And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
We all want to be people described as having great faith, right? Yet so often the rollercoasters of life have a way of taking us head-on into circumstances that rock our faith. I, like the disciples, after Jesus calmed the storm, have heard Him whisper to me more than once in my life, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
That incredible moment on the Sea of Galilee beautifully displays the great faith Jesus had in the Father’s care, and it is an invitation for us to see Him as the calm eye in the midst of any storm we may face.
What I love about Mark’s gospel account of this particular story is that it highlights the “5 Things God Uses to Grow Our Faith”, which is the name of the new sermon series that just started at PAG. Over the next five weeks Pastor Aaron will unpack these five faith builders:
* Pivotal Circumstances
“That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
Practical Teaching: Jesus had just spent the entire day teaching a great multitude of people. He encouraged his audience by saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:9, 23) Jesus, the Word made flesh, had just revealed mysteries about the Kingdom of God to the masses. We also need to spend time in His presence, listening to the preaching of His Living Word and asking the Holy Spirit to sensitize us to hear His voice. Do you have ears to hear?
Providential Relationships: By his side were his chosen disciples. This community of new believers had become very close as they followed Jesus. They had witnessed Him heal the sick, cast out demons, and proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand. He invited them… and He invites us… to partner with Him to do the same! After their long day, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” (verse 35) He wanted to be with them. And He wants to be with us! It is vitally important to be involved in community. We need each other!
Private Disciplines: Jesus was tired and planned to rest in the boat. By “leaving the crowds behind” (verse 36a), Jesus was emphasizing the value of entering into a time of solitude and rest. Remember His invitation to “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” This private discipline, along with reading the Bible, hiding His word in our hearts, praying… talking and especially listening for His still, small voice, fasting, journaling, personal worship or however your private time with Jesus looks, must be a priority in order for your faith to grow.
Personal Ministry: Jesus was about His Father’s business… Kingdom ministry… Bringing Heaven to earth. As He lives His life out in and through us, we ought to be about the same things! “There were also other boats with him.” (verse 36b) We don’t know any details about the other boats that only Mark mentions were on the sea that dreadful night, but we have to believe that Jesus was just as willing to minister to them as He was His disciples. And if the pending storm was not enough to stretch the faith of the experienced fisherman, the ministry Jesus had next for them certainly would. They were heading to the region of Gerasenes, and would immediately be approached by a demon possessed man who lived amongst the tombs! I can only imagine being one of Jesus’ disciples watching that encounter unfold! Yes, personal ministry, whether to the masses or to “the one”, can lead us straight out of our comfort zone and stretch us, but Jesus always goes before us and uses ministry opportunities to grow our faith.
Pivotal Circumstances: “A furious squall came up…” (verse 37). And so often that’s how it happens… suddenly, unexpectedly, and without warning, a peaceful circumstance can turn into a catastrophe. We’ve all experienced storms and more often than not… a sudden storm equals sudden fear. The enemy would love nothing more than for the faithful to lose their faith in those times, to question the very character of Jesus (…don’t you care if we drown?), and let fear consume, but let me remind you that the Master of the Wind and the Waves is near!
Lord, open our eyes to see you in the midst of our storms. With a word you can quiet the tempest in our souls. You desire to grow our faith and strengthen us by your Spirit – not shipwreck us. The one statement you said more than any other was, “Don’t be afraid”, so deliver us from our fears and remind us that you accompany us every step of the way. Let faith arise in us, in Jesus name!