Chris Hodges - Anchors in the Storm
I want to thank you again for welcoming me and Church of the Highlands into your home today. It seems kind of strange to speak into a room that is completely empty, but I want to look into that camera and thank God for the miracle of technology and thank God that you're watching on the other side. And even though we are physically apart, I want you to know that my heart and my prayers, and my wife Tammy and her prayers are with you guys every day. If you had any idea how much we're thinking about you and praying for you... and I want to say it one more time. We're going to get through this. We're going to get through this better than before, and I want you to stay encouraged.
But one of my goals is to try to keep as much normal as possible, and there's not a whole lot that's normal in our world right now, and so that's why I just put on my jacket like I would normally do, and we're having worship like we would normally have. And if you're only watching the message portion of this service, go back and get the worship, because it's probably better than this message. I'm telling you, just to get in the presence of God is so important right now. So, watch the whole service. And, of course, it'll be on demand, if you want to share it with your friends. We're hoping that literally hundreds of thousands of people will see this encouraging service.
So, welcome. We are in week number two of a series called, "God of Miracles". What an appropriate series for a time like this. And I'm excited to bring this message to you. I'll tell you, this week we are going to have a First Wednesday service, be a little bit more low key, a little bit more casual, but you'll want to join us live on Wednesday night, April 1st, no fooling. Why's that funny in my head? There's no laughter in the room. But anyway, on April 1st, we will have a special First Wednesday service. We'd love for you to join us. Tell your friends about it. We're having prayer every Saturday, as well, so we'd love for you to join us in a 30-minute prayer service every Saturday morning online.
And then, of course, our Sunday services. I do want to not only greet our church, but I want to give a very special welcome and greeting to all the other churches that are watching. And I've said this over and over, and I just want to keep saying it. I thank you. I'm glad we are able to maybe step in when perhaps your church hasn't been able to produce a church service like this, and you're joining us. But please this is a great time for you to stay close to and connected to your own local church, supporting it with your tithes, and offerings, and your serving, and your prayers. Thank God we can come together, but be sure that you're supporting your local church, in Jesus's name. Amen.
Hey, by the way, one more group I want to say hello to, and you've probably been wondering what in the world has happened to the men and women in the Alabama Department of Corrections? We are very, very blessed that we're able to bring not only our church services, but all that we are as a church, small groups, all kind of things, into the Department of Corrections. Of course, they are on lockdown right now and not allowing people from the outside to go in like we normally do, but they agreed to allow us to put these services on a flash drive, that those that are in the correctional facilities can watch on their own. And so I want to say a big hello to the men and women in the Alabama Department of Corrections. By the grace of God, we'll be back in there serving you, loving you, and we look forward to that day. Be encouraged until then.
All right, let's get into the message. Hopefully, you have your Bibles out, and you have your notebooks out and your pen out. And I don't know if I'll teach as long as I normally do, famous last words, but I just want to share a few little thoughts with you. But here's the theme verse for this series. It's found in Psalms 77. I just think it's a good thought for us right now in the middle of this crisis. "What God is as great as our God"? And the obvious answer is there isn't. There isn't anyone as great as our God. "You are the God who..." Say it out loud, the two words in yellow. "You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples". We believe that. We believe that he is a God of miracles.
And by the way, miracles come in a variety of different forms. In fact, in the gospels alone, there are 35 recoded miracles. We know there were innumerable people that Jesus touched, but there were 35 recorded miracles. I did the math for you. There were 17 bodily cures. So, where they had fevers, or they were sick in some kind of a way... there were six times he cast the devil out of someone, deliverances from demoniacs. You have three people raised from the dead in Scripture, people like Lazarus. And then the one we're going to study today, there are nine miracles over nature. So, the different things that he just, in nature, that God did a miracle in, and today we're actually going to study one of those. But to be clear, this is not the only 35 that Jesus did.
In fact, John ends his gospel... I just thought it was cool to add, John ends his gospel, "Jesus did many other things as well. And if every one of them would have been written down, I suppose that not even the whole world would not have enough room for the books that would've been written". That's how much Jesus did and still does, and I want you to know that. But today, I want to talk about one of the miracles over nature, and this is the miracle of the calming of the storm. What's interesting is I got up this morning and read the One-Year Bible, and today's One-Year Bible reading is the calming of the storm. Now, it's in the book of Luke today in our One-Year Bible Reading, but I'm gonna show it to you in the book of Matthew and Mark.
Now, I know you already know this, but the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are four people's accounts of one story. And so every time you read the different gospels, you pick up different details. So, today, when I tell you the story of the calming of the storm, I'm actually going to pull it from two gospels, because there is some details that Matthew gave that Mark didn't, and there was some that Mark gave that Matthew didn't. So, I'm going to combine them. In fact, I have a book in my study called "The Harmony of the Gospels". You guys that want to study your Bible more, it's cool, because what they did is they have the gospels, but written as one book with all four gospels in harmony with one another. So, you can read the details as they go along, all combined together into one book, kind of a cool study. I love reading through it myself.
So, I'm gonna kind of do that for you today a little bit. I'm gonna give you this story in kind of a harmony of the gospels. Let's start in the book of Mark, and it says, the day came, "That day when evening came, Jesus said to his disciples," notice this detail, "'Let us go to the other side.'" Now, I want you to say something right here, that Jesus already declared, "We're going to the other side". So, if Jesus said this, it's going to happen. If he says we're going to the other side, we're going to the other side. The disciples should have remembered that. So, we're going over to the other side. So, "Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. And there were also other boats with him". And then the storm happened, a furious squall. I love those two words. "A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that is was nearly swamped".
And I know that's how a lot of us feel. I intentionally picked out his story of a storm, because I think this coronavirus and the effects of it perhaps in your family, or the economy, I think it feels like a storm, and I think God wants to say something to us today. He says, "It broke over the boat so that it was nearly swamped, and Jesus was in the stern of the boat sleeping on a cushion during the storm. And the disciples woke him and said to him..." And I want you to notice this detail. "Teacher, I don't think you care. I don't think you understand what we're going through right now". And that's how I think a lot of people feel right now. In fact, maybe some of you have even said that to God. "Lord, are you even looking down at planet Earth right now? We know you could do something. Do you not care"?
Now let's pick up the story now in the book of Matthew, harmony of the gospels. Same story but just continuing on with some different details. "And Jesus replied, 'You of little faith...'" Now notice, before he ever spoke to the storm, he spoke to the disciples. We'll come back to that, all right? "He replied, 'You of little faith, why are you so afraid?' Then he got up, rebuked the wind and waves, and it was completely calm". Now notice their response. This is huge. "And the men..." This is the disciples, the disciples who had already spent a lot of time with Jesus. "The disciples were amazed and asked, 'I don't think we know you as well as we thought we knew you. What kind of person is this?'"
And I want you to catch that today, because I think a lot of us, before this storm, thought we knew who Jesus was. And I think during the storm you learned a different part of who God is, that all of us need to get to know. "What kind of man is this, that even the winds and the waves obey him"? Now, you probably didn't see it, but in that story there are three storms going on. Now, one of them is inevitable. It's the one we're all facing right now. It's just a physical storm. In their case, it was wind, rain, probably some lightning and thunder. So, that's actually physical. That's a physical storm. It's real. The coronavirus is real.
So, when we say, "Hey, have faith," I'm not telling you to say, "Oh, it just doesn't exist". I'm not saying that at all. It's very real, and I am practicing all the precautions, and I am being careful as I can be. And I'm washing my hands a lot. And before I even came out on stage, I put some more Purell on my hand. And so like I know this is very, very real. We are all facing a very real physical storm. Here's the problem, though, and that is that physical storms can turn into something else. And as your pastor, that's one of the things I'm concerned about. I'm concerned about the fact that we are really going through something that's actually growing into something bigger, bigger than it has to be.
So, we already have the physical storm of coronavirus, but it's a shame that this turns into the storm of a bad marriage, or losing our patience, or other things that go on, on the inside of us. I don't know if you were noticing this or not. It's kind of mostly gone down, but my left cheek is swollen pretty badly. On Wednesday, I had to have an emergency dental procedure. So, the dentists' offices aren't even taking regular patients. At least mine's not, except for emergencies. And I even tried to talk them out of it, and they said, "Look, you have to come in".
I had actually fractured one of my molars, and the second to last one, tooth number 19, and it got fractured, and by the x-rays showed lots of infection. And the doctor said, "You have infection going all throughout your body, and we have to address this. The tooth has to be pulled, and we have to clean out all the infections, and we're gonna put you on antibiotics". I'm like, "Okay, well..." So it's kind of like kind of crazy having to deal with that in lieu of all this. And so anyway, on Wednesday morning, I went in, and they were more than professional in the way they handled the sanitation and the cleanliness of the office and lots of the story there.
But anyway, but I had this procedure. I was back home by noon. I had one of the best naps of my life Wednesday and just kind of stayed on the couch most of the day on Wednesday. But one of the discharge instructions was not to drink by sucking through a straw. Now, you guys know, you know, I always think I can follow instructions, but also kind of break the rules every once in a while a little bit, too, you know, and with the intent of the instruction itself, and I tried to drink without the straw, but, you know, half my face was numb, and water was going all over my chest, and it was not a pretty sight. And so I got some water with a straw, and I just very gently, and I know why they didn't want me to use a straw, because they were afraid that I would suck so hard that it would do something to this place that they had just stitched up in my mouth. And so I thought I could do it very, very gently. And Tammy came in and said, "You're not supposed to be using a straw".
Now, I don't know. That's such a small, little thing. But I said, "Look, I'm doing it right. I know". But she said, "You are loopy. You don't even remember them telling you this, and I'm telling you, you can't be using a straw". And I said, "But I'm gonna use the straw". And I just, "Leave me alone. I know what I'm doing". And so anyway, she left. Well, hours later, when the whole straw saga was over, both of us had forgotten it, and we're never this way, but we got a little cross with each other that evening. And it not only happened once, it happened twice. It not only happened twice, it happened three times. It's like, and we both looked at each other after that third time. We're like, what, what, what is going on here?
We never talk to each other like this. We never have this lack of patience. And I said, "Are you mad at me about something"? And she goes, "Well, are you mad at me about something"? And we discovered that it went back to the straw. Are you hearing what I'm saying? We let a straw turn into something much bigger in our lives, a straw. And honestly, as a pastor, I'm concerned that this physical storm turns into the next kind of storm that we all face, and that's the emotional storm.
So, coronavirus is real, right? That's very, very real. But for some of us, this has turned into something much bigger. It's turned into fear. It's turned into excessive worry. It's turned into loss of patience. It's turned into perhaps because we're all confined in our homes, that maybe we're not treating our family the way we should. I don't know. But you remember in the story, the Bible says the disciples... see, the storm is happening, but the disciple says, "We're gonna drown". No, they're not gonna drown, because Jesus already said, "We're going to the other side".
So that's the fact. And I want you to look in my eyes and hear this. We're going to the other side. We're gonna get through this. We have that as a promise from Scripture. We're gonna get through this. But we have to make sure that the physical storm doesn't turn into a "we're gonna drown". And I'm gonna tell you about my own deal. I have a little bit of that going on in my own soul. I mean, it's pollen season, right? And I am horribly allergic to pollen, especially the pine trees and the grass pollens, and so I'm doing everything. And wouldn't you know it?
Here we are in the middle of a pandemic that has coughing and all of these symptoms that pollen can create, as well, and I'd be lying to you if I didn't tell you there have been many times I felt my head. In fact, it's been at least three times I told Tammy, I said, "Come feel my head and see if I have any fever going on". And I mean I was cool as a cucumber, and Tammy laughs at me, like, "Man, you're really worried about this, aren't you"? And by the way, she hasn't asked me to feel her head one time.
So, anyway, think about that for a second. But the truth is I have let this get into my mind a few times, where the physical storm becomes an emotional one. And I think we have to be careful of that. But the real danger of a storm, a physical storm turning into an emotional storm is that it turns into a spiritual storm. Because remember, the disciple says, "You don't care, do you"? That's a bad theology. That's not even true to say, "God, you obviously are completely uninterested in our problem". In fact, they even went on to say, like, "Who are you? Who is this"?
And I think sometimes storms reveal our depth of relationship with God. I know it has for me, and I bet it has for you, as well, which means I don't know how the coronavirus storm is going to be solved. It will be eventually. I know that. But I'm very interested today in solving the emotional and spiritual storm on the inside of us.
In fact, here's my thought for the day and that is, "What if the miracle wasn't the storm that Jesus calmed on the outside. What if it really wasn't about the wind and the rain, but what if the storm was about something God wanted to do on the inside of us? What if what we're facing right now, that we're crying out to God, 'Please, God, take this physical disease away, which I am paying that prayer', but what if God wants to do a deep work on the inside of us in our emotions, and in our theology, and give us the ability (listen very carefully) the ability to stand firm and secure in the middle of a storm".
And I would say to you, this is an incredible opportunity for all of us to grow emotionally and more importantly to grow spiritually. In fact, the verse the Lord gave me for you this week is a promise that I want you to grab hold to, and allow God to really develop you, is in Hebrews, which says, "We have this hope as an anchor for my soul..."
Now, why does your soul need anchoring, if your soul is not prone to wander, if your spirit man is not prone to wander? Can't necessarily control the wind, and the rain, and the waves, and the storm, but I do believe that we can control the emotional and the spiritual, that those two parts of us. While this pandemic kind of runs its course and whatever happens, happens, I'm gonna tell you something. Our soul and our spirit needs to be anchored today. I actually brought an anchor out for you today, just for you to look at. And you know what they do. Come on. You've seen these before. But what anchors do is they attach themselves to something solid. So, this is attached to me. You're the boat. You're the one that needs to be solid and secure.
So, I'm hanging onto this end, but this anchor has to be attached to something, right? It has to go to the bottom of the ocean floor. It has to go find something solid, that while everything around us is moving around, that thing is not moving. That rock, that bedrock, the bottom of the ocean floor, that thing that if he ever grabs hold to it, and honestly, it doesn't matter what's happening on the other end of this rope. It's not going anywhere. And I want to leave you today with a way that in the middle of this storm, a miracle can take place, and I'm believing God for the physical miracle. Make no mistake about that. But I believe we need to have the miracle of our emotions and the miracle that happens in our spirit man, and we do it by having our soul be anchored.
I'm gonna give you three things that you can be anchored to today, and here's the first one. We're anchored when we cultivate God's presence. So, you're gonna have to do this to know this one's true. And some of you have already practiced this, and you understand it, that whenever you cultivate or you practice the presence of God... and by the way, the presence of God is there, but you have to cultivate it. You have to decide, "I'm gonna do something to make this real in my life right now". And I'm talking about times of worship. I'm telling you, you've heard me say this so many times before. In the middle of our crisis, what we really need to do is get off to the side and get in the "It is well with my soul" going on, on the inside.
Psalm chapter 91, we've been reading this a lot during this pandemic. It's a great promise from God's Word that whoever... here's the key word. Say it out loud in your home. I know this is strange. I know you may not feel comfortable with two or three people in the room, but say it out loud. "Whoever dwells". So, you've gotta be a dweller. That means you've gotta hang out there a little bit. "Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest..." Storm everywhere, soul is at rest. In the shadow of the Almighty, I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge, my fortress, my God, in whom I trust. Surely he will save me from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover me with his feathers. Under his wings, I will have refuge. His faithfulness will be my shield and rampart".
That's true. And I want you to worship, so here's what I'm gonna do for you this week. I want you to look for it. We're gonna post this on our socials, on the church socials. I'm gonna post it on my personal socials, and I'm gonna give you a playlist. So, I'm gonna make it as easy as I possibly can. I'm gonna give you a play list. Whatever music service you use, whether it's Apple Music, or Spotify, or whatever you use to listen to music, I'm gonna give you a playlist. I'm gonna give you a playlist that lasts 20 to 30 minutes of music, just songs you can listen to, and you put this to the test, and you will realize that perhaps when you're getting a little impatient with your kids, 'cause y'all have been together too long, or since school's been cancelled, or you're mad at your spouse, or you're wondering if we're ever gonna get to go back to work, or are you're having to do work and homeschooling, or you watch the news, and you freak out because they say basically, oh, it's getting a lot worse, it's getting worse by the hour, I'm telling you, you'd better cultivate the presence of God.
And I'll say this to you. Peace isn't the absence of trouble. Peace is the presence of God. If you do this, you will find peace. You get anchored in the middle of the storm. Here's the second thing, and that is that we're anchored when we remember God's promise. So, the Word of God is an anchor. So, remember Jesus said, "Whoever has built their house upon the rock..." You say, "What's the rock"? He said it. He said, "Whenever you do what I have said, my words, it's like a man who has built his house on a rock". The psalmist David said it this way, "My soul faints..." So, I'm freaking out. My soul's just about to pass out over here, "with longing for salvation, but I anchored myself. I put my hope in your word".
And one of the things that I get so concerned about... and honestly, I'm guilty as charged... is if you watch too much of the news... which I encourage you to watch the news, I encourage you to be informed, I encourage you to read the websites, I encourage you to be someone who's knowledgeable about what's going on, but I'm telling you, you'd better keep it in balance. If you let the news of all that's going on outweigh the amount of time that you read the promises of God that we're going to get out of this alive and better off than before, you get your life out of balance, and your soul will get out of balance. And the way I like to think of it is I'm actually, literally balancing.
So, if I watch 30 minutes of news, well, I'm gonna get in the Word for 30 minutes and just balance out my life. 'Cause what I'm convinced is that we cannot let our circumstances speak louder then God's Word. So, our circumstances are speaking pretty loudly right now. Let's not let them speak louder than God's Word. And here's the last one, and that is that we're anchored, and this one's gonna surprise you. Just get ready for it. We're also anchored when we understand God's process. So, if the disciples would've known that God was going to use that storm to teach them something, they would've cooperated with it. If the disciples would've remembered that he already said, "I'm going to the other side," they would've reacted a completely different way.
And that's why I remember this, that's why Jesus, before he ever spoke to the storm, he spoke to his disciples. And I believe Jesus is going that right now. I think before he speaks to this storm, I think he wants to speak to you and me. You say, "Well, what does he want to say"? He wants to say Romans chapter 5, that "We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God".
So praise God for hope. But we also rejoice when stuff's not working out right, when there's a storm, why? Because we know that suffering is producing something. Let me say it this way. You're gonna get through this a lot better if you'll anchor yourself to the fact that I'm gonna be better, I'm gonna be better after this than I was before. I think that's something solid to put your anchor on today. There's suffering. "Are you kidding me? You're supposed to be telling us everything's gonna be okay. Make me happy". No, listen to me. this is a part of the Christian life too, that God uses seasons like this.
I personally don't think he's created it, but I think he uses it. In fact, I don't think trouble builds character. I think it reveals our character. And for some of you, if I'm honest with you, myself included, this has revealed some things inside of me. One of the things I like to do is grill outside. Been doing a lot of that, been cooking a lot in lately. And I love grilling a good steak. I love a good steak. And I have one of those grills that can get it really, really hot, so it gets brown, I mean looking perfect really quickly. When I grill, it's real hot. But there's been many times that I've taken the steak off the grill, and brought it into the house, ready to eat, only to cut into it and find out that it's still raw on the inside. So, the cutting revealed that is wasn't as ready as I thought it was. I don't know about you, but I know in this situation, it's revealed some things inside of me, that it's not as ready as I thought it was. So, what do you do? You put it back on the fire. You've gotta heat it back up some more so that it can get done. Now, that spiritual truth will anchor you today, that:
God, I don't like this one bit. I don't like the heat. I don't like being cut, but I'm gonna cooperate with your process. So, God, would you do the miracle of not only answering our cry to the pandemic, but, God, do the miracle of calming the emotional and spiritual storm on the inside of me, too.
Let's pray together:
So, God, I'm asking you, and I prayed this prayer already, that you would take this season that is so uncomfortable, so painful, so difficult, and I'm asking you, Lord God, that the church is going to be better on the other side of it than it was before. I'm asking you, God, to deepen us. And, God, we are going to be worshipers, and we're gonna anchor ourselves in your Word. But, God, let us also let, allow you to do a deep work on the inside of us. We really want to know you. We want to experience you in a deeper way. So, I pray, God, that even as strange as this whole thing is, God, that you will use it to do a work inside of every person.
Now I want you to close your eyes right there where you are, and I want you to examine your own life. Listen to me. The Christian life is constant growing. It has its ups and its downs, and that's just part of it, but there's one part of the Christian life you can know for sure, and that is that your sins are paid for, that you're in a relationship with God. And I'm not talking about it being perfect, because mine's not perfect. But if you feel like, "I don't think I know God. I'm not in a relationship with God. I don't know him in that kind of a way, and I really want to".
Or maybe you've wandered from God; and in some strange way, this crisis has pulled you back to God; perhaps this is the first time you've been in church in a long time. Perhaps you're still carrying your shame and your guilt. And really, if you're honest, God's not anywhere near the top of your list. What salvation is, is reordering your life to making God the priority relationship. Romans says it this way: "If you'll make him the Lord of your life, declare Jesus is Lord, and believe that God raised him from the dead, you'll be saved".
I wonder who's watching or listening today that would want to reorder their life and say, "I'm putting God first again. Jesus, be my Lord". You're one heartfelt, sincere prayer away from that becoming a reality. And if that's you, you can say it out loud, you can whisper it, you can say it in your heart, something like this:
Jesus, forgive me for going my own way, doing my own thing, leaving you out of my life. Today, I declare that you are the Lord of my life, number one in my life. I surrender my life completely to you. Forgive me, save me, and give me your Holy Spirit to live the life you always intended for me. I believe that you, Jesus, are the Son of God. I believe you died, you were buried, and you rose again. And today I put my faith in you. In Jesus's name, amen.