February 16, 2020
“…His [Jesus] disciples went down unto the sea, and entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them. And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew.” John 6:16-18
A turbulent wind is blowing across our world, and many of us find ourselves praying God will stop the storm we find ourselves in.
Someone said that faith is like film. It’s developed in the dark. Do you find it hard to glow in the dark? That’s when we learn to trust the Lord.
Only a very shallow theology says if we’re in the will of God, we’ll always sail smoothly on the sea of life; God will stop all our storms—we’ll have no tragedies, no disappointments. The “joy boys” get on television and say, “Just believe God and send me an offering, and you’ll never be sick. Everything’ll be fine.” This is the gospel of cash and Cadillacs. There’s a Greek word for it: baloney. Jesus’ disciples found that out.
In my journeys to Israel, one of the most delightful times for me is to sit at twilight on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. The tranquility is like a dream. You’re almost intoxicated by beauty as the sun sets upon it. The Golan Heights across the water from Tiberius turn a rosy color. You can hear birds nesting in the trees.
I believe the Sea of Galilee is one of the most beautiful bodies of water on earth. The old rabbis used to say God created all the other seas, then He created Galilee just for Himself. It’s so peaceful.
In John chapter 6, near the shore of that same sea, Jesus’ disciples began a day in victory. A large crowd of men, women and children gathered to hear their Master, the Lord Jesus. That day, the miracle called “the feeding of the 5,000” happened—and that’s an underestimate because 5,000 was just the number of men present. At the close of the day, Jesus sent His disciples on ahead across Galilee while He stayed behind in a secluded spot to pray.
Excited by the day’s events, they must have climbed into their boat with satisfaction and confidence. Then it happened.
The wind began to rise. Clouds darkened the moon. An angry gale beat the sea with its fists. The waves rose, slapping the disciples in the face. From quiet as a millpond earlier, the Sea of Galilee changed to dangerous.
Though some were seasoned sailors, the disciples were afraid. They’re way out from shore, and Jesus is way back somewhere on land. It was too far from shore to swim, the waves were too rough, and some began to think they would sink—possibly drown. They thought, “Jesus has forsaken us.”
Never. Jesus knew their situation. He saw them rowing frantically.
“…He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them.” (Mark 6:47)
Then they saw a figure on the water. But it didn’t bring them joy. Their fear turned to raw terror. Was it a phantom? A ghost? Then they saw Jesus, walking on the water.
“So when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near the boat; and they were afraid” But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” (John 6:19-20)
Some 365 times in the Bible—once for every day in the year—God has told us in one way or another, “Be not afraid” or “Fear not.” The devil is the sinister minister of fear, but our Lord comes to us bringing hope and strength.
Are you in a storm right now? Maybe things you thought were solid as a rock are beginning to fall apart, and you’re completely blind-sided. Or things are fine now and there’s no crisis in your life. If that’s your situation today, I’m glad for you. Enjoy this season of peace. We should enjoy the good times in our lives. But I’ve learned as a pastor that we all have storms, and sooner or later, you’ll find yourself in one. Here is what you need to know:
He isn’t distracted with other things—He knows what you’re going through. He never takes His eyes from you.
You say, “He doesn’t know where I am. Why am I in the storm and He’s on the shore?” Friend, He is there, and He’s praying for you. He sees right through the dark. He sees you. You can say, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”
There is nothing going on that’s beyond His knowledge or His power. See Him walking on the water, coming to you.
You are governed by His providence and guarded by His power. You can’t drown with your head above water. The storm that looks like it’s over your head is already under His feet. Ephesians 2:6 tells us we are seated in heavenly places with the Lord Jesus Christ. In the spiritual realm, you are already safely seated with Him.
A correcting storm may come because you chose something you knew wasn’t God’s will for you. Jonah, who spent the night on a foam blubber mattress, was in a correcting storm because he made a conscious choice to run from God, defying His will.
But what about the disciples in a storm on the Sea of Galilee?
A perfecting storm came to the disciples because—don’t miss this—they were in the will of God! It was Jesus who constrained them to get into that boat (Matthew 14:22). He literally made them get in! They were in this storm because they were obeying Jesus. Sometimes your storm has nothing to do with anything you’ve done, but God has allowed it—some storms He may even have engineered—because God is over everything.
Jesus sent them into a storm because He wanted them to grow.God is master of the winds and waves. He can make storms come or calm them. Psalm 107 clearly says:
“…see the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep. For He commands and raises the stormy wind, which lifts up the waves of the sea…. Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses. He calms the storm, so that its waves are still…. So He guides them to their desired haven. (v. 24-30)
Robert Browning Hamilton wrote:
I walked a mile with pleasure; she chatted all the way.
But left me none the wiser for all she had to say.
I walked a mile with sorrow; not a word said she.
But oh, the things I learned from sorrow, when sorrow walked with me.
Is that not true? In Psalm 4:1 David declares, “Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.”
Friend, we’re going to have difficulty. When it comes, be assured God’s providence is over it all. God’s plan is not to indulge you but (see Psalm 4:1 again) to enlarge you.
Those of you who’ve walked a long time with the Lord, when did you grow the most? When everything was fine? When there was smooth sailing? Or when the storm came?
Did you not grow more in the storm, when you were crowded to Christ, and when you had to call upon Him? You were growing by His plan.
If you’re not in a storm at the moment, save this for later, for as sure as God made little green apples, one will come.
Andrew Murray said, “God is willing to assume full responsibility for the life totally yielded to Him.” Jesus Himself brought them through.
In this world we encounter tribulation, and it’s growing more, not less, intense. Where is Jesus? He has overcome the world. That’s what He’s telling you and me.
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
The spiritual barometer is falling worldwide, and all of us who can read the signs know a storm is gathering. But soon our Lord, who has been on the mountain of His glory praying for us, is going to rise from His throne. He’ll come in His glory. Walking on water will be child’s play. He’ll come stepping on the clouds.
Then we here on the sea of time will immediately be on the shores of eternity. Won’t that be a day?