“Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.”Paul, Ephesians 2:4, 5
Worry is a thin stream of fear running through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel through which all other thoughts are drained. Worry is faith in the negative, trust in the unpleasant, assurance of disaster and belief in defeat. Worry is wasting today’s time to clutter up tomorrow’s opportunities with yesterday’s troubles.
– John MacArthur, Anxious for Nothing
22One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. 23As 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.
24The 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. 25“Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.Luke 8:20-25
In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”
Jesus initiates a trip across the Sea of Galilee with his disciples and they “follow him” by helping him accomplish this. Recall that the most common profession among the disciples was fishing – Jesus leverages their sailing talents here to help him accomplish his mission on the other side of the lake, which we see in the next encounter is the healing a demon-possessed man.
While crossing, Jesus falls asleep and remains asleep when a great storm arises and threatens to sink the boat. The disciples are scared out of their wits and wake Jesus: “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” Jesus wakes up and first “rebukes” the wind and waters; the storm subsides and then becomes calm. Then he rebukes the disciples: “Where is your faith?” The disciples have no response, but ask one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”
Let’s go beyond the seemingly obvious, “okay, so we’re supposed to trust Jesus, on to the next verses . . . ” At this point in his relationship with the disciples, Jesus has performed miraculous healings, cast out demons and brought dead people back to life, with the disciples present for most of these encounters. Like us, they have a tangible basis for trusting Jesus, based on his past provision and their witness to his power.
In the case of Peter and the other fishermen, their first miraculous encounter with Jesus was on this very lake, when Jesus filled two boats with an abundance of fish to the point of sinking after a night of not so much as a nibble. But, in this scenario, they are threatened to the point of death and Jesus continues to snooze, appearing oblivious to the immediacy of what is happening.
The fear the disciples experience at the threat of death during the storm itself is not a sin, but a naturally occurring human emotion. Remaining in fear to the point of being paralyzed, panicked or controlled by it, however, reveals a lack of faith. The disciples’ frantic words reveal their doubt and focus on the negative potential outcome – “we are going to drown!” Yet, the disciples show a degree of faith in waking Jesus in the midst of the storm; their intensity hints at their glimmer of hope that Jesus would do something.
I wonder if Jesus would have rebuked them if they awoke him pleading for help, but not expressing their fatalistic fear (“we are going to drown”). This is an interesting nuance to consider. Jesus invites us to cry out to him for help and believe he will respond in his great love for us – but when we do so, we must not doubt, but believe. When we assume the worst outcome and are consumed by its negative implications (even if unspoken), we are declaring our doubt indirectly. If we pray to Jesus for help while our minds are controlled by fear and anxiety – and placing implicit faith in the potential negative outcome – are we not doing the same thing the disciples do here?
After the disciples wake Jesus, he immediately responds by calming the storm; then he challenges the disciples about their lack of faith. Note the order – Jesus’ first concern is saving them; his second is to teach the lesson in the experience. The importance of Jesus’ second action should not be underestimated. In rebuking them, he is not just simply scolding them to make them feel bad. Each trial we face is an opportunity to either grow in trust or to be locked further yet into a peaceless hell for our inner beings. Worry begets more worry.
We can only speculate on this, but it is possible that Jesus knew that the storm would arise when he proposes the trip across the lake to the disciples, as well as when he decided to take a nap.
The opportunity here was to demonstrate his power and teach the nature of true faith within a Technicolor experience for the disciples. In doing so, Jesus continues to shape the disciples’ understanding of who he is and how he is to be followed and depended upon. He is preparing them to be used greatly later, as we will see.
Trials are used to refine us into something we have not yet become and are incapable of becoming on our own. Do we accept this or fight it? If we live in persistent worry, we have chosen the latter.
Lord, give us greater faith. We desperately want it and need it this very day. Calm our anxious hearts and minds and replace fear with your peace. Let us remember your past goodness and provision for us and be overflowing with gratitude towards you. Increase our dependence on you in the midst of every storm we face and may we become men and women whose confidence comes from you and you alone. Shape us into your instruments to be used for your purposes.
“From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth – he who forms the hearts of all, who considers all they do. No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.”Psalm 33:13-16, 18, 19
“Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to him on the ten-string lyre. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully and shout for joy.Psalm 33:1-3