Sermon Text: Mark 4:35-41
Rev. Charles W. Papenfuss
We get some pretty severe storms here in Wisconsin, don’t we? In the summer it’s thunderstorms, with lightning and thunder and high winds and buckets of rain pouring from the sky. In the winter it’s snowstorms with all kinds of the white fluffy stuff piling up in the driveway and howling winds to boot. Everybody gets excited when the storms come–the family dog, the kids, the people on the radio–and rightly so, for Wisconsin storms can be scary and can wipe you out, if you don’t take them seriously.
That’s the way life is. We all want nice sunny days with gentle breezes, but it simply doesn’t turn out that way. Life is full of all kinds of storms–storms where we’re drowned by the rain or whipped around by the wind or battered by cold or cooked by the heat. When that happens, the wonderful truth of God’s Word is that Jesus has help for us. This morning let’s look at this wonderful Bible passage we have in front of us and remember this precious truth:
WHEN THE STORMS COME
- Trust Jesus! He is with you
- Relax with Jesus! He is in control
In our text it has been a long day for Jesus of teaching the people God’s Word from a boat on the Sea of Galilee. Telling parable after parable, Jesus has taught about the kingdom of God, about Himself as the Messiah, about the forgiveness of sins He Himself would earn and the forgiveness God Himself gives His people in the gospel. It was work for Jesus, and that work wore Him out, but the day was now over, and it was time for Jesus to cross the lake and get ready to do some more work the next day on the other side. That’s when the storm came. We read: “A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so it was nearly swamped.” The cool air of the Mediterranean Sea clashed with the hot and humid air of the Sea of Galilee, so the result was what happened in our text–a storm. It was sudden, it was violent, it was intense and it stirred up the waves enough to swamp the boat.
That sounds like our life, doesn’t it? How often aren’t we sailing along in life, cruising in the sunshine, enjoying the fine weather and thinking, “Life is great!” and then all of a sudden, “Bam!”–the storms come. We have a big argument with the boss at work. We have a fight with a family member. We lose our job or lose our lease for our apartment. We don’t pass the exam. Our boyfriend or girlfriend dumps us. Someone we thought was a friend stabs us in the back. We find out we have cancer. Our bodies begin to hurt, and the doctor tells us we have to go on this or that medication for the rest of our life. And, of course, worst of all, we have to deal with death, our last and greatest enemy–the death of a friend, of a family member, maybe even our child or our parent or our spouse. And we cry, and we cry, for the wheels have come off. A violent storm has hit us in our life.
When the storms come. What do we do now? There’s a key sentence in our text we don’t want to miss when the storms come into our lives. We read: “Leaving the crowd behind, the disciples took Jesus along, just as he was, in the boat.” When the storms come, remember, Jesus is with you. We take Jesus along with us wherever we go in life. That’s because we have His Word and His promises. Jesus says to us, “Lo, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Jesus tells us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” We have Jesus along with us, for His Word has come to us and converted us. So we take Jesus with us wherever we go. We know how much He loves us, how He lived and died for us to take away all of our sins. He has claimed us as His own in baptism. He has poured out His Spirit into our hearts to make us into believers. He feeds us with His Word and nourishes us with His Supper. He has promised us that He will make everything in our lives work out for our good. Jesus fills this whole universe right now with His presence, so we know that He is right there by our side in all the furious winds and waves that come to us in life. When the storms come, trust Jesus. He is with us.
As we live our daily lives, let us focus our thoughts on this truth: Jesus is with us. He is with us through His Word. This is why we love the Word of God so much–it assures us that Jesus is with us. That’s why we need to take God’s Word with us when we go on vacation. Pack your Bibles, like you do your clothes and your swimming suit when you travel. Find a way daily to center your attention on some Bible truth, some Bible passage, some Word from Jesus to you. And take advantage of weekly worship services and weekly Bible studies with your fellow Christians. Jesus is with us daily as we think of passages we have memorized and pray the words of the Bible back to Jesus in all our daily events. When the storms come into our lives, Jesus is with us as we remember the truths of the Holy Scripture. Trust Him! He’s right there on the pages of His Word.
Notice how Jesus calls His disciples out for their lack of trust, their lack of faith in our Scripture text today. He says: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Now we need to understand what Jesus is saying here. He’s not accusing His disciples of not believing in Him as their Savior from sin. He’s not saying that His disciples are unbelievers going to hell. He’s chiding His disciples for their refusal to apply their faith, to put their faith into practice, to apply God’s Word to this specific situation, this storm that has come into their lives. The disciples were not acting on the truth of God’s Word that says that even in the middle of a tumultuous storm that was threatening to drown them, God would still take care of them and rescue them from it in His own way and time. They were refusing to take God at His Word and draw the consequences of that Word for themselves in this specific situation.
So often Jesus has to say the same to us. When the storms come, trust Jesus. He is still with us and His Word still applies. But like the disciples we also begin to doubt and worry and wring our hand in anxiety. Our hearts are full of upset with God. So Jesus says to us, “Do you still have no faith?” Jesus is not saying to us by that question that we are unbelievers, that we don’t believe in Him as our Savior. What Jesus is saying is, “Why are you so doubting? Why are you so anxious? Why are you worrying so much? Trust Me! Trust My Word! Put those passages you know into practice! Live those promises I have made to you.”
Now for that to happen, we need more gospel Word in our lives. When the storms come, we can’t look within ourselves and try to find the power within to get through it. Jesus Himself will strengthen our weak faith with His gospel promises. So we go to worship services and hear our pastor pronounce absolution. We hear a sermon about how much God has promised to take care of us. We come to the Lord’s Supper and we receive the very body and blood of Jesus as proof that He is with us. We are reminded of our baptism, where God Himself performed an adoption ceremony into His family. We consider gospel promise passages like: “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not be in want.” Or “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” Or “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” When the storms come, trust Jesus. Run to His Word. He is with us. He loves it when we come to Him with our weak faith.
Let’s go a little deeper into our text today and see another point to remember when the storms come into our lives. That other point is this: When the storms come, relax with Jesus! He is in control.
As Christians we readily confess that Jesus is our Savior from sin. But so often we hang on to ourselves and look to our own strength for daily living. We believe that Jesus is good for getting us to heaven, but we think we’re the ones who have to get ourselves through life on this earth. But Jesus is not only in control in His church. He’s also in control in our world, too. For example, in nature. Those actual, physical storms that we experience in life–Jesus is in control of them. Remember what they said in our text: “Who is this man? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” So when storms come, relax! Jesus is in control. Apply that to things like the heat waves that come, or when we have tons of rain, or when people talk about global warming and climate change, plus all the things that happen in our environment. Yes, we are to take good care of our planet and you can go “Green,” if you want–but we do all of this in the fear of the Lord, knowing that Jesus is always in control of everything that happens to this world.
There are other areas for us to relax with Jesus, to remember that Jesus is in control in our world. Take our nation, for example, and the countries of our world. Jesus is in charge of all the nations of the world, and that includes our United States of America. We don’t need to wring our hands in worry over whether our country will be attacked by foreign invaders or destroyed by a global recession or undermined by an evil social system. We don’t have to have sleepless nights of concern over which direction our country is going politically or morally or economically. Instead we can thank God for giving us our country and praise Him for the blessings He continues to give us. This is so applicable as we have just celebrated our country’s 4th of July Independence Day. Jesus is in control. We can relax in His loving power being exerted for us in our land, even when the storms come to our nation.
Jesus Himself models for us how to relax in our text. Even during the storm, what do we find Jesus doing? We read: “Jesus was in the stern of the boat, sleeping on a cushion.” The storm comes up, the wind gets wild, the waves wash over the boat–and Jesus is sleeping! He didn’t panic, He didn’t overreact, He didn’t shout and scream and rant and rave and wail and make a big scene. He calmly relaxed, knowing He was in control.
When the storms come into our lives, try taking a deep breath and relaxing. Step back, catch yourself, and review what’s going on. Fix your eyes on Jesus and remember who He is–King of all kings and Lord of all lords. So often we panic, just like the disciples in our text who said: “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” What a dumb question! Of course Jesus cares for us. He tells us all the hairs on our head are numbered. He’s put food on our tables and clothes on our backs for many, many years. He’s rescued us from colds and flus and all kinds of other medical problems. He’s shown His love for us for years in how He’s taken care of us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Above all else, He’s died for us to take away all our sins. He went to hell and back for us. Of course He cares for us. Let us relax in that Word of His that tells us He will give us exactly what we need until we get to heaven.
When the storms come. God has a purpose for them when they do. Here in our text that purpose is to drive the disciples to trust Him more and be more committed to serve Him in the future. Same for us. When the storms come into our lives, God has a purpose for them. He wants you and me to trust Him more and serve Him better through them. He wants you and me to see in those storms opportunities to display His glory in us. He wants to drive us into His loving arms and teach us to relax in His eternal love. Whatever your specific situation is, whatever storm you’re going through now and in the future, your Savior Jesus is sending you that storm to get you closer to Him.
Notice my sermon theme today is not, “If the storms come,” but “When the storms come.” There’s no question whether we’ll have them or not; storms will come. But it’s a matter of when they occur, what do we do? We look to Jesus. We trust Him in His Word, and we relax in His powerful control.