask you some questions about how you refine silver?" The gentleman said, "Certainly. Have at it." Without telling this guy the objective of why she was there, she said, "Tell me about the process of refining silver."
She said, "As you start, I want to know this. First of all, do you sit when you refine silver?" That's what the Scripture says: "He will sit as a refiner of silver." She said, "When you do this, do you sit?" He said, "Oh, absolutely. I have to sit, because I have to keep my eye steadily fixed on the furnace. If the time necessary for that refining is exceeded even in the slightest degree, the silver will be injured." So he sits with his eyes fixed on that metal.
She sat there, and she was encouraged at the picture that even when trials come in our lives… And they will, sometimes not because of your sin but because God is concerned for you, as it says in James 1:12. Sometimes if you persevere under that trial, once you've been through that trial, you're going to be approved for something far greater, both in this life, and that even reflects the life to come. Sometimes God is letting you through that because he wants to accomplish something in you.
The Scripture says in Malachi 3, and you know the same character of that God who deals with his sons in the Old Testament that way deals with you that way… Sometimes, as he's building in your life, he'll put you in that fire and his eyes will be fixed on you. The woman was satisfied, and she started to leave. The guy said, "Wait a minute. You're leaving without asking me a question that I can't believe you're not asking."
She said, "What's that?" He said, "You never asked me how I knew when the silver was done being refined. How do I know when the process is complete?" So she said, "Well, tell me. How do you know when the process is complete?" He said, "When I can look in the fire and see my reflection in the silver, it immediately comes out."
Part of what God is doing when he introduces troubles, trials, frustrations into my life, if it's not because of my own sin, if it's not because of evil, if it's not because he wants me to live through it in certain ways, sometimes it's just for me because he wants me to be conformed into the image of his Son and he values that even above letting me suffer a little bit in the fires of life so I will become more like him, because he knows that is a worthy objective.
There's another reason. I'll give it to you really quickly. It's simply this: I don't know. I promise you I have been around some people that I could walk through the first four options and say, "These are biblical reasons." I could take them to and let them look at the person of Jonah, clearly a guy who had made some bad choices. I could take them to Job. I could take them to Joseph. I could take them to the book of James.
Sometimes, as a pastor, as a friend, as a guy who loves God, who represents him, when people say, "Hey, can you tell me about why this is going on?" I look at them and go, "No, I can't." I know Romans 8:28. God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purposes.
But will you do me a favor? The next time you go visit somebody in the midst of some heartache, would you not drop that verse on them? You have to know it's true, and you have to pray that one day they get there, but don't sit there and try and give a nickel answer to a million-dollar question. I don't know why. There are some things that, to me, are way outside of categories.
Deuteronomy 29:29: "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law." Sometimes God is up to something we just can't get our arms around as finite human beings. I'm going to just sit there with you and say, "I don't know." I don't know why, but I do know who, and that's where we're headed.
The disciples were in the midst of this for the fourth reason. God wanted them to understand something about their King, and as they understood who this King Jesus was it was going to impress and impact their character, and as their characters were conformed to his, when he was gone the kingdom would not be gone and the message could continue to go out.
Here's the first principle. I already mentioned it. These guys are in the midst of a storm that God called them into. You need to be aware of this. Being a friend of Jesus does not make you exempt from the storms of life. It doesn't make me exempt. It doesn't make you exempt. I am so sick of people who share the gospel and say, "Oh, come to Jesus, and you will have this peace."
That too often means, "Things will get better. Your job will improve. You'll start to have dates. I know you haven't had a date in a while, so just trust Jesus, and he'll come with you. He'll be caring for you. His eyes are on the sparrow, and his eyes will be on your calendar. Come to Jesus, and your troubles will go away."
Well, you know what? That is true in the macro sense, but we have to be so careful to not represent God as some panacea for a better life. He is not Prozac to make it easy. Sometimes after you trust Christ the heat is going to come up, because now you're going to be a part of his metal, and he purifies that which is his. Sometimes it's going to get tougher.
We must learn to trust a Savior who doesn't deliver us from storms but sees us through storms. He promises to be there with you, to navigate with you. One man wrote, "There are no stormless seas, and sailors must learn to expect the unexpected." I don't know if it's true in your life, but it's true in mine. One moment all is well, and then in a flash all is hell. And I love Christ.
I was talking to my friend Keith Chancey who was playing golf with Joe last Thursday. All was well, and then in a flash, on Friday, a guy notices some bruises on his leg and says, "What are those things?" Joe says, "I don't know. I guess I've been bumping into a lot of stuff." The doctor, a friend who was up there visiting with him, said, "That's not normal. Get on a plane. Let's go." In a flash, all was hell.
There is no guarantee. You're not exempt from the storms of life. It won't always be easy, but, gang, you can be sure it will always be done. God will get us through the storms of life; he does not exempt you from the storms of life. We need to make sure we understand that. These are men that God is after conforming them into the image of his Son. He says, "Get in the boat," and there's a storm coming. So off they go.
Let me give you another principle we can learn from this, as the disciples learned something. The inadequacy of our understanding is often caused by the inadequacy of our faith. The inadequacy of our understanding what God is up to is often caused by the inadequacy of our faith. In other words, when a storm just flat hits you and comes at you out of nowhere, this fierce gale storm…
The Sea of Galilee, which they were on, is a seven-mile-long and fourteen-mile-wide body of water, and it's surrounded by high hills. It's down in a narrow valley, so it sometimes acts like a wind tunnel. When you're with Christ, he will put you in a wind tunnel when at a moment's notice he can hit a button, and here it comes. Because that sea is only 150 feet deep at its deepest point, it doesn't take long to get all that water going nuts.
The Sea of Galilee is notorious for these rogue winds which can come and scare even experienced fishermen. I want to make a note right here that sometimes God has to deal with us in our area of core competency to teach us who we really need. He had a bunch of fishermen working with him, and these guys were strong. They were blue-collar working men, and if they were competent anywhere they were competent on a sea.
So he said, "I just have to show you guys something. Even in your area of greatest competence, you are no match for what's going to face you, and you need me." So he put them out there in the midst of that sea, and these guys were scared to death. If they were going to be good anywhere, they were going to be good on a boat. Jesus could help them with demons, Jesus could help them with sick folks, but they're going to get Jesus through this storm. Really.
Gang, I need to learn this again and again and again and again. There's not an area of competency in my life that apart from him I can do anything. Sometimes God will put you right in that area of strength and will show you it's bigger than you so that in your weakness you can learn to be strong as you turn to him and say, "Hey, God, let's get up and get busy, because it sure is out of my hands at this point. I'm sorry I didn't involve you earlier."
Do you know what I've learned from this myself this week? It's not even one of our points, but it just shot into my mind again. I've learned this week that when I get on my sea of competency I need to be the one sitting down and letting him navigate. I need to learn his Word. I need to know the way he rows. I need to know the way he goes and say, "God, would you get us there? I have some ideas. You've given me a mind. I've been through some training. You've given me some gifts, but they are your gifts. I am your servant, and you are the captain of this ship."
If he says, "Fine, Todd. Go for it. Do this," I'm going to go for it. I'm going to row. I'm going to captain if he wants me to, but I know who is King. God will sometimes come at us in that area of core competency and bring us to where we need to be. The inadequacy of our understanding is often the cause of the inadequacy of our faith.
Sometimes when we are in the midst of storms, we'll look at him and go, "God, what are you up to? If I was captaining this ship or if I had been in control of our party, I could have seen the clouds coming, and I would have gotten us out of here. That's our problem. We listen to you. We're trusting you, and look at where you've got us."
These guys said to him, "Do you not care?" and Jesus rebuked them because they didn't understand. That understanding that they did not have about who he was caused them to be concerned about the situation. He rebuked them. He said, "You guys haven't got a clue who I am yet, do you? You don't really believe I can deal even in a crisis like this with your problem, and you need to learn that."
These men forgot who was in the boat, and because they forgot he was in the boat and forgot what he could do, they accused him of not caring. You need to remember this. When you get hit by a rogue wind and your life is going up and down, there's one of two possibilities. Either you lack understanding or God has blown your circumstance. Something has truly slipped through the crack of his hands and it's too big of a storm even for him.
Guys, that is absolutely not an option if you believe in the God of the Scriptures. I will tell you what will be a reality, though. There are going to be times when you think you cannot survive the storm he has told you to sail into, that loss of a child. You're going to go, "Where are you in that? This is way too big of a storm for me, and it's way too big of a storm for you, I think." That's an honest feeling, but it is death if you buy it. Sometimes God's delay in the midst of these things… I just want to be honest with you. It can appear as indifference, but we must learn better.
I wrote down as I was studying this this week what seems does not equal what is so. I'll say it again. Sometimes God's delay can appear as God's indifference. Some of you out there right now are asking, "God, I'm 37 years old. I'm single, and I think you've given me a heart to share my life with another. I'm doing what I can. I'm walking in faithfulness, I'm walking in obedience, and I'm alone. My heart is weary."
Some of you have been battling a disease. Some of you guys have been faithfully working at work while others around you are going through this big economic boom, and all you're doing is just trying to make it from week to week…being faithful, serving God, but struggling to provide for your family, and you want to know, "God, where are you in this?" I'm going to claim number five: I don't know. I don't know what he's up to. It might be a combination of the four.
I'm not going to sit there and tell you, but I do know this: God knows. What seems isn't so if what seems to you is that God is indifferent and doesn't care about you. You need to know his eyes are on the sparrow, and his eyes are on you and on me. But we need to be honest with each other. It's okay sometimes to be in the boat and go, "This is absolutely death to me. I don't think I can hang on yet another minute. I'm going over. The water is coming in, and I'm going down."
It's okay to feel like that, but it's never okay to not turn to the King. Sometimes what you need is just to say, "I'm panicked; my boat is going under," and to get around some friends who can hold you tight so you don't jump ship and pray with you fervently that he will wake up in a way that we could understand. Your God does not sleep. He acts in ways I can't explain, but he does not sleep.
Let me give you one that is challenging to me. Our sleeping, when he has asked us to be awake and serving him, is more tragic and troubling, because ours is not a sleep caused for a purpose, but ours is a sleep caused by our indifference. See, we are different than he is. What do I mean by that? You need to understand that three of these twelve were with him at a different time in the garden of Gethsemane, and he said, "Listen. I am deeply troubled. Will you wait here and pray for me?" Those three fell asleep.
He came back and said, "What are you doing? Don't you know this is the deepest and darkest hour of my life? Don't you know as a human who walks in abiding with the Spirit, who needs fellowship and friends like any human does, I need you to intercede for me and pray for me that I might take up my cross, that I might die for you, that I might redeem humanity? Don't you know what's at stake here?"
Those men failed him because they were very weary, but they didn't have their arms around what was going on, how significant what Jesus and God were up to was, so they were apparently indifferent to intercede and be with him in that moment. You need to know this: God is not like that. He is never indifferent. He is up to something we can't explain, but when we don't do what he has called us to do, when we are asleep at our responsibility of preaching the Word, of loving the lost, of studying his Word that we might be conformed to his image…
When we are lazy in love, it is only because of our indifference, not because we're up to some purpose that God can't figure out. If it troubles you that God is asleep in the boat, you need to understand something: you don't know the seas that captain has sailed, and he is never out of control. You can be sure he knows your sea and he knows my sea, and there is never a reason for us to sleep at what he has called us to do. It is much more tragic than what appears to be so here.
It's a mystery to a watching world, when we're in the midst of some storms, how we face such horrors with such peace. What God wants for us… Remember, he rebuked these guys. He said, "What are you doing? Why are you so concerned? Didn't you know that I told you to cross? And my commanding is my enabling. The greatest confidence you should have had that we were going to get to the other side is I told you before we started, 'Let's go to the other side.' If I tell you to do something, I will give you the means through which you can do it."
So you can be sure whatever you're going through, even the loss of a child… I say that because, as a dad who loves his five, I can't think of anything that would be more gut-wrenching. You don't have to verify and validate your hurt with me. Your pain is your pain. Your storm is your storm, and I'm not going to come alongside of you and go, "Come on. That isn't even a tropical storm. It's certainly not a hurricane. What are you wigging out about?" One guy said it very well: the greatest pain in the world is the toothache in your mouth at any given time.
I don't know what your hurt is. I don't know what the storm in your life this morning is, but it's a storm, and it's okay. God wants you to go through that storm in a certain way. He wants you to go through that storm in a way that honors him and that the world is going to look at you and say, "Brother, those are some big ol' waves that are coming in, and they are way over the side of that boat. In fact, your boat is filling up with water, and you don't look like I would look if I was in that sea."
You know what we're supposed to say? "Hey, you need to know this. From a human level, I am wigged out. I am George Clooney in The Perfect Storm right now. From a human level, I don't know what to do, but what you're seeing right now is a gift from God, the faith he has given me, and I know this: no matter what sea he has me on, I know who sails it with me."
There's a great story of a guy who was on a ship that was, in fact, in a great storm. They were sitting down in this room together, and they were incredibly concerned. The one guy left the room, and in about 30 minutes he came back down and sat in that room. His friend was literally sweating, nervous. His heart rate was way up, but the friend who came back in the room was calm. His buddy goes, "What happened to you? Did you go to the bar? Why do you feel that way? What's wrong with you?"
The guy looked at him and said, "I've seen the Captain, and he smiled at me." All he meant by that was, "This is a situation that you and I are absolutely panicked about, but I just saw the Captain. He has the wheel. He has seen the radar. He knows the storms that are there. He's navigating through, and he smiled at me." The world marvels at that. The world can't see our Captain, but you have to know his heart.
Sometimes God is up to some stuff, and he's navigating some storms that make no sense to you and me. He's taking himself into some incredibly dark and what appears to us to be foolish things. I mean, here is God. He walks on this earth. He has the power to heal, and he goes to a cross. You think I wouldn't have tried to stop that if I was there? I would have done exactly what Peter did. "Whatever you're going to do, Jesus, don't go to a cross. That's ludicrous! You're the man. You're the guy. Let's get it going."
I would have stopped him in that moment from that evil act, from the very thing which was for my greatest good, because I don't understand what the Captain understands. Sometimes he's up to things I can't get my arms around, and I just have to look at the Captain and say, "God, you know how timid and scared my heart is. I am not just seasick; I am sea dead. So just remind me. Would you hug me again? Would you hold me again? Would you comfort me? Would you increase my faith so I can be strong, so I can be a marvel to the world?"
Psalm 71:7 says, "I have become a marvel to many, for You are my strong refuge." First Peter 3:15 says simply as you become more and more like Christ, who is a guy who is sleeping in the midst of storms, the world is going to demand from you an explanation. "Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts." In other words, learn from the purifying storms you're in. Then it goes on to say, "When the world asks you to give a defense and make an account for the hope that is within you, do it with gentleness and hope."
Have you had that experience lately where somebody comes and looks at you and says, "How can you go through this right now? How can you have so much peace? It's a peace that passes understanding." In fact, they are saying to you it's a supernatural peace, and you tell them that you have a supernatural King. You have a King who at the moment he wants to can speak a great storm into a great calm.
In a moment, we're going to sing a song called "His Eyes." His eyes are always upon you. There's a great line in that song that says, "He who spoke peace to the water cares more for our hearts than the waves." The world is watching, and we're to be people who love the Sovereign God who is in control and navigate through these waters with our Captain who smiles at us and says, "I know you don't understand right now. The things which are hidden are a mystery to you, but trust me, because I'm a good and gracious God who has taken the most awful act in history…
The kindest and most perfect and only perfect man who ever lived I let be murdered, and you would have stopped it. But it is the provision for the salvation of the world. Would you trust me?" "He who did not spare his own Son," Romans says, "but delivered him up for us all, will he not also with him freely give us all things?"
Two things, and then we're done. First, faith is not a force which obligates or limits Jesus, but it's a factor in our witness for him. I want to make this very clear to you. Jesus rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith. He said, "What are you doing?" Their lack of faith was because they began to distrust him, but Christ still calmed the storm.
Had the disciples been full of faith, it doesn't say the storm would have never come. It would have said they would have ridden through the storm in a different way. Jesus is not obligated to move and to do things because I have faith or you have faith. He is sovereign over that. He calls us to have faith, he calls us to pray, he calls us to acknowledge his goodness and greatness and ability, but we are to wait before him and trust in the day.
There will be times that he will bring healing. There will be times that he will say, "Hush, be still." There will be times when he will move what seems to be miraculously, but we don't always know that he will, and we certainly can't determine that he did it because we forced him to because we were people of faith.
Likewise, he is not limited by our lack of faith. He said, "Be still," and then he said, "You didn't have any faith." But the deed was done, because God knew he could see more of his image now in those men when he pulled that silver out of the fire of that moment. Please do not let somebody tell you that if you just had more faith the storm would go away. You have faith. You pray for that storm to go away, but not only are you not the captain; you are not the God of the sea. At the right time, those waters will be still.
I'm going to pray with you, and I'm going to tell the great meteorologist that I think it's time for the storm to be calm, but then I'm going to tell you that I'm sure of two things. I am sure that there is a God and I am sure that I am not him. I would probably continue that he loves us, so the problem is either I don't understand or this one is a situation where God has messed up my circumstance, and I don't choose that as an option. I do what servants do, and that is trust the King.
Last application. This is for my friends who are here today who are in process with Jesus and trying to figure out who he is. There's only one thing that is more frightening than facing a powerful storm without knowing what to do, and that's facing an all-powerful God without knowing who he is. As much as I want to spare people I love from storms that tear us to the quick and frighten us, you need to know this: we haven't even caught a glimpse of fear.
If you think it's awful to navigate through the storms of life not having a clue what to do, you wait until you meet the all-powerful God of eternity and you don't know who he is. He is Jesus of Nazareth who has come to die for the sins of humanity. You need to respond to that question those disciples asked in Mark 4:41. "And they became very much afraid and said to one another, 'Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?'"
Gang, do you understand as crazy and as wild as the storm is, if there's somebody even greater and more powerful than the storm who can say "Hush" and "Be still," that's the one to fear? And he's in the boat. It scares these guys to death, and it ought to scare you and me to death. It ought to absolutely blow us away when we see that not only is he in the boat but he has been in our mess.
He has been in our sea because he loves us, and he wants to get us out of the flood of sin and the ocean of despair and hopelessness we're in. He wants to say, "Be still" and "Hush" to that. He wants to deal with the greatest needs of your heart and my heart, and he wants you to know him. He wants you to trust him, and he wants you to get through this life with a peace that passes understanding. "Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God…"
I'm glad that some of you are in some storms right now, because the storms of this life are often the storms of mercy. They're often perfect storms to bring you to your knees, to make you acknowledge that you can't sail. You can be an arrogant individual who keeps trying to grab that wheel, and it's spinning so fast it breaks your hand when you try and grab it. You can humble yourself and say, "God, I'm going to do all I can. I'm going to be your first mate, but if you don't get us through, it ain't coming." Do not face the all-powerful God without knowing who he is, and who he is is one who cares more for your hearts than the waves. Let's pray.
Father, I pray, first and foremost, for my friends who are out there who right now are in the midst of sailing through the competency of life they feel so adequate in, navigating relationships and navigating purpose and navigating mission, and maybe, just maybe, the storm is starting to get big enough where they're being humbled.
I pray that they would not stiffen their neck and harden their heart but that they would look to the back of the boat and see that you are there, not asleep but waiting for them to touch you and say, "Do you see where I am? I might be here because I navigated myself into this storm, but even in your sovereignty you've let me do that, because you wanted to bring me to the place that I am now, and that is to say I need you. I certainly need you, as I look at the storm of sin which will certainly drown me in the midst of your holiness. I confess that this is a sea which will swallow me whole unless you get me out."
I pray that they would turn to you, Father, and that you would take control of their life, that you would forgive them their sins, and that they would learn now to sail through life differently with you as the Captain, as I try and do, knowing that it's your grace and mercy that saves us, but it's our faith in you and who you are and what you've done that will cause the world to marvel at us as we face our own storms in life, many of which you've divinely called us into to purify us, to make us more like you.
God, would you draw the lost to you this morning? Would you awake the sleeping indifferent ones in this room this morning? Would you arouse the sleeping part of my heart, and would you allow me to do what you have called me to do because your purposes and the need is great and you want to use me and use my friends for your purposes?
Lord, we don't always understand your purposes, but we are thankful that, again, we can see your heart and we can see your competency and we can see that you can say, "Hush, be still" to anything, even the accusations of Satan that I am a sinful man. "Hush. Quiet. For he is my child." Lord, I don't know why you don't calm some of the storms in my life, but I know that you're in control, not just of my ship but of the weather around me. I pray that you would leave me and each friend in this room in the fire until you see your face. In Christ's name, amen.
There are some storms that are in this room, but if you know Christ and you have the picture that he has presented to us, there's going to be a day when the clouds roll back. Remember, sow the seed, shine the light, feed the sheep, wait for the day. He is not asleep. His eyes are upon you, and you can say it is well with your soul.
The world will marvel at that, and they will demand that you introduce them to your Captain. Don't sleep at that job. That's why we're here. If it is not well with your soul this morning, we would love to visit with you. We'd love to pray with you. We'd love to tell you about our Captain. We'll be here as long as you will. Have a great day.
The most influential person in history is also the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Two thousand years after He walked the earth, Jesus of Nazareth is still a mystery to many people. Whether you admire Him, worship Him, despise him or simply don't know about him, it's difficult to deny that any other single person has had more influence on our world than Jesus has. But how do we come to understand a man who is so commonly misunderstood? Join Todd Wagner for a walk through the Gospel of Mark and look into the life of one man who changed the entire course of human history. See Jesus for who He truly is and learn how He can change the course of every individual life that understands, responds to and trusts in Him. This volume covers Mark 2:14 through Mark 6:6.