IN THE STORM

               Life is full of ups and downs and twists and turns. Life has a way of bringing us great joy but also great sadness and fear. As we study scripture and experience life, we find that Christians are not exempt from the trials of life. As a matter of fact, life can sometimes be harder for the Christian. Jesus never told us it would be easy. He never said that He would take us out of the storm; rather, He will go with us through the storm. In the account of Jesus walking on the water, we learn a very valuable lesson on facing the storms of life.

                Preparation for the storms. In verses 22-23 we find Jesus sending everyone away and going up to a mountain to pray by Himself. It is interesting as you study the life of Christ that many times just before Jesus is about to do something miraculous, He gets by Himself and spends time in prayer. There is a great lesson to be learned here. If Jesus felt the need to be alone and pray, how much more so should we? There is something special and needful about spending time alone with God. Perhaps we need to follow the example of Jesus and send the multitudes away. We all have busy lives and many people that demand our attention. It is good for us to spend time away from those people and the demands and stress of life and just get alone with God. This is something that we should do on a daily basis. Time alone with God is crucial to the Christian walk. I have read many stories of some of the great people of faith in history. When you study the lives of such people there is a pattern that you see, they spent a lot of time in prayer. Some of the greatest preachers that this world has ever seen are those who would get up early in the morning and spend, not just a few minutes, but hours in prayer. Oh, that we would be like that! Our love for God and desire to spend time with Him should be such that it drives us to want to spend every hour with Jesus. Not only should we spend time with God in prayer on a daily basis, but it is also good for us to get away for a period of time. Perhaps have an annual personal prayer retreat. Find a cabin in the woods and bring just the bare necessities to live for a day or two and bring your Bible and a notebook and pen. Take time to ‘send the multitudes away’ and just spend some quality one –on- one time with God. Spending such time with God in prayer prepares us for the storms of life. When we have such a close relationship with God, it gives us the faith we need to go through whatever storms may come. Are you prepared for the storms of life? Is your faith in God strong? Do you spend adequate time preparing for the storms of life?

                Reaction during the storms. In verses 24-32 we see the reaction of the disciples during the storm. This reaction is twofold. First of all we see, fear vs. joy. The winds were strong and the waves were pounding the boat and the disciples thought for sure that they would sink. Then Jesus is seen walking on the water. The disciples think that Jesus is a ghost and they were very afraid. Imagine yourself in that situation. You are in a life or death situation and all of sudden you see a man walking on top of the water. I don’t know about you, but I would be scared to death. Jesus calls out to His disciples and says, “Be of good cheer, it is I, do not be afraid.” Be of good cheer? Ok, let’s get this straight. You’re in the middle of a raging storm, the boat is about to capsize, you see what you think is a ghost, you are about to die, and you are told to be of good cheer! How can you be joyful in a situation like that? How can you be joyful in any storm that life brings? This is a battle that we all face during times of trial and testing. Fear vs. Joy. When we are faced with a trial, do we go through that trial with joy or with fear? Do we worry and fearfully try to get ourselves out of the mess we are in, or do we give it to Jesus and choose to be joyful in the midst of the storm? James 1:2 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall in various trials.” We can be joyful in the midst of trials because we know that God is working in that trial in order to do something good in our lives. When we go through trials we can rejoice because we know that when we come out on the other side we will be stronger and much closer to Jesus. Now, I know that some trials are just too much to bear. When you lose a loved one, for instance, it is something that you never get over. You see, our joy is not found in the trial. In other words, we do not rejoice because we are in the trial. We rejoice, because of our relationship with Jesus. We rejoice, because we know that He is in control. We rejoice, because God is good and He loves us. Our joy is found in Him. Without Him there is no joy. I do not see how people who do not have a relationship with Jesus can make it through this life. Without Jesus I would be hopeless. Without Jesus there is no reason to rejoice. So, when we face a storm, the key is to ask Jesus to take away our fears and to replace it with the joy that we have in knowing Him. A second reaction to the storm has to do with focused faith vs. little faith. There was one disciple that took a step of faith. Peter says to Jesus, “If it is really you, ask me to come out on the water with you.” Jesus responds by telling Peter that it was He. Peter then steps out of the boat and walks on the water toward Jesus. The interesting thing is that while Peter was focused on Jesus, He was okay. However, at one point, Peter takes his eyes off of Jesus and looks around Him at the storm. At that point, Peter begins to sink. Jesus then reaches out and pulls Peter out of the water. Jesus looks at Peter and says, “O you of little faith.” Here we find a battle between a focused faith and little faith. Peter’s faith was little because he took his eyes off of Jesus and he looked at the circumstance around him. Sadly, we tend to do the same thing all the time. We have enough faith to say the right things and even to pray, but we look too much at the circumstance that we still try to solve everything ourselves. Real faith is surrender. Faith is forsaking everything and trusting in Jesus. What kind of faith do you have? When you go through a storm, do you stay focused on Jesus or do you look at the circumstance? Is your faith a focused faith?

                Worship after the storm. In verse 36 we find the storm is over and Jesus is in the boat with His disciples. At this point, they all worship Jesus and recognize Him for who He really is. When we go through a storm in life, it compels us to give all glory and praise to God. When we come out on the other side, our relationship with God is stronger and closer than it’s ever been. All we can do is worship Him. This is the beauty of the trials of life. They bring us to a greater recognition of who Jesus is. Storms have a way of bringing us closer to Jesus.

                Perhaps you are facing a storm right now. My encouragement to you is to stay focused on Jesus. What you are going through is not a joyful thing, but you can be joyful because of who you know. As you go through the storm, remember, Jesus is carrying you through. When you come out of the storm, your relationship with Jesus will be sweeter than it’s ever been.

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