Neither Snow, Nor Rain, Nor Heat ~ August 04, 2019 ~ Matthew 8:23-27
You see, chapter 8 begins with some incredible things. Jesus heals a man with leprosy. Then He heals the servant of a Roman officer. Then He heals Peter’s mother-in-law. Then, in verses 16 and 17, we read:
That evening many
demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. He cast out the evil spirits with
a simple command, and he healed all the sick. This fulfilled the word of the
Lord through the prophet Isaiah, who said, “He took our sicknesses and removed
The point being this: The disciples have witnessed Jesus do miraculous things repeatedly. They were eyewitnesses to some wonders beyond human comprehension. Keep that in mind as we read this morning. Would you please join me in the unison prayer as we prepare to study the Word of God? Let us pray.
Lord, upon the pages of this book is Your story. It is also our story. Open our eyes that we may see, our ears that we may hear, our minds that we may understand, and our hearts that they may be transformed. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.
The disciples were amazed.
“Who is this man?” they asked. “Even the winds and waves obey him!”
May God bless to our hearing and understand His holy and inspired Word.
Jesus got into a boat. I want to start right there. You’ll read in several other places in Scripture where Jesus got into a boat, or Jesus went off by Himself to get away from things. Even Jesus needed to get away sometimes, to spend some time alone with His Father. To get some rest. This can be a little overwhelming – when you’re doing so many amazing things, you draw crowds. Life can sometimes get a little overwhelming. I will never forget our first trip as missionaries to the nation of Haiti.
The introduction was we landed the plane – well, we didn’t land the plane, the pilots landed the plane – but the plane landed on the runway. It didn’t pull up to the airport, you had to walk down the stairs and across the pavement. And my first introduction was getting our luggage. You turn the corner, and there was this giant pile of suitcases, and you just had to dig and find which one was yours. We walk out, we get into a bus, and everything hits you all at once – the smells, the sights, the garbage. There’s trash everywhere. There are people barely clothed. You can see distended bellies of hungry children. As we drive to La Cai, on either side of us, you could see ramshackle homes made of whatever was available – cardboard, blown away tin, tents. The poverty was overwhelming. And after a week of traveling throughout the country, trying to find what we were looking for, it was overwhelming. That country needs so much. And you feel insignificant. Finally, you have to put it in your mind and in your spirit that we can’t affect the entire country. There’s too much to do! We can affect our sister church in Camp Perrin. One little church, with a membership about the same size as ours. We can make a difference in the lives of those children by making sure their school stays open so they can get an education. And that’s what we do. South Church pays the salaries of four teachers down there to the tune of a total of about $5000 a year for all four. We make sure they get an education. We go down every year when we can and help build their church, turn that (what they call) a building into something functional. It is too overwhelming to think of the whole country. We just have to focus on Camp Perrin.
Life can get overwhelming, and when it does, you need to rest. Jesus got into a boat to get some rest. Hey, even after God created the world in six days, He rested. Not that He needs the rest – He’s God. He rested as an example to show us that you can’t go all out all the time. You can’t, your body will tell you when you need to rest. In fact, have you ever seen someone finish a marathon and just drop? His body said, “That’s it, I’m going no further, boom.” It’s kind of interesting. That’s very accurate to the history of marathons. Do you know the story of how a marathon came to be known as a marathon?
The traditional story goes like this: There was a guy named Pheidippides. Don’t you love those Greek names? Pheidippides (when you say that fast over and over again, it makes me think of a little Model T in a Disney cartoon – “Pheidippides, Pheidippides, Pheidippides, Pheidippides… beep beep!”). Anyway, Pheidippides was an Athenian in the late 5th century BC. He was sent to Sparta to request help because the Persians had invaded Greece. They had landed in Greece. He ran about 150 miles in two days, and then he ran 25 miles to the battlefield, and back to Athens to announce the Greek victory of Persia at the battle of Marathon. Aha! See? He ran 25 miles and back to Marathon; hence, marathons are 25 miles long – they were 25 miles long until 1908 when the Olympics were in Great Britain, and the royal family wanted the finish line to be in front of the royal box. So, they extended it a little bit, and now it’s 26.2 miles. I’m full of useless information like this! I’m telling you, I’m a killer at Trivial Pursuit. Anyway, marathons are called marathons because Pheidippides ran 25 miles to the battlefield and back. After delivering the message, he collapsed and died. That’s the history of the marathon.
I once thought about doing a marathon. [congregation laughs] Why is that funny? I did! I once thought about doing a marathon once, but Proverbs 28:1 says this:
The wicked run away when no one is chasing them…
So, if only the wicked are running when no one is chasing them, I decided against it.
Anyway, God says to rest. If we do not rest, sometimes it’s not just our bodies, it’s our faith that can die. I can tell you; I know of plenty of examples, you probably know them too. A new person joins the church and they are on fire for their faith. They just want to get involved in everything, they volunteer for everything, they’re here six or seven days a week, they are going going going going, and then at some point you look around six months later, and you’re like, “Hey, where’s Joe?” He’s done. He is burnt. You’ll never see him again. You can’t go all out all the time. You do need to rest. Things can get overwhelming.
That’s why Jesus was in the boat. He needed some rest. Suddenly, in the midst of what was supposed to be a time of rest, a storm hits. Now, isn’t that just the case? Life is going along pretty well, when all of a sudden, bam. Your car breaks down. Or you get into an accident. My heart always breaks when I’m driving down the road and I look over and I see two people standing on the side of the road, they’ve got their cell phones out, it’s a fender bender, they’re waiting for the police. You’re thinking, “Their whole day is shot. It’s going to be filled with making out forms, they’ve got to get towed to a body shop, they’re not going to have any transportation.” My heart breaks for them. Maybe they were going to do something fun. Life’s going pretty well, when bam. A storm hits. Happens a lot. How about you show up for work one day to discover that your company has gone bankrupt, chapter 7. Sign on the door, “We’re out of business.” Or you get downsized. Life was going pretty well, and then bam. A storm hits. Your teenage daughter comes home one day and says to mom and dad, “I’m pregnant.” Your teenage son calls. He got arrested. Your spouse, you come home one day, and your spouse sits you down and says, “I want a divorce.” You get a call from a doctor. The results of your tests are not good. Or someone you love has just received bad news.
Why? In the midst of everything going pretty well, a storm hits. Bang. Why, Lord? I’m a believer! I have been faithful. I go to church every Sunday that I can. I say my prayers. I put money in the offering plate. I serve wherever I can. I am a good person. Why, Lord?
It’s not about who you are. It’s not. It’s about where you live. Did you ever think of it that way? It’s about where you live. Did you know that in the United States of America, combined male and female, the average life expectancy rate is 79.3 years. So, in the United States, on average, you can live to 80 years old pretty easily. Some beyond that, some don’t make it, but the average is just about 80 years old. You know what it is in Swaziland Africa? Forty-nine. How many people here are over 49? We’re all dead. Can you imagine that? Already being gone. It’s about where you live. Surely there are lots of good people in Swaziland. Of course! In fact, 83% of the country professes to be Christian. They don’t die at 49 years old because they’re bad people – absolutely not! It’s their environment. It’s where they live. Similarly, why do storms of life hit us without warning and for no good reason it seems sometimes? It’s not about who we are; it’s about where we live. This is no longer paradise. We got kicked out of paradise, remember? We talked about it all last month. In the Garden of Eden there were no earthquakes. There were no hurricanes. There were no blizzards. There were no mudslides. There were no tornadoes. We don’t live in the Garden of Eden anymore. In the Garden of Eden there was no sickness, there was no death, there was no anxiety, there was no stress. We don’t live in the Garden of Eden anymore. We are fallen people, living in a fallen world. Storms hit. We cannot avoid all the storms.
I mean, think about it. When this fierce storm suddenly struck the lake, who was in the boat? Jesus! If Jesus cannot avoid all storms, why would we think we could, or should? Do we deserve less storms than Jesus? What should that tell us? That in our lives, there will be storms that hit without warning, and for apparently no good reason. It’s simply a result of where we live.
But what else does this story tell us? That in the midst of your storm, remember Jesus is in your boat! See, most people are familiar with David’s famous psalm, Psalm 23. I use it at just about every funeral that I officiate. In that psalm:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh
me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He
restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, he is with me.
That does not, in my opinion, mean just that final walk we make after death into new life. We’re going to go through valleys of the shadow of death; we are going to go through storms many times in our life. It’s a symptom of where we live. Remember, yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, thou art with me. Jesus is in your boat.
In Deuteronomy 31:6. Moses says to Joshua:
“…be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them…”
– your enemies –
“…for the Lord your God will personally go
ahead of you… He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
God always goes ahead of you. Be not afraid! He is with you! He is in your boat!
In Matthew 28:20, Jesus says:
“… be sure of this: I am with you always, even
to the end of the age.”
So, do we believe Him? Do we take God at His word? Do we trust Him?
We trust all the time, without even thinking about it. We really do. We don’t think twice when boarding an airplane – do we? – that those pilots know what they’re doing and that they’re going to get us to our destination. Now, I don’t fly all that well. Sometimes I have to take prescriptions. But it’s not because of the pilots! It’s because I don’t like a lot of people in an enclosed space. I have never once thought, when I got on an airplane, “Gosh, I hope we don’t crash into the sea!” I just immediately trust the professionalism of those two people and what they’re doing, and I don’t think twice about getting to my destination. We just implicitly, without hesitation, trust. We do the same when we step into an Uber or let one of our friends or family members drive. When you get into a car with somebody else driving, you don’t think to yourself, “Gosh, I hope they don’t drive into a bridge!” That doesn’t come into your head. You just implicitly, without thinking, trust this person. If you’ve ever been on a cruise – I hear cruises are fun – did you ever think, “Gosh, I hope the captain doesn’t run into an iceberg!” That doesn’t cross your mind. It’s more like, “Gosh, I wonder if they have lobster on the buffet tonight.”
You just trust that the captain of the ship knows what he’s doing. You trust that the pilots of the plane know what they’re doing. You just trust that the driver of this vehicle is going to get you there. We question the Lord’s promise never to leave us or forsake us? The same God who sent His Son to die on the cross for you is now going to abandon you in a storm? That doesn’t make any sense.
Now, I know someone out there is saying, or is thinking, “Well, why is He asleep, then?” (How do I know? Because there is always an eternal pessimist in every crowd! Sometimes it’s me). “Why is He sleeping?” I’ll tell you why Jesus is sleeping! Jesus is sleeping because He wants you to awaken Him. He wants you to go to Him. He wants you to seek Him out in times like this. See, far too often we try to attempt to fix things under our own power, by ourselves. We usually just make things worse. Nonetheless, we will try anything and everything, including sometimes self-medication. We’ll do all that first, and only after all of our efforts have failed – all of our human efforts have failed – do we then fall on our knees, and in desperation cry out, “Lord, save me! I’m drowning!”
Why? Why do we do that? Why do I do that? The truth is seeking God is just not our default setting. It really isn’t. Is there anyone out there who always has nothing but good thoughts? You just think the best about everyone and every situation, never an unkind thought enters your mind. You never want to throttle anyone. You never want to flip anybody off. You never want to yell at people. I’m glad nobody raised their hand, because I would call you a liar. Our first reaction, our first thought is not godly. It reminds me – I don’t know if you’ve ever seen those shock collars that they put on dogs to teach them not to bark, right? The dog barks and he gets an electrical shock. Imagine if we wore those? Every time we said something ungodly or thought something ungodly… the whole world would be filled with people who look like they have epilepsy. Because our first thought is not always godly. Our first thought, in the midst of a storm, is not always God. that’s a learned response. Eventually, a dog wants to bark, but has learned, no that’s not a good idea, that’s going to hurt. So, they don’t.
Hopefully, we begin to learn that our solutions will always fall short of God’s. Always. That when our lives are rocking in the midst of an unexpected storm, we need to turn to the Lord first, not last. Not even second. First. And when we do that, this is what happens: he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm. When we trust God, God does what only God can do.
The disciples are
disciples were amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked. “Even the winds and waves
And I’m thinking, wait a minute! Wait a minute! Did they just not see Jesus heal dozens of people? A man with leprosy, the servant of a Roman officer, Peter’s mother-in-law, many others. How did they think Jesus did that? Who did they think He was? And if He can do that, why be surprised that He can do this? They saw it with their own eyes, and they were still amazed. Their default setting was not yet godly.
We need to ask ourselves the same question. Look, folks, you know your Bible. I know you do. You know that God created the sun and the moon and the stars and the earth and all life that lives upon it; He created a flood which covered the earth; He created ten plagues to sic on the Egyptian Pharaoh to let his people go after four hundred years of slavery; He then supported and fed those people in the wilderness for forty years, miraculously, with manna; He has raised untold numbers of people from the dead, it’s all in here; He heals untold numbers of people. I’ll bet you have seen God work in miraculous ways in your own life, or in the life of friends and family.
If God can do all that, if God can command the wind and the waves, He can surely handle whatever situation we are facing. Do we think our problems are too difficult for Jesus? That doesn’t make any sense either. Is there any problem too difficult for Jesus? Can you imagine Jesus saying to you, “You need a job? Well, I walked on water, I raised Lazarus from the dead after being dead for four days, but you need a job? Gosh, I don’t know if I can handle that one! I healed a woman who was bleeding for twelve years, but heal your marriage? I don’t know. I’m not a miracle worker. Wait a minute! Yes, I am!”
There is nothing He can’t do.
As many of you here might know, I was a mailman for fifteen years prior to going into the ministry. Yes, I had that outfit. The little can on the front was mace to spray at dogs when they came to get your leg, I drove my little truck, and I delivered mail. Now, I get a little defensive about the Post Office, because I’ve been in the inside for fifteen years. People don’t understand the logistics of delivering 500,000,000 pieces of mail to any address in the United States six days a week in all sorts of weather. We’ve had this incredible heat wave over the past month, right? Every single day, you got your mail. When there’s a deluge downpour of rain, you’re staying in your home. You go out front, lift up your box – you’ve got your mail. In the midst of a blizzard and a snowstorm, you’re waiting until it stops before you go out and shovel. You’ve got your mail. In fact, on the top of the New York Post Office is this slogan that says, “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Neither snow, nor heat, nor gloom is going to keep the mailman from getting you your mail.
Well, if we can count on the mailman, there is nothing that can stop Jesus from delivering for you. Nothing – save one thing. The reason so many people drown in the midst of a storm in their life is they let Jesus sleep. They say, “I’ll bail! I’ll have my friends bail with me! If that doesn’t work, I’ll go buy a bilge pump and I’ll have a machine pump out the water. If that’s not enough, I’ll buy two!” and only after all that fails, do we consider going back and waking Jesus up. Why is that? Do we think He can’t help? Do we think He won’t help? I mean, if we don’t believe that He can help, then no, don’t bother Him. Don’t bother asking. But if you believe He turned water into wine; if you believe He fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish; why doubt that He can help you with whatever storm you find yourself in right now? He can.
We can’t avoid all the storms in our life. But just remember that Jesus is in your boat with you, and even the wind and the waves obey Him. Stop trying to do it on your own. You are not alone. He is in your boat with you. Go to Him. Make it your default setting to seek Him out, wake Him up. There is nothing He cannot do. There is nothing He will not do for the children that He loves.