David Jeremiah - Danger: The Fear of Sudden Trouble
Some of us invite it, most of us avoid it but ultimately, all of us have to face it. I'm talking about trouble. From flat tires to financial collapse, trouble comes in all shapes and sizes. I'd love to say that being a Christian is your ticket to a trouble-free life, but Jesus himself promised that we will have trouble in this world. So, if the fear of trouble makes you feel like staying in bed safely inside your comfort zone, today's message is for you. I'll show you from God's Word that there's a purpose for the storms of life, and I'll explain how you can experience peace in the midst of them. So, join me as we explore Danger: The Fear of Sudden Trouble from our current series, "What Are You Afraid Of? Facing Down Your Fears With Faith," next on "Turning Point".
Today in our faster, more crowded, and more complex world, a few little squalls can quickly become the perfect storm. When multiple conditions converge and threaten critical areas of life, such as our financial security, our marital harmony, our relationships, our jobs, our health, sometimes we just throw up our hands and say, "I can't take anymore". And when that happens, fear enters our life. As we examine the fear that we face in our lives, and we've talked about this now for these weeks, fear is a fact that we have to deal with because we live in a fallen universe, don't we? In the Bible, we learn that fear can be managed. In God's Word, there is a wealth of guidance on dealing with storms, both perfect and imperfect. And don't let anyone tell you that fear is something we will never experience if we live the Christian life.
I think you should know by now that the most often repeated instruction in the Bible, more than any other instruction, is "Fear not". And if there wasn't a possibility of fear, I doubt that Almighty God would allowed his Word to be salted with that instruction. So, fear is a reality. And I want to remind you of a time when fear took over in the lives of some followers of Jesus Christ. In Mark chapter 4, verses 35 through 37, we have the story of the disciples caught in their perfect storm and it begins with verse 35 of the 4th chapter and the probability of storms in our lives. The Bible says that, "when evening had come, Jesus said to them, 'Let us cross over to the other side.' Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling".
Now, the gospels, as you remember from the Book of Mark, record that this event took place at a time when Jesus was at the peak of his personal ministry. The Bible tells us that he was at the edge of exhaustion. He and his disciples were reeling from uninterrupted ministry. They were healing the sick, they were casting out demons, they were dealing with opposition from those who didn't like them. People were coming from all over. Jesus had become an international celebrity, and people who had sick folks were bringing the sick folks to Jesus. And the crowds had become so large, they were almost unmanageable. And on this particular day, as recorded here in the 4th chapter of Mark, the crowds had become so large that Jesus, in order to escape from the crowds, had to get into a little boat and push out away from the shore using the boat itself as a pulpit so that he could teach the people who were there.
And the Bible tells us that as evening came, after a long day of exhausting ministry, Jesus felt the need, and his disciples saw the need, to get him away from the pressure of the crowds that had gathered to be ministered to by him. And so, using the boat that had once been their pulpit. They pushed off from the shore to go to the other side of the lake. And the Bible tells us that there were other little boats that went along with them, so there was Jesus and his entourage heading over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. There's a lake in the United States that reminds me of the Sea of Galilee, and that's the Lake Erie. If you've ever been on Lake Erie, you know that you can be out on Lake Erie and all of a sudden in a moment, a storm can come up, that can be very frightening. The Sea of Galilee is the perfect place for a perfect storm, and that is just what happened.
It says in verse 37 that, "a great wind storm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, and the boat was filling up with water". Mark uses a little word in the Greek language to tell us how serious this storm was. The word that he used can be translated by the phrase "furious squall," or "hurricane". This was a hurricane. Matthew describes the storm as a great seismos and seismos, as you probably can figure out, is the word in the language of the New Testament for earthquake. So, Matthew says it was like an earthquake in the water, we know that today as a tsunami. Those words give you the impression that the gospel writers saw this as a very, very serious storm into which the disciples and Jesus had found their way. And just as the sudden storms happened in the physical world in which we live, how many of you can raise your hand and say, "I've had a few sudden storms in my life as well"?
Isn't that interesting? The probability of storms in our lives, and notice secondly, there's a paradox here. There's something here that on the surface if we ask ourselves the question, this doesn't make sense. At this time in their lives, the disciples were following Jesus wherever he went. That's what a disciple is, he's a follower of Jesus, not just a normal follower of Jesus, but an ardent follower of Jesus. Jesus never went anywhere that his disciples didn't go with him. He didn't do anything that they didn't do. He had even recently empowered them to preach, and heal the sick, and cast out demons. So, what the disciples were doing on this particular day was, they were serving their Lord with all of their hearts, and all of their soul, and all of their might. And in the midst of that situation, they found themselves in a very threatening moment. They were in the middle of God's perfect will and found themselves in the middle of a perfect storm, all at the same time.
And we say, "Now, that's not the way that's supposed to work". I mean, if you're a Christian and you're following the Lord, doesn't he keep you out of the perfect storms? I don't think so. I've been in a few perfect storms. My life has given me some instruction about that. I don't think it was because at that particular time, I was not in the will of God. No, the paradox of this is that sometimes we are in perfect storms, not because we have disobeyed God, but because we're in the midst of obeying God, that God himself allows us to experience difficult times, sudden trouble, not because we've done anything wrong, but because we may be doing something right. Storms are not always punishment for the lack of obedience, sometimes they're the result of obedience. Those men were in that storm that day because they had jumped in the boat when Jesus said, "Let's go". And now they find themselves in this frightening, terrifying situation.
We always do wrong, men and women, when we judge others on the basis of the storms we see going on in their lives. We may say, "Oh, they must not be doing something right". No, no, they may be doing something really right. God allows us to storms in the lives of his children and we'll see some of the reasons for that in a few moments. But I just want to encourage you today if you're going through a rough spot, if you're having some squalls in your personal life, don't necessarily beat yourself up about it. God might be using it to teach you something to help you be a better servant going forward, and a better person going forward, the paradox of storms. Notice thirdly, that in the midst of the storm, there was a presence, the presence in the storm. Here he was Jesus, verse 38, "In the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, 'Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?'"
Now, try the best you can in your, in your creative mind to picture this situation. The disciples are probably with everything they have trying to get the water out of the boat, trying to keep this boat afloat. And all of a sudden, it dawns on them that their fearless leader is asleep in the same boat that they're trying to keep afloat. And finally, they had had it and they went back and they wake up Jesus and they say, "Don't you care about us? Don't you care that we're perishing"? And before we're too hard on them, before we're too hard on them, have you done that? "Lord, don't you care about this mess I'm in? Don't you know the problems I have? Don't you know I don't have enough money to pay my bills this week? Lord, don't you know that my marriage is coming unglued. Lord. Lord, are you asleep, Lord"?
So, that night on the Sea of Galilee, the exhausted Jesus slept on a cushion in the rear of the boat with the waves crashing all about him and his disciples in despair for their lives. There's an untold miracle here. I'm not sure anybody ever notices it, but I noticed it and that is, Jesus was sleeping during the storm. Now, I tell you what, my wife will tell you I can sleep almost anywhere but in a situation like that, I'm not sleeping. I'm probably on my knees praying. And the Bible tells us that this presence in the storm called forth peace in the storm. The peace in the storms of our lives is in verse 39. "And Jesus arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, 'Peace, be still!' And the wind ceased and there was a great calm".
Mark tells us that Jesus spoke to the wind in the same way that he had spoken to the demon-possessed people. He rebuked the wind. If you go back and read the Book of Mark, you'll discover that Jesus rebuked demons. It's the same word. Jesus spoke to the wind and he said, "Wind, stop it". And immediately, the wind ceased, Miracle number one. And immediately, the waves were calm, an even greater miracle. Those of us who live on the coast know that when the wind stops, the waves don't immediately stop, they keep going for a while. But on this day, the wind stopped and the waves stopped, and it got the disciples' attention.
Let me tell you something, if you're a Christian, Jesus is in your boat. He's in the midst of your trouble. He's with you. He hasn't gone to sleep. He's not on vacation. He's there with you. Count on it, believe it, trust it, exercise your faith around it. If you put your faith in the one who is with you, you won't be afraid of that which is around you. He's in your boat. He has promised never to leave you nor forsake you. In the midst of your trouble, my friends, whatever it is, and I have no idea what you're experiencing right now, you have one thing you can count on that's undeniable, the Savior of your soul, the Creator of the universe, he's in your boat with you and he's promised to help you.
Now, let's talk for just a moment about the purpose of these storms that we face and the purpose of that storm. I've always been intrigued by this because I've heard people say that Jesus set this whole thing up, that he was in control so he set it all up and that he really probably wasn't sleeping, he was peeking. You know, I've actually heard people say that, you know? He's laying and he's watching his disciples, watching them go through this thing. Of course, I know that isn't true because that involves him in manipulation, and Jesus is not a manipulator. No, he allowed this storm in their lives. He didn't put them into the storm. He didn't try to hurt them. And you know what? And Somebody said, "Well, did he create the storm"? How many of you know that Jesus doesn't have to create any special storms because storms are just a part of life? He just waits for the storm to come to show us how we can deal with it.
So, I don't think he created that storm specifically for his disciples. It was gonna storm that day no matter what. He was just with them when it happened. And in the midst of the storm, he showed himself to be so strong. You know, one of the beautiful things about growing older in Christ is the ability to look back over your shoulder and realize that, "I've been here before, and he was with me then. Why should I not expect him to be with me today"? So, we've talked about the probability that storms in our lives, and the paradox of it, and the presence who is the Lord, and the peace, and the purpose, and the product is, interestingly enough, the disciples came out of the storm, in some sense, with a different kind of fear that was greater than the fear they had in the beginning. For it says in verse 40, "Jesus said to them, 'Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?' And they feared exceedingly". I mean, at least in the beginning they feared. Now they fear exceedingly.
You say, "Well, what kind of help is that"? "And they said to one another, 'Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!'" Jesus said to his disciples, "Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith"? And he revealed a key concept about fear that we must not forget, the opposite of faith is not unbelief. The opposite of faith is fear. Belief breeds confidence, unbelief breeds fear. Essentially, Jesus was saying, "Why are you afraid? Don't you know I'm in this boat with you and I am God"? And that was the problem, they didn't know he was God. They hadn't come to that realization yet. The disciples had the problem that they knew his presence was there, but they didn't believe in his power. We are just the opposite. We believe in his power, but we don't think he's involved with us.
I want tell you something, he's involved with you. The Bible tells us that he knows everything there is to know about you. And especially when you're in a storm in your life, count on it, he's in your boat, and he's there. He's willing to wrap his arms around you, and help you, and strengthen you. He won't always make the storm go away immediately, but he will add to you the strength that you need so that you can get through it, not somehow, but with your hands up high. That's what he promises. I'd like to review this for a moment with four principles that come from this story that are enduring, lasting principles and I hope will be a blessing to all of us as we think about fear going forward in our lives. The promises for the storms in our lives, here's the first one, God's Word assures us of a safe landing.
Notice two verses, I love to put these two verses together. You have your Bibles still open to Mark chapter 4? Here are the two verses. The first one is verse 35 of the 4th chapter, Mark 4, verse 35. "On the same day, when evening had come, Jesus said to them, 'Let us cross over to the other side'". Got that one? Take your finger and just go all the way down the page to the first verse in chapter 5. "Then they came to the other side". Jesus said, "Let us go to the other side," Mark tells us they got to the other side. The interesting thing about this story is that there are two kinds of destinations that deserve our attention, temporary destinations, and ultimate destination. God assures us that we will arrive at our ultimate destination, life with him in his eternal kingdom, that is not up for discussion.
That promise alone should help us with all the kinds of fears that we face. This is not forever. This is something that's going on now. This too shall pass. We walk through the valley of the shadow of death, not into it. The journey might be rough, but the confidence that we have is that one day we're gonna spend eternity with the Lord, hallelujah. But, of course, God's Word also alerts us to expect stormy seas. The New Testament is salted with warnings about storms, and that's what's so surprising when Christians go through tough times and they act like, "Well, why is this happening to me"? Probably somebody told them, or they heard some preacher say, "If you're a Christian, all your problems go away". You gotta be kidding me. When I got saved, I inherited a few I've never had before. How about the rest of you?
Got some people that used to like you don't like you anymore now you're a Christian. The difference is, he's in our boat. He's in our car. He's with us and promises to carry us through and the ultimate promise is that one day we will be with him forever. Here's the third thing that I've learned, that God's Word announces that the Savior is on board. As a follower of Christ, I'd rather be with Jesus in the boat in the midst of a storm, than on the shore without him. And the Bible tells us that God's Word will drive that fear out of your life. I'd rather trust God going into a storm and know ahead of time that he's gonna care for me and I'm gonna be okay, than to have to figure that out while I'm in the midst of the storm. I'd rather build my trust and my faith in God so that when the storm comes, I know that the Lord Jesus and we're up to anything that life ever throws at us. But if I don't have that, I might have to go through the storm and learn it in the midst of the storm.
So, you can either trust God in the midst of the storm and learn it in the process, or you can learn to trust him ahead of the storm and know that he is sufficient for every need that you have. I know we're all creatures that deal with fear. Here's what I know that I can tell you that I hope you'll never forget, the more you build your faith, the less you will be terrified by fear. Life is basically a choice. We either live by fear or we live by faith. Faith comes by the hearing of the Word and the hearing of the Word, and the teaching of the Word and the understanding of the Word of God will little by little build you strong faith. If you stay strong in faith, if you build your faith in Christ, if you spend time knowing him, you will not ever feel alone in the storm and you will negotiate the storm by the grace of God, which I said before, with your hands of high. You don't have to be afraid.