“This lake can get very rough.” Those were the words of our guide as we sailed on the Sea of Galilee on our trip to the Holy Land.
No one knew this better than Jesus’ disciples. At least four of them had been fishermen and lived around the Sea of Galilee all their lives. But on the particular night described in our text, the disciples were crossing the sea and Jesus was sleeping in the stern of the boat. As the ship filled with water and was cast to and fro by the winds, these experienced fishermen became afraid. They ran to Jesus saying, “We will drown, Jesus! Don’t you care?” (v. 38).
After stilling the sea, Jesus looked at his disciples and asked, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith” (v. 40)? Then he left them and they asked, “Who is this man that even the wind and the waves obey him?” (v.41). That was the evening they began to grow up spiritually.
In this portion of scripture we find both a miracle and a parable. The lake was quieted and the disciples’ faith grew a bundle that night. Let’s apply this to our lives.
Part of living involves facing the storms of life. Everything might be moving smoothly in our lives. We enjoy good health, financial security, family who bring us joy and satisfaction, friends who enrich our days, a church that gives us comfort, and a nation that offers us many freedoms and opportunities.
But then things change. Sickness hits, we lose our job, a child gets divorced. Suddenly we find we are in the midst of a storm, and we wonder where God is. We are afraid. However, during these hours we learn that, although God doesn’t always calm the storm, He is still walking with us. During these hours we experience what God’s grace is all about. We learn what the Psalmist meant when he says, “I lift my eyes unto the hills. From whence does my help come? My help comes from the Lord” (Psalms 121:1-2).
Peter’s faith grew that night on the wild sea of Galilee. That experience prepared him to preach his famous sermon on Pentecost, when this fearless disciple of Jesus stood before the people, who could well have put him to death, and said, “You, together with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross, but God raised him from the dead” (Acts 5:30).
Peter’s sermon at Pentecost was also a wild sea, but the fear was gone. He had come a long way in his relationship with Jesus. His experience of being tossed around on a wild sea in a small boat taught him that Jesus was able to deliver on the promises He had made to the disciples.
It has brought me great encouragement in my ministry to watch people grow spiritually as they live with their problems; some of those being big problems. As I preach this sermon, I can name seven people in their 40s and 50s who, within the last few months, have learned they have cancers that could well be terminal. When I asked one of them last Sunday how she was handling the news, she squeezed my cheeks and said, “I’m hanging in there. I’m taking my treatments and they are making me sick, but I leave it in the hands of the Lord. I really want to live, but if He has other plans, so be it. ÔAll things work together for good to them who love the Lord.’ And believe me, I love Him.”
An older woman told a group of us, “I have buried a husband and a child. Another of my children has served time in prison. But God has been my comfort.”
And I sometimes complain!
The storms of life come into every life. They can either destroy us or make us strong people of God. Christ alone can empower us to face the storms as we encounter them. He is in the boat.