Have you ever been sailing? Last summer a number of the men from church clubbed together and chartered a boat for the weekend. It was fun! There were a dozen of us on the 72 foot yacht “Quadstone”, one of the boats that sailed around the world in the BT Global Challenge Yacht race. Half of us had never, ever sailed before. The skipper told us the names of all kinds of bits of boat, he literally “showed us the ropes”, he explained and demonstrated what we were going to do. Then it was oilskins and lifejackets on and we were out on the Solent.
You may know there are two ways to sail out from Southampton past the Isle of Wight. The easy way is a mile wide. The difficult way past the Needles is only a few hundred yards wide for a boat with a ten-foot keel. Of course this was the way our bold Skipper decided we would go. And that’s when it turned very wet and very windy. We were doing something I still don’t understand called “tacking” against a strong tide, with driving rain and the wind blowing force 6 gusting force 7. If you have seen the film, “The Perfect Storm” with George Clooney, you’ll get the picture. And I found myself reminded of a certain gospel story!
Have you ever been caught out in a storm? Storms at sea are the worst!!! But then life is full of storms isn’t it! I’m not just talking about Hurricanes or dreadful downpours. There area other kinds of storms as well. All the problems of life, all the challenges, all the battles. All the times when we feel that life is overwhelming us and battering is so hard that we’re not waving but drowning, going under for the third time. They might be storms in our relationships – arguments, splits, bereavements. Storms in our jobs, stress, redundancy, unemployment. Then there are storms of accident and illness, of disappointment and discouragement which can lead down into depression and even despair.
We all have times when we feel that today is just going to be one of those years! Times when we feel that the light at the end of the tunnel is just bound to be the headlight of the oncoming train. Being a Christian doesnt give us immunity from the storms of life. As they go through different kinds of problems, people often ask “Where is God in all of this?” And sometimes they come up with wrong answers. “There is no God”, “God is dead”, some people say. “God doesn’t realise what’s happening in his world”, some say. “God doesnt understand. God doesn’t know.”
It must have seemed like that to the disciples. A sudden violent wind, waves spilling over into their little fishing boat so it began to fill with water. This was one serious storm! Those brothers had been fishing that great lake all their lives. They were the experts. They knew that now was the time to panic! And there was Jesus with his head on the pillow, sleeping, blissfully unaware of the storm threatening to sink them. It is interesting that this story is the only place in the whole Bible where we read of Jesus sleeping. How could Jesus know what they were facing? The disciples had to wake him up to help them!
Sometimes it seems like we need to wake God up to help us. Sometimes it does seem as though God is asleep, or permanently out to lunch, while we are drowning in the storms of life. But the first lesson from this story is that, whatever our situation, whatever storms we are facing,
Jesus has shared in all the storms of life. Jesus was 100% human. The fact that he stayed asleep even during the storm shows us that after a long day of preaching Jesus was utterly exhausted, shattered! He really was “in the same boat” as his disciples. Jesus has been “in the same boat” as suffering and scared and lonely people everywhere. He has faced danger and been worn out just like us.
Heb 4:15-16 Our High Priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses. On the contrary, we have a high priest who was tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin, Let us be brave then, and approach God’s throne of grace, where we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it.
Jesus was put to the test in all the ways that we are – but did not sin.
He walked where I walk; He stood where I stand,
He felt what I feel; he understands
He knows my frailty, shared my humanity, tempted in every way, yet without sin.
God with us so close to us, God with us, Immanuel.
That’s the message we celebrate at Christmas isn’t it! That God became a human being, the word became flesh, Immanuel, “God with us”.
That’s the message of Easter as well – that on the cross Jesus shared all our human experiences of suffering and physical pain and loneliness and rejection and separation from God. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
There is NO problem which you and I can face which Jesus does not know about, not just from distant observation but from bitter personal experience! He’s been there before, AND He’s here with us right now too!
I don’t know what kinds of storms life is throwing at YOU this morning. Perhaps there aren’t any – if so then praise God! But for some other people perhaps it feels as though you are in the eye of the typhoon, as though a Hurricane is tearing your life to pieces. I don’t know what your problems are. But Jesus does! This story reminds us that in all the storms of life we face, Jesus understands our innermost thoughts and feelings – JESUS KNOWS.
But if God KNOWS our problems, some people might say, why doesn’t He just step in and solve them? Why doesnt God seem to be DOING anything? Perhaps God knows but he just doesn’t care! That’s what the disciples in the boat felt! “Teacher, don’t you care that we are about to die?” Well the second thing this story shows us is that we can be absolutely certain that,
God really does care about the storms we face. Jesus didnt just turn over and go back to sleep! God never does that! Jesus cared enough to wake up and take action. That’s another part of the message of Christmas! That God loved the world so much that he did something – He sent his only Son! That God cared enough to become a human being Himself, to reveal God to us and to show us how to live. God cared enough to be born as a baby and laid in a manger in a stable, to share in all our sufferings.
And that’s the message of Easter – that God loves us all enough that the precious Son of God died on a cross for the sins of the world. You probably end letters or emails or text messages to family and friends with a cross, or lots of crosses, to send them your love. Crosses are expressions of love, and the cross of Calvary where Jesus was crucified is God’s “I love you” to this rebellious runaway world. If ever you are tempted to think that God doesn’t care about you or about your problems, remember the cross! That’s how much God loves us!
The story of the boat in the storm reminds us of God’s love for us. When the disciples finally realized they were in such a big mess that they couldn’t get themselves out of it, Jesus was ready to step in! It wasn’t the storm that woke Jesus up, but the disciples’ cries for help. Even when we feel totally unworthy of God’s love, He hears our cries for help! JESUS CARES.
There’s a plaque on my study wall with a verse from a song which is very precious to me.
Tell my people I love them, tell my people I care
When they feel far away from me, Tell my people I’m there.
Don’t you care? disciples sometimes ask God. Jesus cares more than we can possibly imagine! God DID know the problems the disciples in the storm were facing as their boat was sinking. God DID care about those disciples! And we see how much God knows and cares by the way
Jesus stood up and commanded the wind “Be quiet!” and he said to the waves “Be still” The wind died down and there was a great calm!
What a miracle!!! Men and women may be able to ignore the commands of Jesus Christ, but the wind and the waves couldnt refuse to obey the voice of their Creator. No wonder the disciples were amazed and terribly afraid! But they shouldnt have been surprised. Because those disciples should have realised that Jesus doesnt just stand back and watch people suffer! They’d already seen him healing that paralysed man whose enterprising friends got him to Jesus by lowering him down through the roof. Jesus even forgave the man’s sins. Healing the sick, the deaf and dumb and blind and lepers. Driving out demons. Even bringing the dead son of a widow back to life! Jesus never left people in need without helping them! That’s the whole reason Jesus came!
to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind; to set free the oppressed (Luke 4:18)
“Who is this man? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” the disciples asked. This man was no less than Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Son of the Living God! The one person who can help ANYONE caught in the storms of life! Jesus saves!
That’s what the name Jesus means – saviour. As the Christmas angel told Joseph, “You shall name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
That’s what Easter is all about – Jesus dying on the cross to make a way for us to be forgiven, taking upon himself the penalty for our sin which we all should pay. But then He didnt stay dead! Jesus was raised to life again and so He is alive today to help US and to share that resurrection life with us, life in all its fulness.
There in the boat Jesus just did what He always does – he saved his disciples from the storm. And Jesus wants to save US from the storms of life as well. If only we let him.
There in the boat Jesus worked a miracle! Sometimes God saves us by taking the storms of life away miraculously. You’ll have heard reports of dramatic answers to prayer in the world today, of God healing people and setting them free from the grip of evil. Perhaps God has worked like that in your own life before. He has in mine – praise God! Sometimes God will work miracles and bring us healing or release or escape from our situation. Miracles – sometimes, but not always – because God always helps us in HIS time, according to His eternal purposes, for His glory and not just for our personal comfort.
God certainly didn’t always rescue the apostle Paul from the storms of life. 2 Corinthians 6 tells us that Paul went through “troubles, hardships and distresses; … beatings, imprisonments and riots … hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; … glory and dishonour, bad report and good report; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed.
Sometimes God rescues us from the storms, but He doesn’t save us by removing the storm, Instead He gives us shelter within the storm. When the storm is raging, sometimes God calms the storm. At other times He lets the storm rage but He calms us! He protects us and gives us the strength and the grace to get through. We may feel that our boat is about to sink. But the boat will never sink! Jesus is on board!
You may have heard the story of the competition to paint a picture given the simple title of “peace”. The second prize went to a beautiful landscape with a cloudless sky and motionless trees. But the first prize went to a painting of a storm at sea, lightning splitting the dark clouds as huge waves crashed up on the rocks beside a cliff. Why was this a picture of “peace”? Because high up on the cliff, sheltering in a crevice in the rock, was a tiny bird. With the storm raging all around, the bird was perfectly at peace protected by the rock.
In the storms of life, God often doesnt miraculously make the storm go away. But He does give us a rock to hide in, Jesus, the Rock of Ages. He helps us to be strong, to stand firm. And we are much, much safer in the middle of the fiercest storms WITH God than we would be anywhere else WITHOUT God! Jesus gives us real peace. Jesus saves.
And the key to finding God’s peace is faith. “Why are you frightened? Have you no faith?” Jesus asked his disciples. It is only as we exercise faith, as we commit our lives to God, and trust in him to act, that we can experience the peace which Jesus brings.
You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on you, because he trusts in you. Isa 26:3
We can always put our trust and confidence in the God who loves us and looks after us, who does know our situation, who does care about our problems and who does save all who cry out to him for help!
Of course there are some ways we should NOT approach God! There was once a fisherman whose boat was about to sink in a storm at sea. He didnt really know how to pray, so he prayed like writing a letter.
“Dear God. You probably don’t know who I am. I’ve never bothered you before and if you get me out of this mess I promise I’ll never bother you again!”
That’s not faith! Faith isn’t just a way of escape – faith is a way of life! We have to approach God with openness and sincerity and genuine trust.
In the midst of one of the greatest storms of his life, the Apostle Paul wrote these words to the Philippians. And they are God’s invitation to us whatever storms we may be facing.
Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart. And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus.
So whatever your situations, whatever storms of life you may be facing, even if you feel you are about to sink without trace, think about that time that Jesus calmed the storm! It encourages us to have faith. It reminds us that Jesus knows! And Jesus cares! And Jesus saves! And He will rescue us too, even today, even here and now!