Mar 21, 2014

Why We Need the Storms

Matthew 14:24-25, 26  “but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them.  And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea.
....But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid."

Alone, overwhelmed, facing conditions that are out of control, unable to see, unable to make progress, threatened by waves that were beating against their only grip on safety.  That’s how the disciples felt that night on the boat.  Following the instruction of Jesus they set out on a simple journey across the Galilean Sea, a ride they had probably taken hundreds of times before as fisherman.  But this time it was different.  This time they felt like it would be the last time.

Hey, many of us have been exactly where the disciples have been.  In fact, many of us have been there, done that, and have the scars, wounds, paperwork, court record, shame, memories, or bills to prove it.  Many of us are there now.  Nobody wants to be there.  Nobody intentionally gets in the boat thinking, “I can’t wait to be imprisoned by doubt, shame, helplessness, hopelessness, fear, regret, abandonment, faithlessness, anger, and well, a vessel that is not made for waves crashing against it like this!”  Nobody says that, nobody thinks that.

Why does God make us go through storms?  Two reasons, both closely related and both producing the same outcome:  Discipline and Discipleship.

Discipline and discipleship both have the same overall goal:  to bring us closer to Jesus by increasing our faith in Him.

The purpose of Jesus putting the disciples in the boat headed for the storm is clear in the passage:  to strengthen their faith and increase their understanding of who he was.  Notice the confession they made at the end of the story, “Truly you are the Son of God” (v.33)

This wasn’t the only time a servant of God faced and overwhelming storm in a boat.  Remember Jonah?  He was once there too, but for completely different reasons.  He got in the boat too, but not because God told him to...he was running from God.  Some of us are in that boat too.  So God sends the storm to get his attention and get him back on the right path.  The storm brought Jonah to a realization that he confesses just before he is rescued “Salvation belongs to the LORD!” (Jonah 2:9)

One storm is for discipleship and one storm is discipline.  One storm grows his people, one storm get his people back to growth.  At the end of the day the outcome is the same:  his people are closer to Him and their faith is increased.

Truth be told WE NEED THE STORMS.  They grow us, they get us back, they strengthen our faith and vanquish our doubt.  Storms are not easy, but they are worth it.  We have a stronger and deeper faith, we are more humble, we are closer to Jesus, and we see things we’d never see without the storm.

Then why does he put us in a boat by ourselves and send the storm?  Why does he intentionally threaten our safety, sanity, and security?  Because whether we are living in sin or whether we are just living by mediocre faith, we need to see him for who he really is.  He does it so that we can realize our continual great need for him and so that we can see him come to us.  So that over and over again we can realize our need for the gospel of salvation.

In both stories God came to rescue the overwhelmed voyagers.  To Jonah, in a storm because of his mistake, he came in the form of a his disciples, who didn't fully understand who he was, he came walking on the water (the very thing that threatened their lives).

So if you are in a storm...maybe you put yourself there...maybe Jesus put you there...either way, be on the lookout because beneath or atop the waves is Jesus coming to you to rescue you.  He’s coming to show you he is greater than the storm, to show you he is the way out, to show you he is greater than the storm, to save you from what you cannot save yourself from, to lead you to (or spit you out on) the shore of safety.  He’s coming and he will calm, control, answer, or resolve what you cannot.  Look through it, look will find him.  He will rescue. 

Listen, listen closely, and you will hear it too, “Take heart, it is I.  Do not be afraid.”’ll never know the truth of those words without the storm.

Mar 13, 2014

Get in the Boat

Matthew 14:22  Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side... Matthew 14:24  but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them.

Here’s the story in a gist: after Jesus fed the 5000 he put his disciples in a boat, set them out to sea by themselves, a storm came, and he came to them walking on the water, then Peter walked on water too, Jesus got in the boat, and he calmed the storm.  A great story that we’ve heard since VBS as little children.
I find this first part interesting though.  Jesus put them in the boat.  This boat was going out to sea, which was going to face an overpowering storm that night.  Didn't he know that?  Surely he must have known what was going to happen...He’s God, right?  The disciples obediently followed his instructions and expected that somehow he would meet them on the other side.  They were clueless as to what they would face that night.  Jesus knew, however, exactly what was ahead for these guys that night.
You know, God does the same thing to us.  God will put you in a boat, which is going out to sea, which is going to face an overpowering storm in the night.  There are on accidents with God.  He doesn't 'oops' us.  Things don’t get by him.  He is the sovereign God of the universe!  This means that everything that takes place happens under his control.  There are no accidents, no mistakes, and no unexpected or unplanned things for God.  EVERYTHING...the good, the beautiful, the sweet, the comforting, but also the painful, the bad, and the ugly are under the  control of his sovereign hand.  Now this doesn’t mean that he causes all things that happen to happen (it’s impossible for him to cause evil), but it does mean that he controls and oversees all things that do happen (he has power even over evil). 
You and I will face real, painful, uncontrollable, unexpected, unpredictable, and over powering storms in life.  They cause our souls to shake, our minds wonder, our hearts to question, and our emotions explode when the unthinkable and unimaginable storms of life become a reality.  The storms of life can stir even the hardest of hearts.  God knows this.  God loves us.  God puts in the boat.  He knows what is ahead for us when we get in the boat.  And God knows what he is doing when he does.
Why does he do that?  Why does he put us in a boat headed for a storm?  We’ll look at that in the next post.  For now, rest assured of this...even though we can’t control what will happen in the storm...HE CAN and HE DOES.  He has a purpose behind putting you in the boat.  He has a purpose in the storm. 
He’s a good God and he has a good plan for you and me.  You may be in a storm right now.  Listen, God is in control and he knows what he is doing.  Trust Him.  He’s God.  There are things in the storm that he wants to do for us and show us.  We need the storms.  In fact, we’ll never see him walk on water if we don’t get in the boat.  More on that next time.  For now, trust his plan, trust his sovereignty, and get in the boat.