“And a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” And another of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me; and allow the dead to bury their own dead.” And when He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. And behold, there arose a great storm in the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves; but He Himself was asleep. And they came to Him, and awoke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” And He said to them, “Why are you timid, you men of little faith?” Then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and it became perfectly calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him? (Matthew 8:18‐27)”
Peter, Andrew, James and John, at Jesus’ invitation, immediately drop everything and follow Christ – all over Galilee. They listen as He preaches the gospel of the kingdom, watch as He heals every kind of disease and sickness, stand by as He raises people from the dead, and passes out lunch to thousands of people – twice. I can just picture them giving one another a pinch or an elbow‐nudge just to make sure they aren’t dreaming.
But it’s not long before they’re in the middle of a great storm; walls of water cover their boat as it pitches back and forth in the raging sea. These seasoned fishermen who no doubt weathered a lot of storms, now feared for their lives. They cry out to Jesus, “Save us Lord, we are perishing.” Mark’s Gospel adds, “Don’t You care that we’re perishing?”
Jesus wakes up and rebukes the wind and water. In an instant the wild and windy storm stops, and the sea becomes perfectly calm. Suddenly, the disciples face a new kind of fear, “What kind of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”
It’s exhilarating to follow Christ when life is going well, prayers are answered quickly, and plans fall into place without a hitch. Who wouldn’t want to follow a man who gave sight to the blind, made the lame to walk, and fed thousands at a time – for free? It was exciting to hang‐out with Jesus and listen to His parables and His wisdom. No wonder the scribe said, “Jesus, I will follow You wherever you go.”
Jesus’ answer bursts the bubble of the scribe’s fervor, don’t you think? “Okay, if you want to follow me you’ll have to leave your pillow at home.” There’s nothing glamorous about following Jesus and He makes that clear right away. Then He invites them onto the boat. I wonder if the scribe accepted, because it’s no mistake that the disciples followed Him right into the middle of a storm.
Jesus stirs things up in our lives to remind us that He is God and we are not, and that following Him takes faith not in our great ability or know‐how, but in Him the Creator of the wind and the sea. When the difficulties in my life increase and the best of plans and intentions begin to fall apart I’m the first to scream, “Save me Lord! Don’t you care that I’m perishing?” I question my purpose, my ability to discern God’s call, and I wonder, “Is this really God’s will?” or sometimes I wonder, “Is it really worth it to follow Him at all?”
It’s in the middle of a storm, whether a “rainstorm” or a “hurricane” that our core call is tested and also, worth its weight in gold. It’s the storm that refines and sharpens our call and commitment to Christ; and our call is a beacon that keeps us on course when everything else says, “You’re perishing!”
My first two years in vocational ministry were nothing like I expected. I thought serving Jesus would be easy, fun, and rewarding. Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t all bad; but it was a lot harder than I ever expected. Three of the four girls in my bible study would show up drunk – just to see how I’d react. At one point two of them pretended to attempt suicide to get my attention. More often than not, it seemed, I poured my heart and soul into the lives of women on campus only to have them walk away from Christ.
My husband, Bob, and I served on a great team, but it wasn’t without conflict, which really surprised and often discouraged me. Sometimes after a long day on campus I’d toss a bathroom towel into the hallway, which was a “sign” to Bob that I was “throwing in the towel”. I wanted to quit more days than not those first few years. Of course in the midst of it all there were bright spots. Students received Christ and committed their lives to following Him, and my faith, though stretched, was strengthened and so was my core call.
So, a wild storm rages while Jesus sleeps. They go to Him and yell, “Save us Lord, we’re perishing!” He wakes up and before He does anything He asks the disciples a question “Why are you timid, you men of little faith?” Then, with a word, He rebukes the wind and the sea; it becomes perfectly calm. His concern wasn’t their ability to navigate the boat, but their faith in Him.
The Lord allows the winds and storms of life to try and test our faith. He allows things that confuse and often don’t make sense to teach us to trust Him. Not only does He want us to trust Him, but He also wants us to love Him.
Read I Peter 1:6‐9. Write it out here so you can see it and analyze what it’s saying.
My friend Don graduated from college and went into the Navy as an officer and served on a destroyer for several years before completing his obligation to the military. Throughout his military service, his dream was to become a professor because he wanted to represent Christ and influence students on a secular campus. He endured a lot during his tour with the Navy; then he persevered through several difficult years of graduate school before obtaining his PhD. The one thing that remained constant through the “necessary trials” he encountered was his call to serve the Lord as a professor.
Recently he explained that having this focus from God helped to orient his response. In the midst of the trials I often heard him respond by saying, “How am I going to achieve what God called me to be now that I am facing this hard thing?" Rather than, "Oh my gosh, everything is falling to pieces what should I do now?" Today, fourteen years after graduating from college, he is a professor in the School of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Irvine.
Maybe you’re in the midst of wild winds and choppy seas right now. Your circumstances are out of control and it seems like the Lord has diverted all of your plans. It could be that the storm you’re experiencing is within – you doubt God’s presence and care, or you fear making the wrong decision, or as you count the cost of following Christ you’re overwhelmed by the sacrifice.
Perhaps the Lord is showing you that the trial you’re facing is a result of sin. You’re in a relationship that you know isn’t pleasing to the Lord; the job you’ve said yes to requires ethical compromise; or you’re hiding in the shadows because you don’t want to acknowledge the Lord’s prodding.
Whatever the storm’s category, take the opportunity to call out to Jesus in faith. Get somewhere alone, clear away all of the static, and lay it all out at His feet. Tell Him that like the disciples in Matthew 8, you’re timid and your faith is weak.
Reflect back to the first part of the Matthew 8 passage and consider these questions:
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