Craig Groeschel - God With Us In the Storm
If you're new with us, we are in part three of a four-part message series called God With Us. This coming week we have Christmas services at my particular Life Church. We start on Thursday. We go Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Amy and I already have a couple from a restaurant that we met, and a guy that we met at a department store joining us. I hope you'll look around. I hope you'll let God prompt you to reach out to people who might not normally come to church. I'm going to teach this coming weekend, Christmas services, on Matthew 1:23 from which we get the title for this message series, "Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel".
What does it mean? All of our churches let's say it aloud, which means God is with us. We're talking about the presence of God in different seasons of life, because we experience God in different ways, based on what's going on in life around us. The first week we talked about the presence of God in the valleys. We learned the key principle, that: We may enjoy God on the mountaintops. But we get to know him intimately in the valleys. Last week we talked about God in the wilderness. God often whispers in the wilderness. Why does God so often whisper? He whispers because He's close. We learned the valuable principle last week that: Our deepest needs becomes a gift when they drive us to depend on God. Our deepest needs become a gift. Today what I wanna do, is I wanna talk about God's presence in the storms. My pastor used to say something, I was always a bit discouraged by this, but it was really, really true. He'd say, you're either coming out of a storm or you're in the middle of a storm, or there's a storm around the corner.
In other words, life can be really difficult. That's not encouraging! I didn't ever say Amen when he'd say it, but it can really be true. It seems like you're either coming out of a difficult time, in the middle of one, or often times around the corner there are just difficult and painful things that happen in this world. Where is God with you in the midst of a storm? We had some big storms hit our country this year. A couple of big hurricanes. I was kinda thinking about this. It's funny to me that we name killer storms after names of people. Have you ever thought about that? We had Hurricane Irma, we had Hurricane Harvey. I'm glad that we don't name just every day events after people's names. Think about it, like if you couldn't make it to work and you started naming your excuses of why you couldn't make it to work. Well boss I couldn't come in today 'cause of Hangover Howie, I mean he just took me out. It's like a category four hangover. It was ridiculous. I'm really sorry I couldn't be there. I got hit. Diarrhea Diana. Whoo! She was bad! She was bad!
You know, imagine how odd it would be if you gave, you would name stuff other categories of life. For years this wasn't the case. They didn't used to name storms after people's names. They named it after geographic places, and then in 1954, I did research on this, I want you to know, because I only work on Sundays and so I have nothing to do all week long, but research stuff and so, I looked into this and in 1954, that was the first year that US meteorologists started naming storms after their wives or girlfriends. How stupid is that? So imagine I'm a meteorologist, I come home I'm like hey Amy there's like this category five storm, it's gonna kill a lot of people, leave just tons of damage. Reminded me of you. I've called it Hurricane Amy. Do you feel loved? That's just like what in the world were they thinking? And for 25 years, 25 years they named storms after females. Then in 1979 there was equal right for storms, and they started to name them after men as well, and I also learned in my research if there's a particularly bad storm, they retire that name and never, ever use it again.
My little history lesson on naming storms. Unfortunately, some of you are in a storm right now that you might be tempted to name. I just wish that I could get through storm divorce. I wish I could get through storm depression. I wish I could get through this financial storm. I wish I could get through this relational storm, whatever it is. Sometimes we find ourselves in the middle of real, real pain and we just want the storm to go away. What do you do when you're in the middle of a storm? Unfortunately, a lot of people, when it comes to God, they'll often blame God for a storm. Or they'll question where is God? Why is God allowing this? I don't understand where is God in this storm? Our key thought for today is this: never allow the presence of a storm to cause you to doubt the presence of God. Lemme say it again. Never allow the presence of a storm to cause you to doubt the presence of God.
I wanna look today in Acts 27, and we'll spend most of our time in the book of Acts, the 27th chapter, and we're gonna look at some men who are on a boat in the middle of a massive, crazy storm. This storm went on for several days. The crew was so terrified, they started throwing cargo overboard, and they just believed the storm was gonna take them out. This was a storm they thought they would not survive. We see it pick up the story in Acts 27:20, this says, "When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, the storm continued raging". I wonder how many of you would use that phrase for something you're going through right now. It just won't stop. The storm continued raging, and then they said, "We finally gave up all hope of being saved". That phrase really gets to me because I talk to people all the time that have just given up hope. They've given up all hope. There's just no way our marriage is gonna make it. There's no way we'll ever climb out of this financial debt. There's no way we're gonna beat this cancer. I'm gonna be alone for my whole life. We're never, ever gonna be able to conceive. After what happened, I'm never gonna be able to afford graduating from college. They gave up all hope. The storm continued to rage, and they gave up all hope.
Verse 21 says this, "After they had gone a long time without food, Paul", the Apostle Paul, "stood up before them and said: Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete". How many of you wanna just hit Paul when he says that? You know, you jerk, you're on the boat with us. "Men, you should have taken my advice. Then you would have spared yourself this damage and loss". Paul was just a regular guy. As spiritual as he was, he was not above doing what so many of us love to do and that is when you're right, telling people, I told you so. If you had just listened to my advice, you wouldn't be in the middle of this storm. Why were they in the storm? They were in the storm because it was their fault. Because they made a decision to go out when the environment was risky. Have you ever noticed that sometimes in Christian circles, so many people love to blame the devil for everything? It's the devil's fault. It's the devil's fault. The devil did this! The devil did this! No, sometimes it's not the devil. Sometimes it's your own, dumb, fault.
I got a couple peopled sayin' amen and they're elbowing the person next to them right now, it's like yeah, listen to the man, it's your fault, right? Sometimes you're in the middle of a storm because you just spent too much money. Right? Sometimes you're in the middle of the storm because your emotions got the best of you and you said something you shouldn't say. Sometimes you're in the middle of a storm because you procrastinated and put it off. It's not the devil's fault you didn't pass your final exam. It's your fault for eating Domino's Pizza and drinking beer too late at night and waiting 'til the very end, to. Sometimes you're in a storm because everybody else told you not to date him! Your mama told you not to date him. Your daddy told you not to date him. Your pastor told you not to date him. Your best friend told you not to date him. Your fortune cookie told you not to date him. And you argue back, but he's got so much potential. He's got so much potential. He's got potential to ruin your life. But you dated him anyway. Sometimes you're in the middle of a storm 'cause it's just your own fault. Maybe that's why they gave up hope. 'Cause it's their own fault.
I don't know about you, but it's easier for me to believe that God will get me out of a storm when God got me into the storm, than it is for me to believe that God will get me out of the storm when I got myself into the storm, right? How am I, this is my fault. I don't even deserve to be rescued. And the storm continued to rage, and they gave up all hope. Now, there are some people on the boat, it probably wasn't their fault. If you can imagine. I don't know how big the crew was, but let's say there's, there probably were a few guys on there that said hey, Paul's saying we shouldn't go, we probably shouldn't go. But the captain said, and so the guys ended up there and they're in the middle of a storm and it's not their fault. How many of you have ever been in the middle of a storm and it wasn't your fault? Don't point at the person right now. Just kind of acknowledge, right? You know sometimes as a kid your parents, they end up divorcing, and you're in the middle of a storm that wasn't your fault. Your company made all sorts of bad decisions and they ended up having to downsize and you were a casualty of it, and you're in a storm that really wasn't your fault.
You trusted somebody. They gave you their word. You believe them at their word. You thought that they would do what they said they would do. They didn't deliver and then one day you're in a storm and it wasn't your fault. Whatever the case may be, in the middle of the storm sometimes it's so easy to give up hope. The storm continued to rage, and they gave up all hope. Never, never let the presence of a storm cause you to doubt the presence of God. This is what Paul says in verse 22, he says, "But now, I urge you to keep up your courage". I wanna say that to some of you who need to hear this: keep your courage. Keep your faith. The storm is not going to take you down. He says, "Keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed". Then in verse 23 he says, "Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong, and whom I serve stood beside me". Stop for a moment. How cocky is that? You're in the middle of a boat and an angel stands beside you. An angel of the Lord stands beside you.
You may not be aware, but there are angels even in this room right now. I believe with all of my heart that what we see with physical eyes, is not all there is, that there is a spiritual world that goes beyond what we have the ability to see and there is a spiritual battle going on all the time. In fact, even right now there could be some really big angels right behind me. That'd be pretty cool. I don't know man, I don't know. I don't know. But imagine that you're in the middle of a storm and the presence of God is with you in this moment. You have no idea all the different ways that God is with you. He could be with you in the form of a supernatural being, an angel. He is with you in the form of His spirit. If you are a follower of Jesus, His spirit dwells within you. He goes before you, our God is already in tomorrow. Time, He's not bound by time. He is hearing your prayers. He's comforting you in your hurts. He's directing you when you're lost. You have no idea, all the different ways that God is with you in the presence of a storm.
Paul says, "An angel of the Lord stood beside me in the middle of this storm". Never let the presence of a storm cause you to doubt the presence of God. How many want some bonus verses? Anybody want a bonus verse? Anybody want a bonus verse? Anybody in Wellington, Florida bonus verse? Anybody Hendersonville, Hendersonville in Tennessee? Lemme give you some bonus verses. These aren't in the story, but these have that same image the Lord is by my side. This is what Paul told Timothy in 2nd Timothy 4:16-17, he said, "Everybody else deserted me. No one stood by me. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength". Some of you, you're gonna realize this. In what you're going through right now, the Lord has not left you. He is still with you at your side, and He's giving you strength. David said this in the Old Testament, he said, "I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken for He is right beside me". It's all about who is beside you, who's with you.
When you realize that God is with you, it changes your posture, it changes your mood, it builds your faith, it redirects your mindset. It's all about who is with you. Like when I was in high school, and I think I was a sophomore, and there was this senior. The biggest, meanest, most ferocious senior. This was a guy that was shaving in the third grade kind, you know that guy. And this was a guy, he wanted to kill me, beat me up, because he thought I liked his girlfriend, which I did not, but I couldn't convince him of that. So every day I would just get a note on my locker that said: next time I see you, I'm gonna kill you. And so I would redirect my paths to go the longest way to avoid this guy, going to my algebra class and going, doing everything I could to stay away from him, and by the Grace of God, there was a new kid that moved into our school that was bigger than the guy that wanted to hurt me.
And the new kid didn't have any friends because it was rumored at his previous school that he actually killed a kid, which was so convenient for me, because I became friends with a guy who was rumored to have killed a kid. He had the biggest yellow car you've ever seen. It looked a little bit like this car right here. And we would ride in his yellow car, and he would carry a lead pipe beneath the seat, and all the sudden when I was with this guy, I think his name was Hank, Hurricane Hank was his name, and so we would, I would walk down the hallway with him, and whenever I'd see the guy that wanted to beat me up I'm like, hey, want some of this? I was with the muscle and I was the mouth, all the sudden because of who was with me. It changed my posture. It changed my demeanor. It changed my confidence. When you recognize that even though you're in the presence of a storm, but the Lord is right by you. He is with you and He is strengthening you, it changes how you ride out the storm. It's all about who's in the boat in the middle of the storm.
In fact, in the New Testament, there's a powerful story about the disciples being in a different boat, and a different storm. What's funny about this one is that Jesus was actually asleep underneath in the boat, and the disciples did what we so often do in the middle of a storm. They freaked out. "This isn't fair! We're gonna die! Jesus, where are you? Why don't you care? Aren't you gonna do anything? This isn't good! I don't like this, where this is going"! And Jesus comes on board and He says, "Why are you so afraid, ye of little faith"? And Jesus says, "Peace! Be still". And they experienced peace, in the boat. Why did they experience peace in the boat? Because Jesus was on the boat. Real peace is not found in the absence of a storm. Peace is found in the presence of Jesus. Real peace isn't found in a trouble-free life. You will never have a trouble-free life. Following Jesus doesn't mean that bad days don't happen. That's bad theology to think that it does. Jesus said that in John 16:33, "In this world you will have trouble". "You will have trouble". That's a promise from Jesus. "But take heart," he said, "for I have overcome this world".
Real peace is not found in the absence of trouble. Real peace is found in the presence of Jesus. He is with me, right beside me. He will never leave me. He will never forsake me. Look at verse 23 again, I want you to see what Paul said, "Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar, and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.'" In other words, you can't go down in this battle, Paul, because God has more battles for you to fight. Someone, you need to hear this. You can't go down in this battle, because God has more for you to do. He's not finished with you yet. If you're not dead, you're not done. God has more people for you to love. He's got more opportunities for you to serve. He's got more times that he's calling you to be a blessing. You're not going down in this. The ship may go down, but this storm will not take you out. In fact, God will use what you learn in your storm to prepare you to help others through their storms.
I love this. There's a purpose in the storm. The storm didn't surprise God. He's doing something in you. He's speaking to you. He's strengthening you. He's deepening your roots, and He will use what you learn in your storm to help somebody else through theirs. One day you'll say, I've been through a storm just like that. We survived unfaithfulness in our marriage, you can survive it in yours as well. We overcame financial hardship. We did what was right, and we climbed out of debt. You can climb out of debt as well. I used to be in bondage to this or to that, but by the Grace of Jesus, He set me free, and the same Christ who set me free can set you free as well. And suddenly you start to become an evangelist for the presence of God who never leaves you in the middle of a storm. God is doing something. He's working in you. You don't always know it when you're in the storm, but on the other side of the storm, when you're safe on shore, you often look back and say, whoo, wouldn't wanna go through that one again! Wouldn't want anyone else to go through that one. But I would never, ever trade it for the intimacy, the spiritual depth, the character, the trust, the faith in my God that is a result of being in that storm.
Verse 25, "So keep up your courage, men", keep up your faith, ladies. Keep your faith in God, "keep up your courage," he says. "For I have," what? Let's say it loud, "For I have faith in God". All of our churches, I need a little bit of help with you. If I'm gonna preach hard, you're gonna preach hard with me. Fair enough? Fair enough? Smile, Bret? Okay. Say it aloud, "For I have," what? "I have faith in God," that what? Say it with me. "That it will happen just as He told me". I have faith in God that it will happen. My faith is not in what I see. My faith is in what God says. I have faith in God that what He says will come to pass. I have faith in God that it will happen. My faith is not in the boat. My faith is in the One who commands the wind and the waves. My faith is not in the ship. My faith is in the One who created the trees that made the ship. I have faith in my God that it will happen, that He will see us through, that He will be my deliverance, that He will provide, that my God will bring healing, that in the middle of the storm I will experience His peace. I have faith in God that it will happen.
Here's the bottom line, you can't control when a storm blows up. You can't control how severe the storm is. You can't control how long the storm lasts. You can't control what people say about you. You can't control what people do to you. But you can control what you believe and you can control where you put your faith. My faith is in the One who created the wind and the waves. My faith is in God. I have faith in God that what He says will come to pass. What He says will happen. Who is God? The Psalmist in Psalm 46:1-3 says, "God is our shelter". In the middle of the storm, He is our hiding place. He is our safety, He is our strength. He is, "always ready to help in times of trouble". Why? Because He is with us by our side. Because He is with us. Who is He? He is Immanuel. He is God with us. Because He is with us, "we will not be afraid, even if the earth is shaken, and the mountains fall into the ocean depths, even if the seas roar and rage, and the hills are shaken by violence".
We can say it this way, even if I lose my job, even if the relationship does fall apart, even if the economy gets shaky, I still will not be afraid. Why? Because He is with me. Because He will never leave me. Because He will never forsake me. Because He is what I need. Because He is my safety. Because He is my strength. Because he is my comforter. Because He is my source. Because He is my redeemer. Because He is my righteousness. Because he is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. Because He is a rock. Because He is the living bread, the bread of life. Because He is the living water that satisfies my soul. He is the gate through which I enter. He is the guide who directs my step. He is my comforter, that ministers to me in time of need. He is my peace. Peace is not found in the absence of a storm. Peace is found in the presence of Jesus, and He is with me.
Look! The virgin will be with child, and they will call him Immanuel which means, God with us. And that's why you never let the presence of a storm cause you to doubt the presence of God. True peace is not found in the absence of storms and trials and troubles. That's a part of life. True peace is found in the presence of Immanuel. God with us. My faith is not in what I see. My faith is in what God says. And God says, "It will happen. The storm will not take you down. Be at peace". God is with you. So Father we pray in the name of Your risen son Jesus, that you would do in the lives of those who are hurting today what only You can do. All of our churches as you're reflecting in prayer, those who would say I know someone who's in a storm right now, or we're going through a storm right now, I'm in the middle of one. I need the presence and the peace of Jesus, would you lift up your hands right now, all of our different churches? All of our different churches just lift up your hands as an act of faith before God.
Lord I pray today, as there are so many that are hurting. I pray God that we would be sensitive as your church to reach out and to care for others, and to minister to them to even represent your love to them. God I ask that they would feel your love through your family, and sense your presence in more ways than they could ever imagine, that an angel of the Lord may be comforting them right now, that your Holy Spirit is dwelling within them, that your living word is soothing their souls and renewing their minds. God that you're already in tomorrow, that you're working in all things, God, even things that we wish were never happening, you're still working in those things to bring about good, God, to those who love you and are called according to your purpose. Now God as we cast our cares upon you, because you care for us. We thank you that your grace, your mercy, your presence guards our hearts, our minds and our souls in Christ Jesus, and you give us a supernatural peace that this world knows nothing of, because you dwell within those who know you. Give us peace, God, in the midst of the storm.
As you keep praying today at all of our different churches, there are those of you, you may be in a place where your own sin has caught up to you. You're in the storm because of what you did. This was me back in college. I got caught shoplifting. I got in massive trouble. My fraternity was about to get kicked off campus. My sin had caught up with me. I thought I need to try to be good for God. I need to try to be better. I couldn't be good on my own, but I didn't understand is that my sin, my sin nature, separated me from a Holy God. The good news is that God loved me and God loves you more than you could imagine. So much so, that God became one of us. This is Immanuel. It's God in the flesh. It's God living in human flesh in the person of Jesus. It's God and it's man. That's why Jesus could become the perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins.
In the Old Testament, they would sacrifice a lamb. There would be a temporary sacrifice. Jesus was the Lamb of God. He is a permanent sacrifice. God made flesh who dies in our place, for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus died. On the third day He rose again, why? So that anyone, and this includes you, who calls on the name that is above every other name, the name of Jesus. At the name of Jesus demons flee when you call on the name of Jesus, God hears your prayer, He forgives your sin, He makes you brand new. At all of our churches, there are those of you, you recognize you're in the middle of a spiritual storm. Jesus is your peace. He is your righteousness. He is your redeemer. He is your salvation. He will become your Lord at all of our churches. Those who say, I need His grace. I need His forgiveness. I turn from my sin. I turn toward Him. I give my whole life to Him.
Jesus today, I trust you. When you cry out to Him, he'll hear your prayer, forgive every sin and make you brand new. All of our churches, those who say yes, I need Jesus, I give my life completely to Him, lift your hands high right now. All of our churches say yes. Here in the middle section, four, five, six of you guys, God bless you all. Others of you right back over there. Sir, God bless you. Over here on this side, others today. Right here young man, God bless you, sir. Others of you, right back over here. Oh my goodness, can you give God some praise? Welcome back over here, saying yes, church online you click right below me. Others of you today, you need Christ, you need Christ, you need Christ, you need Christ! Would you pray with those around you? Pray:
Heavenly Father, I trust You to save me, to forgive me, of all my sins, and make me new. Fill me with Your spirit, so I can live for You and follow You, every day of my life. My life is not my own. I give it to You. Thank you for new life. Now You have mine. In Jesus' name I pray.