If Jesus Can Be Trusted With Our Soul, He Can Be Trusted With Our Life.

Posted: February 26, 2013 in Mark, Sermon Manuscripts

[Author’s note: Any sermon manuscript found on this blog is written pre-preaching, which means that invariably the content is slightly different than what is actually heard in the sermon. If you’d like to listen to the audio of this sermon, please visit our website here.]
A month or so into my deployment overseas back in 2003, my Army reserve unit was making its way across Iraq. We’d spent several weeks on the ground in Kuwait, providing support for the 101st Airborne Division as the ground war progressed during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and now we were following them into the heart of Iraq.

Along the way we spent a couple weeks in the middle of nowhere- even now the name of the temporary camp escapes my memory. But I vividly remember the night we were hit by one of the worst sandstorms I’d ever encountered. I awoke to the howling of the wind and the flapping of our tent as all chaos broke out. Even within the tent that was as closed as tight as it could be, enough dust had come in that you could slap it off your sleeping bag and watch it pour onto the ground.

I remember waking up there on my cot and stretching both hands above my head, grabbing the tent walls because I was convinced it was going to blow away. Iraqi sandstorms are no joke! Picture a moving wall of dirt, dust, and sand moving as fast as sixty miles an hour. Oftentimes you can see them coming and prepare accordingly. Other times they catch you off guard and all you can do is grit your teeth and ride it out. There is no preparing. There is no plan. It’s just hunker down and try to cope.

I hate those types of storms. Storms we can prepare for are a lot different, aren’t they? We might not be able to change the storms one bit, but we feel better when we’re prepared for it. When we can stock up on bread and milk. When we have our ice-melt and snow shovels. When we’ve battened down the hatches and brought the pets inside.

And yet best as we prepare, we still get hit with storms. And if it’s not a legit storm coming over the mountains, it’s storms of another nature. You’re moving along peacefully in life and then BAM!- the doctors tell you that you have cancer. Your boss tells you she’s letting you go. Your kid gets arrested. Death visits your family. Tragedy strikes.

And as much as we try to have our “best life now,” reality hits us in the face and we find out that life is hard. And it’s not fair. And we flounder and wonder where God has gone in all of this mess. And we hate ourselves for doubting, yet everywhere we look there’s just more storm. There is no break in the wind. The rain is cold as ever. There are no rays of sunlight peeking through the angry black thunderheads.

Is any of this sounding familiar? I hope not, yet experience has taught me that most, if not all, of us have been in this position. We find out the hard way that we’re not immune to the storms of life, be they figurative or literal.

The disciples learned this as well. Through their own experience I’m hoping that we can leave here this morning having answered two key questions: why do God’s people experience storms, and what is the proper response when they come? With that in mind let’s go to our text.

If you’re new to us, Walt and I are systematically making our way through the Gospel according to Mark, which we’ve broken up into four sections. The first was Jesus’ time of preparation, the second (and where we are now) is Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. Along the way we’ve had a miniseries that examined the dynamic between life-giving grace opposed to life-choking law, and we’ve just completed a short series on the parables of the Kingdom of God.

If you’ll remember, the Kingdom of God can be generally defined as “the very real, yet invisible rule of God over His people, that began with the arrival of Christ and will be fully realized and made visible with the return of Christ.” And in this series we discovered that even though God’s kingdom is built by grace, we’ve been called to work. We found that our view of the Kingdom is only as big as our view of grace, and that the more grace we see, the more changed we’ll be. We found that in the Father’s kingdom is forever freedom.

And now after a long day of teaching, Mark tells us that “35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him.”

So let’s just take a couple minutes to really paint a picture here. Jesus has spent the day teaching. Some of it was in the house to his disciples, but the bulk of it was to the crowds who had gathered around to see miracles, maybe to be the recipient of one.

And so this crowd had grown large enough that Jesus resorted to sitting in a boat- possibly one belonging to one of His twelve closest disciples. And while he sat on the water he was able to teach for hours on end.

But now it’s getting dark. People are drifting back to their homes. Supper in on the table- it’s time to call it a day. But while Jesus may have finished teaching, his time for R&R wasn’t here yet. There was business on the other side of the lake. Mark tells us “they took him with them in the boat, just as he was.” It’s as if he’s so worn out that he says, “Just go, guys. I’m not even going to walk around, stretch the legs. Let’s not worry about dinner. Let’s just go.” Some commentators believe that Jesus was asleep even before the boat left the shore.

They unfurl the sails and begin to cross the lake, this boat with Jesus and his disciples, as well as other boats on the lake. There were always people following Jesus- sometimes even running around the lake on foot to wait for Jesus on the other side. But we gotta remember- this is no ordinary lake, and this was no ordinary evening.

Temperamental thing, this Sea of Galilee was. Sitting about 682 feet below sea level, it’s the world’s lowest-elevated body of fresh water. Surrounded by hills and sitting in the Great Rift Valley, sudden storms were normal. They were an almost daily part of life as the warm air around the lake met the colder air coming down from the mountains. After 30 minutes or so of fierce windstorms, things would return to normal.

One of the things that my wife likes to hide from the world is that I’m a pretty romantic guy. No, seriously. I liked to take Sarai on dates that would showcase my affections for her, that would make her feel like a queen. This was all before we got married, of course. I had to woo her into becoming my bride.

So I decided one day to take her catfishing! Nothing screams “romance” like floating down a lake and hooking into some blue cats! So I borrowed my uncle’s boat, headed on down to Bugg’s Island, put the boat in the water, and began a lovely afternoon of fishing.

Lovely, that is, until our little outboard motor decided to die. Not a huge problem, but by now we were a couple miles away from where we had put in. Ok, so I’ll use the trolling motor. For now let’s fish! But…the fish weren’t biting. And it started raining. And what started as a good breeze for drifting became a strong wind that produced whitecaps. And it didn’t take much longer for us to realize that the aluminum john boat we were in probably wasn’t the safest boat to be sitting in when the storm hit.

So there we were, putter-puttering along in the rain, using the trolling motor to get back to the truck, when the battery died! To cut a long (and romantic!) story short, we were eventually towed back to the truck by a kind fisherman. Um, believe it or not, we’ve not been catfishing since! Weird, I know.

That day I learned just how quickly a peaceful trip on a lake can turn into a bad scenario, but the disciples had it much, much worse. Mark tells us that as they were sailing across the lake, “37 …a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.”

Our ESV calls this a “great windstorm,” but this doesn’t quite do justice to the Greek. This was a tempest, a small-scale hurricane. Now remember- many of these men were fishermen. They were used to being on the water, and storms weren’t unusual. Even today it’s not uncommon for ten-foot waves to break on the shore, and there have been documented cases of water flowing as far as two-hundred yards inland from these swells.

But this storm was a widow-maker. As these 13 men crammed into this fishing boat, they encountered a storm of epic proportions. Bailing furiously, they were unable to keep water out of the boat- to the point where they were fearful for their lives.

And where was Jesus in this mess? While these men are panicking, and bailing, and fighting the waves, and fearing for their lives, Mark tells us that Jesus “38  …was in the stern, asleep on the cushion.” Now that’s tired. I don’t think Jesus looked at his watch, thought to himself “Hmm. I have about an hour before this storm hits. Better fall asleep now to make it look good…” No, I think he was plain exhausted.

Sarai and I had a difficult delivery with Uriah. Probably more difficult for her. Most difficult for him. But there were complications. It was a trying delivery that threatened the life of my son. More than once during delivery his heart stopped. He was born with a large head and water on the brain. Thankfully, the extra cerebrospinal fluid has since been reabsorbed into his body.

But the delivery was anything but normal, and it took a mental and emotional toll on me that led to pure exhaustion. Several times that night as nurses came into talk to us and even measure our heads for a frame of reference, I could not for the life of me stay awake. It was like I was drugged. Not even during my deployment had I experienced this kind of shutdown that came with total exhaustion.

And I think that’s what we’re seeing here with Jesus. The walking, talking, teaching, healing, exorcising, loving ministry that consumed his life had taken its toll, and he was exhausted. Even as this small fishing boat is being hammered by the waves , and water is filling the boat, Jesus is knocked out.

Finally his disciples have had enough- but it’s too late. The boat is going down, and they’re powerless to stop it. So now they turn their attention to Jesus, sleeping peacefully while the storm around them threatened their lives. Marks tells us “…they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’” Luke and Matthew provide more dialogue as it wasn’t just one comment directed towards Jesus. No, they were all panicking, all desperate, all shouting in fear.

Jesus heard things like, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” and “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” “Teacher, do you not care???” Jesus, we’re about to die, and the best you can do is lay there asleep? Really, Jesus? Is that all you think of us? Do you not even care that my life is crashing down around me?

Do you not care that I’m watching my unborn son flatline? Do you not even care about our miscarriage? Do you not care that I’ve lost my parents to cancer, that my husband, my wife, has been unfaithful to me? Do you not care that my children hate me, that I’ve lost my job, that I have to move to find work? Do you not care that I’m mocked at work, at school, at home for following you? I’m dying in this storm, Jesus. Do you even care??

Jesus’ friends aren’t praying. They’re not respectfully imploring him for help. They’re not reverently asking for Divine intervention. They’re doing what we do so many times when we reach rock bottom and take pity on ourselves. They’re rebuking Jesus, questioning his love and loyalty, trying to shame the Son of God into helping them. Moments from death, the true nature of their character is revealed…and it’s not pleasant.

And as Jesus wakes up and takes everything in, as he sees the waves above him, the boat sinking, the men screaming…how easy it would have been to react to the accusations of his supposed friends. How easy it would have been to let them be, to let them flounder. Or maybe to rescue them, but only after they suffer a bit longer.

Not Jesus, though. Mark tells us that “39 …he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” Two things going on here that we need to be mindful of. Firstly is Jesus’ rebuke of the wind.

Picture Jesus waking up, and rather than clinging to the bottom of the boat and fighting for balance, He stands and says “Stop it!” And immediately the wind ceased. That doesn’t eliminate all of the problem though. Just because the storm is gone doesn’t mean the waves are. It takes some time for the momentum of the sea to reside. Had Jesus only stopped the wind from blowing, the boat would still have sank.

And so Jesus spoke to the sea and said “Peace! Be still!” It’s the same word Jesus used earlier in this book when casting out demons. “Shut up! Put a muzzle on it! Enough! Knock it off!”

And there was a great calm. What seconds before had been a turbulent, frothing mass of millions and millions of gallons of angry water was now a placid and still lake. It was like glass. And before the disciples could even process this, perhaps before they could even pick themselves up from the bottom of the boat, Jesus is speaking to them:

40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

Come on, guys. It’s been over a year now. You’ve been with me. You’ve seen my miracles. You know the power and authority I have. You’ve listened to me talking about the Kingdom of God. Why are you so afraid? After everything we’ve been through together, do you still have no faith?

And the pieces begin to slide into place. Mark tells us that “41 …they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Who is this? Who else could it be but God? I wonder if Psalm 107 crossed their minds, where the Psalmist tells us that:

23 Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the great waters;
24 they saw the deeds of the Lord,
his wondrous works in the deep.
25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26 They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their evil plight;
27 they reeled and staggered like drunken men
and were at their wits’ end.[b]
28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
29 He made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad that the waters[c] were quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
31 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

As Jesus stood in the stern of that small fishing boat and with mere words ceased the winds and calmed the sea, his disciples are confronted with the reality that God is in the boat with them, and it shakes the foundations of their reality. We’ll find over the next year or so that Jesus’ followers are going to continue to wrestle with this issue. For some of them, it’s a bumpy road with ups and downs. For one, it ends in damnation.

But we see from this occurrence that Jesus isn’t content with head-knowledge about him. He wants to know what we believe in our hearts, and often times even we don’t know what’s in there until the storms rage. This was a valuable learning experience for Jesus’ disciples, and there’s much we can learn from it ourselves- especially when we find ourselves in life’s storms.

So if you want to jot these thoughts down, by all means do so. These are the take-homes from this passage: Number one is this: storms in life will come about even when living in obedience to God. I mean, it’s natural to think that storms are God’s punishment for disobedience. Look at Jonah, right? But think about this- these disciples of Jesus were told to get into the boat and go to the other side. In their obedience they encounter this storm. So when things go south, don’t jump to the assumption that it’ because of something you did or didn’t do. Don’t assume it’s a Divine judgement against you.

Number two, hard as it is to fathom sometimes, is this: our storms in life are blessings by God. What was the biggest benefit to the disciples for this storm? The same as it often is for us, given the fact the often times it’s not until we’re in the darkest of all storms that we’re able to most clearly see God. Pain hurts- I’d be a fool to say it doesn’t. But through the trials and ordeals of life we’re most able to see God at work. Most the time.

Because number three…sometimes we don’t see God at work. Think about the other boats that set sail with Jesus. Jesus wasn’t in their boat. To them, it was just a freak storm that had a crazy ending. I’m sure when they reached land they heard about what Jesus had done, but from their perspective there was no rhyme or reason to the storm.

It’s like that for us sometimes, and we’re going to have to figure out if our faith is strong enough to sustain us, even in the worst of storms when it feels like God has abandoned us. Will we believe God as he says “I will never leave you nor forsake you?”

As our band comes forward, let us quickly answer the two questions we came into this message with. One, “why do God’s people experience storms?” Because they are part of the refining process. Might they be something we bring on ourselves? Possibly. But it’s not God’s judgement falling- it’s the correcting action of a loving Father. He doesn’t place storms in our lives to drive us from Him, but rather to bring us even closer.

Paul tells us that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. God has planned for His children to become more and more like Christ over the course of our lives. Inwardly, we are there. Outwardly, we’re getting there so much as our minds can be continually renewed. Storms are a part of the process. Will you trust Him in it?

The second question was this: what is our proper response to the storms of life? It’s not going to God only when there’s nothing left for you to do; you should go to Him first. Some of you may need to repent of the sin of self-sufficiency. Too often we rely upon our own strength to fix the messes in our lives.

God’s word tells us to cast all our cares on Jesus, to be anxious for nothing…and yet we seem content to shoulder all of our burdens. I really think this was the point of this storm. When the going got tough, these followers of Jesus acted like functional atheists until there was nothing more to do than bitterly accuse Jesus of not caring.

I think what Jesus wanted was their realization that in their own strength they had no control, and that the best thing to do would be to trust Jesus to either be with them in calming, or to be with them in death…Jesus wasn’t promising to save us from the storms. He was showing that He has total power not just over illnesses, not just over Satan, not just over life and death, but power over the universe and everything in it.

So our Journey Marker is this. This is what I want us to go home with, even if we leave here and the storms are still raging over us. If Jesus can be trusted with our soul, he can be trusted with our life. Think about that. In the time line of eternity, this life is but a blip. If we’re willing to entrust our eternal soul to Jesus, how much more our temporal lives- even if it means our lives aren’t smooth sailing from start to finish?

Mark wrote this book to believers in Rome who were being dressed in animal skins and torn apart by wild dogs. But I can promise you two things- those saints who are long dead have no regrets for keeping the course, and ultimately God was glorified, even in the suffering of His saints. Will you trust Him to be with you this morning, even if He doesn’t calm your storm?

Maybe you’re here this morning and God’s at work in your heart, telling you it’s time to stop fighting and surrender to him, to embrace His free gift of salvation. If you’d like someone to talk to, Walt and I will be here in the front and we can show you from God’s Word how to know that you’ve been forgiven.

Everyone in here is at a place in their lives where you can leave here trusting in your own might, in your own power…or you can leave having placed your trust in God, be it to save you or sustain you. Which will it be?

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