December 13, 2009
INTRODUCTION – Our church exists to help each of you, and any and every other person we can influence in any way to make their highest priority and passion in life – – to know and follow the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the risen, exalted Savior of the World. He is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. He is the one that even people who do not know Him are singing about in these days leading up to Christmas – – because deep down everyone knows that only He can “free His own from Satan’s tyranny; and save them from the depths of hell and give them victory o’er the grave” as O Come O Come Emmanuel so passionately states.
This Savior has an agenda; a set of purposes and plans. He is on the move. There are things in His heart and mind for every person, family, neighborhood and city on the earth today. And we have the privilege and responsibility to follow Him, and be His instruments to see His plans and purposes fulfilled on the earth.
Many of you have been aggressively following Him for some time now. Some of you may be fairly new to this pursuit. Some of you might be still entertaining the idea. One thing all of you need to know is that one of His great purposes and passions for you – is that you might be a person of great faith in Him. And that your faith might free you to live above your circumstances, and thus be His instrument in this sin wracked world – where so many people have become depressed and even hopeless because of their circumstances.
Jesus Christ is looking for followers. And He expects His followers to be men and women of faith. Soon after He started His ministry, Matthew chapter four tells us He came across two men – Peter and Andrew – and in no uncertain terms He said to them, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” In the passage just previous to our passage for today, Jesus Christ interacted with two would be followers and lovingly, but very straightforwardly dealt with the issues of the heart that was keeping them from truly following Him.
This morning I believe He wants to deal with some of our issues so we can follow Him more fully and completely. To cooperate with Him in that endeavor – I would like for you to turn in your Bibles to Matthew 8:23-27. From this passage I want to share three things that are crucial for you to know and heed if you are going to truly be a follower of our Savior and Lord.
Here is the first one. I. Following Jesus will get you in some tight spots and potentially scary predicaments. If for whatever reasons, you thought that following Jesus would put you in some kind of buffer zone, where everything goes smooth as silk, … well you need to adjust your thinking. Look with me at vs. 23,24. (read it) These disciples, unlike the two rather flaky men Matthew described in vs. 19-22, were serious about following Jesus. When Jesus jumped in a boat they followed right after Him. In a short time, previous to boarding this boat, they had seen Jesus heal all kinds of diseases, and cast out all kinds of demons; so they knew they were following not just any ole religious leader. I’m sure the last thing they expected – being in the physical presence of Jesus – was an out of control storm that appeared to be their demise.
Now sudden storms were not uncommon on the Sea of Galilee. But this one was evidently a doozy! In fact the greek word translated “a great storm” is the word “seismos”, which is the greek word for earthquake that we get the word seismic from – – which may have indicated the combination of thunder and waves – truly making it feel like the whole world was caving in on them.
These disciples – some who were seasoned fishermen – were scared spitless; and to their shock – – Jesus Christ was sound asleep. Now you may be wondering – if the storm was really that dangerous and awful – – how could Jesus sleep? Well I think the answer is – He being fully man as well as fully God – though while on earth – choosing not to operate by His attributes of deity – – was absolutely exhausted. We know from the context of this passage that He had ministered way into the wee hours of the morning without a break.
Jesus’ human body was a real human body that like yours and mine needed replenishment and rest. He was not the cosmic ever ready bunny. And because He knew no sin, which meant among other things that He entertained no worry or anxiety, He was able to fall right to sleep, when He finally had the opportunity to do so.
The encouraging thing today is – while he had human limitations then – He has none today. But you need to know – there will be times in your journey to follow Him where it will seem like He is asleep, and the whole world is crashing in on you; and He either doesn’t know about it, or doesn’t care, or He just can’t or won’t do anything about it. These disciples probably thought when they climbed into the boat – – that they would get some isolated time with Him, and hopefully another of those wonderful teachings. But Jesus saw this boat ride as a training exercise. He was out to produce fishers of men according to Matthew 4:19, and fishers of men must learn to accurately assess their circumstances, and not be rattled or misled by them.
So if you find yourself in a very tight spot these days; and you have been sincerely trying to follow Jesus – – please know that this is not unusual; nor is it accidental; nor will it be wasted. You are right where He wants you; and it will only last as long as His training objectives require. The second thing that you must know and practice if you want to truly and successfully follow Jesus Christ is this:
II. Following Jesus will require that we learn to cry out to our Savior in the midst of these predicaments. Jesus Christ fully expects that His followers or disciples – in the midst of a storm or difficult circumstance – will immediately cry out to Him for help. Follow along as I read vs. 25 Please note that Jesus did not say, “Why are you waking me up? Or Why are you bothering Me? Or “Get a life, and close the door on the way out!” Jesus fully expects us to run to Him in the midst of any difficult circumstance, challenge, tragedy, calamity, or problem.
But can I point out something here that commentators rarely seem to see or think much about? While this principle applies to individuals, this story did not happen to an individual, nor did an individual run to Jesus and ask Him to intervene. This happened to a group of disciples, and they all came to Him according to vs. 25.
The more I study this book, the more I see – that following Jesus is impossible unless you are united with others in prayer. When you lose a job in this challenging economy, Jesus Christ expects you and those you are linked up with relationally to come to Him together for help and provision and for rescue. Part of being the church is learning to come to Him together for help and rescue and deliverance and provision when the bottom falls out. You were never meant to fight these battles alone. While Jesus welcomes you as an individual to come to Him at any time for anything, I believe He is especially pleased and moved when we come to Him as His body/His people.
This upside down economy has been an earthquake to many. If it hasn’t affected you, you are the exception. Every time the worship team, or the youth team, or the elders and wives, or the Hispanic ministry team, or the MC alum team, or a truth project home group, or a ladies tea, or the Bread of Life ministries team gets together – you need to know that your greatest privilege and greatest responsibility is to cry out together to the only One who can do anything at a root transforming, circumstance altering level in your situation.
Our balloon payment – presently at about $130.000.00 –due in full in June of next year – is somewhat seismic. We need Him who owns it all to move on our behalf. I believe He will – especially when He sees us as a united congregation coming to Him regularly for His intervention and provision.
Well there is a third thing you need to know if you want to follow Jesus Christ in a way that is worthy of His great name.
III. Following Jesus will require that we learn to cry in faith, not fear – vs. 25-27 (read it) True followers of Jesus must learn to pray in faith and confidence in the faithfulness of God, and expectation in the deliverance and response of God; and not out of fear and panic.
True Disciples of Jesus should have a reasonable expectation and confidence that He is up for the task; and thus our circumstances are not to be feared.
Have you ever noticed how many times Jesus rebukes His disciples for fear; and calls them up to a greater faith? Jesus is not honored and glorified when we walk in fear. It is ultimately a reflection on what we think of Him. By the way – in my Bible there is a little one before the word “afraid” that points me to the margin where I find that it could also be translated “cowardly”. Please note that the opposite of being cowardly is not being brave; it is having a strong faith and expectation that Jesus will come through.
Jesus welcomes our desperate cries; but He does not appreciate our declarations of doom. Just like our declarations of faith bolster our faith and the faith of those around us. Our declarations of doom dampen our faith and the faith of our companions. These disciples were not perishing. They might have been getting wet, and they might have been ready to launch or lose their innards over the bow; but He was not going to let them perish. And He did not appreciate their declaration to the contrary. Please do not lose sight of the fact that Satan is the ultimate worst case scenario inspirer. He lives to paint the worst possible picture of what could happen (if God is not in the picture and does not intervene).
Perhaps in the back of your minds some of you are wondering if Jesus wasn’t a little harsh with these disciples…. After all they were in a terrible storm; and the waves were crashing over the sides of the boat… My response to that would be – – these disciples were all Jews. And because they were Jews they should have been very familiar with the Old Testament scriptures – especially the Psalms. And at least two of the Psalms are very clear about God’s control over and intervention in nature on the behalf of men. For instance, Psalm 89:8,9 says, “O Lord God of hosts, who is like You, O mighty Lord? Your faithfulness also surrounds You. You rule the swelling of the sea; When its waves rise, You still them.”
Or what about Psalm 107:23-30? “Those who go down to the sea in ships, Who do business on great waters; They have seen the works of the Lord, And His wonders in the deep. For He spoke and raised up a stormy wind, Which lifted up the waves of the sea. They rose up to the heavens, they went down to the depths; Their soul melted away in their misery. They reeled and staggered like a drunken man, And were at their wits’ end. They they cried to the Lord in their trouble, And He brought them out of their distresses. He caused the storm to be still, So that the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they were quiet. So He guided them to their desired haven. “
I’ve often said with those I’ve coached over the years in basketball that you can’t control the talent you have been given, or not given. You can’t control your height or lack of. But you can control what kind of shape you are in. You may not be the tallest and you may not be the most talented; but you can be the most fit.
Well in the same way, you cannot control what spiritual gifts you receive from the Holy Spirit. You cannot control what opportunities you are given or what family you are born into. But you can control what you know about this God that you claim to serve. He has revealed so much of Himself in this book. And He has led scholars to translate it in your own language! Spiritual fitness is daily meditation in these pages – applying what they say to your present circumstances. One of those disciples should have been able to wake Jesus up and say, “Lord, it says in the Psalms that you still the waves – – please still them now; and we will trust you to do so.” And one of those disciples should have been able to say to his compatriots, “brothers I was reading recently in Psalm 107 about our forefathers crying out to God in a very similar situation as ours, and God came through. He will as well for us. Do not fear. “ That’s what should have happened in that boat.
The encouraging thing to me in this passage is even though they were fearful or cowardly, they did have a little faith, and Jesus, though miffed at their fearfulness, saw that faith – little as it was – and responded to it. A little faith is better than no faith at all. But what Jesus expects of His disciples is great faith that is in keeping with His great Name, and His great track record, and the great revelation He has so generously made available to us.
Our passage goes on to quote these disciples who went from utter panic to utter amazement for how this man could get the winds and sea to so perfectly obey Him. And there was no doubt in their minds that that was the reason for such a drastic change in the weather. He spoke and the winds and sea heard His voice and immediately and fully obeyed Him.
That is the authority He walks in, and the level of control He has over every circumstance that we encounter. And that is why faith and not fear should always be our response when the bottom falls out and our world seems to be caving in.
Now I think it would be a mistake to leave this morning and not practice what I have been preaching. So I would like for you to gather now in small groups of 4-6 people; and I would like for you to pray together about some of the storms you might be in personally, or that we are in as a church – such as our balloon payment; or that we are in as a community, state and/or nation. You can also pray that we as a congregation will grow in faith, and come to hate like He does the sin of fearfulness.