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Why Do Storms Come Upon Us?

 

Matthew 8:23-27

 

Jim Davis

 

Matthew does a great job contrasting the "little faith" of the disciples with the "great faith" of those coming to Jesus to be healed. The disciples witnessed the many miracles of Jesus. The leper’s healing. The healing of the centurion’s servant. Peter’s mother-in-law’s fever was driven out. The casting out of numerous demons. They had no trouble believing in Jesus as he went about performing miracles for others. However, they were personally challenged when called upon to apply their faith to their personal lives. This is always the challenge of biblical faith.

 

Matthew 8:23-27

23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!"

 

26 He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

 

27 The men were amazed and asked, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!" NIV

 

Mark’s gospel account says Jesus “. . . rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’” However, before Jesus rebuked the winds, he rebuked the disciples’ lack of faith.

 

How does faith work in a personal crisis? The disciples were engaged in the work of spreading the gospel, but their personal faith failed the crisis test. The storm came upon Jonah because of his disobedience. This storm came upon the disciples because of their obedience. It is amazing Jonah’s storm came because he believed God was too caring. God wanted the wicked Ninevites saved—Jonah didn’t. The disciples’ storm came to prove to them God cared.

 

Why Do Storms Come Upon Us?

 

There is no way I can explain the specific reasons behind all the storms you have experienced, or are experiencing. Only God holds the answers to your questions about them. However, we can learn from the storm Jonah faced, and the storm the disciples faced. God tells us the purpose behind their storms. Understanding the purpose behind their storms will help us find a purpose in our personal storms.

 

God created the storms to activate their personal faith. Jonah’s storm came because he was running away from God. The disciples’ storm came because they were trying to follow God with too little faith in God. In each case the storm came to activate personal faith. God told Jonah to go preach salvation to Nineveh, but Jonah didn’t think they deserved salvation so he caught a ship to Tarshish.

 

Jonah caught a ship to Tarshish to get away from God’s purpose for him.

 

Jonah 1:5-17

But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. 6 The captain went to him and said, "How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us, and we will not perish."

 

7 Then the sailors said to each other, "Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity." They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.

 

8 So they asked him, "Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?"

 

9 He answered, "I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land."

 

10 This terrified them and they asked, "What have you done?" (They knew he was running away from the LORD, because he had already told them so.)

 

11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, "What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?"

 

12 "Pick me up and throw me into the sea," he replied, "and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you."

 

13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried to the LORD, "O LORD, please do not let us die for taking this man's life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, O LORD, have done as you pleased." 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him.

 

17 But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights. NIV

 

Storms challenge our complacency. Jonah was like many of us, asleep and needed to wake up. There are others who are like the disciples in the storm, they think God is asleep. Usually, when either happens, God calls for a storm. Storms are humbling. Humility seeks direction. Pride seeks its own direction. Storms have a way of pointing us to our greatest need.

 

Storms come to internalize our faith by renewing our sense of purpose and direction. There was a horrific tornado in Oklahoma a few years ago. The warning sounded. Residents dove into their underground shelters. When they came up after the storm nothing was left. Many of those individuals were asked the question: “How has this storm changed you life?” Almost without exception, each of them responded with a similar basic answer: “I have learned what is really important in life!” Storms are designed to take away the clutter. Storms are designed to give us a new direction.

 

The Disciples Storm

 

The disciples’ storm came to persuade them of their need for a deeper faith. For the new believer this is the most difficult task—trusting God. Developing a subjective faith is more difficult than objective faith. The disciples had an objective faith. They had observed Jesus’ authority and power—the empirical evidence persuaded them to believe. Initially believing what God has done and has said is easier than believing in what he will personally do for me.

 

Developing a subjective faith—internalizing faith is more difficult. Depending upon God in the midst of the crisis calls us to internalize our faith.

 

Over the years I have seen so many baptized believers turn away from the Lord shortly after baptism. This is always disturbing. I have seen children turn away when a crisis hits in their teenage years. Why does it happen? Initially, when you teach these individuals the truth, they accept it enthusiastically, but their enthusiasm is often short lived as they begin to face the stormy reality of living by faith in a non-believing world.

 

I have discovered people will usually give mental and verbal assent to the truth taught. But the challenge is leading them to discover how God’s truth affects their daily lives. This application of the truth is what I call a subjective faith—it is where faith is internalized. Subjective faith develops as a person embraces the truth for their personal life.

 

Jesus led his disciples through many situations that challenged them to internalize their faith.

 

Matthew 17:14-20

14 When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. 15 "Lord, have mercy on my son," he said. "He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16 I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him."

 

17 "O unbelieving and perverse generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me." 18 Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.

 

19 Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, "Why couldn't we drive it out?"

 

20 He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." NIV

 

Mustard seed faith is important when we go through loss of jobs, economic slumps, relationship problems as families grow and our personal battles with Satan. In times like these, we may think God doesn’t care. We may decide to go hide in the boat ignoring God’s call to internalize our faith until the storm is over.

 

At one point in Jesus’ ministry many of his disciples began turning their backs on Jesus—they no longer followed him. Jesus turned to the inner core of disciples, those twelve he had hand picked to follow him, and said, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” (John 6:66-67). Notice Peter’s answer:

 

John 6:68

Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (NIV).

 

This was another storm in the disciples’ lives; everyone is turning away from Christ. It’s a different type of storm—but it is a storm. Jesus asks them “You do not want to leave too, do you? What a soul search question in a heart rending storm. However, we begin to see the disciples’ subjective faith develop—we have no other one to turn to.

 

The verses preceding what I have told you thus far reveal what tested their faith to the point were some wanted to leave and others decided they had no where else to go.

 

John 6:53-69

53 Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever." 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

 

60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?"

 

61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, "Does this offend you? 62 What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him."

 

66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

 

67 "You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve.

 

68 Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." NIV

 

Those following Jesus had a clear picture of what Jesus was talking about. Jesus had just finished feeding thousands with a five barley loaves and to small fish. Moses had fed their fathers with manna.

 

They would have to become committed and dedicated to Christ. The ancient world was accustomed to eating meat, and often, drinking the blood of animal sacrifices offered to their god or gods as a sign of their commitment and dedication to those gods. However, eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood was repulsive to them. However, it really isn’t that bazaar to us. We symbolize this through the Lord’s Supper each week. The point is that those following Jesus needed to feed upon Jesus and digest him for themselves.

 

I hear an interesting advertisement on the radio on the way to the office almost every day. It goes like this: “Lord please give me a Mercedes Benz, I am receiving no help from my friends.” The commercial goes on to say something like this: You certainly can’t get a Mercedes Benz through praying, or from your friends. Those of us here at Mercedes Benz realize a Mercedes Benz only comes from hard work, commitment and dedication. We don’t give Mercedes Benzes away. They are expensive, but the quality is well worth the commitment and dedication it takes to own a Mercedes Benz. We offer a quality product along with quality service, and these things certainly aren’t cheap. These things only come through the dedication and commitment it takes to own a Mercedes Benz.

 

I may not have the dedication and commitment to own a Mercedes Benz. But my life is just as committed to whatever it is I am pursuing, for I am spending my life on earth for it.

 

Believing through storms of life require commitment and dedication. Yet, what Jesus wants to give us can’t be had with commitment and dedication alone. It requires a faith of commitment and dedication dependent upon the work of God. God must enable you to come to him. Jesus says you can’t come to him unless “the Father has enabled you.” God may not give you a Mercedes Benz, but he will give you all the help you need to get to heaven. When those disciples were leaving Jesus, Jesus turned to his inner core of disciples and said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him."

 

When the lots in the storms of life point to you, where do you turn? Do you turn to Jesus, or do you jump overboard. Do you seek to deepen your faith in God, or do you run from God? It’s a humbling experience to turn to God and say, “God I am not sure about how much you care about me, but I need some relief—save me.”

 

When the storms blow into family relationships do you turn to Christ, or do you turn on the television to escape. Do you let today’s television message convince you dysfunctional families are normal?

 

Only God’s Spirit can help us internalize faith. Jesus says, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” Commitment and dedication of many following Jesus was only a fleshly response—they were drawn to him by the loaves and fishes as they stood in awe of his miraculous works. When they were called upon to accept Jesus Christ as the bread of life—to eat his flesh and drink his blood, their fleshly commitment and dedication came to a halt.

 

A father brought his demon possessed son to Jesus inquiring if Jesus could cast the demon out. The father pleaded with Jesus requesting Jesus to have pity on them and cast out the demon if he could. Jesus said, “’Everything is possible for him who believes.’ Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’” (Mark 9:23-24 NIV).

 

Conclusion:

 

It’s nice to hear God’s voice say, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Thank God for little faith. Little faith brings us back to the One who enables. Little faith removes mountains. Little faith finds peace in the midst of the storm. Little faith keeps us following Christ. Little faith keeps us from being swallowed by a whale or something much worse. Little faith says, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."

 

Jonah represents so many in the church today. They clearly understand God’s call, but they are asleep in the boat. The church of our Lord is facing a great storm today—it has been sent by God—religious division is worse now than it has ever been. There are new churches popping up in almost every strip mall. The storm is devastating the faith of many believers. The lots being cast are pointing to us—but many are jumping ship. They are being swallowed up by something far worse. However, God’s storm is calling us to deepen our faith in Jesus Christ who is the way, the truth and the life, and no man can come to the Father except through him.

 

The disciples didn’t have a clear picture of what was beyond their storm. A hesitant faith was understandable. Jonah had a clear picture of God’s mission ahead. He knew why the storm came. What if Jonah had said, “God I accept your mission, just get this boat back to shore!!” What would have happened? Instead, Jonah says, “Throw me overboard it’s your only hope!!!”

 

The choice is yours today. Will you cry, “Lord help my unbelief,” or will you cry “Throw me overboard?” Will you continue to seek Jesus?

 

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