Jesus, with several of His disciples, were in a boat on the lake when a violent storm arose. This often happened and no doubt everyone knew stories of lives lost. There was great fear on the part of the disciples. Jesus calmed the storm and asked them why they had such fear. Did they not have faith? We all have storms in our lives that cause us fear. These storms include serious health problems, financial difficulties, estrangement from loved ones, uncertainty of the future and the like.
Jesus is not some absentee deity Who taught doctrinal truth, modeled holy behavior and made atonement for sin 2,000 years ago on earth only to retire from active involvement with people until His second coming sometime in the future. He is actively involved in the storms of our lives, but in different ways. How is He involved?
1. God keeps some of the storms from happening in the first place. Periodically we hear on the news how a certain terrorist plot was thwarted before it could be carried out. Occasionally a spokesperson adds, “There are many such plots thwarted ahead of time that you will never hear about.” God’s gracious protection keeps many bad things from happening to us. Things going well? Is this just a coincidence of life? A friend of mine likes to say, “A ‘coincidence’ is when God works behind the scenes so as to remain anonymous.”
2. God allows the storm to happen but will calm it when we call out to Him. James reminds us, “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2). This does not mean firing off a quick prayer expecting an automatic and immediate response. Nor is prayer to be seen as some lucky charm mechanically done without the involvement of our heart, mind and will. The Bible does not so much ask us to “believe in” prayer; it asks us to pray and to do it earnestly and rightly.
3. God allows the storm to continue but walks with us through that storm. Many theologians wisely speak of the “now but not yet nature of God’s Kingdom.” That is to say, while Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom of God on earth in a new and special way, and while there are many blessings and “miracles” in that newly inaugurated Kingdom, that Kingdom is not here in its fullest and will not be until He returns at His Second Coming.
When God, for reasons known to Himself, does not choose to calm the storm we are in, He does offer to walk with us through the storm. David knew this. He wrote, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou are with me” (Psalm 23:4).
4. God allows the storm for a good purpose. God is not the author of evil. People have the free will to make choices, some of them disastrous to themselves and others. While God could remove from people the ability to make such choices, to do so would be to remove our free will. Were this to happen, all the choices we make, including the kind and loving ones, would not really come from us at all. We’d be programmed to act.
Nature, too, is fallen. Bad storms, wild animals and earthquakes kill people. God will deal with this when Jesus returns at His Second coming to make the new heavens and earth. What God often does is to work good out of the evil or careless deeds of ourselves and others and the calamities of fallen creation. A biblical example can be seen in the life of Joseph (“Joseph and the coat of many colors”). His brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt. Years later Joseph held a high position. His brothers went to Egypt to buy food because Israel was wracked by a famine. He was in an ideal position to help his family and refused to allow himself bitterness or vengeance. He said to them, “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good to bring it about that many people should be kept alive” (Genesis 50:20). Or think of the person who was downsized out of a job. While no one meant evil by this, nonetheless it is a storm all too many people have to face. I know many who took such opportunities to make that career change they had only talked about but never attempted.
5. God allows the storm to continue but offers us His peace in the midst of it. God’s peace is like that. Paul calls it the “peace of God which passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). The reason is simple. Inner peace makes perfect sense when all is going well; inner turmoil makes perfect sense when things are not going well. But what does not make sense — apart from our abiding in Christ — is to be at peace when things are going badly. Such peace “passes all understanding.” It is not “denial;” it is genuine. We see this point illustrated the end of Romans 8. Paul talks about tribulation, distress, persecution, famine and the like. While God sometimes removes them, sometimes He does not. Paul continues, “in these things we are more than conquerors” (Romans 8:34-37). Note, in these things, not always by their removal are we more than conquerors.
6. God even allows some to die young, but gives eternal victory to those who die in Him. It is a terrible fact that sometimes people die young, sometimes through no fault of their own. If this present life on earth is all there is, we would conclude that God is very unfair. But this life is not all there is. An eternity awaits Christian believers, eternity in terms of duration — it lasts for ever — and in terms of quality — it is perfect. Therefore the Apostle Paul, no stranger to adversity, could conclude, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).
This Sunday at South Side we begin a new series entitled “Miracle Moments.” For the next three weeks we will unpack core truths about miracles and how God has a moment for us all. Worship begins at 10:45, and we would love to have you join us! Fresh coffee is served before the service, and you’ll be greeted by smiling faces!
South Side Church of Christ