Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Responding to the Storms of Life

A Tale of Two Storms

And a great windstorm arose...

When a wind as powerful as that comes and causes the concern it does, you simply don’t forget. Years later, the recollection of a storm like that is still etched into one’s mind. The impressions of those moments could not be forgotten. One minute the wind is so bad and with the water seemingly coming from everywhere, the concern was not just over property, but for life. It wasn’t just about the storm itself, it was about the effects of being in the storm. It wasn’t about how bad the storm was, or how much might be destroyed, but whether life would be sustained. In fact, some were fearful of dying and yelled at God for not caring. Yet, ultimately no one was hurt. And just as quickly as the storm came, the storm was gone. And yet, many still did not believe in the power of God, nor in the person of Jesus. As we sit here today, it is hard to fathom that after experiencing something like that, the people in the storm wouldn’t believe in the Jesus as the Son of God. But the fact is, that they were more afraid after the storm passed than they were during the storm itself!

But that is why Jesus said they didn’t have any faith? Wait. What? Oh, you thought I was talking about the storm this past week in Fairfax. No, I was telling the story from Mark 4.35-41. Consider again the parallels.

A great windstorm arose in Fairfax and on the Sea of Galilee.  The impression of this storm will not be forgotten anytime soon, like the one on Galilee is still considered.
  • The water was pouring down in Fairfax, like it was pouring into the boat on Galilee.
  • The storm caused a concern for property, but also created a concern for life.
  • Most were sleeping when it happened; Jesus was sleeping while it happened.
  • Some may have yelled at God during our storm; the disciples did yell at Jesus during theirs.
  • No one was hurt in either storm.
Despite Gods mercy sparing the lives of all citizens, and most personal property damage being minor, many will not respond in faith, just like the initial response of the disciples.

A Unifying Storm

Back in February, I began to map out the current sermon series I am preaching based upon Marks account of the gospel. At that time, I slotted the passage of Jesus calming the storm as the text for Sunday, July 10th. Well, as only God could direct it, a major windstorm came through Fairfax early Thursday morning, July 7th. In Mark 4.37, the Bible says that a great windstorm arose, and I can only imagine what that wind might have been like on the open sea, yet I doubt the winds were 136 mph like they were here last week. We certainly experienced our own great windstorm in Fairfax which caused a great deal of tree damage, and major damage for a couple of businesses, but very little personal property damage overall. 

My original sermon thoughts are posted on the churchs blog as usual, but given the actual storm, I thought I would take a look this week at why we are so fearful of all of the storms in our life – weather-related, physical (health), emotional, relational, financial, etc. Storms will come, but our response to these storms reveal our true character. For Fairfax, the result of the storm has been that a community has come together to help one another in any way possible. Much work remains in the cleanup process, but a great deal has been done through the unified efforts of the citizens in Fairfax, Atchison County, and others who have come from far and wide to help.

But a great deal of fear spread through the town during those early morning moments on July 7th. Similarly, the disciples with Jesus on the boat on the night the storm arose on the Sea of Galilee (while Jesus was sleeping) were fraught with fear as well. However, in their case, the disciples were more afraid after the storm than before. Why? Because of the great power of Jesus.

Our Fear of Storms

Again, we all face storms of many kinds. Whether the storm is physical, emotional, relational, financial, spiritual, weather-related or other, storms are unwelcome for a variety of reasons. Let me share six reasons briefly.

Tension – We don’t know what the outcome will be, how long it will last, etc. Thus, we have stress.

Extreme – Storms are often violent, and sometimes extremely violent. The week prior to this storm we had a gentle rain all day, which most people appreciated greatly. More rain may have fallen on July 2nd than on July 7th, but the extreme (and unexpected nature of the storm on the 7th) is what created the fear.

Rash – Storms often arrive quickly, are reckless, and are irrational. One of the strangest aspects of this past storm (as many observed) is the effect of the wind to large trees, but how certain items (such as the grill pictured here) were unmoved despite being some 20-30 feet away. 

Relentless – This aspect of a storm is part of the reason for our tension. Storms seem to last longer than we first think they might and make a bigger impact than we initially expect.

Overwhelming – Upon seeing the storm develop or watching it happen or living through it, we are often overwhelmed with what to do or how to respond.

Ruin – The outcome. This is what is left behind in so many situations – especially major storms. Sometimes, the ruin isn’t as bad as we might anticipate, but we still had the other five parts (tension, extreme, etc.) which lead to our fears.

In the passage I preached from this past week (Mark 4.35-41) ruin is the only part that was not a part of the disciples’ story. In verse 39, it says there was a great calm. Yes, a great wind arose and eventually a great calm came, but to move from the storm to the calm it required the greatness of Jesus.

If you will look back at the first letter of each of those six words, you will notice those letters form the acrostic TERROR, which is another type of storm that has become much more real to Americans over the past 15 years. In just the last few months, we have watched terror unfold in Paris, Istanbul, Dhaka, Baghdad, and elsewhere on the international scene. Within the last two weeks, we have seen terror in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and in Dallas, Texas.

Terror instills a constant state of those items above, and eventually brings about a lack of faith. Jesus rebuked the disciples for a lack of faith (Mark 4.40), which was evident because of their fear. Many suggest that the opposite of faith is doubt, but this passage shows that fear is more likely the true opposite of faith. And many people of faith are letting fear control them because of the terror around us. But that is ultimately the point of a terrorist - to get you to be too afraid to do anything. And Jesus said, that it was the devil who came to steal, kill, and destroy, but He comes to give life abundantly (John 10.10). So to give in to fear (or terror) is to give in to what the devil wants you to believe.

Am I exempt from fear? Not at all. I need to continue to develop my faith so that I will not yield to fear. Ideally, none of us would succumb to fear. This is true for so many reasons, but let me let me close with four simple reasons I believe it is much better to live by faith over fear.
  • Abundant living requires faith. Fear requires nothing and steals whatever is left.
  • Faith remains calm in the midst of the storm, but fear will always produce panic even without a storm.
  • Faith leads to freedom, but fear will also keep you imprisoned.
  • And faith will always lead to worship, while fear usually leads to failure.
For one who claims to follow Jesus, fear should really not be an option. Again, I am still learning how to have faith over fear myself, but in times of crisis, when fear is close-by, people are watching to see how others respond. A good leader will respond with an eye towards the future (because of faith) while most will simply lament what was (because of fear). More importantly, one who claims to believe the power of God can show that their faith in the God who can silence the storm overcomes any fears which s/he might have. This faith, in turn, can cause others to learn to trust that God through their own storms as well.

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