Ironically, before Charlottesville ever happened, my kids and I had a conversation about the Klu Klux Klan. In an effort to keep my kids reading during the summer I went to the local public library and loaded up on audio books for children.
One of those aforementioned books was set in the South during the 1930s, Tru and Nelle by Greg Neri. We listened as the main characters formed an unlikely friendship and soon found themselves playing detectives in a case that turned far more serious than I could have imagined.
Before I knew it, there were descriptions of men with white capes, pointy hats and torches all ablaze. I was left with two options: stop the CD and pop in something light and fluffy or venture out into the deep with my partially sheltered kids in tow. I chose the latter.
In hindsight, even though it pained me to talk with my kids about opposition to their brown skin, given the condition of our world, I know it was a conversation I couldn’t avoid. Times are uncertain. Daily we are bombarded by news of racially motivated rallies, wars, threats of nuclear weapons, murders, natural disasters, devastation… the list goes on.
We live in a fallen state. The moment Adam and Eve took a chunk out of of that desirable fruit they kicked the door wide open for sin to walk through. For those of us raising the next generation, we can’t help but wonder what type of planet our kids, grandkids, and great grans will live on. But we can’t live behind barricaded doors, paralyzed by fear in our uncertain times; we must live courageously as people who dare to step out into the storms of life.
As we boldly take steps into the unknown, we can glean from the disciples’ encounter with fear.
Truth #1: God Allows the Storm
In Matthew 14:22-24 it says: “Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.”
Does it strike you that Jesus “made” the disciples get into the boat? The word made in the Greek means doing so with urgency as a pressing need necessitates. Here in this text we see an all knowing Jesus, strongly urge his beloved disciples into a boat knowing there was an oncoming storm.
Why would He do that? Did he not love the disciples or care about their safety? Was He being careless with their lives? On the contrary, I believe the answer is found in the book of James.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2-4 (NIV)
When we weather the storms in our lives it produces perseverance. Just like the disciples, God intentionally uses life’s storms to mature our faith.
Truth #2: A Spirit of Fear Does Not Come From God
“Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” – Matthew 14:25-27(NIV)
Can you imagine this scenario: wind, waves, and an unidentified man coming to you on the water. I’m not one for scary movies but this scene appears to have all the elements of a suspenseful thriller. It is in this plight we see fear introduced, but this fear did not come from God.
A spirit of fear is oppressive, haunting and dominating in nature. It overrides courage in a way that drastically alters one’s behavior. 2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT) reminds us that“ God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
Life crippling fear comes from Satan. In John 10:10a (NIV) it says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…” What has a “spirit of fear” stolen from you? Has it destroyed your dreams or killed your hope?
If so, don’t be dismayed, because the second half of that scripture speaks of the counter work that Christ does in our lives. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – John 10:10b (NIV) Where we have been robbed by fear and left trembling on the side of the road, God makes us brave. Through His word we can defeat the power of fear in our lives.
Truth #3: When We Feel Weak God Is Strong
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. – Matthew 14:28-29 (NIV)
What sustained Peter when he got out of the boat? Was the power in Peter? I would argue the power Peter stood on rested in the person of his gaze: Jesus.
There are times in our lives when the magnitude of life feels like a tremendous boulder continually crushing our bones. Problems with our family, turmoil in our world, and personal battles collide to form the perfect storm within and around us.
But just as Jesus stepped into the disciples’ storm, He walks in ours as well: enabling us to be brave in the midst of unthinkable chaos.
“For when I am weak, that’s when I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:2 (NIV)
Is there a situation in your life that is beyond your control? Are you uncertain of the outcome? If so, know that God’s strength is perfected in your weakness.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” -2 Corinthians 2 :9 (NIV)
Truth #4: Though Times Are Uncertain God is Unchanging
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
When Peter began to sink it was because he chose to focus on the wind rather than on God. If we, like Peter, focus on the never-ending problems in our world we may find ourselves sinking:in our faith, in our perspective, and in our hope.
Whether it is a mass shooting or an unstable political climate this world is constantly morphing towards more instability. If our hope is in the unrest around us we will sink. Our hope cannot be on the storms of life but must rest in the God who controls the storm.
He never changes and we can put our trust in Him. In uncertain times God is a time tested and proven solid foundation we can stand on.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1 (NIV)
Truth #5: This Is Not The End
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31 (NIV)
Here Jesus asked Peter what appears to be an obvious question to us. He doubted because of the turmoil happening all around him. It is synonymous with us because we too are surrounded by disarray.
God’s expectation of Peter is the same for us:have faith. By this time the disciples has some history with God. They had heard the voice of God affirm him (Matthew 3:17 NIV), witnessed Him heal a man with leprosy (Matthew 8:3 NIV), raise a girl from the dead, (Matthew 9:25 NIV) and countless other miracles. They had a history with God, and so do you.
He has reminded us to trust in Him through His word. In Proverbs 3:5-8 (NIV) it says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your path straight.” Don’t put your trust in this out-of-control-world, it is fleeting, ever changing, and unstable. Put your trust in God who controls all things.
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