Stilling the Storms of Life. (Mark 4:35-41)
C.S Lewis writing in “A Grief Observed” said;
“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth of falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to tie a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then discover how much you really trusted it?”.
Storms are just a part of life, I’m not just talking about natural disasters, like rainstorm fire or floods. I am also talking about the storms of life. Events that blow through our everyday existence sometimes causing us heartache, anguish or pain. This passage of scripture shows us Jesus dealing with an actual physical storm, however I also believe it can provide some insights as to what we might do in the midst of a personal storm. I believe there are some helpful truths to be discovered here that we dare not miss if we wish to navigate the storms of life.
Jesus had been explaining to ordinary people what the kingdom of God was like, now as evening is coming he dismisses the crowds and he says to his disciples, lets cross to the other side of the lake and they leave the crowds behind. Many people reading this will already know what’s coming, because they have heard this story before…. a storm is approaching. Jesus, I believe, knew very well he was sending them into a storm. I would like to suggest Jesus was going to use this situation to teach them, and this is what we might call the practical part of their curriculum.
These are disciples following and obeying the Lord, they are doing what the Lord asked of them, going in the right direction so to speak, and they still encounter a storm. We too can be sailing smoothly through life enjoying the trip when a storm can suddenly appear on the horizon. In life, as in nature, storms can appear out of nowhere. Many Christians seem to believe that storms only come into your life when you disobey God, but that’s not the case. It obvious to every even minded Christian that trials and tribulations are a part of life. Being in a relationship with Jesus Christ does not promise you perfect health, trouble free family relationships, a successful career, or life without ill health, suffering or tears. Any preacher who tells you otherwise, well the nicest thing I can say about them is they just don’t know their bible. Here are the disciples, in the middle of the lake and they thought they were going to have a peaceful crossing with the Lord, but the text tells us otherwise.
37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4: 37-38)
It is significant that Mark takes pains to point out that on this occasion Jesus was asleep. We have been told before that Jesus rested, but we have not been told he was actually asleep, and he is asleep, in the middle of a storm. This really resonates to me, often when I too have found myself in the midst of a storm when it felt like Jesus has gone to sleep. In the midst of life’s storm, I too have found myself praying in panic and thinking where are you Lord when I need you? However, what seem incredible to me that they say, “do you not care?”. Don’t you care Lord, they say this is life or death, were going to perish. Don’t you care?
39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. (Mark 4: 39)
Who stands up in the middle of a storm and says to the wind “peace, be still”. Who else, other than God? In the last 24 hours Jesus has dealt with demonic powers, he has also dealt with diseases mow he is dealing with the very elements themselves. This is a demonstration of the all-encompassing mighty power of God. The awesome power of God over the created order of things. In verse 39 he does that, he rebuked the wind, then in verse 40 he turns and rebukes the disciples.
40 But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (Mark 4: 40)
Jesus turns and reproaches the disciples and when he does so he accuses them of two things.
Firstly, he rebukes them for being fearful. Maybe you are thinking, “what’s wrong with being afraid?” In the same circumstances I would have been afraid. The normal response to danger is fear. There is a proper time and place for fear, but look at the text carefully, he didn’t say, “why are you fearful”. He actually said was, “why are you so fearful? Fear, in certain situations is normal, but to the Christian excessive fear or worrying should be out of bounds. We have a heavenly father who has promised to take care of us. A heavenly father who has promised us that ‘all things will work together for our good’, he has promised us he will get us to the other side. Excessive fear and excess worry is a sure sign that we have forgotten the promises of our heavenly father. Jesus didn’t rebuke them from being fearful, for that’s normal. I believe he rebuked them for being overly afraid.
Secondly, he rebuked them for is their lack of faith. What was it that they did not believe? Look back for a moment to verse 35 again.
35 On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” (Mark 4: 35)
Jesus did not say, let’s go to the middle of the lake where we shall flounder and perish in the middle of a storm. He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side. In other words, they didn’t believe his words from earlier in the day. Should there have been any doubt or question in their minds of whether Jesus had desire or the power to see them safely through? Why didn’t they just wake him and say, Lord we know you have the power, therefore can you deal with this storm. They hadn’t learned yet, to calmly ask his to help them when in the midst of trouble.
You may know the Lord, you may know the word of God? But how about when the storm comes? That’s the real issue, do you rely on it when things get tough or stressful? His disciples didn’t believe God’s Word, they didn’t believe God’s power, but they also didn’t believe God’s love.
38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4: 38)
“Do you not care about us Lord”? They doubted the love of God. They doubted that he was in control and that God had a plan and a purpose, but most of all, they doubted that God loved them. The next time you find yourself in a storm please remember God loves you, and he is in control. Remember he has the power and if you just trust in him you can know he still has a plan and a purpose to fulfil in you through whatever life brings. Look at the disciples reaction to all this.
41 And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” (Mark 4:41)
This is the good type of fear, not the wrong type of fear I talked about earlier. This is not fear combined with worry, but fear combined with awe.
Perhaps the main point of this story is this question asked in the last verse. Who can this be? Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey him?
The big question that lies behind everything is, who is Jesus? If Jesus is who he said he is, then you can trust in him, and need not worry. However if he is not who is said he is, then just carry on, and go ahead and worry all you want. If Jesus is not the Son of God then you really have a lot to worry about, you have not only the immediate storms of life to worry about, but you still have to worry about you eternal position before a perfect Holy God.
Victor Hugo was famous for his novel the Hunchback of Notre Dame also wrote an autobiographical novel called “Ninety-Three.” Part of it tells of a journey on a ship caught in a dangerous storm on the high seas. At the height of the storm, the passengers heard a terrible crashing noise below the deck. They knew at once that this noise came from a huge cannon that was part of the ship’s cargo and had broken loose. The cannon was sliding back and forth with the swaying of the ship, crashing into the side of the ship with terrible impact. Knowing the real danger to the ship was not the storm but the loose cannon a team of brave sailors volunteered to make the dangerous attempt to go to the lower deck and try to retie the loose cannon. They knew the danger of a shipwreck from the cannon was far greater than the risk from of the storm.
Storms of life may blow upon us, but it is not these exterior storms that pose the gravest danger to us it is our reaction to them. The furious storm outside may seem overwhelming but what is going on inside can pose the greater threat to our spiritual and eternal lives. The storms that rage within us cannot be cured by us on our own, it takes the power of God’s love, as revealed in Jesus Christ. He is our only hope of stilling the tempest that can harm our souls and damage our lives. If we try and do it in our own strength we too are like that loose cannon, tossed and turned, crashing and wreaking damage as we thrash about uncontrollably. Instead, of relying on God’s love and God’s power.
If Jesus has power over the forces of nature we can certainly trust him as the living God to intervene with power in the lives of ordinary people like you and me, and in the everyday situations we struggle with. If we are trusting the Lord in the middle of life’s storms, we need not be afraid because he is loves us and he still has the power to still the storm and to carry us through.
I pray that you too may know that God Himself will carry you through the storms of life