The Perfect Answer To the Perfect Storm
By Bishop Joseph Garlington
Senior Pastor, Covenant Church of Pittsburg, Penn., USA
Foundation Scripture: Mark 6:45-52
Sunday 19th October 2014
Have you ever been through some situations in life and wondered, how much better it would have been if those problems arrived in order, in sequence and politely? Unfortunately, problems do not really come into our lives neatly; they instead gather round you like seagulls on a beach would behave if you began feeding one bird of a colony. What goes on around us when troubles invade our lives could be described as ‘perfect storms’. In the meteorological world, this is can be defined as a catastrophic weather that can cause all kinds of havoc.
From our foundation scripture in Mark 6:45-52, I would like to share with you several insights that I have gained, as I’ve been through stormy seasons personally and as a father to several sons and daughters in the faith, who have been through similar difficult periods in life.
In verse 45, we read that Jesus ‘made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side to Bethsaida, while He Himself was sending the crowd away’. This verse has this sense of command and urgency. As a matter of fact, there are things that happen in our lives, because we responded positively to God. So when God speaks to you, it is more of a command than a suggestion. God did not give Moses the ten suggestions, rather the ‘Ten Commandments’. The commandment ‘You must not steal’ was not a recommendation, but an order. So when Jesus told his disciples to get into the boat, it was a compulsory directive that had to be obeyed. And we need to come to a point with God, when we know His words to us are to be obeyed without hesitation – He will tell us, rather than ask us, to do some things, and our response should always be ‘Yes, Lord’.
I am reminded of a friend of mine who told me once, that when he wakes up every morning, he says to his wife ‘I am sorry’. He goes on to say that he knows that during the course of the day, there is that possibility that he may get some things wrong, so he says “I just get ‘sorry’ out of the way”. Conversely, we can learn from this and get “‘Yes’ out of the way” before God tells us to obey a directive He is going to give to us, days ahead. Our first big point from this scripture is this: Getting into the boat was His idea. More often than not, the things that goes on in our lives, is not because you were up to something, but because God was up to something. Here is how the Psalmist puts it: When You said, “Seek My face,” My heart said to You, “Your face, LORD, I will seek.” (Psalm 27:8).
In verses 47-48, we read the next phase of this story: ‘When it was evening, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and He was alone on the land. Seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them, at about the fourth watch of the night…’ The picture painted here is that of Jesus’ disciples rowing the boat in a perfect storm.
Psalm 23 comes to mind as I read this verse. It begins from a viewpoint of tranquility and quietude. ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He leads me beside the still waters…for His name sake’. Then it leads on to the unpleasant parts of this scripture: ‘Yea, thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…’ Here is the second big point: No matter what may be going on in your life, remember that God is with you and He sees you. Verse 48 points out to us that Jesus saw his disciples straining against the wind. Whether you can see or cannot see the way out, Jesus sees you. Job says of God; ‘When He acts on the left, I cannot behold Him; He turns on the right, I cannot see Him. "But He knows the way I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold (Job 23:9, 10).
God knows where you are and knows your name; you are not lost. He knows what you are going through. ‘Seeing them straining at the oars’ can be described as a testing phase of that journey, and could be translated ‘Touchstone’. A touchstone is a piece of rock that is used to measure the quality of gold and silver. There are situations in our lives that can be described as a ‘testing of our faith’, and those situations often appear to be assessing our identity; bringing to the surface who were really are. We must never forget though, that Jesus is a storm chaser, and He sees us and will ultimately deliver us from our trials.
In verse 48, let’s focus on that phrase ‘for the wind was against them’. God’s word admonishes us to resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7). Resisting the devil is part of our duty as Christians. Here is a great food for thought; ‘Where there is no resistance, there is no strain’. If you want to build muscle tissues, then you will need to start exercising. It is from exercising and the resistance you push against, that you begin to build the strength within you. When Apostle Paul was writing to the Corinthians, he said; ‘There is a wide-open door for a great work here, although many oppose me’ (16:9 NLT). Too many people often think that when they are confronting opposition, it is because they are doing something wrong. However, resistance is often an indication that you are doing something right. How many times, have you as a Christian been encouraged to be untruthful, conniving and slothful at your workplace? Soon enough, when you it is obvious that you are not complying, instead you are standing out and shining your light, resistance becomes inevitable. So, here is the third big point: When you are on a mission from God, you will often encounter resistance. So the question should not be ‘What am I doing wrong, but rather what am I doing right that is creating this type of whirlwind?’ Expect resistance, when obeying God, so that it would not surprise you when it occurs.
I remember once working out in order to be able to play squash better. My workout instructor gave me some weights to lift, repetitively for a couple of minutes. The following day, I woke up and could not move my arm. Here was a big lesson I learnt: Sometimes when God wants you to do something, you may experience pain before you experience pleasure. Here is a saying from the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) that I have found useful: ‘People don’t change until the pain of remaining the same exceeds the cost of a change’.
Let’s read verse 48 further: ‘Seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them, at about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them’. Many times, when you are out in a ship on the sea, the only light that is on the sea is from your vessel. Can you picture this with me? In first century times, it was pitch dark black on that sea, with a raging storm making conditions even more rough and precarious. Before long, one of the disciples sees something coming towards them, glowing in the dark. Verse 49 reads further: ‘But when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed that it was a ghost, and cried out'; Here is the fourth big point: ‘Often the answer to your problem is more frightening than the problem’. The scripture points out that when Jesus prayed, we are told that often is countenance would change. Is it possible that on this occasion, Jesus’ countenance changed? When you are in a frightening situation, what you are looking for is some form of stability. Many at times, what brings stability is not what you would like to have. Jesus’ solution may usually not turn out to be what you had in mind; it may be scary. However, it is imperative to go through this process, in order to receive your breakthrough. To get to it, you have to go through it. Here is a saying I have heard countless times: ‘The darkest hour is just before dawn’.
In verse 49 and the first line of verse 50 we read that phrase ‘they supposed that it was a ghost, and cried out; for they all saw Him and were terrified’. On two separate occasions, the disciples had this experience of ‘seeing a ghost’. The first encounter was in this scripture. They must have concluded that normal people would not walk on water, and if so, then the image coming towards them had to be supernatural, hence their trepidation.
On the second occasion, after Jesus’ resurrection, the bible records that ‘Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" (John 20:19, 26). Many atimes, Jesus wants to help us, and we must be willing to accept His help, the way he would like to help us.
Reading verse 50 further, we read ‘But immediately He spoke with them and said to them, “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.” Have ever noticed that in the bible, that more often than not, when the scriptures say, ‘Don’t be afraid’ or ‘Do not fear’, it is already too late? Here is the fifth big point of this passage: ‘Faith still comes by hearing’. If you are going to get to where God has in mind for you, then you have to believe what God has said. It’s time to believe what God has said.
I am reminded of the story of Elisha’s servant 2 Kings 6, who had already concluded that it was going to be a bad day. Elisha prayed that God would open his eyes to see the horses and chariots surrounding them, declaring: "Don't be afraid," the prophet answered. "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (Verse 16). When God opened the servant’s eyes to see this great scene in the supernatural realm, his faith was strengthened born out of what he could see. Conversely, for each one of us, there is a supernatural intervention that God has already prepared for us. To strengthen your faith, declare every now and again: ‘God is with me!’
Let me draw out another lesson from the same verse 50, which reads: ‘But immediately He spoke with them and said to them, “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.” Notice that Jesus is on the stormy sea, when he spoke these words. Right in the middle of the situation, he declares: ‘We’ve got this, we can handle this!’ Until you believe this, you will not be able to experience your victory. The stormier the situation, the bigger the banquet. Remember the words we read in Psalms 23? ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies’. Those words ‘before me’ is the Hebrew translation means: ‘panine’. Imagine a banquet set before you and your audience are all those who hate you. When the table is spread, most often times what we see are usually the enemies, instead of the banquet. Here is my thought: ‘if you can see the enemies, then the table is even closer!’ You’ve got to have this mentality, ‘there must be a table somewhere around here’.
In John 6:21 reads: ‘So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going’. What Jesus is looking for is my ‘Yes’. You must realize that what scares you does not scare Him. It must be said that some people are more focused on demonic attacks than they are on the power of God. So whatever you may be going through, your position should be ‘Lord, get into the boat with me’. However, remember that He wants to be captain, not the cargo. He wants to be in charge.
In addition to this, the bible records that they worshipped Him. Also as highlighted in John 6:21 above, immediately Jesus got into the boat, they got to the other side. Sometimes, when I am straining to find a solution to a problem, His response is often: ‘Let go, and I will make this happen’. I have realized that when I give up struggling with God, he often delivers on His promise. Here is the final big point that I want to leave with you – ‘Even though the disciples worshipped Jesus after He got into the boat, you need to worship Him before He does’. Worship is the key to breakthrough in every situation. Lifting our hands in a difficult circumstance, no matter what not only signifies worship, but much more an act of surrender. When we live our lives with such a disposition, we are simply saying ‘Jesus you are the perfect answer to the perfect storm!’
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