Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him. James 1:12

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

“Panic, or Peace? Fear, or Faith?”

“That day when evening came, he (Jesus) said to his disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side.’ Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’ He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.” Mark 4:35-39

Tornadoes plowed through North Carolina recently, destroying most everything in their path and sending many to seek shelter from the storm that was reported to have "splintered trees like baseball bats". I cringed as I heard a story recalled by one who had survived the storm. The man told of how he grabbed his cousin’s 3-month old baby and headed for a closet in an attempt at safety. My heart beat faster, my breathing picked up and my hair stood on end as in tears he explained how the wind was so strong it plucked the baby right from his very arms and sent the helpless infant swirling into the dark sky. Immediately after the raging winds ceased, the man along with neighbors frantically searched through the rubble in search of the precious child the winds had claimed. Amazingly, the baby was found - alive - an incredible survival story that will be shared for years to come.

There are a few things I have learned about storms. For one - they are extremely unpredictable. Storms rise up suddenly and unexpectedly, many without any warning at all. Even the greatest weather men and the most technical of equipment can be wrong in forecasting storms and what they may leave behind. Storms are inevitable. They WILL happen. We WILL experience them. There’s nothing we can do to stop them and they are totally out of our control. And storms are impartial. The rains don’t pick and choose who they will pour down upon. The winds are not partial as to whom they will blow against. The storms rage against the bad and the good, the believer and the unbeliever, the rich and the poor alike.

We have a choice as to how we will respond when faced with the raging winds and downpour of the storms. Will we choose to respond with panic, or with peace? Will we choose fear, or faith?

In Mark 4, the disciples chose panic and fear when the waves rose against them - even though Jesus was with them in the boat. These guys were not novices when it came to the sea. They had been through many storms I’m sure, but this one must have been more intense, for they were extremely afraid. They were most likely yelling at the top of their lungs, “We’re gonna die!” The disciples portrayed our typical reaction when we are faced with the storms of life - panic and fear. But in comparison - Jesus, after a full day of teaching, was exhausted and laid down for a nap. The scripture says Jesus lay asleep upon a cushion despite the furious squalls and the waves crashing against the boat, rocking them to and fro. Sleeping in the midst of a storm? Wow, I call that peace! Jesus was not worried about the storm. He displayed complete faith that things were going to be alright! And if Jesus is all-knowing, then we can boldly say that Jesus knew the storm was coming even before he got in the boat.

In the middle of our storm, we tend to lay awake at night and toss and turn in bed - thoughts reeling in our minds. We try to analyze and figure it all out on our own - worrying about how it all will end. Resting in God’s hands in the midst of our storm is a true statement of faith. It’s like saying, “Lord, this problem is beyond me. It’s totally out of my control. I don’t know how you are going to work this out, but I am trusting you. So I’m going to bed now.”

The disciples had just witnessed the miracles of Jesus first-hand. They should have known that with Jesus in the boat, there was no need to be afraid. They had someone with them who was very capable of handling the situation. But fear comes when we experience things beyond our control and it’s easy to forget that the those unpredictable, inevitable, impartial storms may take US by surprise, but they don’t fool GOD. Nothing catches Him off guard! I am convinced that Jesus knew they were going to encounter a storm, but yet He says, “Get in! We’re going to the other side!” He didn’t say it would be an uneventful trip. He didn’t say they wouldn’t get wet. But the one thing He promised was that they were going to the other side - they were going to make it. The greatest threat to the disciples was not the storm - it was their unbelief.

Do you feel like the waves are taking you under and you’re not going to make it? What waves are crashing against your boat today? Jesus wants to calm the storm in your life. He wants to speak, “Peace, be still”, in the midst of your situation regardless of it’s intensity. No wave is too big for Him to calm. Choose peace instead of panic. Grab hold of faith rather than fear. And trust in the One who asks you to get into the boat and promises to take you to the other side. Then, share your survival story for years to come.

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