Sermon for Sunday 18th July 2021

Sermon: Mark 4: 35-41 – Jesus calms the storm (July 18th, 2021)

 

In the winter of 1835 the Wesley brothers, Charles and John set sail from England to Georgia. John wanted to preach to the Indians and lead them to Christ. A sudden storm shattered the ship’s main mast and the Englishmen wept and begged for their lives. A group of Moravian Christians prayed calmly and sang hymns throughout. John Wesley survived to tell the tale and was so impressed by their faith in the face of such a life-threatening storm that he became convinced they had something he didn’t and admitted in his journal:

It was then that I realised that mine was a dry-land, fair-weather faith.”

 

There are 3 main characters in Mark’s account: Jesus, the disciples and the sea. The sea is the context in which this miracle takes place. In OT times the Jews hated and feared the sea and left sea-faring to the other nations. The sea symbolized unpredictability, darkness and danger; the place where chaos and demons lived – the place of giant monsters (Ps. 69:1, 14-15) and human insignificance.

It was the realm over which God alone had control. Those who make their living from the sea know this feeling; those who have experienced the tsunami know this primal fear.

THE SEA WAS THE PLACE OF THEIR GREATEST FEARS AND THE PLACE WHERE THEIR FAITH WOULD BE TESTED.

For most of us, the past 16 months has been the place where we have been sorely tested.

Of all the places, The LORD takes them there!  The sea (though an inland lake) is the context of Jesus’ teachings about the kingdom. Clearly (on this occasion) they didn’t pass the test. His rebuke isn’t that they experience the human emotions of fear (He felt that too, we are sure), but really because they think (believe) that the sea is more powerful than He is.  Jesus wanted the disciples to learn that HE was more powerful than the sea. WE NEED TO KNOW WHO HE IS, TOO!

 

The question we ask (and are sometimes afraid to articulate) is why doesn’t he do it now?  Why does God allow those who love an follow him to be drowned in the raging sea and not intervene to save them?  “Master! Master! Don’t you care if I perish?! Why are you asleep? We all ask such questions.

Why does a 2 year old boy die in a gas explosion in Oldham? Why are children in Syria lined up and shot in their homes by the government which should protect them? There are no glib, easy answers.

 

But we are people & 1.  People are NOT immune from suffering (storms).

You see, this is an important story; that’s why we find it in three gospels. It’s more than a nature miracle about a literal storm being stilled – wonderful as that is & true as it is – it speaks to us about the storms of real life. It asks us hard questions about FAITH in the face of the facts of sickness, accident, failure and death, whether we are Christians or not. Sometimes these are unexpected, sudden and horrific…

While a simplistic prosperity gospel holds out a promise that Christians will be blessed with health and wealth and protection if only we had more faith, real life and scripture tells us something quite different – that there is often no rose garden – at least not yet.

 

12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart – I have overcome the world (Jn. 16:33); anyone signing up for the kingdom of God has to go through plenty of hard times (Acts 14:22). Storms will rage simply because we know and love Christ. Storms are not unusual!

 

2. He has already helped us to navigate through the storms.

So how do we get through them? Perhaps we ought to be brave, courageous and strong; perhaps we ought to try harder. No, Jesus doesn’t say to the beleaguered fishermen, why are you so afraid; do you still have no courage or strength? No. He says they need to grow in FAITH – faith that will protect us if that is God’s will.

 

1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging (Ps. 46: 1-3)

 

FAITH – that will bring us to the city of God even through death:

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. 5 God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day… 10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”  11 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.  (PS. 46: 4-5 & 10-11)

 

3. He has promised to continue to help you navigate the storms of life:

 

1 but now, this is what the LORD says — he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. 3 For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour… (Isa 43)

 

GOD is the GOD who can and often is be revealed to us in and through our suffering. No-one wants to suffer but it may be just there, in the arena of our greatest fears, that we really meet Him, perhaps for the first time. It is in the fire that the steel is tempered and toughened.

How often do we look back at the trials through which we have passed in our lives (the storms) and can trace the hand of God; not the God who snores indifferently, not the hand of a cruel tyrant, but the guiding and gracious hand of a God who cared, more than we could possibly know?

Like young David who faced a giant, we have been able to face giants too. It is quite amazing what you can face even when all you have (as Jesus taught on the sea) is a few stones – or faith no bigger than a mustard seed. How else could we know… if we hadn’t been through it?

3 things: We’re not immune from the storms of life – let us accept that. We have been helped already to withstand life’s’ storms – let’s remember that. We should have growing faith in Him – and hear His promise to continue to help us till all storms have ceased:

 

“You are my friends and you are precious to me – but you know I won’t calm every storm you face; but I will walk through every one of them with you; you need never think that you face any moment of your life now or to come on your own.  Remember the boat? You didn’t trust me – you did what you so often do – you trusted in your own strength and wisdom.  Some storms you’ll face because you are human. I am human, too. Some storms you will face because you belong to me.  That day on the boat you thought that God had left you to drown or perish.  That day you thought that God was asleep.  You will face more trials, of this you can be sure, but you’ll come through them all with faith in me.

I said if you recall, we should go to the other side of the lake. I didn’t say we’ll go to the middle of the lake and drown. You find it so hard to listen to me or trust me. You secretly, sometimes, think the sea will win.  You have faith of the mind, not faith in the teeth of the storm. We all get frightened – especially of the future.

And when you face death God will give you the grace to die too – grace to cross over to that place (that sea, that giant) too. But remember, I calmed the sea so you would know who I AM, so you would begin to trust me, to grow in faith, come fair-weather or foul.

As long as I am in the boat, you’ll never sink. I am there whether you know it or not. Trust me and I will protect you from the storm of judgment. Trust in what I have done for you on the cross…”

 

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. 3 For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour… (Isa 43)

 

WHY ARE YOU SO AFRAID? DO YOU STILL HAVE NO FAITH?

 

BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD.

MFR

 

 

 

 

FOR REFLECTION:

The disciples get into the boat along with Jesus at HIS instruction. They are following and doing exactly what Jesus told them to do. Sometimes storms in life come when you are faithfully following the Lord! They come as a result of this fallen world!! But Jesus knew what was coming, after all in spite of His humanity He was still God! Jesus knew this storm was coming and sent them into it anyway! He could have said: “let’s stay here tonight and cross over in the morning” after the danger of the night storms prevalent on the sea… but He didn’t. You ask why Jesus would do this. The disciples’ faith was being tested! Then He taught them in parables of faith and the kingdom of God…. THEN HE TESTED THEM! This was the first time THEIR life was on the line!

Faith is not tested until the hardship is personal! One more point here… Notice that the Lord and the disciples were not alone, there were other boats along with them…. Surely they were at the point of perishing in the storm as well, but the disciples cry to Jesus for help saved them as well!! NEVER underestimate how the testing of your faith, the way the Lord brings you through your storms may impact others! THE WORLD IS WATCHING!!!

At His word human limbs were restored, disease vanished, demons were cast out… EVERYTHING they had heard Jesus say He would do, He had done!! What had Jesus told them in v. 35? Did He say: “Let us go into the boat to drown.”? – NO! He said: “Let us cross over to the other side.” Jesus was causing them to look deep inside themselves and investigate the level of their faith and trust in God!! How well do we TRUST Him to always do what He says He will do?!!

Jesus pointed out their fear… in v.40 – “fearful” = ‘deilos’ = “cowardly fear”… the heart-stopping, paralysing fear that comes when our dependence on self…. Fails!! What about you and me? Are we depending on self? Are we sailing along self-sufficiently, in the calm of life…. Unwittingly headed into the next devastating storm??!! If so, when that storm hits we will crumble, JUST LIKE the disciples!!

Why don’t we sail in the clear confidence and trust in the Lord’s will and direction, fully dependent on HIM for everything…

Notice finally the outcome… (v. 41) “They feared exceedingly” – Major Emphasis… They were “AFRAID VERY MUCH!” But there is a contrast the “fear” here is = ‘phobeo’ and it is NOT a cowardly fear, but a “reverent awe!!” FEAR OF THE LORD!! What kind of fear do you have?

What is your response today??

There are always storms of life on the horizon. We need to have faith, trust and confidence in Christ that he will calm the storm before it arrives. We need to remember the words of the famous hymn, “Will Your Anchor Hold.”

 

We have an anchor that keeps the soul; steadfast and sure while the billows roll;
fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love!

 

God equips us for service in the storms of life. We are guided through the storms by the Bible. It is our compass. If we spend time studying God’s Word, we will find the hope, encouragement and strength we need to face the storms of life.

 

 

 

 

 


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