Jesus in the Storm - August 10th

Matthew 14:22-33
“Jesus in the Storm”
Jesus had just fed more than five thousand people with five loaves of bread
and two fish. Through this ministry, he showed his disciples you can do a lot with
a little when God is involved. After that he sent the disciples to the other side of
the lake in a boat and dismissed the people. When everyone was gone, Jesus went
up a hill by himself to pray. This is a valuable lesson right here, showing us that
we all need some quiet time - time for reflection and time for renewal. It is easy to
get carried away by the hustle and bustle of life, to become so concerned about our
schedules and activities that we forget to slow down and pray. But after a hectic
day or when we have a busy schedule, it is good to slow down and pray. Prayer
calms our souls; it gives us clarity and helps us become more focused. It is like
driving your car. After driving for so many miles, you have to slow down and get
gas or take it to the shop for an oil change or a check-up. After a long day of
ministry, Jesus slowed down to reflect and connect with the other two persons of
the Trinity, the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Jesus stayed on the hill until the evening. By this time, the disciples who
were on their way to the other side of the lake in a boat, ran into a storm. The
disciples were taking a journey to the other side of the lake. We are all on a
journey from one point to another, from one level to the other. These are the
changes that take place in life. Every day is different. Every day we are different.
Each day we have to deal with changes in our life’s situations. These are called,
“transitions.” These changes and transitions may be getting ready to retire,
preparing for marriage, welcoming a child into the world, entering college,
graduating from college and now looking for a job or moving to a new community.
Just as the disciples were going to the other side of the lake, so our life’s journey is
taking us to another location, another point in our growth and development.
As the disciples travelled, they ran into a storm. The boat was far out in the
lake that they couldn’t turn around. The wind was blowing hard against the water
and the waves became rough and throwing the boat back and forth. I can imagine
how scary this was for the disciples. Just as the disciples encountered a storm so,
too, in life, we will meet the storms of life. The storms of life could be anything.
Sometimes the storms in life might be natural disasters such as hurricanes,
tornadoes, earthquakes, and so on. There was a story of a family whose house was
built at the bottom of the hill. There was so much rain in their area that the hill
above their house became soaked with rain and a landslide slowly destroyed their
home as they watched. There was nothing they could do.
Early this year, the city of Atlanta had more inches of snow than they ever
had before. They were unprepared. The roads became icy and slippery. Many
people were stranded in their cars. Even students in school buses were stuck.
There were traffic jams and some people even abandoned their cars and went
home. Atlanta was not prepared for 2 inches of snow. It took them by surprise.
That is how it is for many of us. The storms of life always take us by surprise and
usually we’re not prepared. For some, the storms of life might be a car accident, a
sudden illness, or even death or some other loss. The storms of life can overpower
us and make us feel powerless because we don’t understand them and we can’t
control them.
Perhaps the most difficult part of this situation that Jesus was not in the boat
with the disciples. Although Jesus wasn’t in the boat with the disciples, he knew
they were in trouble and needed him. Did he abandon them? Did he leave them on
their own? In another version of the story told in Mark 4, Jesus was asleep in the
boat while the storm was raging. The disciples went to him and asked, “Teacher,
don’t you care that we are about to die?” I’m sure they were probably asking
themselves this same question: “Doesn’t the Lord care that we’re about to die?”
Whenever we feel Jesus isn’t nearby during our times of storm, remember, he
knows when we’re in trouble and he knows we need him. As the storm raged on,
the disciples did everything they could to keep things under control. They were
experienced fishermen and had encountered storms before. There is no doubt in
my mind they used their skills to keep the boat from turning over.
I think sometimes when we experience life’s storms, Jesus wants us to begin
using the skills we have or the resources that exist among us. Our experiences, our
understanding, our education, the friends and family we have, our church family,
the local community are all resources we can utilize when we find ourselves in the
storm. Jesus allowed the disciples to experience the storm for a while. He knew he
would not allow it to destroy them but by experiencing the storm, their faith would
grow stronger. If God solved all our problems as soon as they start, we won’t
develop the faith and courage to face the challenges of life. The storms of life can
teach us many things about ourselves and about other people. They can help us
correct mistakes but they can also help us become more courageous.
As the disciples managed the boat to keep it from capsizing, Jesus came to
them walking on the water. In the same way, when we begin to manage those
things that want to turn our lives upside down, Jesus will come to us walking on
the troubled waters. But as Jesus walked towards the boat, the disciples saw him
and thought it was a ghost; they screamed in fear. Why did the disciples think it
was a ghost? I believe they thought it was a ghost because they were still growing
in their faith and so they could not recognize Jesus during the storm. In times of
crises when we see a powerful force at work to help us, what do we say? When
someone is protected from an accident, saved from a fire, and rescued from a
danger, how often do they say, the Lord saved me? Most times they say it was
good luck. As Christians, it is always God who comes to our rescue. As we mature
in the faith, we will always see God at work in our lives and recognize Him during
the storm. Just as Jesus walked on the water in the middle of the storm, in the same
way, he walk on our storms because they can’t destroy him. He will walk on our
doubts and despair, on our fears and trembling, on our burdens and worries and
they will not harm us.
The disciples were terrified when they saw Jesus. But he calmed their fears
and said, “Take courage! It is I!” It is always comforting to know Jesus is with us
in the storm. This is the blessed assurance we need. Jesus tells us to Take
courage. Don’t lose heart. Don’t give up. Don’t surrender. Your storm will not
destroy you. I will be there before you know. In fact, I am already here, but you
think I’m a ghost. Open your eyes and see. It is I your Lord. I’m here now.
Everything will be already.
But Peter wanted proof. “Lord, if it is really you, invite me to come out on
the water to you.” If it is really you. It is a human thing to want proof and
evidence that Jesus is really in our situation. Again, this was the early part of
Peter’s growth in faith and so he wanted proof. But as he deepened his faith, he no
longer asked those questions for proof. He believed without a doubt. As we grow
from being baby Christians, it’s okay to ask for proof. When we become mature
Christians, our eyes of faith will open and we will see the Lord clearly.
Jesus then invited Peter to come out to him on the water. Peter stepped out
of the boat and he began to walk on the water to Jesus. But when he noticed the
strong wind, he was afraid and started to sink. “Save me, Lord,” he cried out. At
once Jesus reached out and grabbed hold of him and said, “What little faith you
have! Why did you doubt?” Peter and Jesus got in the boat and the wind died
down. One commentator said, “At least Peter got out of the boat on to the water.”
This is true that Peter took the first step of faith. But the storm was so powerful, it
frightened him. When he began to sink, our Lord was right there to grab hold of
him. Jesus said, “O you of little faith! Why did you doubt?”
Just like real storms, there will always be the storms of life. The Christian
life is not free from life’s trials, testing, and temptations. But we will never face
them alone. God did not keep Daniel from being thrown in the Lion’s den. God
did not keep the three Hebrew boys from being out in the fiery furnace. God did
not prevent Joseph from being sold in slavery or from being put in prison. But no
matter what happened, God was with them; he took their situation and turned it
around for good. Jesus will be in our storms with us and then he will calm them so
that they are no more. No matter how serious they are, let us have no doubt that
Jesus will be with us.
When a man named John was 13 years old, he lost his sight due to a
chemical explosion. That made him feel helpless and powerless. He hated God.
For the first six months he did nothing to improve his lot in life. He would eat all
my meals alone in his room. There was a storm inside of him. A storm of anger
and hatred; a storm of disappointment, despair, and desperation. One day his father
entered his room and said, “John, winter’s coming and the storm windows need to
be up — that’s your job. I want those hung by the time I get back this evening or
else!” Then he turned, walked out of the room and slammed the door. John got so
angry, he thought to himself, “Who does he think I am? I’m blind!” John was so
angry he decided to do it anyway. He felt his way to the garage, found the
windows, located the necessary tools, found the ladder, all the while complaining
under his breath, “I’ll show them. I’ll fall, then they’ll have a blind and paralyzed
son!” John got the windows up. Later he found out that all the time he was feeling
his way around to find the windows, the tools and the ladder, his father was never
more than four or five feet away from his side. In the same way, Jesus did not
promise to spare us, but he did promise to be with us especially in the storm.
May we see Jesus with us throughout our lives, especially when the storms
of life are raging. May the Spirit help us all, amen.