In the Midst of the Storm

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Hurricanes are a way of life for us in eastern coast of VA. These storms are a pain when they come, but we know that Hurricane season is between June 1st and November 30th. During this period, we can expect to be in danger of having one or more come our way. We had a near miss with Florence and we saw how Michael hit Florida hard in just the last 2 months. Did you know that hurricanes are needed? Without an occasional hurricane, the world’s weather might be even worse. It’s true; the fierce tropical storms regulate the heat balance between the tropics and Polar Regions. The tropics and subtropics receive more heat from the sun than they lose by radiation. To prevent cooling of the poles and scorching of the equatorial regions hurricanes help keep the balance. There is one thing worse than a known or planned storms; a storm that comes out of nowhere. Even with the technology we have today, a surprise storm still does appear out of nowhere from time to time. Michael was such a storm. It came out of nowhere and was fast.

None of us gets through life without experiencing a storm! In fact, most lives contain more than one storm which threatens our entire state of well-being. Storms take many different forms and affect our lives in many different ways, but all storms contain some common elements: they usually come on suddenly, they take us by surprise, they tend to fill our hearts with fear, and they test our faith. These storms of life become building blocks of faith which actually equip us for the storms which are yet to come.

Here are some common storms. Some of us have either gone through them already or will have them sometime in our lives. The storms of life are the storm of illness (sudden or prolonged); the storm of death (the death of a loved one, a child, a partner; especially one not expected to die); the storm of rejection (divorce, separation, abandonment); the storm of unjust criticism; the storm of emotional trauma (being hatred, anger, resentment, bitterness); the storm of physical loss (loss of home, loss of job, loss of money, loss of security); and the storm of an accident, or some event which may change the course of our life in an instant. Being Christians, we aren’t exempt from the storms of life. Even though we aren’t exempt from storms, we know the master of the storms.

John 6:14-21 shows an event in the life of the disciples that can teach us how to handle the storms that come out way. John 6:14-21 says;

16 Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, 17 and after getting into a boat, they started to cross the sea to Capernaum. It had already become dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. 19 Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened. 20 But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.

 

When reading or studying the Bible, it is always helpful to read a section within the content we find it. The event in verses 16 through 21 is sandwiched between the feeding of the 5,000 (with the 2 fish and 5 bread loaves) and Jesus’ teaching of being the “Bread of Life.” We can see 4 facts in John 6:14-21 to help us weather the storms that come our way in our life. They are Jesus sent them into the storm, Jesus, though unseen, was with the disciples in the storm, Jesus came to them in the midst of the storm, and Jesus got them safely through the storm.

Our first fact is Jesus sent them into the storm. Now this may be hard for some to understand. You might being thinking, “Isn’t Jesus the one who is supposed to protect us from the storms of life?” After all, doesn’t He say in Matthew 10:31 that “not one sparrow falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. The very hairs of your head are all numbered?” But if you check the context of that verse, it is not a promise of freedom from trials or storms of life. It was given to comfort the disciples as he warned them of the cost of being His followers. He was far from assuring them of exemptions from storms; that verse was comforting them that the storms of life would not overwhelm them.

So why would Jesus send His disciples out into a storm? There are 2 possibilities. One possible reason Jesus sent them into the storm was to protect them from temptation. John 6:15 says, “Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.” After Jesus feed the crowd, they wanted to make him their king. This desire of the crowd was not a temptation to Jesus. He knew what others did not yet understand. He knew that He was the Messiah, the King, but He knew that His kingdom was not what the Jews were really looking for. They were seeking a political leader of pomp and power, to lead them against Rome. He knew that they were far more concerned about the tyranny of Rome than they were concerned about the tyranny of sin. Jesus spoke continuously about his kingdom – the kingdom of heaven or the Kingdom of God.

Jesus did know that this desire of the crowd could be a huge temptation to his disciples. Here was the height of success! The disciples saw the huge crowds following their master; they saw his miracles of healing and multiplication of food; and now the people want to crown their master as King! This is the ultimate goal for anyone, right? The disciples weren’t mature enough to distinguish popularity from success. That sounds a lot like us, doesn’t it? Popularity is the fact people like and approve of you, but being a success means to attain a desired objective.

In this passage, the objective of the people was 180 degree opposite to the objective of Jesus. The crowd wanted Him to be the leader to free them from Rome, but His objective was to free them from the dominion of sin. Because Jesus knew this about His disciples, He sent them away in the boat while he sent the crowds away and went up into the mountain to pray.

Another possible reason Jesus sent the disciples into the storm was to teach them to trust Him more. This is not the first storm that they had been in. Just a few months before, they had been on this same sea with Jesus. That time Jesus was asleep in the boat when the storm was so bad that they thought they were going to drown. When they woke him up, He had stopped the storm immediately and then asked them why they were so fearful. So they had some experience with His power over the waves, and here was another opportunity for them to trust him. God will send us through storms to build our reliance on Him; to teach us that we can trust Him.

This reminds me a story I read about a father and son who went out in the country to enjoy some outdoor activities. They climbed around in some cliffs. While enjoying the moment, the dad heard a voice from above him yell, “Hey Dad! Catch me!” He turned around to see his son joyfully jumping off a rock straight at him. He had jumped and then yelled “Hey Dad!” The scene instantly turned into circus act; the dad catches the son. They both fell to the ground. For a moment after the dad caught the son, the dad could hardly talk. Once the dad calmed his nerves, he asked “Son! Can you give me one good reason why you did that?” The son responded with remarkable calmness: “Sure…because you’re my Dad.” The boy’s whole assurance was based in the fact that his father was trustworthy. The son in this story could live life to the hilt because his dad could be trusted. Isn’t this even truer for us Christians?

Our second fact is Jesus, though unseen, was with the disciples in the storm. This was no small rain the disciples were caught in. The Sea of Galilee is 600 feet below sea level. It is surrounded by hills, especially on the north, and down the east side, with mountains behind them. Deep rifts are cut through the hills down which the winds may naturally flow. As the air at water level is heated it rises swiftly, and cold air from the mountains and hills flows down through these cuts to turn a calm sea into a wavy violent storm in an instant. They had been rowing against this wind for several hours and still were far from shore. But while they were struggling on the sea, Jesus was praying up in the hills.

You see the storm was known to Jesus on the mountain. While they were struggling in their rowing against the teeth of the storm and the waves, Jesus was praying on the mountain. While his prayer may have chiefly concerned his future even to the cross, still I am sure that he also prayed for the disciples in the boat. The man Jesus Christ was Omniscient so He knew what was happening on the sea while He on up in the mountains praying. Nothing could happen to the disciples unless Jesus allowed it.

Now this experience should tell us something about the storms which we experience. Storms, while not enjoyed, serve a worthwhile purpose in our lives. Not all of our tests are earth shattering, life changing proportions. Most of our difficulties are relatively small, yet annoying. But if we can learn to trust Jesus in these distractions, it will strengthen our faith in daily living. Our storms allow us to grow in our relationship with Christ.

Romans 5:3-5 says, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

According to Romans 5, tribulation or troubles produce endurance; this endurance produces character; that character contributes to a new sense of hope, and this hope doesn’t disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. It’s like falling dominoes. When I was kid, I thought when people played the dominoes, they were actually setting up the dominoes and watching them fall. It wasn’t until I was older until I learned how to the play the actual domino game. When I was a kid, I’d set up the dominoes to watch them fall in neat ways. You see one domino falling affects the next one in line and so on until they all fall.

The storms that come our way should have a domino effect in our lives. These storms should produce endurance, and this endurance reveals our character (or who we are when no one is around), our character reveals our hope. This hope is what God has given us in Jesus Christ. You may not like storms, but you need the storms. Storms cause us to depend on Jesus Christ for help, especially when you cannot really help yourself. Storms not only demonstrate to others that you are a person of faith but they demonstrate to yourself that you have more faith than you even realize.

The Christian life is passed from one person to another, from life to life, so we can serve as an example of steadfastness and trust in Jesus while those who are younger in Christ can learn as they watch us in our storms. It’s like our children. They will react to things in their life the way they have seen us react to things. Good, bad, or indifferent.

It is important to remember that even though Jesus appeared to be absent when the disciples were struggling against the storm, He was well aware of what they were experiencing. The same is said when you are struggling through the storms you are in; He is with you. Nothing can happen to you unless He allows it.

Our third fact is Jesus came to them in the midst of the storm. While they were struggling with the oars and worn out after hours of effort, Jesus came to them over the water. We read this event and have heard it so many times before, we tend to forget Jesus walking on the water required the suspension of what we call “the laws of nature.” In studying this miracle it is important for us to remember that Jesus Christ is the One who created the heavens and the earth, and made the water in this sea. He’s the One who established the laws of nature. It was no more difficult for him to walk on the water than to make wine out of water or to multiply the 5 loaves and 2 fish. Though Jesus Christ was fully man, and submissive to the laws of nature, He was also God who could over rule those laws.

In Matthew’s account of this miracle, Peter asked that he might come to Jesus on the water and Jesus invited him to do so. Jesus also suspended the laws of nature to allow Peter to walk on the water. We’re not sure how many steps Peter took but he walked on water until he took his eyes off Jesus and panicked.

The disciples still didn’t grasp the extent of Jesus’ power and thought He was a ghost and were frightened. To reassure them Jesus identified himself in a very simple way; “It is I, don’t be afraid.” We see that they took him into the boat once they realized who was coming to them.

The best part about reading about the disciples is that we can see ourselves; don’t we? They are trying to rely on their own strength to battle through the storm. We do the same thing. We try to suck it up and battle the storms on our own. Remember, 2/3 of this group were fishermen who lived all their lives on the water. They figured they knew how to handle the situation; this wasn’t their first storm. They didn’t know that Jesus was with them all along, because they couldn’t see Him. When we get into a situation we aren’t familiar with, we often forget that Jesus is with us, too.

There is a poem called Footprints in the Sand that was help illustrate this idea what Jesus is always with us; through the good and especially through the bad times.

“One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.

In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.

This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord,

“You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”

The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”’

When we realize we need help, we cry out to Him. When we ask for help, He’s there every time because He’s always with us. When we realize He’s with us, our fears are calmed, and we approach our situation with a new sense of confidence and peace. Not confidence in our abilities but confidence that Jesus does what He says He’ll do.

The fourth and final fact is Jesus got them safely through the storm. The last sentence of this passage is interesting. Verse 21 says, “So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.” The Gospels of Matthew and Mark also include the walking on the water and the calming of the storm. Same accounts with different vantage points.

The account in John serves to show the calming effect that Jesus’ presence has on His disciples.

You see, before the disciples left to go on the water they had experienced a mountaintop event seeing Jesus feeding the 5,000 people. The fear of the storm yanked them back down to reality hard. They went from one extreme of a highest of the high to being terrified for their lives. They had a taste of success which could lead to overconfidence and a sense of pride in oneself. The storm showed these 12 men that they were just human; small in comparison to nature and all its power. When they were at their whit’s end and their power almost completely spent, Jesus came and calmed the storm and showed He was with them. He was the One who feed the people (not they) and He was the One who can secure them (not they).

So what can we learn from this event? One thing is certain, we do face, we have faced, and we will face storms in our lives. Such storms usually come suddenly, often unexpectedly, and frequently without preparation. Such storms usually trigger fear in our hearts; they usually emphasize our complete helplessness and leave us with nowhere to turn unless we are walking in complete dependence upon God. But the storms of life do not need to overwhelm us. If you are a Christian, if you have trusted Jesus as your Savior and Lord, then you have a wonderful promise in the Word of God.

Paul writes in Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to [His] purpose.” When we are in the storms of life, we can rest assured that we are not alone.

The eye of a storm is the calmest part of any storm. It is surrounded by the eye-wall, a ring of towering thunderstorms where the most severe weather and highest winds occur. The eye of the storm can be as much as 15 percent lower in intensity than the outer wall of the storm. In strong tropical storms, the eye is characterized by light winds and clear skies, surrounded on all sides by a towering eye-wall. In all storms, the eye is the location where the storm is at its calmest.

Just as in our passage, Jesus not only calmed the sea and storm, but in actuality He calmed the hearts of the disciples. The disciples went from being fearful for their lives to peace; the peace that only Jesus can offer. The presence of Jesus in our lives allows us to have peace; the peace that all the world wants but does not have. If you are in a storm right now and feel all alone, Jesus Christ is with you. You may not feel Him but He is with you. He will see you through whatever you are going through.

 

 

 

 

 

Resources

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One of the main reasons I write this blog is to equip those who follow Christ to grow in their walk with Him. In the spirit of this, below are the resources I used in writing the I Am series of posts. My desire is for you (the reader) to check these out and maybe start your own research of the many gold nuggets of truth in the Gospel of John. Thank you for reading. God bless.

Boyd, Gregory A. and Paul R. Eddy. Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009.

Burge, Gary M.. The NIV Application Commentary of John. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000.

Kostenberger J. Andreas. Encountering John. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1999.

Morris, Leon. Jesus is the Christ: Studies in the Theology of John. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989.

Townes, Elmer. The Gospel of John: Believe and Live. Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002.

 

The “I Am” Series: The Conclusion

The eighth “I am” statement is a series of statements throughout the ConclusionGospel of John (4:26; 8:24, 28, 58; 13:13, 19; 3:14; 18:5-6, 8).[1] These “I am” statements are also of crucial importance, since “I am” is the Old Testament name of God (cf. Ex. 3:14-15; frequently in Is. 40-66: e.g., 41:4; 43:10-13, 25; 45:18; 51:12; 52:6).[2] The use of “I am” statements involves a divine self-reference on the part of Jesus.[3] By using “I am” Jesus is identifying Himself as Yahweh.

John recorded Jesus using an emphatic “I am” to bring out important teachings about His person; that He is God.[4] In this series is posts, we looked at the two groups of “I am” statements; one group Jesus adds a predicate to His “I am” (i.e. “I am the Good Shepherd”), while in the other group, the “I am” stands by itself.[5] The main purpose for the Gospel of John is to show Jesus to be God. John records eight signs that point to Jesus’ divine power. John gives us several witnesses: John the Baptist; the Samaritan woman; Moses; the Father; Jesus himself, including His works; the Holy Spirit; the disciples; and the Apostle John himself. John also gave the eight “I am” statements. All these support the notion that Jesus is in fact the Messiah and the Son of God.[6]

 

 

 

[1] Elmer Towns, The Gospel of John: Believe and Live. (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002), xiv.

[2] Andreas J. Kostenberger, Encountering John. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1999), 261.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Leon Morris, Jesus is the Christ: Studies in the Theology of John. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989), 107.

[5] Ibid, 109.

[6] Andreas J. Kostenberger, Encountering John. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1999), 32.

 

The “I Am” Series: I am the True Vine

sealwood-vineyard-grapes[1]The seventh “I am” statement recorded in John is in chapter 15. Chapter 15 is a continuation of the Farewell Discourse. In John 15:1, Jesus says, “I am the true vine” and in verse 5, “I am the vine and you are the branches.” The vine and the vineyard were old and sacred images in Judaism. The vine represented the covenant people of God, planted and tended by Him so that Israel would produce fruit (Ps. 80:8-18; Is. 5:1-7; Jer. 2:21).[1] In the Old Testament Israel is depicted as the vine but in John 15 Jesus is the vine; He is the replacement for Israel as He is portrayed as the replacement of the temple and the fulfillment of the Jewish feasts.[2] Jesus embodies and fulfills God’s true intentions for Israel; He is the paradigmatic vine, the channel through whom God’s blessings flow and who bears much fruit.[3] Jesus replaces Israel as the focus of God’s plan of salvation, with the implication that faith in Jesus Christ; a paradigm shift is taking place in which faith in Christ is superseding keeping the Law. Paul writes, Christ is the end of the law” in Romans 10: He is its fulfillment and its replacement.[4]

 

[1] Gary M. Burge, The NIV Application Commentary of John. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 392.

[2] Andreas J. Kostenberger, Encountering John. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1999), 159.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

The “I Am” Series: I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life

Question

The sixth “I am” statement recorded in John is in chapter 14. Jesus and His disciples are in the upper room the night before the cross, and Jesus tells them in verse 6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” This is context of the Farewell Discourse that began in chapter 13.[1] This statement is an answer to the question asked by Thomas in verse 5 (“Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?”).[2] When Jesus said that He is “the way” looks back to John 10:9 where He says “I am the door;” meaning that there is only a single way to the Father.[3] This shows us the significance of his dying for sinners; He brings us to the Father.[4] “I am the truth” shows more than a piece of teaching but reveal that Jesus is truth embodied.[5] In saying “I am the life,” Jesus is alone whose life is unique, self-existent life of the Father.[6] All truth is God’s truth, as all life is God’s life; but God’s truth and God’s life are incarnate in Jesus.[7]

 

[1] Gary M. Burge, The NIV Application Commentary of John. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 389.

[2] Elmer Towns, The Gospel of John: Believe and Live. (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002), 141.

[3] Leon Morris, Jesus is the Christ: Studies in the Theology of John. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989), 118.

[4] Ibid, 119.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Gary M. Burge, The NIV Application Commentary of John. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 392.