Retold: Jesus Calms the Storm
Retold: The Prodigal Son
Retold: The Beginning of the Church Part 2
Retold: The Beginning of the Church
Retold: Jonah and the Whale
Retold: Daniel and the Lions' Den
Retold: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
Retold: David and Goliath
Retold: The Ten Commandments
Retold: Jesus Washes the Disciples' Feet
Retold: Ruth and Naomi
Retold: The Good Samaritan
Have you heard the story of Jesus calming the storm? As we continue our series, Retold, David Leventhal teaches through Mark 4:35-41, showing us that how you answer the question “Who is Jesus?” determines how you view and respond to storms in life.
Good morning, Watermark. How are we doing? It is so good to see you all's faces in person. For those of you who are joining us online, we are so glad you decided to jump on with us this morning. As Todd mentioned, we are continuing our Retold series. We have this week and then next week, and then we're going to be done with this amazing series.
In God's sovereignty, he had us teed up this week with Jesus Calms the Storm. I don't know about you, but when I got up this morning and drove to church, there was a monsoon; there was a storm of rain and lightning and thunder. But you know what? That wasn't the only storm this country we live in has faced this week. Every single week, doesn't it feel like something is coming up that you're like, "Oh my goodness"?
Just this week alone, we had friends in Kenosha, Wisconsin… A young man, Jacob Blake, is shot and is fighting for his life in the hospital, and in that city there were protests and riots and unrest, and then some 17-year-old kid from Illinois shoots and kills two men, Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum, and chaos and a storm has descended over Kenosha.
There's more on COVID, and there are job losses, and there are sicknesses. There's financial uncertainty. This storm has been swirling over this country, over this world, for six months. I don't know if you guys were paying attention. There were these Republican and Democratic national conventions, and all the swirl and the nonsense and the media, and there's this sense that no matter who's elected in November, there are going to be more storms in our country.
Then some of us have walked in this morning, and you're not concerned about conventions because you have a storm that has hit you this week. You may be walking in this week and you may have heard, "We no longer need you at this job." It's not about job losses; it's about, "I don't have a job now." You may have a spouse who just came and said, "Listen. I'm done. I'm tapping out of this marriage."
Some of you have children, and you're watching them make decisions you know are going to be hurtful to them, and they're rebuffing you, and you're just watching. You're like, "This is a storm. I have this prodigal child." Or an illness, a diagnosis. Some of us are walking in here really heavy. If we're honest, it's easy to feel helpless, it's easy to feel hopeless with all that's going on in our world and all that may be going on in your life individually.
The reality is these storms affect all of us. It doesn't matter if you're young or old or black or white, whether you have a lot of resources or you have no resources. Storms affect all of us. Does God's Word have anything to say to offer us that we can learn from of what we do in storms. The answer is, yes, he does. He has spoken clearly. We're going to get a chance this morning to unpack that a little bit.
What we're going to be talking about this morning is Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee with the disciples. A lot of what we'll talk about this morning are the storms that have blown into your life through no fault of your own other than the fact that you were born after Genesis 3, but if we're honest, some of you are in the midst of storms that are self-inflicted, and the chaos in your life is a direct reflection of the choices you've made.
I want you to know I think you're going to be encouraged and challenged this morning, and I would beg you to go back and listen to last week's sermon by David Marvin on the Prodigal Son. What does God think of you when you are at your lowest? When the choices you have made have brought you to your knees and there's guilt and shame, what does God think about you in that moment? I think you'll be greatly encouraged.
So, I'm excited. When we're done, I hope you will walk away with this big idea: how we answer the question "Who is Jesus?" is going to determine how we view and respond to storms. I mentioned we're going to be in the gospel of Mark. This miracle was recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. We're going to go through the one that's recorded in Mark because it's my favorite gospel. I love the gospel of Mark.
Where this story takes place in Mark is important. Let me give you a quick running start of where we are in the gospel of Mark. Chapter 1, you have John the Baptist and Jesus kicking off his ministry, and you see very quickly, by the end of chapter 1, this guy is different. He teaches with authority. He's doing miracles. He's calling to himself men, Simon and Andrew, James and John. At the end of chapter 1, you have this statement by Mark that the crowds are coming to Jesus from every quarter.
Chapter 2:1-3:6, Mark moves us into this conflict section, where Jesus is having these interactions with the religious leaders of the day. They're trying to figure out, "Who do you think you are who says you can forgive sins? Who do you think you are that your disciples don't have to obey the Sabbath the way we've defined the Sabbath? Who do you think you are?" There's this conflict section between Jesus and the religious leaders.
That section ends with the Pharisees going out to plot with the Herodians, another political group, as to how to destroy Jesus. You see the discontent between the religious leaders and Jesus amps up really quickly. Then we move into the middle and end of chapter 3, and we sort of see Team Jesus is being solidified. You see that his family thinks he's crazy. They're not sure what's going on. Jesus formally invites 12 men. He appoints 12 men to be his disciples. He calls them apostles. That happens. So, you see the official recognition of "These are my men." You see who is on Jesus' team.
At the end of that section, Jesus has an interaction with the religious leaders, and they attribute to Jesus "Hey, the reason you're doing what you're doing is because you are possessed by the Devil." Jesus says, "Okay. This now represents a change in the way we're going to interact. You are formally rejecting me in spite of what I'm saying, in spite of what I'm doing, as your Messiah."
Everything changes after that interaction with the Pharisees. Mark says, "He began to teach them in parables." Jesus is like, "Hey, you reject me? That's fine. I'm now going to change my instruction into parables." So you have this section of parables…four main parables. This parable section starts with something, and it finishes with something, and that's going to set us up for where we're going.
It starts by saying, at the beginning of this section on parables, "Jesus began to teach them all things in parables, and to his disciples he explained everything." Then he ends that same section by saying, "Jesus was teaching them all things in parables, but to his disciples he explained everything." Jesus is saying to these disciples, "You're my guys, and you're going to get an inside look. You're going to get a front row seat into my actions and my teaching. I'm going to explain to you everything."
The gospel of Mark has many things, but the two big themes of Mark's gospel are, first, "Who is Jesus?" (Christology)… Mark is going to start his gospel, "The gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." Mark is going to carry that theme through the gospel, and he's going to unpack through the gospel that this man is the Son of God. The second major theme of the gospel of Mark is discipleship and the training of the Twelve in particular.
We're going to see these guys often don't get it, and Jesus is patient with them, and he invests in them. Then we get to our section in Mark 4:35 and on. You have these miracles. The first miracle is Jesus calming the storm. So, let's read God's Word. If you have your Bible, turn with me to Mark 4. We're going to start in verse 33 to get us a little bit of a running start as we head into our miracle.
"With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything. On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, 'Let us go across to the other side.' And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.
But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, 'Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?' And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, 'Peace! Be still!' And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, 'Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?' And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, 'Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?'"
This story, first and foremost, is about Jesus. It's not about the boat. It's not about the disciples. It's not about the storm. It is about Jesus, and every element in the story is meant to drive us to deal with this question…Who then is this? How we answer that question is going to determine how we view and respond to storms. After this miracle, Jesus is going to make it to the other side, and he's going to heal a man who's demon-possessed in the land of the Gerasenes, and this man who was uncontrollable will now be made whole and in his right mind.
He's going to get back in his boat, he's going to go back over, and he's going to be met by a man who has a sick 12-year-old daughter who's on the verge of death. Jesus is like, "Let's go." On the way there, he's going to be interrupted by a woman who has been bleeding for 12 years. She spent all she had, and she has only gotten worse. She says, "If I just touch his robe, I know I'll be healed." She reaches out in fear and touches it, and Jesus senses.
He has this interaction, and it ends with, "Daughter, don't be afraid. Your faith has healed you. Go and be free." While that's happening, some guys come and say, "Hey, listen. Your daughter is dead. Don't bother the teacher." Jesus says, "Don't you be afraid." They go. Jesus takes with them the father, the mother, and a couple of the disciples, and he says, "Talitha cumi.Little girl, I say to you arise," and this girl rises from the dead. All four of these miracles are driving us, forcing us, to deal with the question…Who in the world is this man?
So, these guys are in a boat. Jesus says, "Hey let's go to the other side." They're like, "That's great. We've been with you. We think you're a great teacher. We've seen what you do. You're pretty amazing with the miracles. You don't seem to be afraid of the religious leaders. Let's go." They get in the boat, and they get in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, which is about 700 feet below sea level with mountains on three sides, plains on the other.
Wind sweeps through in that area and creates this swell, this vortex of a storm, and these men, some of whom are professional fishermen, are scared to death. Have you ever been in a situation with water where you're scared to death? About seven years ago, we took a vacation to Tybee Island, my family and my parents and siblings and nephews and nieces. We rented a big house there. I was out walking with two of my sons at night. We were walking on the shore.
My oldest son is a senior in high school now. He would have been about 10. My little guy who's a seventh grader would have been about…I don't know…young. That kind of math is hard. So, we're walking at night, and it's dark. We're by the ocean, and we're on the sand. We're walking, and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a giant wave comes. It's like I got hit by a linebacker. It completely took me off my feet. It knocked both of my boys off their feet.
There was a guy who was fishing. He had one of these carts, and it upended the cart. I'm up, and I'm panicking, because I'm like, "Where are my sons?" I can't see them. It's dark. I don't know what the heck just happened, and I'm panicked. "Where are my boys?" We found out later there was an ocean liner way offshore that had come, and that ocean liner made this wake. As that wave got closer and the water got shallower, it began to build and build, and out of nowhere in the dark it hit us.
I guess these disciples felt something similar to what I felt, which was sheer and utter terror at the power of the water. Have you ever felt like that? So, they wake up Jesus. "Don't you care? We're about to die." I envision Jesus kind of like what I do with my dumb dog. "Hey, sit down." Jesus wakes up. He's like, "Hush. Be still." Everything gets quiet. These men are like, "Wait a second."
As a twenty-first century Westerner, this miracle is hard to get my arms around. I've seen giant cruise ships cross the Pacific. There are submarines we see that go into the depths of the ocean, and this miracle still baffles me. Imagine you're a first-century Jew, and for you, the sea is a place of chaos and death and destruction. I taught on Jonah three or four weeks ago, and I mentioned to you that the ancient Near Easterner viewed the sea as a place of death and chaos and destruction, which is why when Jonah went to the sea, it was not a good sign.
This is how they viewed the sea: death, chaos, and destruction. There's only one guy in the ancient Near East, if you're a Jew, who controls the sea. There's only one guy who parts the Red Sea. Who is it? It is Yahweh. It is the Lord God of hosts who controls the sea and the wind and the waves. Who stops the Jordan River so the nation can walk by? God, the covenant God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
All of a sudden, these men are in a boat, and they wake up this man, and he says, "Peace! Be still!" and there is great calm. Who in the world is this man? You can spend your life meditating on that question. There is no category by which this miracle stacks up. Let me just say this. In spite of all the craziness of the storm, if those disciples really knew who was in the boat with them, they would not have panicked.
Does that sound crazy to you based on what I just described? If they had known, if they had fully understood who was in the boat with them, they would not have panicked. You're like, "Yeah, I get it. Jesus in the boat. Shouldn't have panicked." No, no, no. Who is in the boat? Listen to me. Who is in the boat? The Son of God is in the boat. Let me read to you from Colossians, chapter 1. I want you to listen to what Paul writes. Who is in the boat?
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him." Why did the water stay calm? Because the water knew his voice, because he was the one who spoke it into existence way back when.
"And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross."
Who was in the boat, guys? The Son of God. Why did the disciples not need to panic? Because God was in the boat with them, but they didn't know. They hadn't quite figured out who Jesus was. It sent them into a great fear. Every element in this story is meant to drive us to deal with this question…Who is this? How we answer that question is going to determine how we view and respond to storms.
We all have to deal with that question…Who is Jesus? Is he the Son of God or is he not? It's a binary question. There's one right and one wrong, yes or no. The answer is yes. He has demonstrated it through his teaching, through his miracles, and ultimately through his death and resurrection from the dead. Those guys didn't need to worry, because God was in the boat with them. From that central truth, let me give you two things I want us to think about.
First, having Jesus in the boat does not prevent great windstorms. These guys weren't prepared for a storm. They assumed their crossing of the Sea of Galilee, which, if you're from Dallas, is about three times the size of White Rock Lake, to give you a sense of how big it is… They thought it would be another day, and they weren't prepared for the storm. Whether or not they thought it because Jesus was with them is irrelevant.
I'm telling you, just because Jesus is in your boat doesn't mean you're not going to have storms. It would be really good for us to make that realization that, hey, in this life there are going to be storms. I know a lot of you would agree with that concept. "Of course. Look around our world, idiot. Of course there are storms." Yet I see two lies in the church. One is subtle and one is outright. Here's the subtle one. This is the one I struggle with.
I sometimes make the assumption that obedience equals smooth sailing, so I enter into a transactional relationship with Jesus. "Hey, I come to church. I'm giving of my resources. I'm loving my kids. I'm discipling others. I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing, so kind of just leave me alone." I would never say that, because that's crazy, but when I'm discouraged because of a storm and I'm thinking about, "I don't understand, Lord; I'm doing all the right stuff," I have begun to buy the lie that obedience equals smooth sailing. It just doesn't.
Here's the second lie. This is the outright lie. I hope we don't see it in this place, but I'll tell you what. I see it all over this country, and we have exported it to the world. It's this: "Jesus wants you to be healthy and wealthy." It's the prosperity gospel. Look. Does Jesus want you to be in good shape? Sure. But he knows this body is decaying. Is Jesus anti-money? No. Money is a tool to be used for him, but when you say God's plan for your life includes health and wealth, you are peddling a bunch of garbage.
I tell you what. It is all over the church in America. Because you haven't given enough money or because you don't have enough faith or whatever vomitous stuff… We've exported it from the USA all over the world. It is heresy, and it is a lie. Jesus said to the disciples in John 16, "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."
Jesus is saying, "Look. You live in a post-Genesis 3 world. It's broken. It's not the way it's going to be, and it's not the way it was, but right now, you're going to have tribulation." If that weren't enough, Paul, when he's writing to his young pastor friend Timothy, says, "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…"
"So, if it wasn't enough just to live in a broken and fallen world, you're saying if I raise my hand and say, 'Hey, I'm on Team Jesus' and I give my life for him, I'm going to be persecuted, while evil men go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived?" Yes. That's what God's Word says. We shouldn't be surprised that we have COVID, that we have racism, that we have cancer and miscarriages and unemployment.
We should do everything in our power to push back against those forms of sin and those forms of destruction and expand the kingdom of God, but while we are on planet earth, we are going to have tribulations. Today is not as it was, and today is not as it will be. Having Jesus in the boat does not prevent great windstorms.
Here's my second point: having Jesus in the boat should change how we view and respond to great windstorms. For the Twelve, this was really their first at bat. They'd been with Jesus. They'd watched him. They'd listened to him. Jesus was largely doing his thing. This is the first time Jesus kind of puts these guys up to the plate to see how they do. And how did they do? Not so well.
"Teacher, don't you care that we're perishing?" Jesus says, "Okay. I said, 'Let's go to the other side.' I didn't say, 'Let's go to the middle of the Sea of Galilee and drown.' And, oh, I've got this. Hush. Be still." Jesus responds to them. "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?" He wasn't upset because they couldn't fix the storm. He wasn't upset because they didn't see that maybe a storm was coming. He was talking to them because he was like, "Guys, listen. I'm in the boat. You don't have to worry."
As I was reading this passage this week and preparing, it occurred to me… I've read this section of Scripture I don't know how many hundreds of times, and it occurred to me this week that when I read Jesus say to them, "Why are you still afraid? Have you no faith?" what I hear in my head is drill sergeant, like, "What's wrong with you idiots? Don't you see what I just did? Are you dumb? Why are you afraid? There's nothing to be afraid of." That's what I hear.
Dadgum it! I don't want to view Jesus that way. I'll tell you what. Jesus has some really strong and sharp words to say in the Gospels, but do you know who they're always directed to? They're directed to the religious leaders of the day who were abusing God's people. Go read Mark, chapter 3, a little bit earlier.
Jesus is healing the man, and he looks around him, and it says he looks at them with anger, grieved in his heart at the hardness of their hearts. Then go to Matthew 23 where Jesus just unloads on the Pharisees. Do you know how Jesus talks to those who are broken and hurting, his disciples? He's not browbeating them. He's not a drill instructor. He's a teacher. He's a friend.
Here's how I think. We don't know because the Greek language doesn't let us know the tone Jesus uses, but I think, based on all of the other interactions in the gospel, it was like this: "Guys, guys, why are you afraid? Haven't you been watching? Do you see what I've done? That demon-possessed guy, how I healed him? Peter, your mother-in-law. I took care of her, right? Why are you still afraid? Don't you know who I am? You still don't yet believe in me?"
It wasn't a rap on the knuckles. It was "Guys, I'm the Son of God. I've got it." Having Jesus in the boat should have changed how the disciples felt about that storm that day, and it ought to change how we feel about the windstorms in our lives. So, let's just acknowledge storms are real, great storms don't indicate a lack of faith, great storms are a part of living in a broken world, and great storms are hard, sometimes unspeakably hard.
Having faith in Jesus is not going to take the storm away, but it's going to allow us to move through the storm without the need to panic or to control or to be overwhelmed by fear and anxiety. Why does having Jesus in the boat matter? Because here's what's true today. Here's what's true right now. Paul, in Romans 8, after he has just unloaded on all of these great things God has done…how God has reconciled us, he has granted us renewal by the Spirit, he has adopted us as his kids, he has predestined us for holiness and glory…
After he unpacks all of that, he says, "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Nothing is going to separate us today… I don't care what your storm is. Jesus has not cut the rip cord and said, "I'm out." Nothing is going to separate us from the love of God.
This is why the psalmist in Psalm 23 says, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." That's true for us today. Do you know what else is true that's not today that's coming? Jesus is going to wrap this thing up. He's going to make it all new.
I was spending some time this week in the end of Revelation, and I was reminded… Jesus, after describing what the new heavens and the new earth will be like, says, "There's going to be a dwelling place of God." This is Revelation 21. "God is going to dwell with man. They're going to be his people. God will be with them as their God, and he's going to wipe away every tear from their eyes. There's going to be no more death. There will be no more mourning. There will be no more crying, no pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."
Jesus reminds you. He wants you to pay attention. The last chapter of your Bible, three times, "Surely I am coming soon." Verses 7, 12, and 20 of chapter 2. What's true now is that when you're in the boat, God is with you. Jesus has not cut the rip cord on you. What is true is that he is coming back. Do you believe that? As a result of that, we ought to look different. Those of us who say, "Jesus is in the boat that I'm in" ought to look different.
We ought to, over time, be less panicked and controlling and fearful of the storms in our lives. That doesn't mean tomorrow. That means over the course of the rest of your life, there is growth, incremental growth, toward trusting in Jesus, because you have come to know and see, "I know who is in the boat: Jesus Christ the Son of God. I will be less fearful today than I was a year ago, and I hope in a year I will be less fearful and panicky when the storms of my life come."
If you don't see Jesus in your boat, then it might be because you're not a part of the body. Some of you are saying, "I don't know if you remember, Leventhal, but Jesus ascended into heaven. At the end of your gospel of Mark you're talking about, he went to heaven, so I can't tap him on the shoulder and say, 'Hey, Jesus, there's a storm, and I'm about to go under.'" I would say to you: Jesus has ascended. That's true. He's coming back. That's also true.
Do you want to see what the hands and feet of Jesus look like? Look around the room, friends. The hands and feet of Jesus are sitting amongst you. It's the body of Christ. If you are saying, "I am on Team Jesus. I've come to know and accept him, and I feel all alone," then I would say, maybe you're not connected to his body. We are not designed to be alone.
When you cut off the finger, the finger dies. When you're bleeding, you need somebody to come along… "Bro, your finger looks like it's falling off. Let me come help you." So, what do you do if you're currently in a storm? Let me give you three things that, as I was wrestling with this passage and thinking and meditating, were encouragement to me.
1 . Be honest with God. We don't need to fake it. Let's just acknowledge where we are. I had this just this week, as I've been processing some of the storms in my life. I went for a walk one of these mornings early, and I just vomited to the Lord about how I was feeling and the circumstances in my life and some of the loss I was feeling. Then I went home, and a couple of days later, I decided, "I need to write this stuff down. Here's how I'm feeling."
Look. God is not like, "Oh, didn't know that," but it's helpful for me to say, "Listen. I'm going to be honest with you. I am darn near at the end of myself. I'm afraid. There are all of these insecurities, and I need to know that I can bring it to you and you're not going to pistol whip me." Be honest with God. He can handle it, and it'll be good for you to acknowledge, "God, I'm in the boat with you. Don't you see I'm perishing? Don't you care?"
2 . Be honest with others. You and I were not meant to navigate this life alone. We were not meant to walk through this alone. You need me, and I need you, so that when we're in the midst of the storm I can say, "It feels like I'm dying here. I know Jesus still loves me, and I know he's coming back for me, and I'm secure because of his death and resurrection, but I feel afraid, and I feel panicked. I don't know how I'm going to pay the bills, and my wife is dying," whatever the circumstances are. Be honest with other people so they can come alongside you, because you're a part of the family, and that's what the family does. We look out for each other.
3 . Take in truth constantly. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4, "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away…" Clearly. "…our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen." These light and momentary afflictions.
The only reason I know what light is is because I've carried something that's heavy. The only reason I know what temporal is is because I've had something that's not temporal, that's long‑lasting. Jesus is saying, "Listen. I know you think this world is all there is." Some of us struggle with that. This world is nothing. I know it doesn't feel light, and I know it's hard, unspeakably hard, but this is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory. This is not the end of the road. Take in truth.
I said earlier, Romans 8… Nothing is going to separate us. Remind yourself. Soak in the truth of God's Word, and let it be a balm on your aching, tired, and scared heart. Well, what do you do if you're one of the fortunate ones where right now you are not in a storm? First of all, that's awesome. Be encouraged. Don't get used to it, but be encouraged. But what should you do if that's your position right now?
1 . Don't wait for other people in storms to ask for help. Have your eyes open. If you're living with people in community, you're looking around, go to them. Go to them and be the hands and feet of Christ. That's what you were designed to do. We're a body. We're a family. With all of our dysfunction, we're a family. Galatians 6:2: "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." That could require a financial investment in their life, a time investment.
My wife and I, over 22 years of marriage, have been punched in the mouth countless times by life. I've gotten the note, "Hey, we don't really need you at this job anymore." We've had a couple of miscarriages. We've gotten the call, "Hey, Missy, your dad went to bed, and he didn't wake up." And on and on and on.
Never once…not one time…have we ever walked through those alone, because the body of Christ has stepped up. There have been groceries on our front porch. There have been people in our living room crying with us and encouraging us…on and on and on…the body of Christ taking care of us in the midst of a storm. That's what we're called to do. How are you doing?
2 . Don't browbeat when people are in a storm. I look back with sadness over some of my interactions over 20 years at this place, where I have tried to love on folks who were in a storm and have not done a great job. They walk away feeling more bruised than loved. I don't want to be that guy. Don't browbeat those who are in a storm. Now, if they're in a storm and it's because of their sinful, selfish choices, you ought to call people to repent, and you ought to continue to call them to repent, but if they're in a storm because of life…man, arm around them. "How can I love you? How can I serve you?"
3 . Don't grow weary. In Galatians 6, a little bit later, Paul says, "Don't grow weary of doing good." He says that because sometimes we can grow weary of doing good. "…for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith."
You ought to have your brother's back. Nobody wants to remind you "You're still unemployed. The cancer is still there." We have to work toward "I love you, and I'm going to stay engaged in your storm until you're through to the other side." Having Jesus in the boat should change how we feel about great windstorms and how we feel about those who are in the midst of great windstorms.
We are, if we know Jesus, the hands and feet of Christ. You don't ever have to walk alone if you're in the body. As I was preparing to teach this week, I emailed our amazing staff team and said, "I'm teaching on this passage, and I would love for you to send me stories of folks in our family who are in the midst of a storm where they're not overwhelmed or overcome by panic or fear. It doesn't mean they're not fearful or having moments, but they're not defined by panic and need to control, and they're trying to be as faithful as possible with their storm."
My inbox got flooded. I want to share with you some of the stories of folks in our body. These are people who are in our family who are in the midst of a storm, and they're, not perfectly, but they're trying to trust Jesus, because they know, "I'm in the storm, but I know who's in my boat, and that changes everything."
There's Lauren who just this past week went and got her mammogram and did not get a great result, so she has a biopsy scheduled. A storm has just blown into her life. She's saying, "Hey, I don't want to be controlled by fear. Whatever happens, I want Jesus to use this for his good." There's Ryan, a member of our body who is a long-time safe hunter. This is the kind of guy you'd want to teach your kids how to hunt.
Last November, around Thanksgiving, he was out hunting. He's preparing to shoot. He slips. The gun discharges and darn near blows off his leg below the knee. He has been through over a half dozen surgeries, he still can't walk, and he is loving his wife. He's not blaming. He's engaging his kids. He's sharing Scripture with his guys and gals in his Community Group regularly. He's not characterized by anger. It would be easy to be angry or overwhelmed by discouragement. He's just trusting God is going to see him through this life-altering accident.
There are Matthew and Ashley whose newborn son was diagnosed with cancer and is currently working his way through chemotherapy. They know who is in the boat with them. Because of that, they're standing strong, and they're being a light to others. That doesn't mean it's not through tears. It means they know, "I know who's in the boat. This is hard. I'm not going to pretend it's not hard, but I know who's in the boat with me, and we're going to keep pressing forward."
David and Margie. These guys have been walking through job loss, recovering personally from surgery, and they continue to lead and love folks in re|engage, our ministry to folks who want to make their marriage better. They're caring for aging parents (one of them has Alzheimer's), and in the midst of this COVID stuff, they said, "We think we can care for you better if you move in."
So, while their parents both were positive for COVID, they moved them into their home so they could better love and serve them. They've battled financial storms and uncertainty about the future, but because they're convinced of who is in the boat, they've clung to their faith, and they are persevering.
There's Rick. A couple of years ago, Rick's wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and he has watched his bride slowly have this disease overtake her mind. He has had to move her into a home so she could be cared for, and in COVID, he has not been able to be with his wife, and she doesn't remember who he is. He's just being faithful. He knows this is not the end.
He told me after the first service, "We had this conversation. This is just a timing thing. We know where we're going to be. There will be some years. There will be 10 or 15 years where we're not going to be together, but I know how it ends." One day, she's going to remember him. "Rick, it's you." I had three conversations this week with women I personally know, young mothers in this body, who are battling autoimmune diseases, and they're struggling.
They have young kids, and they're wondering, and their husbands are wondering, "What is the future going to hold for us?" They're saying, "We know who's in the boat. We're not excited, and we don't have all of the answers, and some days are harder than other days, but we know who's in the boat, Jesus, and we have others in the boat with us to remind us of what's true." They're making good choices, and they're trusting God to see them through however it ends.
There are Kelly and Justin. Their sweet little boy Reeves was born July 2…4 pounds, 14 ounces, 16-3/4 inches long. While Kelly was pregnant with Reeves, they got a diagnosis that little Reeves had a life-limiting diagnosis and, unless God did something miraculous, this little guy was not going to make it. So, on July 5, Sunday, three days after he was born, little Reeves died.
As I read what Kelly and Justin had written about their storm, here's what stuck out to me. They wrote, "As hard as it is to say this, we had a peace about knowing that he would pass away. Make no mistake. Peace does not equal a lack of sadness or pain. One of the greatest lessons I've come to learn in all of this is that peace in the midst of the deepest pain you can imagine does exist because of Jesus."
I don't have time to read you the rest of the stories that hit my inbox. It's a Hebrews 11 hall of faith in this family right now…cancer, adoptions that have been put on hold, prodigal children, parents who are dying, unfaithful spouses, and on and on and on. We have members of our family who are saying, "It may be through my tears, but I know who's in the boat, the Son of God, and I know how this ends. This life is not all there is, and he's going to make all of this nonsense right one day. I just have to be faithful."
I love that later in the gospel of Mark, in chapter 9, there's a dad who comes to Jesus, and his son is not well. Jesus is engaging this man. The man says, "I believe; help my unbelief." I'm like, "God, that's how I feel so much of the time. I believe, but, God, there's still so much unbelief. Would you help me work through it?"
Jesus is patient and kind. He's not mad at me. He knows my frailty. What is man? We're like dust. He's going to make it all right. I need to lean on you, and you need to lean on me. We need each other. I need to remember that who is in the boat changes everything. How we answer the question "Who is Jesus?" is going to determine how we view and respond to the storm.
Heavenly Father, thank you for this passage. Thank you that you are patient and you are kind with us, that you know our frailty, that we are but dust, and you love us still. I thank you that you are in the boat if we know you. I thank you that you are clearly the Son of God, the fullness of deity in bodily form. I thank you that you loved us enough in our brokenness, in the midst of our storms, to go through your own storm, where you climbed the hill of Golgotha and you bled and died for us. The clouds landed on top of you.
I'm so thankful that the storm blew and you rose from the dead three days later and you have offered to us a chance to have you in the boat for the rest of our eternity. I pray that you would draw us closer to you. If there are people in this room or online who don't know you yet, who can't say with any kind of confidence that Jesus is in their boat, would today be the day of their salvation. Thank you for your Word which instructs us and reminds us and comforts us in our storms. We believe. Would you help our unbelief? In Jesus' name, amen.