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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

Storms Of Life

Second Sunday After Pentecost


For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.


But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

2 Cor. 4:5-12


Life can be beautiful! With everything coming up roses! But life can be crummy, too. With everything coming up weeds. One day we sing, “Oh what a beautiful morning! Oh what a beautiful day!” And the next day we might be singing, “Stormy weather. Keeps rainin’ all the time – all the time.”


Life is like that, isn’t it? As we read in our Epistle lesson, “We are hard pressed on every side” – “We’re perplexed” – “We’re persecuted” – “We’re struck down.” But we’re “not crushed” – we’re “not in despair” – we’re “not abandoned” – we’re “not destroyed.”


Why? Because Jesus – crucified and risen again – goes through the storms of life with us!


Jesus’ disciples encountered a storm on the Sea of Galilee – remember? After an exhausting day of teaching, Jesus said, “Let’s go over to the other side of the lake.” He needed some rest away from the crowds; so they piled into a little fishing boat and they sailed off. And then, “A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.”


The Sea of Galilee is famous for its sudden, unpredictable storms. It’s about 600 feet below sea level and is virtually surrounded by mountains. So it acts like a giant funnel drawing cold air which causes the instant storms.


Well, Jesus’ disciples did everything humanly possible to keep the boat afloat. But the water was coming in faster than they could bail it out – and they realized that they were in big trouble! And then they noticed that Jesus wasn’t even helping! He was still asleep in the stern of the boat! So they started shaking Him and yelling: “Teacher, don’t you care if we all drown?” So Jesus stood up, and rebuked the wind and the waves. “Quiet – be still,” He said, and the storm stopped, and the sea was calm. And the boat settled down – and so did the disciples! But He wasn’t through with His rebuke, was He? He said, “Why were you so afraid? Don’t you have any faith yet?” And He probably laid back down and went back to sleep! And the disciples wondered who He could be!


Our peaceful lives are often interrupted by storms, aren’t they? It may be a little unexpected shower, like a cutting remark that hurts our feelings. Or it may be a brutal hurricane, like the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, or the devastating news from a doctor that “It’s malignant.” How we react to those unpredictable “storms” will make or break us in the Christian life. The incident on the Sea of Galilee can teach us some basic principles about God’s protection in life’s storms.


First of all, we need to realize that every person experiences storms – even those of us who travel with Jesus. Having Jesus in their boat didn’t exempt the disciples from being battered by a storm. And they weren’t being punished – it was Jesus’ idea to go over to the other side of the lake! They were doing exactly what the Lord had asked them to do, and yet they found themselves in trouble. That’s important to remember, because some people think that if something bad happens to you it’s somehow your fault. That’s what Job’s friends tried to tell him. And others will teach that if you walk with God, life will always be smooth and easy – that if you have Jesus in your boat you’ll be exempt from problems. And, that’s not true, either!


Jesus told a story about two men who built houses, one on a solid rock foundation and the other on sand. A storm came up and hit both house. The man who’d built wisely wasn’t exempt from the storm! The difference was the foundation that saved his house, while the house on the sand collapsed. Being a Christian doesn’t exempt you from accidents, malignancies, tornados, or termites, but it does give you the foundation to weather the storm. Someone said, “God has one Son without sin, but He has no sons without suffering.”


The Galilean storm came upon the disciples unexpectedly. They were veteran fishermen. They knew the lake. But even those experienced fishermen were surprised at the suddenness of the storm. And sometimes we’re sailing along in life, when suddenly we’re broadsided by a giant wave. Your routine examination reveals a tumor; you discover where your daughter really went on that weekend; your boss tells you that you no longer have a job; your husband or you wife tells you they’ve found someone else; you get a phone call in the middle of the night to learn that your mom or dad is gone. It happens so suddenly. You can’t believe it. It just can’t be! But it is!


Some people get overly cautious about storms and try to avoid them by worry and over protection:

· “You won’t get me on an airplane! I saw that one where the top came off!”

· “I won’t put my child in the nursery. I know a kid who got bit in the nursery!”

· “I’ll never go skiing – you can break a leg!”

· “I’ll never take a ride on the Sea of Galilee – sudden storms are too dangerous!”


There is danger when the boat leaves the harbor – but that’s what boats are for! There’s more danger when the ship sits at the dock and collects barnacles. There’s danger when the plane leaves the runway – but that’s what planes are for! There’s more danger when the plane sits at the gate and the wings ice up. There’s danger when a person ventures forth in life – but that’s what people are created for! There’s more danger when we sit and do nothing, and die of disinterest.


We can’t predict the storms, and we’re foolish to be overly cautious. Jesus said, “In this world you’ll have trouble – but I’ve overcome the world!”


Every person experiences storms – even those of us who travel with Jesus. That’s the first thing to remember. But the second is that Jesus goes with us through the storms, even when it seems like He’s not concerned. The disciples were battling for their lives and Jesus was asleep in the boat! So they yelled at Him, “Teacher, don’t you care?” We can all understand their reaction. I’ve yelled at Him myself a few times!


When storms threaten us, we wonder the same thing: Does God really care? If He does, why doesn’t He do something? A Downs Syndrome baby is born to a godly couple. Is God asleep? A young Christian father wastes away and dies while Christians pray for his recovery. Is Jesus dozing through our prayers? A man with three children goes to work one day to discover it’s his last day of work there. Does the Lord really care? We’ve all asked, in the midst of a storm, “Where are you, God? Why don’t you do something about this? Are you asleep?”


We can understand the disciples’ doubt too, “Jesus, don’t you care if we die?” Jesus cared. He wasn’t asleep because of a lack of concern – He was asleep because of a lack of request! The disciples didn’t make a mistake in taking the trip – but they did make a mistake in waiting so long to call upon Jesus. They relied on human skill as long as possible. They were excellent sailors. They bailed water as fast as they could. They struck their sails, they set the rudder straight into the waves. They might even have tried wrapping the boat with ropes to keep it from falling apart. Only after their own efforts proved futile did they call on Jesus. I think Jesus would have calmed the storm a lot earlier if they’d have asked Him. But they waited until the situation was desperate before they called on Him.


After Hurricane Hugo hit the South Carolina coast, a story went around about a group of Christians huddled together in a frame church. In the midst of the storm, an eloquent preacher prayed, “Most omnipotent, gracious Heavenly Father, send us the spirit of the children of Moses. Send us the spirit of the children of Israel. Send us the spirit of the children of the Promised Land.” Just then the wind shook the church and an old man, less eloquent than the preacher, prayed, “Lord, don’t send nobody! Come yourself! This ain’t no time for children!” :)


Prayer shouldn’t always be a desperate S.O.S. It should be our first priority. We should learn to call on the Lord for help at the first sign of a disturbance. How sad it is to see a married couple wait until their ship of matrimony has hit the rocks and is sinking before they turn to the Lord for help. So often by then one of them has already abandoned ship! The Lord won’t always calm the storm – but He will calm you! You can be confident, knowing you don’t have to go through it alone. God does not promise exemption from trouble – but He does promise protection through trouble! He doesn’t always bring peace to your circumstances – but He does bring peace to your spirit.


Every person experiences storms – even those who travel with Jesus. But Jesus goes with us through the storms – even when it seems like He’s not concerned. And maturity comes by enduring the storms – even though we’d rather skip the storms!


Most of us mature more through a stormy night than we do in 6 months of ordinary living. But trials don’t automatically produce maturity. Sometimes they produce anxiety. I’ve seen people grow better through difficulty, and I’ve seen them grow bitter. We have a friend in Northern Virginia whose son was lost to Leukemia – but whose soul was saved by the faith in Christ he received through his son’s witness during his illness. Another couple also lost a child, and they turned on the Lord and on each other – and in a short time were divorced. The difference is our faith in Jesus Christ. If our faith is shallow, the storms can expose our weakness and destroy us. If our faith is solid, the storms will reveal our trust and strengthen us.


Any person – with God – is a majority anywhere, anytime, in any situation. Those who count on the Lord are invincible. We may be down for the moment, but we’re never out! We may not know what the future holds, but we’re sure of the One who holds the future! We may not see our way out of a storm that’s raging all around us, but we know that God isn’t controlled by the storm!


We may not be able to see through or around – but we can always look up! We may not “feel” God, and may not be aware of His presence, but we know that God is with us in the midst of our storms because He’s promised never to leave!


Just because the sun is behind a cloud doesn’t change the fact that it’s still there. And though circumstances may seem to hide God’s presence, the fact is: He is there! As the Psalmist wrote: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we won’t fear though the earth give way, and the mountains fall into the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”


In life, we will experience storms – but we don’t have to go through them alone! Jesus will go through them with us. And will help us grow through the experience.


Yes, we all will experience storms in our lives – but with Jesus, we’ll make it to the other side!


Amen.

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