It was getting late in the afternoon and the clouds were slowly moving in over the mountains. They weren’t the usual puffy white variety; these guys were dark and ominous. I should have listened to that little voice down inside that was gently urging me to get off the lake and back to camp.
The only problem was the fishing was just too good! You know, that special time just before a storm when all is still and quiet. The water was smooth as glass and with the air pressure rising as the incoming storm drew nearer the insects were flying low over the water … and the trout were well aware of the situation. All they had to do was eat until the storm hit and then dive down into the stillness of the deep. We, on the other hand, had a lot further to run once the storm hit. It should have been a no brainer, but we ignored the storm and kept on laying our Royal Coachman out there among all the other flies.
The first time we took note of our situation was when that first blast of wind roared out the bottom of the thunderstorm; the one that had quickly moved right on top of us. The little 17-foot fishing boat rose up out of the water like a breaching whale as the first wave smashed into her side. My view was suddenly changed from watching my fly ride across the water to looking straight down into a foamy darkness. My first thought was … it’s too late!
The full furry of the storm was upon us in a matter of minutes. Half of our equipment was thrown overboard and just remaining in the boat was now my only consideration. As the waves rose higher and increased in frequency I could hear the little motor racing for dear life every time the stern of the boat was pitched up toward the ever darkening sky. The waves were now large enough that they completely masked the horizon and all I could see were walls of water … dark churning water! The struggle went on for what seemed like and eternity with only glimpses of the distant shoreline … each time it seemed to get farther away.
All around us the darkness was closing in as the storm and the night merged together, choking off what little light remained from the slowly fading sunset. I remember looking into the face of my fishing buddy during one of those topsy-turvy slides down the backside of a huge wave. I didn’t like what I saw. It was full blown, we ain’t gonna make it fear!
Webster defines a storm as: a serious disturbance of any element of nature; a disturbed or agitated state; a sudden or violent commotion. In the Old Testament the word most commonly used is caar), which means tempest; like Jonah faced in his trial at sea (Jonah 1:12). In the New Testament the Greek word for tempest is lailaps, which also means hurricane or whirlwind. I think, however, in light of our story the translation that most closely describes our defining moment is seismos, which represents an earthquake on land or a gale upon the water. It is the word we find in one of my favorite stories in the bible.
Matt 8:24-27 And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. 25. And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. 26. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. 27. But the men marveled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!
Dr. Thompson (Land & Book) has this to say about this particular type of tempest or storm: Such winds are not only violent, but they come down suddenly, and often when the sky is perfectly clear. Well, I wish I could say we were caught by this seismos all of a sudden, but as already noted we saw the signs and ignored them. So what about the disciples?
Well, we don’t know for certain but it would appear from the use of the word seismos that the storm came up suddenly and unexpectedly. We can infer that from the use of the word “disciples” that there were others onboard in addition to the apostles. As a matter of fact we are told in Mark’s Gospel (Mark 4:36) that there were even other ships with them; so a significant number witnessed this great miracle.
So what did the disciples do when the storm rose up — they immediately went to the Son of God, who was sleeping in the back of the boat. Sounds like a great place to go in a storm to me. Now we are all familiar with the miracle that Jesus performed but what I want to focus on is what happened just prior to the miracle.
Matthew tells us that Jesus spoke to the disciples first and Mark tells us it was after, but they both agree on what He said. Why are you fearful? Why do you have such little faith? Both of these questions are based around the same answer: Jesus. When you think about it, His questions are logical enough. Why are you fearful of this storm? Where is your faith? Isn’t it the same for us?
We should never fear in our storms (danger, sickness or even death) because Jesus is always in our boat. He is just a “call away” to come to our rescue. He is ready to speak to the storms in our life just as he did at that moment; He rebuked the winds and the sea. He admonished and forbid them to continue their raging.
Think about that for a moment. The winds are howling, the waves crashing over the sides of the boat, the seamen are racing around trying to save the ship and Jesus silences the entire procession with His Word. Why didn’t He just say something to the wind and the sea when they first got into the boat? Father, Bless this trip and bring us safely to the other side; Amen! The storm wouldn’t have been an issue and the trip would have been peaceful. And He could have slept all the way across. Well we all know the answer but it is worth thinking about for a moment or two. Isn’t this the same thing as the death of Lazarus?
John 11:4 When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.
This storm was for the benefit of all that were with Him on that boat and in those boats around them. They probably thought that since the Son of God was onboard the journey would have fair winds and following seas. However, only in the raising of Lazarus from the dead and the silencing of the storm was God to be glorified. But how was that going to happen if He was sleeping in the back of the boat?
I think it fair to say that while Jesus the human may have been sleeping because He was tired, Jesus the Son of God was sleeping to test the faith of His disciples. I think He was just waiting for them to wake Him up. How blessed He must have been when the first words out of their mouths were … Lord save us.
They immediately went to the one source that could save them all. They put an exclamation point to it when they said; we perish (if you don’t save us). They knew they were in trouble and who to turn to. But it’s obvious that He wasn’t totally pleased with their approach to the situation.
Notice that Jesus doesn’t challenge them for waking Him up but rather because they had let fear get a hold of them. Listen to what He is saying between the lines:
Hey guys, ask yourselves why you’re afraid! Is it because you’re weak in your faith? Isn’t the reason you entered into fear because you weren’t exercising your faith. I told you to get into the boat and I’m here with you. What have you to be fearful of? Are you afraid I’m not who I say I am and that I can’t deliver you to safety?
I find myself in that same situation far too often. I know who to go to but so often I come in fear. When faith fails in the face of fear I find myself, like the disciples, in danger of a shipwreck. But Jesus can restore calm in my life just as fast as He did on the Sea of Galilee (Sea of Tiberias); He rose – He rebuked – there was a great calm. One word from the Master and the strongest tempest in my life will be stilled.
Notice that Jesus responded with the appropriate measure … there arose a great tempest. Mark tells us: and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full but Jesus responded with a great calm. We never have to worry whether or not God is going to deliver us from our situation. He never gets caught short. His response is always perfectly measured to our situation. I must honestly add, however, that more often than not I perceive there is more to be done than He does. He always knows just how much comfort I need in my affliction and how much affliction I need in my comfort.
It’s important not to leave this picture we have painted in our minds before we note just what Jesus did. He didn’t stand up in the boat and thrash about, wringing His hands and looking upward to heaven with a lost look about Him. No, He spoke. That is the nugget we need to walk away with; He spoke appropriately and with authority.
Note that He made a direct command to the forces aligned against them. In Mark’s account he tells us that Jesus rose and said … peace, be still. The literal translation is be silent, be muzzled. I like the way R.C.H. Lenski translates Mark’s account in 4:39: put the muzzle on and keep it on! We can draw an awesome picture for ourselves at this juncture. Remember that Jesus is the Word of God (i.e. John 1:1) and it was the Word that silenced the storm. Who has the Word today?
When storms arise against us and begin to batter our boat we need to stand up and speak the Word; nothing more and nothing less. Do you suppose that Jesus was scolding the disciples for that very same reason? Could He have been saying … If your trust was truly in God then you didn’t need to wake me and have me speak to the storm for you. You have me with you, only believe in Me; you have no need to fear.
Our fear in the face of storms is in direct relationship to our faith. They are direct opposites and cannot be in the same place at the same time. It is our unbelief that opens the door to fear and the onslaught that follows it. Jesus reminds us in this story that He is ever present in our boat and we only need to stand in the face of the storm in His authority. We too, can speak to the voices of our circumstances with authority and fully expect them to not only cease but to remain silent. It is the voice of the raging storm that we must silence; the power that gives it voice is fear. Jesus wants us to remove that fear with our faith. A faith that is fully born in Him and available to each of us … we need only believe! Are you facing a storm in your life right now?
I met Van Crouch in the early 90s at a speaking engagement in San Diego. Van is a great brother in the Lord and an excellent motivational speaker that has mentored many NFL teams. He has written a number of books but one that he gave me has continued to be a blessing over the years; Stay In The Game – It’s Too Soon To Quit. Recently I was struggling in the midst of a storm and the waves were crashing well over the sides of my boat. I picked up Van’s book and found a section that I had double underlined in red:
- If you are in a storm it means that you haven’t been conquered.
- Storms are opposition on the road to a miracle.
- Storms always come for a reason but only last for a season.
Storms come with fear to test the very thing that Jesus admonishes us to use against them; faith. Fear has one purpose in life and that is to steal the Word that God has given you. If fear can get you to lose sight of the promises of God then it can begin to drive a wedge between you and God. Fear is a powerful enemy. Listen to how Van sums it up (my paraphrase):
Fear wants to steal your vision. Fear is designed to make quitting look like an option, an option that when taken has a progressive effect on you. It stops your joy, which saps your strength, which causes the loss of peace, which causes the loss of focus on the vision God has given you, which will ultimately stop the vision and affect the Kingdom of God.
Bob Yandian in his book Galatians, The Spirit Filled Life, sums up the answer: In the midst of the storm it isn’t the persecution that makes us strong, it’s the faith that we use in the persecution that makes us strong.
Our storms are no different than those experienced by Jesus’ disciples and neither is the answer. The Word of God and our faith in that Word is all that we need to silence the voice of our circumstances and keep it from rising up again; put the muzzle on and keep it on! Jesus is right there in the boat with us and has given us permission to speak to the storms on His behalf and we don’t even need to wake Him if He’s taking a nap.
It seemed like an eternity since that first big wave hit us and I had no idea how long it had been since I last saw the shoreline. I looked at the water level in the boat and knew we couldn’t take on much more. One more big wave and we were going under. The little motor was having absolutely no effect against the wind … it seemed hopeless.
Suddenly there was a screeching like the tearing of metal. The wave washed over the boat and we were thrown overboard. My first thought was whether or not my life vest could keep me afloat. I had not taken off my hip boots and they were filling with water; a precaution I had taught every one of my survival students. As I pondered that thought for a moment I realized I was sitting on the bottom of the lake … or at least I was sitting … why was I breathing … you can’t breathe under water?
There we were, tossed out on the only little island in the middle of that lake. Just the two of us and our trusty little boat. I haven’t a clue how we got there as we were headed in the wrong direction and the last time I saw that little island it was a long way off. I looked at my partner and could only smile. I swear I heard the voice of Solomon in my ear; Every prudent man dealeth with knowledge: but a fool layeth open his folly (Prov 13:16). Why didn’t we get off the lake when those clouds first started to get dark?
It was a cold night on that little island and the next morning we decided that one of us should empty the boat and head back to camp to get some food and dry clothes. As I sat there alone that morning I thought about all the mistakes that had been made and how lucky I was to be there … cold and wet!
It has been a long time since that incident but I have never forgotten it. Often I’ve looked at the picture I took that following morning; one very bedraggled and blessed guy huddled over a driftwood fire! Many times since then I have been faced with waves that have tried to wash over my life and the Lord has reminded me of my “Island Paradise” and the two lessons He taught me while I shivered in front of that fire:
- Often times a storm in life can be avoided if we pay attention to the early warnings.
- In the midst of the storm your first action is to call upon the faith that is within you, and with it comes all the authority and power you need to silence the storm.
Storms are designed to get us to quit, giving up on the vision that God has placed in our heart. So why do I love the storm? Because as miserable as it is at the time, it’s a great opportunity to get closer to Jesus. It’s for that reason God gave us the Holy Spirit who is our source of faith and strength. He is the one who rises up within us at the critical moment and speaks forth with power and authority. He is always in our boat.
The next time you find yourself being dashed about by the wind and waves of circumstance just call on His Spirit and stand in faith and speak The Word. Never quit on Jesus because Jesus didn’t quit on you.
Success is failure turned inside out –
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt.
And you can never tell how close your are,
It may be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit –
It’s when things seem worst that you mustn’t quit.
(Excerpt From Don’t Quit)
Stay In The Game, It’s Too Soon To Quit; Van Crouch; Honor Books 1989; ISBN 1-56292-583-0
Galatians, The Spirit Filled Life; Bob Yandian; Harrison House 1985; ISBN 0-89274-388-3