Last week was a week of deadly storms. There were over 120 tornadoes in 11 states. Thirty-seven people were killed. The small town of Marysville, Indiana was completely destroyed except for the water tower. A mother held her small child in her arms as they huddled in their basement and the tornado sucked the small child right out of her arms. One 2-year old girl was found alive in a field alone 10 miles from her home. Her parents were killed along with her 2-month old sister and 3 year-old brother.
Storms can be terrifying to your psyche and devastating to your properity. What about your storms? How are you doing in your storms today? This is just the beginning of the storm or tornado season. But there are what Augustine called “The Seasons of the Soul.” Those turbulent times when our storms give us the opportunity to turn to God.
Maybe this is tornado season in your life. A time of minor or major crises. Crises that range from losing a job, new mortgage or loan, trouble with your boss, foreclosure, increased arguments with your spouse or teenage son or daughter, death of a close friend, personal injury or sickness, marital separation, divorce or death of spouse.
Jesus’s disciples are in one of their worst storms in Matthew 14. From their storm we learn that
1. Jesus Sends Us Into The Storms (Matthew 14:22-24)
A. Jesus sends us into storms after previous storms.
The disciples had already been in one storm in Matthew 8:23-27. Now Jesus had to “constrained” or force the disciples to go sea. Once you’ve been in one life threatening storm you don’t volunteer for another. The tornadoes that hit so many states this past week were followed by other tornadoes or aftermaths that struck about an hour later. In Harvest, Alabama, there was a couple who had just rebuilt from the tornadoes that destroyed their home last year. Jesus told us, “In this world you shall have tribulation” (John 16:33).
B. Jesus sends us into storms in order to train us.
Jesus sent the multitudes away who wanted to make Jesus King as well as his disciples because He wanted both to know the true nature of His kingdom. His kingdom is not about free food (John 6) nor popularity but storms that draw us closer to Him and train us to serve Him.
The feeding of the 5000 was a turning point in Jesus’ ministry. From this point on, He turned from the crowds and focused on training His 12 disciples. So when Jesus forced His disciples to go into the storm He was training them. What is different from the first storm (Matthew 8) is the physical absence of Jesus in the boat. Matthew 14:23, says Jesus was “alone” on the mountain while the disciples were fighting for their lives in the storm. Usually mentors are present with the students they are training. Jesus was training His disciples to walk by faith not by sight.
C. Jesus sends us into storms to do the will of God.
The disciples obeyed Jesus and were in a storm. The will of God is not always smooth sailing. Jonah, on the other hand, disobeyed God and endured a storm. Why are you in your storm? Because of obedience or disobedience.
D. Jesus sends us into storms while He is praying for us.
Contrast Jesus on the mountain in peace and calm alone with His Father praying and His disciples on the sea battling the elements. Christ our great high priest in heaven prays for us. To Peter, Christ will later say, “Satan has desired to have you that he might sift you, but I have prayed for you.” Listen to Paul confirm this blessing, “Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Romans 8:34).
Warren Wiersbe wrote, “If you knew that Jesus Christ was in the next room, praying for you, would it not give you new courage to endure the storm and do His will? Of course it would. He is not in the next room, but He is in heaven interceding for you. He sees your need, He knows your fears, and He is in control of the situation.
E. Jesus sends into storms while He is watching us (Mark 6:48 “He saw them toiling in rowing”). He is watching, praying, and controlling the height of the waves and the severity of the storm.
2. Jesus is With us in the Storm (Matthew 14:25-27)
A. When did Christ come? (verse 25)
Not at first but “in the fourth watch” or 3-6 in the morning after they had been rowing for 8 or 9 hours. Jesus came just in time. In Exodus 14:24, God delivered Israel from the Egyptians in the morning watch (not as they came out of Egypt, nor in the wilderness, but just before they entered the Rea Sea).
B. How did the Disciples respond to Christ? (verse 26)
The disciples are exhausted, fearful of dying, and now they see what they think is a ghost. A friend of mine once told me, “I don’t believe ghosts, I’m just afraid of them.”
C. What did Christ do? (verse 27)
He doesn’t rebuke these obedient but down followers. He comforts them in spite of their fears. David in Psalm 103 wrote, “He knows our frame, he remembers that we are but dust.”
D. Why did Jesus walk on the water?
Wiersbe explains, To show His disciples that the very thing they feared (the sea) was only a staircase for Him to come to them. Often we fear the difficult experiences of life (such as surgery or bereavement), only to discover that these experiences bring Jesus Christ closer to us. God allowed a storm of my own making to break my heart when I was still in the youth group. My finance and I had just broken off our engagement. Roy Goodson was preaching that week in our church and every night I would respond at the invitation until I finally got right with God. The storm that broke my heart paved the way back to Jesus.
3. Jesus Delivers us in the Storm (Matthew 14:28-33)
A. Peter walked on the water because he got out of the boat by faith.
When Jesus said, “Come” Peter by faith obeyed. This is not impetuous, impulsive, unthinking Peter. This is obedient Peter. This is one of his finer moments. I want to apply this act of faith in two areas.
1) First in Salvation
Are you still in the boat, when Christ has invited you to COME. Faith is not just mental accent but believing and acting. Read Hebrews 11. Jesus did not say to Peter, “Peter you are a veteran fisherman and excellent swimmer, SWIM.” We can’t come to Christ in our natural ability. Are you still in the boat with the eleven because you fear what they will say? I can hear doubting Thomas now as Peter throws his leg over the side and starts climbing down the rope ladder, “Peter, is your Life Insurance paid up, because your are going down. You better stay in the boat?”
2) Next in the area of surrender.
When I finally surrendered to Christ after the Roy Goodson meeting, God called me to preach. I wanted so badly to go to Bible College and learn God’s Word. But I did not want to take that risk and get out of the boat. I had fears. I can’t make it in college. I had funked the 8th grade and one year of high school.
Those I asked for counsel advised me not to go to college. I had to get out of the boat of fear of failure. When I took that step of faith God began to pour out His blessings on my life and has ever since.
B. Peter was rebuked not because he rashly got out of the boat but because he stopped trusting God.
Peter sank because he stopped trusting Christ and started focusing on the storm (verses 30-31). Christ did not rebuke Peter for coming to Him but for doubting Him. One preacher said, “If Peter had not gotten his eyes on the storm, he could have walked across the Atlantic Ocean.” Peter was delivered when he prayed. Whatever is overwhelming you, Christ can deliver. Jesus delivers us from ourselves in the storm. For the first time the disciples call Jesus the Son of God. There is great progress since the last storm in Matthew 8:23-27 where Jesus calmed the storm. Then they said, “What manner of man is this.” Now they realize Jesus is God.
This also is the first time the disciples worship Christ. Their worship is connected to their knowledge of who Jesus is: The God/Man. This new growth came not when they were sunning on the shores of the Sea of Galilee but when they nearly died at sea. The storm you are in right now, can be the tipping point in your life if you by faith get out of the boat like Peter and experience God’s power in your life.