When I think about the storms of life, when I think about the times I’ve been afraid, and I mean really afraid, I flash back to a number of things. When I was 10 I was picking blackberries when I realized that a black bear was picking blackberries about 10 feet away. He didn’t know I was there. I ran like the wind to find my dad and never left his side.
When I was fifteen our family had a cancer scare. My mother had a lump. My mother was, to me, the glue that held our family together. In all my life I don’t ever remember praying so boldly and telling the Lord what my will was.
Eight years ago, I lost my way in the mountains. Ever been on a mountain ridge in a blizzard, lost, trying to figure out which way to go? Before you get a fire going, that’s not a good feeling.
What are your storm stories? When has life-threatening fear set in, or life-altering fear, set in for you? Maybe you are living through one of those storms right now.
Fear is one of the basic emotions of human life. Sometimes fear is good.
A healthy fear will keep you out of a lot of trouble. A fear of breaking the commandments will keep you out of a lot of trouble.
But there is a fear that is not healthy. Jesus calls this fear a weakness in faith. And not just a weakness of faith, but Jesus calls this fear a sin against the first commandment that denies God’s power.
When we don’t have control over what’s happening, the result can be fear. We fear failure, poverty, the breakup of a marriage. We fear losing our health or our lives.
We can’t sleep at night. We might lose our appetite. We feel helpless. We don’t laugh like we used to. You can see worry, and depression, in peoples’ faces.
“It is a mother’s prerogative to worry,” I’m told. It is a mothers prerogative to stop fearing, loving and trusting in the Lord above all things. Worry, like outright fear, is contrary to faith. Worry is opposite of faith. It is unbelief. Jesus said, “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?; or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” (Matthew 6:31).
It’s one thing when the unbeliever trembles in fear. And understandable because they have no one to but helpless human beings to turn to when the storms of life hit.
But, and I say this not with a shaking finger, but with heaviness of heart. How sad, how pitiful, when God’s people fear.
“Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
We say the same thing, don’t we? “Lord, don’t you care that this is happening to me?” “Don’t you care that I am in the struggle for my life?” Don’t you care that I am afraid of what might happen?”
At least the disciples didn’t say, “Don’t bother waking Jesus, he can’t do anything about it.” No, they believed he could. But they also believed that Jesus stopped caring for them, stopped loving them. What led to their fear was that they believed Jesus stopped loving them. “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
Is there anything that can separate us from the love of God? “Shall trouble, or hardship…” Paul says “No.” “Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.” If God stopped loving he would cease to exist because he is love.
For the child of God, there is never a cause for fear. Paul wrote to the Romans, “You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:5). In the midst of temptation to fear we can call upon the Holy Spirit to remind us that we have a Father in heaven who loves us with an infinite love. Knowing our Father and knowing his love drives out all fear because as John writes in his first epistle, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The man who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). The ultimate cause of all fear is God’s punishment. But God’s perfect love for us, his grace, removes any idea of punishment. And if the punishment is removed then the fear is removed. John had written earlier, 1 John 4:7-10. “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
The reason there is no punishment, and the reason we have no fear, is that God sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. Yes, to live without fear of punishment, without worry, without anxiety. Yes, to live in peace and joy and hope. We don’t love God the way he demands, but God loves us in Christ and that perfect love is all we need to know to drive out any fear.
Think about this for a moment. In this crisis situation the disciples come to their Lord not with prayer, not with a respectful request, but with an accusation. What were they thinking? “Here we are almost dead, working our tails off to keep this boat afloat and you’re just sleeping away as if we don’t mean anything to you! Perhaps, if it does not interfere with your nap, we could use a little help, thank you please.”
“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Of course Jesus cared. And Jesus knew the Father cared. With perfect trust in His Father, Jesus could sleep. With that perfect trust in His Father, with his perfect life, with His dual nature of God and Man, he became the perfect sacrifice for sin. Jesus proves the Father’s love. Jesus knew he wasn’t going to drown, he knew he was going to die on a cross for all sinners. Jesus knew the Sea of Galilee and wind weren’t in charge, he knew His Father was in charge.
Another truth that removes fear is that Jesus is control of all things. “He (Jesus) got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still.’” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’” What we forget sometimes in the storms of life is that there is one who controls the wind and waves and earthquakes and tsunamis. There is one who is the master over all of disease and draught and economies and wars. He is the one who created this world using only His Word and someday will bring it to an end when the last believer comes to faith. The wind and waves obey the Lord Jesus, ruler over heaven and earth.
I think the key to this text lies in these words, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Why were they afraid? Simple. Because they didn’t understand the nature of Jesus, and they didn’t understand his mission. Jesus wasn’t supposed to die drowning in the Sea of Galilee, he was supposed to be the cursed one on the tree. The sleeping Jesus didn’t have a human father.
When he asks “Do you still have no faith?” he specifically means faith in him as the Old Testament Messiah, the Savior of Israel and the world. Trust in Jesus’ work of redemption takes away fear, no matter what the circumstance may be.
So here’s what out text boils down to: If Christ took away sin and is the Savior of the world—we have no reason to fear dying. If Christ is in control of all things, then there is no reason to fear what happens before we die. If God loves us in Christ, and if “nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus,” then again, there is no need to ever fear.
The clouds are always gathering. Personal tragedy. Nagging problems which defy human solution. A burden placed on the family. Finances. Each one of us sees the storm clouds gather.
And sometimes the clouds just blow over. But sometimes it rains. Then the waves get bigger and the boat starts to take on water. The remedy: Know his love. Trust he’s in control. “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still. Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.”
People of faith wrote these words for you, people of faith to find calm during storms: “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.” (Psalm 56:3-4). “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1). “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man to do me? The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies. (Psalm 118:6,7).
The storms of life serve a very useful purpose. They show we are not in control. Storms move us to ask God to intervene on our behalf. Storms show us how much we need God. Storms remind us of how much he loves us in Christ.
Which means we can sing with conviction the hymn verse we just sang:
Be still my soul; your God will undertake
To guide the future as he has the past.
Your hope, your confidence, let nothing shake
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still my soul, the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while he lived below. Amen.