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.


Monday, September 11, 2017

Stringing Pearls from Storms

In rabbinical tradition rabbis have an idiomatic saying called “stringing pearls.” “Stringing pearls” is when a teacher strings together a number of scriptures to make a point. Today I’d like to string some pearls of scripture together that have to do with storms. I do this in light of the series of storms hitting our nation at present.

Hurricane Harvey had unprecedented rainfall. Hurricane Irma is being spoken of as a storm like no other in severity. Hurricane Jose has yet to hit. The storm season is young; there may be others.

There are other types of stormy weather. For the purpose of this article a “storm” is something that comes into the life of a region, a nation, a community, an individual person’s life that causes upheaval and loss. When a storm hits it threatens and causes fear. A storm causes us to ask, “What in the world is going on?”

For instance, in addition to the hurricanes, we have terrible brush fires on the West Coast that are being eclipsed by the onslaught of hurricanes in the South East. There was also a recent 8.1 earthquake in Mexico. We are also told by seismologists that a huge volcano in the South West is likely to blow in the relative near future. They say when it does blow that there will be destruction in a 500-mile radius and effects worldwide. Then there are the man-made storms such as the rioting and hateful divisive conflict and chaos in our country. There are the immigration and border issues. There is the threat of nuclear conflict with North Korea. There’s the threat of global economic collapse. There is the constant tension in the Middle East.

Finally, on top of all of this there are the personal storms in our individual lives. Arguments that escalate to fighting and then broken relations; separation; divorce; bitterness and resentment. There are sinful abuses both verbal, physical and sexual. The world is trying to deal with these problems with personal “safe spaces.” But in reality, there are no safe spaces in this world. No, the only safe way to deal with the storms of life is to go to God and His word and string pearls of His wisdom and revelation together to find understanding and comfort. “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10).

Jesus said that the only way to weather the storms of life was to build on His word: “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: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was found on the rock. 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: 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). Building on God’s word can turn a storm into a sacred experience. God is able to bring good even from storms. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). I know people who found God because of a storm. I have seen God use a storm to get people’s attention and draw them to Himself in a saving eternal relationship through faith in Jesus Christ.  Yes, God can even use the storms of life, no matter their form, to accomplish His purposes. Let’s string some pearls of scripture.

Pearl #1 – God speaks to us in the storms of life.

God spoke to Elijah out of a whirlwind (1 Kings 19:11-18).  Elijah had just been used by God for a mighty victory. But after the victory he became depressed. That often happens after we’ve been mightily used and expended great energy. But in his depression God brought a storm out of which He spoke to Elijah with a still small voice. God spoke from the storm to calm and encourage Elijah. When you get down and discouraged get alone with God and His word. Don’t make Him have to use a storm to get your attention. If He has to, God will speak through a storm of life.

Jesus told us that leading up to His return there would be “sorrows” or birth pangs that would consist of various stormy activity in the world (Matthew 24:4-8; Luke 21:7-19). The signs we see are an indication, a warning of the times in which we live. Jesus said it would be so. Storms in life are often a shout out from God to get ready because Jesus is on His way. Do you see the storm activity around us? Are you listening? Are you ready for Jesus’ return?

Pearl #2 – God uses storms to get our attention and put us in our place.

Sometimes God will use a storm to shock us into silence. When we’ve been ranting and raving against Him, He will bring a storm or allow a storm to shut us up. In the book of Job, he and his four friends argue for 35 chapters of a 42-chapter book about the cause of Job’s hardships and loss. If they would have prayed before they spoke perhaps God would have lifted the veil of the first two chapters which give us the true source of what is going on. But proceeding without prayer leads to presumption. They have it all wrong. Therefore, God breaks into their conversation with a storm. It’s an incredible and terrible display of natural power by the LORD. In reality God fires for effect targeting the self-reliant confusion and delusions of these humans. And God hits the target dead on. God breaks into the life of Job and his friends with two chapters of pure undiluted power. “Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: ‘Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me” (Job 38:1-3; cf. also 38:4 ff.). Have you needed a storm to shut you up? Have you been railing at God? Maybe it would be better to prayerfully look into God’s word for answers before you indulge in accusations against God. Otherwise, a storm may very well be headed your way.

Pearl #3 - Storms are not always from the LORD.

Insurance companies limit their coverage based on what is and isn’t an “act of God.” Disasters and storms of destruction are attributed to God and therefore not covered by their policies. While God is Sovereign and All-Powerful and He determines whether or not a storm in life is allowed, He is not the Author of all storms. In the book of Job, we see that Satan uses “the fire of God” and a “great wind” to bring destruction on Job to test the quality of his faith (Job 1:13-22). So, keep in mind that storms are not necessarily generated or Authored by God. Sometimes they are a spiritual attack of the enemy. We need to put our spiritual armor on to weather the stormy spiritual attacks fo the enemy (Ephesians 6:10-18).

Pearl #4 – God uses storms to correct us.

Jonah is a case in point here. Jonah was commanded by God to go and preach to Nineveh to give them one last chance to repent of their horrific sins. But Jonah hated the Ninevites. He wanted them smoked. He wanted the LORD to stomp them out. Jonah wanted God Almighty to storm against that heathen people. Jonah didn’t want to heed God’s call and go and preach repentance to the lost Ninevites. He knew if he went and preached to them that because of God’s great grace and mercy He would forgive them and revive them if they repented. Jonah wanted none of that. He wanted pure unadulterated justice in the form of Divine retribution and judgment.

This prophet put his foot down and marched off in the opposite direction to what God had directed him to go. Jonah boarded a ship to Tarshish believed to be the furthermost place away from where he was. He bought a ticket and boarded the ship (evidence that just because a door opens to us, it doesn’t mean it is the LORD’s will.) But God sent a storm of correction to stop Jonah in his tracks. God also sent a fish to swallow Jonah. After three days and nights in the fish-belly, Jonah relented, repented, and returned to Nineveh, preached God to them, and they repented in one of the greatest revivals of all time. Sometimes, unless God intervenes, we can miss out on tremendous blessings. Sometimes God sends a storm of correction to keep us on course.

Pearl #5 – God uses storms to protect us.

Noah lived in terrible times. So bad and deep in sin was the world in his day that God determined to judge the world and press the restart button. A man like Noah who was righteous and holy was in great danger in such a corrupt world (Genesis 6:1-4). He needed protection. The instrument of God’s protection was a worldwide rain storm of global proportions. God destroyed the sinful threat with a storm. And so, “Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:8). He looked into the eyes of God while the storm was building and found grace in God’s face. When was the last time you looked into the eyes of God?

So, if your TV or computer or phone blows up in a stormy blast, well, it may be a storm of protection from the LORD. If your car wont’ start maybe God is delaying you to protect you from and accident. If a dating relationship falls through, maybe God is sparing you greater pain and sorrow. If you don’t get that job you’ve applied for, maybe God has something better for you. Sometimes God sends storms of protection.

Pearl #6 – God uses storms of direction.

In the final chapters of the book of Acts, the Apostle Paul is arrested and transported to Rome by ship. During the course of sailing to Rome a great storm hits the ship and threatens to capsize it. This was really no big deal for Paul. He wasn’t afraid to die. Indeed, he looked forward to meeting His LORD (Philippians 1:21). But on his way to Rome God had some other business for the Apostle to attend to. The storm provides a perfect environment for the unsaved to see God’s peace that surpasses understanding operating in the life of Paul. Furthermore, the storm blows Paul “off course” so that they ship wrecks near the Isle of Crete where they are able to swim to safety. None of those on board perished, just as Paul had prophesied. The unsaved saw the power of God in the life of the Apostle (Acts 27:14-44). In this stormy process Paul was able to practically demonstrate to the unsaved crew and passengers, the value of faith in God to maneuver through the storms of life. And then finally, Paul is able to preach to more unsaved people on the Isle of Crete, demonstrating in a mighty way how not even a venomous snake bite is able to stop God fulfilling His plans in and through Paul. Sometimes God sends storms of direction. When He does, keep attentive to how God might want to use you.

Pearl #7 – God uses storms to perfect us.

To “perfect” means to be completed or brought to maturity; to be what God intended you to be. Storms strengthen us. Faith is like a muscle that needs to be strained under heavy weight in order to be built strong. We are told in the Gospel that one evening, after a long day of ministry, feeding and tending to more than 5,000 people, Jesus sent his disciples across Galilee while He went to recoup in some quite time with God the Father. When night fell a storm kicked up on the waters threatening to capsize the disciple’s boat (Matthew 14:22-32). Notice a few things about this incident.  

First, Jesus sent the disciples into the sea likely knowing they would encounter a storm. The storm was not a product of anything the disciples did. The storm was a part of life. They had obeyed the Lord and were now in a storm. Storms come even when we obey. This storm may have been an attack of the enemy. But Jesus sent them out anyway. Sometimes Jesus directs us into storms.

Second, Stormy waters required hard rowing. Hard rowing builds muscles. When you row with the arms of faith it builds character and spiritual depth.

Third, Jesus came to the disciples in the storm. Jesus didn’t have the disciples avoid the storm, He used the storm to guild their faith. We often seek to avoid the storms of life. Sometimes storms are part of God’s will, part of His overall plan and purpose. Jesus sometimes uses storms to perfect us. Be open to that.

Fourth, Jesus beckoned Peter to come out on the stormy waters with Him. Peter exerted faith and walked on water as long as his eyes were on Jesus. But as soon as he looked at the waters below, he sunk. There’s an important principle in this. Keep your eyes on Jesus in the storm. Just as Noah found grace in the eyes of God, we can find hope and strength in the eyes of Jesus. There is something about a storm that brings us closer to Jesus; deeper in our walk with Him.

Fifth, Jesus told the disciples to be cheerful and unafraid in the storm. With Jesus in the boat we can smile through the storm. When was the last time you responded to a storm with cheer? I’m not talking about a sadistic or masochistic glee that looks forward to pain. I’m talking about a grateful heart that looks at the storms of life as opportunities for God to be glorified.

Sixth, Jesus challenges us in the storm. Jesus challenged them and He challenges us, not to have “little faith,” not to “doubt,” but to have faith in Him to bring us through the storm. If it weren’t for storm sin life we wouldn’t be able to experience and prove the great power of Jesus. Truly If He brings you too it, He will bring you through it!

Pearl #8 – God uses storms to bring us close to Him.

In Psalm 107:23-31 the Psalmist is inspired to speak of how God uses stormy seas to get us to cry out to Him. “Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters, they see the works of the LORD, and His wonders in the deep. For He commands and raises the stormy wind, which lifts up the waves of the sea. They mount up to the heavens, they go down again to the depths; their soul melts because of trouble. They reel to and for, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits end. Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses. He calms the storm, so that its waves are still. Then they are glad because they are quiet; so He guides them to their desired haven. Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!” If you’ve ever watched an episode of Deadliest Catch you know how terrifying a stormy sea can be. Surely, I’m at my “wits end” just watching those waves on TV. I can’t imagine how seamen deal with such waters of the deep. But the fearsome storms lead us to cry out to God. We cling to the LORD in such storms of life. And ultimately such storms should move us to be thankful for the goodness and might of Almighty God who brings us through such terrible storms.

The Bible states, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Horatio Spafford (1828-1888) was a successful lawyer and business man. He invested greatly in Christian ministry. He was a close friend of D.L. Moody. Spafford was described as intelligent, refined, deeply spiritual and devoted to God’s word. In 1871, as a consequence of the great Chicago Fire, Spafford’s investments were completely wiped out. Just before this tragedy Spafford’s son died. He was going through a severe storm of testing.

Spafford was exhausted and thought it beneficial to take a break from his business practices and go to England to join D. L. Moody in an evangelistic campaign. So, he planned to take his wife and four remaining daughters by ship to England in 1873. Due to an unexpected business need Spafford was unable to take the voyage with his wife and daughters but sent them ahead in hopes that he would catch up with them later. On November 22, the ship his wife and daughters were on collided with another ship at sea. The ship they were on sank in twelve minutes. Days later having been rescued, Mrs. Spafford cabled her husband the words, “Saved alone.”

Shortly after the heart-breaking cable, Spafford made the voyage to England to join his wife. It’s believed that as he approached the location where the accident occurred, Spafford penned the words which would become one of the most well-known and God used hymns in history. Spafford was moved to write a hymn that has been used by the LORD to bring great comfort to those going through stormy waters in life. It is Well with My Soul is a timeless hymn to help us maneuver the storms of life.

As you read the lyrics to this great hymn, notice where Spafford places his emphasis. He doesn’t dwell on his loss, he focuses on the Lord and His redemptive work That is the right focus. Spafford looks away from the stormy seas and into the eyes of Jesus and finds great solace and strength to weather his storm.

It is Well with My Soul

  1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
    When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
    It is well, it is well with my soul.
    • Refrain:
      It is well with my soul,
      It is well, it is well with my soul.
  2. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
    Let this blest assurance control,
    That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
    And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
  3. My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
    My sin, not in part but the whole,
    Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
    Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
  4. For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
    If Jordan above me shall roll,
    No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
    Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
  5. But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
    The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
    Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
    Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
  6. And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
    The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
    The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
    Even so, it is well with my soul.

Maybe, just maybe, God is using the stormy weather to get the attention of our nation. Maybe, just maybe, these storms will be used by God to bring our nation, maybe even you, back to Him. Regardless, when the inevitable storms of life come, keep your eyes on Jesus. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” And remember, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast” (Hebrews 6:19). String pearls the next time a storm hits.

 

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