Following Jesus into the Storm

Today I read from Matthew 8 and was struck by a familiar account of Christ’s life and ministry. In summary fashion there was a storm on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus and His disciples were in a boat in the middle of that storm, Jesus commanded the storm to stop and the storm stopped. This true event certainly exalts the Lord Jesus Christ.

But this bare bones summary is not all the information about what happened. There are other pieces of information that really cause us to magnify Jesus and to do so in our lives today even if we are not on the Sea of Galilee in the middle of a storm. All the elements that were present in this account for the disciples are present for us. For instance, they found themselves in difficult circumstances; there was nothing they could do; they were afraid; they knew Jesus was there; and they were desperate to see Him act in their behalf. All of this should sound familiar to anyone following Jesus in this world of suffering and sin. But there is a telling detail at the beginning of this account that is essential to grasp as followers of Jesus. In Matthew 8:18 we are told when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea.” Before they get into the boat to cross the Sea of Galilee a scribe approached Jesus and they discussed discipleship (i.e. following Jesus). At the end of that conversation we read this in verse 23: “When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him.” Do you see the dynamic here? Jesus ordered them to get in this boat knowing full well there would be a storm. The One who would calm the storm knew full well that the storm would push His disciples to the brink and cause them to desperately call out to Him.

In a context that deals with following Christ it is hard to miss this point: Following Jesus means following Him into sovereignly ordained situations that cause us to know our weakness, turn to Him for deliverance, and see His glory as He carries us through. To call such difficulties in our lives “sovereignly ordained situations to bring about our greatest good in Christ’s greatest glory” sounds wonderful to the believer’s ears, but we all know how messy these sovereignly ordained situations can get. The text is clear that the disciples were not exactly considering the finer points of God’s gracious sovereignty in their lives as they bobbed up and down on the sea. They were afraid (v. 26)! And had they had the ware withal to consider who told them to get into that boat and remembered much of what they had learned about that Jesus, they may have been confused: Why would Jesus lead them in to such a situation? Wouldn’t you say that is where we find ourselves at such times, afraid and confused? Afraid and confused we may be, but we must do exactly what the disciples did: Call out to Jesus as afraid and confused people. But because Jesus is who He is and really is out for our best good, in hearing and answering our cries for deliverance He will teach us much through that time of deliverance. For these disciples it was a rebuke laden with instruction and then deliverance. For us it may be that we have quick deliverance, what seems like delayed deliverance, or it may be that we won’t completely be delivered from a circumstance until we see Jesus face to face. No matter the time table, the words that Jesus speaks to His disciples are essential to grasp: “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith” (v. 26)? In other words, fear of people or circumstances is the opposite of faith in Jesus as the almighty Son of God who was the Word through which all came into existence and the present One who rules over all that exists.

The application of this is clear: Following Jesus often means following Him into “storms.” These storms do not catch Him off guard and they are not a detour from His good plan for our lives. These storms drive us to Him and expose our fear and lack of faith. These storms display the sustaining power of our Savior and cause us to learn to trust Him implicitly. Storms will come. What we want is to close the gap between the strike of the storm and our conscious trust in Him in the midst of the storm. This is part of our progressive sanctification and looks like this:  Next time you get into the boat and the storm strikes, you call out to Jesus sooner and fear less. Why?  Because God has graciously ordained that you face such things in the past as you have followed Jesus in this world. This time you can respond with stronger and timelier faith because you have experienced His awesome power before and have come to delight in your weakness in the presence of His power. Dear believer, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Your Savior is Lord over all.