Greg Laurie — Walking with Jesus through the Storms of Life
Have you ever attempted to do something for God that was a complete failure? If so, raise your hand up. Ok. We have a lot of failures in this service. Notice my hand was up too. We have all had our moments of failure certainly. Maybe it was that unsuccessful attempt to share the Gospel with someone. The whole thing just went down in flames and it was a mess. Maybe it was that prayer that you offered on behalf of a person who was sick and instead of getting better they actually got worse. Some years ago a friend of mine said, "I am so sick. Pray for me Greg". I prayed for him and he got worse. He said, "Don't ever pray for me again".
Or maybe it was that Bible study you started as an outreach in your neighborhood and nobody showed up. Whatever it was let me say this. Thank you for your failure. Yeah you heard me right. I would rather try and fail than never try at all. Besides failure is not always such a bad thing. The fact of the matter is failure often precedes success. We can learn from our mistakes. In fact failure can even in a way teach success because the doorway to success is often entered through the hallway of failure. What does that mean? I tried it. It didn't work this way. Tried this. That didn't work. Sometimes it is process of elimination. I finally sort it out. I do it the right way. It blows up in a good way. It has been said, "If at first you don't succeed, relax. You are just like the rest of us".
There are many that we can look at historically who tried many times to succeed at something and failed initially. Einstein failed at math before he discovered the theory of relativity. Can you imagine that? Einstein failing at math. Isaac newton had to have an apple fall on his head before he discovered the theory of gravity. Michael Jordan failed to make his high school basketball team before becoming a star member of the NBA. Steve Jobs was fired from apple computer. How is that for a brilliant move? Let's get rid of this jobs guy. He doesn't know what he is talking about. Of course he came back later in one of the most amazing turnaround stories in American business. Apple is one of the most successful companies in the world today.
I think a classic example of a man who failed but would not give up is president Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln failed in business in 1831. Then he ran for state legislature in 1832 and didn't make it. Then he tried to start another business in 1833 and that failed. Then in 1843 he ran for congress and was defeated. Then he tried again in 1948 and was defeated again. He tried running for the senate in 1855 and he lost. The next year he ran for the vice-presidency and he lost. In 1859 he ran for the senate again and was defeated. And finally in 1860 Abraham Lincoln was elected the president of the United States of America. How is that for determination? He is arguably the greatest president in American history. At least many historians think so because he saved the union. America could have been destroyed in the civil war for good. Lincoln preserved the union. I bring this up to say if you have failed, know this. You are in good company.
Now we come to one of the most well-known stories in all of the Bible. Maybe one of the most misunderstood as well. It reveals an element of failure but I would add it was a spectacular failure. In other words, if you are going to fail, do it like this. I am speaking course of the story of Simon Peter walking on the water. Let's read it again. We are going to read from Matthew 14 starting in verse 22. "Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he sent the multitudes away". Just a quick aside here. The story we read previously is where Jesus fed the 5,000 plus women and children with the loaves and fishes. Now he has dispersed the crowd and he is putting his disciples on a boat and he is sending them to the other side of the sea of Galilee.
Verse 23. "When he had sent the multitudes away, he went up alone to the mountain by himself to pray. Now when evening came, he was there alone. But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, 'it is a ghost!' And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'be of good cheer! It is I: do not be afraid.' Peter answered him and said, 'Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.' Jesus said, 'come.' And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid: and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, 'Lord, save me!' And immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, 'o you of little faith, why did you doubt?' And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped him, saying, 'truly you are the Son of God.'"
Is that not a great story? What do we learn from it? If you are taking notes here is point 1. Storms will come in life. That is just true in general isn't it? You look out and you see the clouds are getting gray. It is getting cooler. You say, "A storm is coming". Maybe you prepare for it. I always know how to get a storm to come. I just wash my car. It always works. Then are times when I can see a storm is coming. There are other times when I don't see it coming. It might be an unexpected powerful storm like a hurricane Katrina or a hurricane Andrew or something of that nature. Storms come in life. Let's think about that in life. Let's use storm as a metaphor for difficulty or hardship or tragedy. That too is going to come in life. The bad news is no matter what hardship will come into the life of every person. That includes every believer. But the good news is as a Christian you can learn through them and have great victories.
Here is another thing to remember. Storms don't last forever. I was watching a documentary last night on World War I. Many thought that was going to be a very short lived conflict. In fact one expert of the time said, "The blood that will be shed could be wiped up with a handkerchief". Oh huh. Famous last words. This war drug on for years. Millions of people lost their lives in it. For many it just seemed like the war would never end. But one day it did. That can be true of storms true too. You think, "Is this thing ever going to end? Is this trial ever going to stop? Am I ever going to get through this"? Just remember storms don't last forever. Did Jesus know a storm was waiting for them? Yes he did. In fact you could make a case for the fact that Jesus sent them into the storm.
Now did Jesus know a storm was waiting for them? Yes he did. In fact you could make a case for the fact that Jesus sent them into the storm. Why would he do that? Answer. To protect them. Protect someone while you are in a storm? Yes. What was he protecting them from? Are you ready for this? It will surprise you. He was protecting them from success. "No. No. You mean failure? You misspoke". No. I said success. Sometimes too much too fast can destroy a person. What was happening back in the story? Let's go back. He fed the 5,000 with the loaves and fishes. By the way that was the most popular miracle Jesus ever performed. People could say, "Raising the dead. That is cool. Giving sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf. But free food. Now we are talking. We will just follow this guy around. The food will be there every day. It is great". He fed them. In fact the people were so excited we read that they wanted to make him king by force. They basically said, "Ok. Jesus is the king. Let's put him into power".
If that would have somehow happened, that would have been a worst case scenario because Jesus was not coming to be their king in that regard. He was coming to die on a cross for their sin. He was not coming to wear a crown of gold. He was coming to wear a crown of thorns. If he was elevated to be their king his disciples would have been elevated with him. That would have been the worst thing for them because they weren't ready. Jesus in effect said, "Boys get into the boat and get out to sea". Off they went. They hit a storm. That is exactly what they needed because they were going to learn some very important lessons out there. This reminds us sometimes the things we dread most in life can be the best thing for us. He that stirred up the storm was the hiding place in it.
2. Jesus is watching us in our storms. Verse 23. "He went up on the mountain by himself to pray". Since this is a chronological look at the life, ministry, and miracles of Christ let's consider what another Gospel says. Mark's Gospel telling the same story tells us in Mark 6:48, "There on the mountain Jesus saw the disciples straining at the oars because the wind was against them". He was watching them. They were probably thinking, "Where is Jesus"? He was watching them. You might say, "Well Greg isn't that a long distance from a mountain to the middle of the sea of Galilee". Yeah. But this is the Son of God. He has something even better than X-Ray vision. Close up. HD. There it is. He knows everything that is going on. He is observing it.
It is one thing to say someone is watching. You could be suffering and someone is watching you. That is hardly comforting. Especially if they are smiling while you are suffering. "He he serves them right". He was watching. But he wasn't watching impassively. In fact I am sure Jesus was praying for them right there. Did you know Jesus is praying for you as well? Would it bring a measure of comfort to you if I were to tell you that in this room next to me here Jesus Christ the Son of God is praying for you by name right now? Whatever you are going through would that make you feel a little better about it? I have got good news for you. He is not in this room. He is in heaven interceding for you right now. That is what the scripture says. Romans 8:34. "Christ is at the highest place of honor next to God pleading for us". They could not see him but he could see them. He was interceding for them. He was concerned for them. He was going to take care of them through all of this.
3. Jesus helps us in our storms. Jesus helps us in our storms. I want you to notice when he came to his disciples. Verse 25. "Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them walking on the sea". That means these disciples had been laboring in this storm for some nine hours. Why did Jesus wait so long? No one can say with certainty but maybe because he wanted them to exhaust their resources. Sometimes God will let a problem go on and on. You think it is never going to end. Then there comes a moment where you say, "I have tried everything. I have done everything. I give up. Now Lord if you don't come through for me I will never make it". The Lord is like "Yes". Why? Because he is waiting for you to see that if he doesn't come through for you that you are not going to get through it because all along it was him that you needed.
Now Jesus comes to them. Verse 24. He went to them walking on the sea. Why? To show his disciples that the very thing they feared the wind and the sea was only a staircase for him to come to them. They don't know it is him. The freak out and in terror, and I love this. I find it humorous, they think it is a ghost. It sounds like a Scooby Doo cartoon. A ghost. It is not a ghost. It is Jesus. Why didn't they know it was Jesus? Listen to this. Because they weren't looking for him. A lot of times God is there but we don't see him because we are not looking for him. You are never going to know Jesus as deeply as you can until he comes to you in the midst of a storm. Let me say that again. You may know Jesus now but you will never know him deeply until he comes to you in the midst of a storm in life.
I love what Job wrote in Job 42:5. He said, "I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see you". In other words, Lord I know you deliver people. I know you answer prayers. Now I know it for myself. Has that happened to you yet? Has he come to you in your storm of life? You can read something in a book. You can hear a story from someone else or in a sermon. But when he comes through for you it is a whole new world isn't it? That is what was happening to these disciples right now. Jesus is coming to them walking on the water. Look at his words in verse 27. "Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'be of good cheer! It is I: do not be afraid.'" That phrase be of good cheer could better be translated be courageous.
Peter was. The moment he saw the Lord. He knew everything was going to be all right. Peter does something that is unbelievable. Peter cries out, "Lord if it is you tell me to come". Some have critiqued Peter for this saying this was presumptuous. How dare he do such a thing? Wait a second. He didn't just do it. He asked permission. He says, "Lord if it is you tell me to come". What does Jesus say? Verse 29. "Come". If Jesus didn't want him to come he would have said, "No. Stay. Sit". He didn't do that. "Lord if it is you tell me to come". "All right. Come on Peter". Peter throws his legs over the side of that boat and puts his full weight on the water and begins to do the impossible.
Listen. I admire Peter. Even when he messed up his failures were spectacular. No other apostle has more recorded words in the Gospels than Simon Peter and no one is rebuked more often than Simon Peter. Every time I still admire him because it always seems to me his heart was in the right place. He just went about it in the wrong way. Sometimes we start out doing something for the Lord. We take a bold step of faith. We walk on the water so to speak. Then we start to sink. Why do we start to sink? Different things can cause it. It might be circumstances. When that doctor says, "There is no hope for you. Get your affairs in order. There are only days to live". When that threat is made against your life that seems so ominous. When that lawsuit is filed and you are named in it. Or when the preacher says, "One more thing". That was a joke. Forget that.
There are things that frighten us. He began to sink because he was afraid. Verse 30 says he was afraid. Faith gave way to fear and trust gave way to worry. Listen to this. Where faith reigns, fear has no place. Where fear reigns faith is driven away. Because fear is a powerful and very real emotion that can overtake you. So he is sinking because he took his eyes off of the Lord.
Years ago we were over in Hawaii. My youngest son Jonathan wanted to learn how to scuba dive. I am already certified which means I can dive when I want to with tanks and such. I signed him up. It is an all-day course and the next day you get to go out and do an ocean dive. He went through the training. I said, "I am already certified. Can I come along on the dive"? He said yes. You learn how your equipment works. You learn how to put it on, how to take it off. Then you go into the pool and test it out. The next day is the dive. It was a beautiful day. I knew it was going to be fantastic. We weren't far from the shore. It was going to be great.
The next morning comes and the ocean is turbulent. The boats are pitching back and forth. I wanted to cancel it. We were already committed. We had already paid for it. We get into this little boat. I haven't dived for a while so I am a little rusty. You have your tank, our BC, your inflatable vest, your mask and snorkel. You have got your weight belt and aqua long and all of this stuff. Then you fall backwards into the ocean. That is counterintuitive by the way. The last thing you want to do is fall backwards into the ocean with 80 pounds of weight strapped to your body. You fall backwards. We are in the water now. We are bobbing around. I am starting to panic. I don't want to let Jonathan know. I am "Certified".
I look over at him. He was more panicked than I was. His eyes were as big as saucers. I love what the instructor did. He said, "Jonathan look at me. Jonathan look at me". Jonathan looks at him. I am looking too. He says, "Remember your training". Right. And the moment we got below the surface it was just calm and beautiful. All of the fish. It was great. That is how we are in life. We are panicking. We are freaking out. Jesus says, "Look at me. Look at me. Remember your training". What are we told in Hebrews? It says, "Lay aside the weight and the sin that so easily besets you. Run with endurance the race that is set before you looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of your faith". That is what Peter did. Now he is sinking because he has stopped looking at Jesus. Verse 31. "Jesus stretches out his hand and caught him, and said to him, 'o you of little faith, why did you doubt?'" Peter cries out, "Lord save me". The Lord reached out and answered his prayer and he saved him.
Are you sinking right now? Is your life filled with worry or defeat or fear? Maybe you are in the grip of some addiction. Maybe your marriage is in trouble. You feel reluctant to cry out to God. That is the very thing you should do. Cry out to God and God will be there to rescue you. Jesus could have said, "I am just going to let you flounder in the water a little bit". "Lord save me". "Yeah whatever". No. We read immediately Jesus reached out and saved Peter. Immediately. He didn't wait for a while. He got right in there and took care of him. That is what we need to do. We need to call out to the Lord in our time of trouble. Maybe you are in a storm right now. You are wondering why this is happening. I wish I could tell you. I don't always know the answers but I know who does. We look at the temporal. God looks at the eternal. We look at the small picture. God looks at the big picture. We look at the here and now. God is looking at the bye and bye. God has a plan. He is going to work it out in your life.