Whoever we are and whatever stage of life we are at, we will all face our own personal storms – for some it will be in relationships; for some it will be health related; for others it will be financial or to do with work – maybe all of those things at different times or even the same time; or maybe something else altogether. But I can guarantee that we will face storms in this life. How we handle them will determine how much and how fast we grow.
I was actually writing this as a storm raged outside and I was very glad I was inside, but it was very topical and appropriate and really helped focus my mind on the subject.
Let’s look at when Jesus was in a storm:
As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”
A storm is WILD, SCARY, FIERCE, out of control, life-threatening.
The disciples found themselves in a terrifying situation – there was a huge storm and the water was coming in over the top of the boat. They were convinced they were going to drown, but Jesus was in the boat, so they woke him up and cried out to Him to save them.
I’ve heard loads of talks on this passage, all pretty much the same. Is Jesus in your boat? Then you’ll be fine. Which is true. But I think we need to look at Jesus’s posture here in the boat. Now he could very well have been pretty worn out. He got up early to spend time in prayer with his father, then he’d probably been teaching all day and ministering, which is exhausting! So he fell asleep. Now I am married to someone who can literally fall asleep anywhere in a split second, and stay asleep through virtually anything.
So I can see Jesus’ point of view.
However, I think there was more to it than that. Yes there was a storm. Yes it was serious. Yes it was coming in over the top.
But jesus knew that storms come and then they go.
He also knew who he was. The son of God.
And he knew his purpose and destiny. He knew that he wasn’t going to die in a storm.
He had complete faith in Father God. However bad things looked, he wasn’t going to die in that storm.
Now I have a lot more to say than that in this blog, but let’s start off with this.
You are also a son of God and joint heir with Jesus Christ.
You have a purpose and a destiny, and you are not going to die in this storm!
So stand up, rebuke the wind and waves, and wait for the storm in your life to calm down and become peaceful again.
How do you end up in a storm? Mostly they just come along as with any weather. It doesn’t mean we have done anything wrong. They just happen. We are told in James that storms will definitely come along in our life – they are to develop patience in us, and to make us perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
Just occasionally though the storm is of our own making. This ties in with the law of sowing and reaping. Galations 6:8 says: Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
Whatever you are doing with your life, you are sowing seeds and you will reap a harvest. Sometimes we can be sowing to both the spirit and the flesh in different ways, and the harvest of both will come up at the same time. It’s good to keep this in mind, because if we want to reap good things in our lives, we need to make sure that as much as possible, we are sowing to the spirit.
However, if you are sowing to the flesh, there will be a negative harvest coming up and it could very well end in a storm. Let’s look briefly at Jonah.
1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
3 But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.
4 Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. 5 All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.
But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. 6 The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”
7 Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”
9 He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”
10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)
11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”
12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”
13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.
17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Funny that in the first passage, Jesus fell asleep, and in this passage, Jonah falls asleep. He doesn’t have any fear or anxiety about the storm, but he was the cause of the storm.
The thing that Jonah had to do to get out of the storm was to go back to the last thing that God told him to do.
The last thing God told him to do was to go to Ninevah.
As soon as he re-corrected his course the storm stopped!
So when you find yourself in a storm, go back and see what was the last thing God told you to do, and have you done it?
If you ask God with an open heart, and you hear nothing, then you are probably in a storm of life that is not your fault and you can choose for this to be a time of growth for you.
Is there any way of preventing it? No not really. You can be forewarned, but it’s just a case of waiting it out and waiting for the sun to come out again. But really if we want to grow in character and be more like Jesus, we need to go through the storms!
What to do in the middle of the storm – don’t go out in it! Wear proper clothing/equipment, be prepared.
Equipment list for a storm: Protective clothing. The armour of God
Posture: standing, ready, not curled up in a ball. Or asleep because we are so utterly confident that God will bring us through it!
Lets have a look at our protective clothing:
Ephesians 6 – The Armour of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
I’ve literally found this to be a life-saver the last month.
I confess that it’s usually taken until I felt like I was in despair before I remembered that I haven’t put the armour on, but then I do, and everything feels different. The helmet of salvation is particularly powerful in the fight against thoughts that try to topple us.
Speaking out relevant truths in the time of storm is incredibly powerful.
I think I probably say this every time I teach, but it is so so important. We need to get into the Word and draw out of it relevant passages for the times we are in.
If we are passive believers, just letting life happen around us and never really taking our stand against the enemy; when storms come (which we know they will), we will be uprooted and our faith will die or be severely affected.
For me, I have been quoting a lot of verses about truth, and about how when God starts a work, he completes it! I have been quoting God’s promises back to him and taking authority over deception, replacing it with truth.
But I started off by just praying ‘God help’. ‘God I don’t know what to do’. I prayed a lot for wisdom and discernment, which is never wasted.
But He showed me that what I needed to do was pray Ephesians 6.
- Be strong
- Put on
- Stand firm (not curl up in a curly ball)
Have you noticed they are all verbs, and they are all very strong powerful verbs.
But what I note on re-reading is that it isn’t telling us to fight the enemy on this occasion. Rather that when we are dressed appropriately with our personal protective equipment, we stand firm, and the Word of God fights effectively on our behalf. Shouting obscenities at the evil one won’t help.
But once we are dressed in protective clothing, the clothing does it’s job to keep us safe and to overcome the enemy all by itself. All we need to do is to stand. Not retreat, not run away, not sit down and give up, but to keep standing.
The helmet will protect our minds and we will know that we are saved, so ultimately nothing can happen to us that can separate us from God.
The breastplate reminds us that we are righteous, so no mud-slinging from the enemy about our past will have any effect; the belt of truth counteracts the lies and the bad reports that we hear; the shoes of peace cover us with peace from the sole of our feet to the top of our heads. The shield of faith extinguishes the fiery darts from the enemy, but if we don’t hold it up, it won’t work. Don’t allow your faith to grow weak in times of testing. You don’t want those fiery darts to hit you!
The sword of the spirit protects us, by ‘taking up’ the Word of God.
Interestingly, once we have done this, the instruction is quite passive. We are to just stand. It’s reassuring, it’s simple. But it’s not easy and it can be frustrating. Especially for someone like me who is an activist! I want to do something. I want to make things better somehow…. But God says, just stand. I will do the rest.
What not to do in the storm:
I think it’s worth saying here, what not to do. We all have our default coping mechanisms that are not from God that we gravitate to when we are hard pressed. For me it’s always been smoking. Since I was 13 on and off. My natural, fleshly urge is to go and buy a packet of cigs, or go visit someone who smokes! For you it might be an alcoholic drink or 10, others will turn to self-pity and going round as many people as possible trying to get people to feel sorry for them. Let me tell you, these things don’t work. They just make us feel worse. And suddenly we’re sowing to the flesh, so we reap a harvest from it – our health suffers, our bodies complain…..
So what should we do when the storm hits?
For me this passage in Philippians is like a recipe of how to cope. Let’s have a look at it:
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
I think this passage is like a step-by-step instruction on how to cope in any kind of difficulty.
Watch your thoughts! Makes sure you are focussing on positive things.
The battle will be won or lost depending on our thought life.
If we do all these things, our life will be full of peace rather than stress.
Here is that last bit again but in the Message version:
6-7 Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
8-9 Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.
How do you get out of the storm? Stay put, wait for it to pass, listen to what God tells you to do.
And for everyone it will be different. But in my experience, it’s usually doing battle with your mind and quoting a lot of Bible verses.
And when you’ve done everything you can, stand.
Eye of the storm – I know what they eye of a storm looks like because I’ve watched films about Twisters, but i’ve never personally been in the eye of a twister and I genuinely hope I never will be. But I know from the TV that there is peace right in the middle of the storm. You can see random debris flying around along with a few cows, but it is calm right there in the centre. God is with you right there in the middle of the storm. He strengthens you for the next bit of the journey when you have face the other side of the storm.
How do you know when it’s over or if in the eye?
Sometimes it is over and you are just experiencing the tail winds. Wait for them to die down, and then it’s time to look around and assess the damage and start clearing up the mess.
I think the most important thing to remember is to always keep your eyes on Jesus. Once we distracted by the noise and the wind and the things blowing around us, we can start to blow off course. Get your anchor deep into Jesus so that you won’t get blown around and ultimately ship-wrecked.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out of their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea[a] were hushed.
They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven.