The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Have You Room for Jesus?

Are you in the Christmas spirit? Hurricane Sandy and the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre have put the kibosh on Christmas for many. In fact there are people who have actually taken down their decorations because they feel guilty about celebrating Christmas when there’s so much pain being experienced. Normally the frenzy to buy gifts threatens to crowd out Christmas and the Christmas spirit. Even Christians can get caught up in the rush to spend rashly. There are a lot of reasons to shut the door on Christmas this year. Some may go so far as to shut the door on Jesus. Have you room for Jesus?

If there’s no room for Jesus in your holiday season, it wouldn’t be the first time there was no room for Jesus. The first time He came there was no room for Him. In the Gospel of Luke it states, “And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”  (Luke 2:7).

Theologically this speaks of the incarnation of Jesus. It speaks of the humiliation of Jesus. And it speaks of the providential workings of God to carry out His redemptive plan in Christ. But there are other down to earth revelations intertwined in the incarnation of Christ. They speak to our present state of affairs; especially this year.

God’s ways are not our ways. God works in ways that we don’t readily understand. His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:7-11). In Romans 12:2 it tells us not to be conformed to the world. A reason for this is that God regularly works in ways that the world and even in the religious community can not relate to. The ways of God are nonconformist and unorthodox by secular and religious standards. Who would have thought that a single Teacher with an inner core of 12 rag tag disciples would turn out to be not only God in the flesh but the Savior of the world?  Who would have thought the Savior of the world, God in the flesh, would be born in a stable because there was no other place for his mother to birth? Who would have thought this child would be the way the truth and the life and the only way to eternal life with God? God’s ways are not our ways.

Our plan can be opposed to His plan. God’s ways are not our ways. God’s plans may keep us from things we think are best for us. But God’s plan is always the best plan. He has only the best of intentions for us. If He says, “No,” to a request of ours, it is only because He has something infinitely and eternally better for us. We are limited and finite in understanding. He is infinite and all knowing. It’s always best to trust the LORD; even when we don’t understand. 

God is able to accomplish His will even when all seems lost. Mrs. A. E. Gadsby of Niagara Falls, Canada, in December 1940 mailed a Christmas parcel to her daughter in Prestwick, Scotland. The ship carrying the mail was torpedoed off the west coast of Ireland. All seemed lost in terms of that letter ever reaching its destination. But a favorable tide floated the package unerringly  ashore on the beach of Prestwick. The contents were soaked but perfectly usable. The address was still legible and the package reached the addressee two days after Christmas. God has a plan and He will work it out come hell or high water (Jeremiah 29:11-13). Hope in Him (Psalm 42).

God incorporates human free will in His plans. Human free will does not take God by surprise. But it does make for an interesting journey in God’s plans. Because of human free will Joseph in Old Testament times was sold into slavery, falsely accused and imprisoned, forgotten for a time, exalted to the second in command in the Egyptian empire and ultimately used by God with all of his hardship, for God’s good purposes to preserve the Messianic line (Genesis 50:20). Because of human free will there was an innkeeper who had no room for Jesus. Because of human free will Jesus was betrayed by one of his closest and most trusted disciples. Yet God used all of this to bring salvation to the world through His Son. God uses human free will and because of that we can’t always see His plan. God unfolds His plan bit by bit. As we follow His lead we begin to see. Sometimes the full plan won’t be seen until glory. Through it all, no matter what, the best plan is to, trust in God, hope in God, love the Lord and let Him bring to pass His good plan (Romans 8:28). 

Obstacles don’t necessarily mean we are out of God’s will. What if Joseph and Mary said, “Okay, there’s no room here for us to have the baby, let’s go to the next town”? If they had done that Jesus would not have been born in Bethlehem according to Messianic prophecy (Micah 5:2) and He would have been disqualified as Messiah. But they trusted in the Lord and made due with what God provided. There is no record of any complaints on their part. There is only a record of humble submission. Christmas is a time notorious for combustible complaints. God’s word tells us to “do all things without complaining and disputing” (Philippians 2:14). Maybe we should take action so that there’s room for Jesus but no room for bad Christmas attitudes.

When we encounter obstacles we should follow the leading of the Spirit. Mary and Joseph were humble enough to follow the Spirit. They didn’t come to Bethlehem expecting to have Mary give birth in a stable. But that is where the Spirit led them and that is where they went. The Spirit will never lead in a way that is contrary to God’s word. In fact the Spirit most often leads us by the word of God (Romans 8:14). We discover God’s will by giving ourselves to Him as living sacrifices. To discover His will we have to surrender ourselves and our own agendas to Him and His will (Romans 12:1-2).  

There is an enemy who wants to shut Jesus out. The devil wants to destroy Jesus and all who love Him. We see this in the slaughter of the innocents ordered by Herod (Matthew 2:16-18). Herod and many other people in history have been enemies of Jesus and His people. But the ultimate enemy of Jesus is Satan. Of Satan it is stated: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”  (1 Peter 5:8-9).

Jesus came to destroy the works of Satan (Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8). We have an enemy and he seeks to distract, deceive and destroy everything connected with Jesus. We have seen our own version of the slaughter of innocents recently. The enemies’ objective is to make sure there is no room for Jesus in your life. He is ruthless and merciless in this effort. Don’t let him succeed! Make a conscious effort to have meaningful devotional times with the Lord each day during this time of year. This will help you make room for Jesus each day. Cultivate spiritual sensitivity to how Jesus might want to use you to help others make room for Him.

Not everyone has room for Jesus. Jesus states, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Rev. 3:20). Jesus especially knocks on the door of the church seeking to come in and fellowship. But not everyone has room for Jesus. Some have their own petty ideas or agenda to follow. Some are too angry to let Him in. Others are too proud and busy worshipping themselves to let Christ in. And still others want to rule on the throne rather than have Jesus be Lord. When Jesus knocks, open to Him. He is the reason for the season. Don’t forget that. Don’t be cheated out of the presence of Jesus this Christmas (Colossians 2:8, 23).

Do you have room for Jesus this Christmas? Jesus is knocking on the door of your heart right now. You may have never paid attention to His knocking but now He is getting your attention. Will you open the door of your heart and invite Him in? Admit you have sinned against God’s holy law and deserve eternal damnation (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Acknowledge that Jesus died for your sins upon the cross; He died in your place on the cross; He paid the penalty you deserved for your sins on the cross. Ask by faith God to forgive you of your sin based on your accepting what Jesus has done for you on the cross (Romans 6:23; 5:8).  Advance in the Spirit (who is now in you) and depend on God to help you bear spiritual fruit and live for Jesus.

We can learn a lot from that short verse in the gospel of Luke. But the thing we need to consider is do we have room for Jesus in our lives, in all of our lives? Have you room for Jesus? That’s the question before us right now. Have a meaningful Christmas and make room for Jesus!



Saturday, December 15, 2012

Overcoming Faith for Overwhelming Times

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith. - 1 John 5:4

God, in His word, promises to provide the means to overcome overwhelming times of this world. That means is faith. There is an overcoming faith that victoriously gets us through overwhelming times. And that is exactly what we need. Hurricane Sandy submerged countless homes in unprecedented numbers. Thousands are displaced. Thousands have had their world turned upside down. A Nor’easter added insult to injury. We are just now beginning to catch our breath. But the enemy is ruthless and not about to give us any mercy. Like a merciless combination puncher he is hitting us again before we can recover.

A dagger has pierced our heart. The governor of Connecticut has aptly said, “Evil has visited us.” This evil came in the form of a deranged twenty year old gunman who awoke from his sleep and started his day by shooting his mother in the face. Can’t get more personally hateful than that; or can you?  The deranged merciless murderer then inexplicably took his mother’s car, drove to the New Town Elementary school and proceeded to shoot the principal, other adults, and TWENTY CHILDREN ages 5-10! This was the product in part of a society steeped in ruthless, mindless, and cheapening of life. We are reaping the years of promoted godlessness and selfishness in our nation.

What was he thinking? It’s doubtful we will ever fully know. He was deranged and himself overwhelmed. But he is without excuse no matter his sick tale. What devilish evil had overtaken him? The world and even we may process this event with psychological terminology. But who can doubt that the demonic was the real fiendish, maniacal, genocidal, brutal and malevolent spirit behind these horrific and overwhelming actions?  This was a dark and overwhelming attack on our heart.

Coinciding with recent storms and tragedy is a rising tide of world economic crisis. There is the political and social upheaval in our nation as well as the Middle East. There is the pending nuclear arms capability in terrorist Iran. Then there’s the moral breakdown of society (e.g. rise of homosexuality and legalizing of same-sex marriage). These are sources of much grief especially for the righteous.

And all of this is compounded in its heart heaviness by the season in which it is occurring. Christmas time is here. Usually children are anticipating gifts; toys to enjoy; fun in the snow; a white Christmas. Is there a happier more joyous time than Christmas? Even if the world has trashed this holy time with materialism and myths, it’s still supposed to be and usually is a happy time. But those who have suffered lose know that Christmas time and thoughts of bygone happy times can intensify our sense of loss. We remember these happier times when we are forced to sorrow. We miss them. We yearn for them. We grieve for them and our lost or departed loved ones. And Christmas, in light of New Town, for many years to come will now be spattered with images of blood. It’s overwhelming.

Are you overwhelmed? After a while it just becomes too much for us. On our own we will wilt and fall. There is only one way to survive. We need to turn to God for His overcoming faith. The Bible says when the enemy comes in like a flood the Spirit of the LORD will raise a standard against him (Isaiah 59:19). The Spirit has what we need.

We will never be the same. Lives are changed forever. But there is a way to get through. God has provided an instrument to keep our heads above water. He has given a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. There is something that can get us on the road to recovery. We will never be the same. But we can survive. We can overcome. How?

God gives faith. His special kind of faith can get us through. But there are different kinds of faith. Not all faith sustains. Not all faith overcomes. Some faith is strong; some weak. The kind of the faith we have makes all the difference in the world in terms of overcoming or being overcome.

Did you know even demons have faith? They believe in the existence of God, and they tremble (James 2:19). Some of the first statements of who Jesus was in the gospels come from demons. Demons believe God but perform evil. Their faith in God has no impact, no fruit in their existence. Jesus rebuked such faith (Mark 1:24-25). Some people have this kind of faith.

Some have faith in “faith.” They fear offending others so they trust in a generic faith that in the end is meaningless. Faith is only as potent and sustaining as the object it trusts in. If you don’t even have enough faith to express who or what you have faith in, how strong is your faith? Not strong but weak.  

Christians, even disciples of Christ, can have weak faith. Jesus referred to this kind of faith as “little faith,” faith that was easily overcome with the things of this world (Mat. 6:30; Luke 12:28). This kind of faith falters in the storms of life (Mat. 8:26). It fails because it doesn’t keep its eyes on Jesus (Mat. 14:31). It is dull of understanding (Mat. 16:8).  

But there is a faith that victoriously overcomes in overwhelming times. That is the faith we need. Difficulty, disaster, and confronting the dark things of life prove the genuineness of our faith. Hardship reveals whether the faith we have will stand the test of trials (e.g. 1 Peter 1:6-9). Jesus said some reject the seed of His word outright. Some only receive what He offers in a shallow way. Some receive but then let the things of this world choke off any fruitfulness. Then there are some who take Him and His word down deep into their heart and the fruit of faith grows (Mat. 13; Mark 4; Luke 8). Which best describes you? Do you have an overcoming faith that is fruitful and nourishing in overwhelming times?

The faith that overcomes is a special kind of faith. It is not a faith that comes from within us. On our own, we couldn’t experience it. Look at its description in Psalm 33. It is a faith that praises God even when our heart is heavily burdened (33:1-2). It worships God in song, even if it is a sorrowing song (33:3). It is rooted in God’s word of truth (33:4). This faith trusts in God as Creator (33:5-9). It trusts in God as sovereign over the nations of the earth (33:10-12). It trusts in God to care for the particulars of individuals throughout the earth (33:13-15). This overcoming faith knows that if we trust in the Lord in the end we will come through victoriously rejoicing in Him (33:16-22).

In Psalm 37 the Holy Spirit has breathed out a description of a faith that does “not fret because of evildoers” (37:1-2).  We see a faith that trusts in the LORD; in the LORD! The LORD is the object of this faith. This faith does good and feeds on God’s faithfulness (37:3). It delights itself in the LORD, commits itself to the LORD, and doesn’t get angry but rests in the LORD (37:4-8). This is a faith that realizes evildoers will be cut off and dealt with in due time by the LORD. The person with such faith knows God watches over the righteous (37:9-22). They may give their life, but not lose their soul. Such faith knows a righteous person may fall, but God will always raise them up (37:23-26). This overcoming faith does good waiting on the LORD. It trusts that God will save, strengthen and deliver the righteous in the end (37:27-40). This is what we need.

There is one more essential particular of overcoming faith. It is the most critically important part of it. Overcoming faith is faith in Jesus and the rock of His word. God in His word very clearly reveals, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”  (1 John 5:4-5). It is faith in Jesus that leads to overcoming the world.

Jesus said, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” (Matthew 7:24-27). In these difficult times turn to Jesus and His word. He is there for you. He has promised to never leaven or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). He said He would be with us to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). The end of the world is closer than ever before. We’re not alone. Jesus is with us. How will you build?

What kind of faith do you have? Do you have a faith that will overcome times of testing? Is your faith in faith? Is it demonic? Is your faith weak, faltering, dull of understanding? Or is your faith an overcoming faith that trusts in Jesus and is built on the rock of His word? There are overwhelming times ahead. Will you overcome or be overcome? Will you sink and be shaken in the tsunamis of life? Every good thing comes from God (James 1:16-18). That would include faith in Jesus and His word. Pray to God in Christ as led by the Spirit. Receive His overcoming faith.





Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A “free gift” That Exceeds All Others

Google search for “free gift” and you come up first with a complimentary cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory. Coming in second and third are links to Godiva chocolates and Chuck E Cheese. Now that I have the attention of those of you with a sweet tooth, let me speak of a free gift that far exceeds all others.

Eternal life, salvation, God’s forgiveness of our sins, is offered as a “free gift.”  For those trying to work their way to heaven these are truly sweet words. How is that possible? Salvation as a free gift is offered to us by God on the basis of Jesus atoning death on the cross. Jesus paid our debt of sin on the cross so that when we trust in Him God justly forgives us. Something is free when you don’t have to work for it. Jesus has done the work of salvation for us. Therefore all we need do is turn from our sin to God by trusting Jesus as our Savior. Salvation is a free gift to be received (John 1:12).

Some of you have been consuming the junk food of a religious pursuit of God. You’ve been trying to earn God’s favor by doing things you think He’d like you to do. You are trying to work your way to heaven. The problem with that is you never know if your work is good enough or just simply enough. There’s no certainty; no assurance of your standing with God. All there is for the worker is an uncertain, unsatisfying, even fear of the future.

If you believe in and respect the Bible, (and there is a ton of evidence proving the Bible is no ordinary book but is in truth God’s revelation to humanity), then you should know that God’s recipe for salvation is the health food of salvation. This salvation comes by His grace as a free gift through faith in Jesus Christ. That alone is the dish that truly satisfies.  Your salvation can be as complete, certain and sure as Jesus cross work. And He said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).

Let’s turn to a less palatable metaphor. The crust of food can be delicious. But when you use the word crust in regards to your skin or the earth’s surface you are speaking of some aspect of disease or the hard jagged surface of our planet. Sin is like cancer, even the smallest cell incident of sin will spread and become unmanageable if left unattended and untreated. Sin hardens the heart; it hardens the sinner. Sin makes the sinner crusty.  That’s not good.

But there is a cure for this crusty condition. And that cure is offered as a free gift. That cure is provided in Christ. There is a chapter in the Bible which three times states that salvation is a “free gift” from God. Romans 5:17 states, “For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” This verse introduces us to Romans 5 where we see The Crust of Sin and The Cure of Christ.  I encourage you to get your Bible out and turn to Romans 5 where we will see our crusty condition of sin and God’s amazing free gift cure.

The Crust of Sin. When we look at this passage we see the marks of a patient with a potentially fatal illness. If left unattended the patient will die. There is a cure, but as an early church father stated, “Before you can prescribe an antidote, you have to know the poison.” What does this chapter tell us about the crusty cancer of sin?

It isn’t a pretty picture. The first symptom is guilt. We wouldn’t need to be justified unless we were guilty in some way (5:1a). There is unrest. We wouldn’t have to be put at peace with God unless we were first in a position of unrest toward Him (5:1b). There is a lack of Godlike love (5:5). There is weakness (5:6a). There is ungodliness; disobedience to the first 4 of the Ten Commandments (5:6b). The Bible calls this being sinners; breaking God’s Commandments in heart and deed (5:8). This leads to a sentence of God’s wrath. If this were not true, we wouldn’t need to be saved from God’s wrath (5:9a).

This crusty nature makes us enemies of God (5:10). We become so hard by sin that we are separated from God. Proof of this is our need to be reconciled to God (5:11). There is actually a genetic predisposition, (a sinful nature passed down from Adam) to sin (5:12a). This condition leads to death (5:12b). And it involves personal responsibility; “all sinned” (5:12c-13). We all break God’s holy and just Law. Therefore we are justly condemned (5:16) and destined to an unfavorable final judgment by God (5:18). If we die in our sin, God will put us in a place where the fires of His wrath will burn and incapacitate our contagious sinful crustiness forever.

Whew! That’s a pretty gruesome and ugly diagnosis. And what is even scarier is that every human being is born with this crusty sinful condition. Every person has this cancer of sin. Cancer by nature grows; it spreads. If left unattended or we deny sins reality in us, it will take us over. This is the most serious of conditions because it’s end does not lead to mere physical death, but can lead to eternal death; separation forever from God in a tormenting place called hell (Mat. 25:46). Is there a cure? Can we be saved and healed of this condition? YES!

The Cure of Christ. The cure for our sinful condition is not something we can work our way out of. There’s no physical therapy to fix this problem. But there is a cure. The cure is something we receive and must take in. The cure is a most precious commodity. It is the most expensive antidote in existence. In fact you cannot put a price tag on it. You can’t buy it. It can only be received and taken from God who offers it for free!

The effects of this cure start with justification (5:1a). Justification is a state of standing before God just as if I’d never sinned. This cure is so thorough, so deep, and so complete that it permanently removes the crust of sin.  This cure provides peace with God (5:1b). And all it asks of the patient is to trust in Jesus (5:1c). This cure in Christ gives us access to the greatest health plan of all time. This plan gives us access to God’s grace medicine (5:2a) and that is reason to rejoice (5:2b, 11). Hallelujah!

So effective is Christ’s cure that we are enabled to persevere through future trials (Oh yes, we may still encounter difficulties) (5:3-4). The able Administrator of this cure is the Holy Spirit who gives us an ongoing intravenous supply of God’s own brand of love (5:5). But it is Jesus Christ who pays the price for this cure. This saving cure is offered freely as a gift, but it wasn’t cheaply obtained. It cost Christ His life (5:6). It certainly wasn’t deserved by any of us (5:7). But God prescribed the curing treatment even if it did cost Jesus His precious blood offered on the cross (5:8-9).

And so we are saved from a wrathful end of the crustiness of sin (5:9). With the cure received and in place, we are reconciled to God and saved from death to life (5:10). The cure is centered on and provided by One Man, Jesus (5:15-18). The cure is “much more” than anyone could have ever imagined (5:15, 17, 20). With this cure we can now “reign in life” now (5:17, 21). With this cure we have “eternal life” forever! (5:21). And all of this provided by and offered to all as a “free gift” (5:15, 16, 18). That is a free gift that not only exceeds all other free gifts. But it is a free gift exceeds all other gifts of any kind; period.

Have you received this free gift of salvation? I encourage you to turn from your sins right now. Come humbly before God and turn over your life to Him. Receive forgiveness for your crusty sinful life through faith in Christ. Open your heart to the Holy Spirit and His love. You’ll never be the same. From death to life. Your crustiness cured! It’s a free gift! Receive it!


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Overcoming the Overwhelming

And the wind ceased and there was a great calm – Mark 4:39b

Trials and overwhelming situations seldom if ever come announced or expected. In fact, that is what makes them overwhelming; we don’t have time to prepare for them. Even when we are warned of an impending storm, we don’t know just how powerful it will actually be until it hits. The storms that overwhelm can take many forms. We may hear a new peculiar noise emanating from our car, but until we go to the dealer or garage we don’t know the full expense it will cost for the repair. Our roof may leak, we may step through a floor, or a tree may fall on our property or a neighbor’s, but until we get someone to assess the situation we have no idea of the cost. We may be called into the office at work, but until we actually get the pink slip we have no idea of all the ramifications. We may sense that we’re sick or that someone else is ill, but until the doctor is seen and a diagnosis is made, we don’t know the extent of the illness. We may watch threatening weather forecasts made by well-paid meteorologists, but until the storm actually hits, we don’t know the extent of the damage that will be done.

Jesus had just spent the day teaching. He had taught His most important parable of the Sower and had followed that up with three other parables (Mark 4:1-34). As the sun set Jesus told His disciples they were going across the Sea of Galilee. The account of what followed instructs us on how to overcome overwhelming situations. The account of Jesus in the storm helps us to take precautions so that even though a storm may crash in on us, we will know what to do to weather the storm. This account will help us in Overcoming the Overwhelming.

The objective. The account opens with the words, “On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” (Mark 4:35). It was the end of a busy day in the ministry of Jesus. The sun had set, evening had come. When the sun sets there is always a cooling, even maybe a chill in the air. This was the setting for Jesus words, “Let us cross over to the other side.” 

Jesus had a mission objective. His objective involved His disciples and those who were with Him. God has a plan for our lives. He demonstrated this in His dealings with the nation of Israel (Jer. 29:11-14). And He says similarly that He has a mission objective for each of our lives (Eph. 2:10). God has a way of accomplishing His mission. When Jesus told His disciples that they were going to cross over to the other side of Galilee they should have had confidence in Him. The Holy Spirit had descended upon Him and He had passed the wilderness testing (Mark 1:9-13). He had already demonstrated His power by casting out demons (e.g. Mark 1:21-28) and healing numerous people (e.g. Mark 1:29-45; 2:1-12; 3:1-12). Jesus was impressive enough that the disciples had answered His call and followed Him (Mark 1:16-20; 2:13-20; 3:13-21). So when Jesus said they were to go over to the other side of Galilee they should have had a certain amount of confidence and trust in the Lord.

The occupants. It states, “Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him.” (Mark 4:36). Jesus and the twelve left the multitude. He got into a boat with the twelve. He didn’t make any special preparations. He simply got in the boat, “as He was.”  But it states “other little boats were also with Him.” People followed Him in smaller boats. They wanted to see what Jesus would do next. They wanted to watch Him; be close to Him. There are always people in smaller boats looking to see what Jesus is going to do in and through us. Are you aware of those in the little boats around you?

The overwhelming obstacle. Storms on the Sea of Galilee can come quickly and unexpectedly. And that is exactly what happened. It continues, “And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling.” (Mark 4:37). Those in the boat with Jesus and those in the smaller boats without Jesus probably had no idea a storm was coming. If the larger boat with Jesus was filling up with water, how much more were the smaller little boats that were following Him. If Jesus is in our boat and we’re scared, how much more frightening is it for those in the storm in little boats without Jesus? They feared capsizing and drowning in the stormy waters. That would be overwhelming.

The obtuse objection. First we see how not to respond to overwhelming storms. Jesus was calmly sleeping in the back of the boat. The disciples went to Him and it states, “But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38). Really? “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” Jesus had hand-picked them. He allowed them to see up close and personally His compassion and healing touch. Jesus had taken the time to give them a private explanation of His teaching. They had every reason to believe that Jesus grooming them for leadership. And they ask, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

When we face overwhelming situations the temptation is to blame God in some way. We question His power. We question His sovereignty. We question His love for us. We may even question His existence. That is exactly what the enemies’ tactics are designed to do. But we need to ask, are all storms from the Lord?

The opponent. Jesus’ response is recorded with the words, “Then He arose and rebuked the wind, . . .” (Mark 4:39a). Now ask yourself this question, “If the storm had been from God, would Jesus have rebuked it?” The word “rebuked” (Greek - ἐπιτιμάω - ĕpitimaō, ep-ee-tee-mah´-o) here means, rebuke, censure, to adjudge, or to find fault with. Is this really the way Jesus would respond to something if it were sent by His Father? It is not unprecedented that a storm comes from Satan (cf. Job 1).

The overcoming Lord. It goes on to state, “and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.” (Mark 4:39b). The storm was great and terrifying. The wind and waters of the sea were filling the boat in which Jesus and the disciples were and doing even worse to the little boats that were following them. With a shout Jesus overcame the overwhelming obstacle of the storm. “Peace be still!” Jesus exclaimed. And the wind instantly died down and the waters reduced to a glassy sea. “A great calm” came in the storm.

The Bible says, “When the enemy comes in like flood, the Spirit of the LORD will raise up a standard against him” (Isaiah 59:19). A standard is a banner identifying an army. Jesus Himself served as the standard on this occasion. But whenever followers of Jesus stand in the storm and proclaim the peace of Jesus they too become the Spirit’s standard.

When our hearts are overwhelmed we need to run to the LORD (Psalm 61:1-2). Build on the rock of Jesus word and you will be stable in the storm (Mat. 7:24-27). Jesus is our Cornerstone (Eph. 2:20). Through prayer and faith we can overcome the overwhelming by resting in Jesus (e.g. Phil. 4:6-7).

The Overcomer’s observation. Why had the disciples felt and nearly been overwhelmed by the storm? It states, “But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (Mark 4:40). Fear is the foe of faith. Fear contradicts faith. Fear is the evidence of a lack of faith. Faith is trusting in the midst of the storm. Faith is trusting Jesus even when things look bad.

Faith is defined as, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1). In the storm we can’t see our destination, but we can always see our Captain Jesus. And with Him in sight, no storm should get us off course.

We overcome our fears with faith. And faith is built with God’s word. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). When we look in scripture and see the faithfulness of God, when we see Jesus faithful in the storm, it encourages us; it builds our faith. If Jesus got the disciples through the storm He can get us through the storm.

The outcome. The account concludes, “And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” (Mark 4:41). When Jesus stills the storms of life, all we can do is stand in awe of Him. When He brings peace in the midst of the storm or brings good from the storms that hit us, we simply stand in awe of Him. And those who know Him best will worship Him.

Is Jesus in your boat? Are you trusting Him in the storm?