It started out kind of petty and ended up being kind of funny.
It was 1978 and I was fishing with my Dad out of the Gaspe Coast of Quebec. The boat hadn’t been converted to a seiner yet so we were still configured as a midwater trawler.
Dad was chief mate; his twin was captain and there were 7 others of us who made up the crew.
It really was a motley group that Dad and Clint had recruited, most of us had no fishing experience but what we lacked in experience we made up for in ignorance. It was pretty sad to start, we were all “learning the ropes” so to speak.
And the Twins took it with a fair amount of grace and patience.
Except when it came to John. John was our cook, he wasn’t a bad cook, but he annoyed the life out of Dad. John had never been to sea before and he embraced the experience with an exuberance that drove Dad nuts. John couldn’t mop the floor he had to swab the decks, it wasn’t enough for him to answer Dad or Clint in the affirmative he had to say “aye, aye skipper”. His nickname soon became “Salty Dog”.
So, we were in North Sydney, and the forecast was calling for a bit of a blow, a captain on another boat mentioned that there’d be no fishing for a couple of days because of the weather.
The problem was that Dad and Clint had spent too long on the salvage tugs where weather wasn’t an issue. Clint decided to prove a point and show the rest of the fleet that you could midwater trawl in rough weather.
And Dad saw an opportunity in the storm, they would introduce Salty Dog to a Nor-Easter and he’d quit.
Well, it was quite the night. We worked on deck in water up to our waist and we caught fish, Clint proved a point, you could fish in a storm. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t fun but it was doable.
But the highlight of the trip was on our way back to port. We were pitching and rolling and I was sick, that was just to be expected. Dad and Clint were in the wheelhouse when they noticed that out on the bow, with one foot up on the rail, looking out across the waves and smoking his pipe was . . . “Salty Dog.”
The boat was laid up that summer to be converted to a seiner and John wasn’t invited back but he proved that he loved a good storm.
This is week two of our Weathering the Storms of Life series. Last week I looked at the story of Jonah and the storm he found himself in. And from that story we discovered five lessons about storms.
1) Not Every Storm Is Our Fault
2) Every Action Has Consequences for Others.
3) Don’t Make Major Decisions When You Are in The Midst of a Storm.
4) No Storm Lasts forever
5) The Remedy for Disobedience Is Obedience.
And if you weren’t here last week and want to hear those points fleshed out there is always the video or podcast, both are available on the website.
Today we are jumping to a Jesus story that is told in all three of the Synoptic Gospels, the Synoptic Gospels are Matthew, Mark and Luke. And they are called that because they contain many of the same stories.
So, let’s begin with the Back Story: The story begins with Jesus on a beach on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus is teaching the crowds and as they press in against him he commandeers a boat to use as a floating pulpit. I love it.
Jesus had begun his ministry preaching in the synagogue the way it had been done for hundreds of years, but as his ministry expanded so did his methods. He realized that if he was going to reach everyone he was called to reach it wouldn’t happen in the synagogue, because some people just weren’t going to come to the synagogue.
That same discovery was made by John Wesley 1700 years after Jesus made it.
George Whitefield a contemporary and friend of Wesley’s was preaching to the miners, as many as twenty thousand of them at a time, in the open air; and he was seeing hundreds of converts.
And so, Whitfield sent for John Wesley to join him. But, Wesley responded by writing, “I love a commodious room, a soft cushion, a handsome pulpit.”
He was almost offended by the concept of open-air preaching.
Wesley would later write, “I could scarcely reconcile myself at first to this strange way—having been all my life (till very lately) so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order, that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin if it had not been done in a church.”
But Wesley came to the conclusion if he was going to reach the unchurched he would have to go to them. And he scandalized the Anglican Church, and was criticized for his actions.
I’m pretty sure that there were those who thought what Jesus was doing was a little unorthodox and criticized him for preaching and teaching outside of the synagogue.
Through the day Jesus continued to teach, to the crowd that had gathered and then later in the day he took time to meet with the twelve, for some more in-depth teaching.
If you are only relying on the teaching that happens on Sunday morning, the preaching to the crowd, for your spiritual food you will find it difficult to be properly nourished.
We have all kinds of opportunities for you to go deeper in the word with various Life groups that are offered at Cornerstone.
Nothing is more frustrating for a pastor then when someone tells them they are leaving the church because they aren’t being fed. It’s like telling the cook that the meals don’t satisfy.
I don’t know about other pastors, but when I hear that I want to lay hands on them. . . and pray for them, “O Lord teach them to eat.” But that was a tangent, no charge for that, it was free.
So Jesus spends the day teaching and we arrive at Mark 4:35-36 As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed).
I would suspect that because the writer says they took Jesus in “The” boat and not just “a” boat that it was probably the same boat that he had preached from earlier in the day. And we know that on at least one other occasion when Jesus preached from a boat that it was the boat that belonged to Peter.
And this leads us to the, Storm Story So Jesus has been teaching all day and he was probably emotionally spent. When I started preaching I was amazed at how much preaching takes out of you, and it doesn’t take nearly as much out of me as time spent with people.
The thing most people don’t understand is that I’m a bit of an introvert, I know that’s hard to believe, but I am. And being in crowds of people and interacting with people drains me. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just that it drains me of emotional energy.
And we discover in the story that Jesus used this as an opportunity to get some sleep. Ahhhh, the joys of sleeping on a boat. I remember afternoons when we were heading out to or in from the fishing grounds of flaking out on the net in the sunshine and ending up dead to the world.
And it seems this what happened here. The guys are doing the sailing and Jesus is sleeping in the stern and we pick up the story in Mark 4:37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.
Those in the know tell us that the Sea of Galilee (which wasn’t a sea, it was just a big lake) is notorious for its storms. They can literally come out of nowhere, one writer said: “It is not unusual to see terrible squalls hurl themselves, even when the sky is perfectly clear, upon these waters which are ordinarily so calm.” It was because of the shape of the hills around Galilee and the ravines which funnelled the winds from the hills down to the water.
So, it wasn’t like they sailed knowing that a storm was coming, and they had no weather channel to check.
And I don’t know this for sure, but I’m suspecting that the boat was pretty close to its maximum capacity. I’ve seen pictures of what the fishing boats were like in the sea of Galilee, and they weren’t designed for 13 men. Even if each guy only weighed 150 pounds you had pretty close to a ton of people on board. Not a figurative ton, a literal ton.
So the boat would have been sitting low in the water to start with, probably responding sluggishly because of the extra weight, a little tippy because the centre of gravity was thrown out of kilter. You can almost hear Peter yelling that the guys to sit down and stay still.
And as the wind increased the waves began to break over the gunnels the boat began filling with water, and not only that but Jesus was asleep. Mark 4:38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”
Note, they didn’t ask Jesus to help, instead, they make an accusation “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”
Because of their circumstances, the disciples formed a very unflattering opinion of Jesus. They accused him of not caring about them. How often have we said in the midst of the storm, “Where are You, God?” “Why have you allowed this to happen?” or “You must not care”.
And even though they didn’t actually ask Jesus to do anything in the next verse we read, Mark 4:39-41 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the water, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”
One minute it was storming, the next minute, nothing. As we’d say on Grand Manan it was flat calm. And that isn’t the way it’s supposed to happen. The wind doesn’t simply stop and if it did the sea doesn’t magically become calm but it did.
That was so impossible that it scared the disciples more than the storm did.
So, what do we learn from this story? These are the Lessons from the Story
Sometimes Obedience Leads Us into Storms Last week Jonah ended up in a storm because he was disobedient. God said go, Jonah said no. God wanted him to go east, instead, he went west.
But here, the disciples were following Jesus’ direction, they couldn’t have been more obedient.
In 1952 Jim Elliot followed God’s direction and calling to go to Ecuador as a missionary, and in 1956 it was there he was killed by the very people he went to minister to. He was 29 years old and left behind a wife and a year-old daughter. Really?
On December 11, 1889, Rev and Mrs. Henry Johnson became the first Wesleyan Missionaries when they sailed for Sierra Leone with their toddler song Irvin. Rev Johnson wrote out his commitment with these words. “The Lord being my helper, I do this day consecrate to the Lord and lay upon His altar, not to be mine any longer, only as the Lord wills it, my wife, my home, my child, my position, my papers, my church, my friends, my reputation, my relatives, my plans of life, my convictions of right, my political opinions, my reform ideas, my health, my mind, my body, my pride, my ambitions, my all. The Lord take me and cleanse me and make me wholly thine through the blood of Jesus.”
When I first visited Sierra Leone, I visited the plot of land where the first Wesleyan Missionaries were buried and stood at the grave of Irvin he died in Sierra Leone when he was 5 years, 4 months and 4 days. That must have been a storm for his parents. Really?
We don’t and won’t always know why obedience sometimes leads us into storms, but sometimes it does. You do what you God is asking you to do and yet.
And that leads us to the next lesson, which is: Jesus Is Always With Us In The Storm The disciples must have forgotten about Jesus, and when they remembered that he was there, they were afraid that he had forgotten about them.
If you are a Christ follower his promise is not that hard times won’t come, but that he will always be with you. The promise was made to the people of Israel in Deuteronomy 31:6 So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” And reiterated for those who follow Christ in Hebrews 13:5 . . . For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”
And after Jesus had been crucified, died and rose from the dead he made this promise to his followers. Matthew 28:20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
It seemed in the midst of the storm that the disciples were all alone, but they weren’t.
It was Franklin Graham who wrote: “No matter what storm you face, you need to know God loves you. He has not abandoned you.”
You may not “feel” his presence, but that doesn’t negate his promise that he will never leave you nor forsake you and he will be with you always even to the end of the age. In the sunny weather and in the storms.
The Storm Teaches Us About Ourselves The apostles learned some things that day about themselves and about Jesus that they would never have discovered on a sunny day on the beach.
Willa Cather reminds us “There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.”
This storm gave the apostles a better insight into themselves and into the power of Jesus. It was here they discovered their lack of faith. It’s one thing to say that you believe that Jesus can keep you in the storm when you are not in a storm, it’s another thing to say you believe that Jesus can keep you in the midst of the storm you are in.
When the apostles questioned the compassion of Christ: Don’t you care that we are going to drown? They were discovering what they believed and didn’t believe about Jesus.
And it was in the midst of the storm that they learned that Jesus most certainly did care.
But they also learned that Jesus equated their fear with faithlessness. Listen to his words in Mark 4:40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
They thought they were afraid of the storm, but the reality is that they were afraid because they didn’t trust Jesus to keep his promise. Remember what he told them at the very beginning of the story: Mark 4:35 As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.”
The started the journey with him, but they didn’t believe him when he said they’d finish the journey with him.
It is in the storms that you will discover just how much you trust God, just how much you believe his promises.
The Storm Teaches Us About Jesus
And not only did they make discoveries about who they were, but they also made discoveries about who Jesus was.
It was as a result of the storm that the apostles ask their very first question about Christ’s divine nature: Mark 4:41 The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”
You see storms give us deeper insight into who God really is and what he can really do.
I was talking to a man the other day who has been going through storms, he has been a Christian since he was a teen, but he told me that his relationship with Christ had never been an intimate relationship until he needed to lean on Christ during this particular storm.
He said that he wished that things had of turned out different, but his relationship with Christ is deeper and more intimate than it had ever been and for that he is thankful.
It was Holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom who wrote, “
And that trust extends upward. Jesus told the crowds who followed him, John 12:44 . . . “If you trust me, you are trusting not only me, but also God who sent me. And conversely, if you don’t trust Jesus then you don’t trust God.
The next thing we learn we discover in Mark 4:38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. . .
And it’s here we learn It’s Easy to Nap When You Know Who’s in Control
Everybody else was panicking because they could only see the storm, but Jesus knew the storm had no power over him.
When I was sailing with Dad when I had a chance to sleep, I slept. I never fretted over whether or not we would make it safely home because I trusted Dad. There were times I couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t stay in the bunk, but that’s a story for another time.
King Davide wrote in Psalm 91:1-2 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.
Remember Jesus associated the apostles fear with lack of faith? So trusting in Jesus is simply replacing our fear with faith.
And maybe you think that there are no storms in your future, 1500 years ago Augustine wrote these words:
When you have to listen to abuse, that means you are being buffeted by the wind. When your anger is roused, you are being tossed by the waves… Rouse him, then; remember him, let him
Last week we ended with the promise from Proverbs 10:25 When the storms of life come, the wicked are whirled away, but the godly have a lasting foundation.
If you’ve ever been to a funeral that I have performed, then you’ve heard the promise found in
Psalm 121:1-8 I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. The LORD himself watches over you! The LORD stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. The LORD keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.