LESSONS FROM THE STORM
Princeton Christian Church October 2020
Summary: God allows storms in our life so that we can experience the power and the presence of Christ.
Scripture Reading and Prayer
There is a well-known story that Max Lucado tells in his book, In The Eye Of The Storm, about Chippie the parakeet. “Chippie was a happy little bird, content every day to sit on his perch, swinging and singing to his little heart’s content. One day Chippie’s owner decided to clean out his cage. She took off the attachment from the end of the vacuum hose and stuck it in the cage to remove the sediment from the bottom. Just then the phone rang. She turned to pick it up and had barely said hello when “swoosch” Chippie got sucked in!
As you can imagine, the bird owner panicked, dropped the phone, turned off the vacuum and ripped open the bag. There was Chippie, in the bag, still alive but stunned by the trauma. The bird was covered with all the terrible grit and grime that fills vacuum bags, so the owner did the only thing she could think to do. She grabbed him up, ran to the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and held Chippie under running water. Then realizing poor little Chippie was soaked and shivering, she did what any good bird owner would do, she reached for the hair dryer and blasted the little guy with hot air. Poor Chippie never knew what hit him.
A couple of days after the experience someone asked his owner how Chippie was doing. She said, "Well Chippie doesn’t sing much anymore-he just sits and stares." It’s no wonder. One minute the little guy was swinging and singing, and before he knew it, he was sucked in, washed up and blown over.” Chippie had been through a storm!
My guess is, most of us can relate to Chippie. There are times when life treats us more harshly than we expect. It might be something as small as a cutting remark from someone we consider a friend, or it could be something as major as the death of a spouse. It might be hearing the word "malignant" from the lips of a doctor, or it could be the collapse of a business that you’ve invested your life in. It’s possible to get battered, bruised and blown away by rough times and difficult circumstances. When those things happen often the best we can muster is a blank stare, and our song sometimes seems like a distant memory.
The Scriptures record for us several storms people have endured and came out stronger for it. For example, the parable of the wise and foolish builders, both of them were trying to build a good life for themselves. But the story went on to tell us that the life they were building was threatened by the storms. Hard times and difficult circumstances threatened their well-being, and only the one anchored on the solid rock of a relationship with Christ was able to withstand the pressure of the storm.
This morning we are going to look at another passage about a storm, and we are going to learn even more about handling the storms of life, overcoming fear, and coming out stronger because of the storm.
You know, when I read through a passage like that, I can’t help but ask a question. "Why does God allow storms in our life?" I mean, think about it a minute. If He is all-powerful, couldn’t God make our life smooth sailing if He wanted to? Wouldn’t it be nice if He cut out all the storms and simply made the seas that we sail on as smooth as glass? It seems like life would be much better if we didn’t have to go through rough times. We might hope for that from God, but I’m guessing God has His reasons for allowing storms to come our way.
I learned a little about storms this week. Now, I am no scientist, so I have to take someone else’s word for these statements.
Did you know that hurricanes are important to maintaining the balance of the earth’s ecosystem? Try convincing people in Louisiana of that today. You’ve no doubt seen on TV the devastation that hurricanes cause especially along the coasts. But did you realize that those storms serve a very important purpose? They dissipate a large percentage of the tremendous heat that builds up at the equator across the globe. Not only that, but they are indirectly responsible for much of the rainfall in North and South America. For a while meteorologists experimented with cloud-seeding techniques to prevent hurricanes from forming, but they quit because they came to recognize that in the big picture hurricanes actually do more good than harm.
Lightning storms are sometimes devastating. They can kill a person instantly. They knock down trees, destroy buildings, start huge fires when the ground is dry, and just the noise can scare a person to death. But do you realize that lightning is essential for plant life to exist on earth? The atmosphere contains nitrogen, but it doesn’t easily combine with other gasses. If it did, we would all be poisoned by different forms of nitrous gasses. However, by a charge of electricity coursing through the atmosphere, nitrogen is transferred from the atmosphere to the soil. Every day one hundred thousand bolts of lightning strike the earth. This process creates usable nitrogen in the soil to nourish the plant. We may not like the lightning storms, but they are a necessary part of life on earth.
Talk about things happening for a purpose. Think about this: All of this was created by God. Storms were not created by God to cause us pain and suffering. He had a purpose in His creation for things which will actually benefit us.
Now what I’m wondering is if Matthew might be trying to teach us something about dealing with difficult times in our life by telling us about a stormy situation he faced on the Sea of Galilee. Remember, he was in that boat, so this is an “I was there” account of the storm.
There is more to this story than a storm tossed boat with thirteen passengers. It seems to me Matthew tells us this story to teach us at least a couple of very important lessons.
1. GOD ALLOWS US TO GO THROUGH STORMS SO THAT WE CAN FIND OUT THAT HE IS MORE POWERFUL THAN THE STORMS ARE.
Might we still be learning this lesson even though we have seen God work in our other storms?
Obviously this incident in the middle of the Sea of Galilee made a big impact on Matthew. He remembered it many years later as he wrote it down for us. Why do you think Matthew considered this story important enough to tell us? In his three years of living and traveling with Jesus there were certainly other incidents he left out. I think the key is in the response of the disciples after Jesus calmed the storm. (v. 27) "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!" They learned just how powerful Jesus was!
I have to wonder if Matthew, who is writing these words, might have later in life connected what happened in that boat to what the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 90:8-9 where it says,
"O, LORD God Almighty, who is like you?
You are mighty, O LORD, and your faithfulness surrounds you.
You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them."
Matthew apparently thought this incident was very important to serve as a lesson for us to understand. That lesson, summed up, is this:
YOU WILL NEVER FACE A DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCE IN YOUR LIFE THAT IS TOO TOUGH FOR JESUS TO HANDLE.
He may not immediately still the storm in your life, but if He doesn’t it is because He still has some lessons to teach you about hanging on through the stormy seas.
James 1:2-4 explains this truth like this: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
That tells us very clearly that, if the storm is still raging, God isn’t finished with His work. He is making sure you are mature and complete for the things He wants you to do in the future. Hold on to Him and don’t even think about letting go. Even though Jesus is more powerful than the storm, on your own you may not be!
You know, there’s nothing wrong with asking God questions as to why the storms are rolling through your life. Do you know anyone else who would be better to ask our questions to? Anyone else who could actually completely answer your question? There is nobody else better to ask. However, as you ask, realize what God is doing in the big picture. He is teaching you to lean on Him more. He is helping you to understand that He is more powerful than any storm you will face. Don’t try to go it alone. You don’t have to weather the storm alone. You do not need to go through any situation alone if you invite God to help you.
There is a second lesson. If we might be honest with ourselves, we possibly are still learning this one as well.
2. IN THE MIDST OF THE STORM, WE DON’T NEED TO BE AFRAID AS LONG AS JESUS IS AT OUR SIDE.
It seems like that’s why Jesus chastises the men in the boat. It’s not that they disturbed His sleep, and it’s not that they asked Him to calm the storm. The key is in His reply "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" That word translated "afraid" is a strong word in the original Greek. Literally, it means "cowardly."
William Barclay wrote, in his Commentary on Matthew, "He does not chide them for disturbing him with their prayers, but for disturbing themselves with their fears." Why should they be afraid? They have the King of the universe in the boat with them. If you have a personal relationship with Jesus you don’t have to be afraid. Let that sink in for a moment and feel the lesson that Matthew wanted you to understand. It doesn’t matter how big the waves are or how small your boat is, you don’t have to be afraid if Jesus is in the boat with you. And the most important thing to remember is this --- He will always be in the boat with you if you will invite Him there.
Here is the simple, powerful and straight truth. It doesn’t matter how difficult and painful your circumstances are, if you have given your life to Jesus, He will get you through them. No matter if you face failure, betrayal, disease, or even death, He will go through it with you and bring you out of it. You are precious to God, and no matter what it feels like, He hasn’t forgotten you. He hasn’t deserted you, and He hasn’t let you slip through His fingers. Listen to what Jesus said in Luke 12:6-7 "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."
So the next time your situation makes you feel as if you’ve experienced the Chippie syndrome, been sucked in, washed up, and blown over, don’t be afraid. Keep on singing!
If you have a relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ His Son, and if the Holy Spirit lives inside of you, if you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and have confessed Him as your Savior; if you have repented of your sin, and have been baptized into Christ so that you may walk in a new life guided by the Holy Spirit, then you should have every confidence that you can let the power of God carry you through the trial you face.
And then, thank God that He loves you enough to use this difficult circumstance to help you face the future He has in store for you.
Now, to anyone here who has never given your life to Christ let me ask this question. Have you ever felt that the storms of life were overwhelming you? If you have, then you have to ask yourself this question. "Do I want to face these storms alone?" You don’t have to.
The good news of Jesus Christ is that He offers you the opportunity to give your life to Him. He will protect you, He will provide for you, and He will carry you through the storm. But you have to be willing to do what the disciples in the boat did. You have to ask Him to save you and trust Him enough to respond to Him in faith.