Jeff Lawrence

When you think God is sleeping

The devastation from Hurricane Michael is a reminder of just how quickly a storm can turn our world upside down.  The worst of nature can bring out the best in people.  I watched as the fear of devastation caused the people of Florida to reach out to one another without regard to race, ethnicity, culture or economic status.  It’s a beautiful thing with pictures and stories celebrated on the evening news.  Our nation is hungry to see unity.  A devastating storm can do just that!  It reduces us to a place of helplessness in the shadow of a mighty storm.  It’s a reset button; a re-calibration of our compass.

It reminds me of a story found in the Gospels:

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him.  And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.  But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”  And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.  He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”  And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”     Mark 4:35-41

You know this story.  The scene: Jesus and the disciples on board a fishing boat, at night in the middle of the Sea of Galilee.  Note: the Sea of Galilee lies 700 feet below sea level surrounded by highlands & Mount Hermon to the northeast rising to 9,000 feet above sea level.  The cold highland air meets rising hot air from the sea to create huge storms.

The Greek term for “furious squall” is used here to describe a fierce windstorm which literally means “sea quake”.  It was like a hurricane.  The sides of the fishing boat were low and the boat is taking on water.  For the disciples, this was not something they were going to survive.

And of course, Jesus is laying on a cushion, sound asleep.  He is exhausted from a full day of ministry.  With all that’s happening, he’s sleeping like a baby.  Until, of course, the disciples wake him to ask a poignant question: “Don’t you care that we’re going to die”?

God – where are you when I need you?  Don’t you know I can’t pay my bills, keep this marriage together, survive this diagnosis, overcome this depression & anxiety, reconcile with my brother, beat this addiction?  Don’t you see my enemies surrounding me, hear their insults?  Why are you sleeping when I’m on the verge of death?

Fear replaces faith, even when God is so close you can hear him breathe and feel his heartbeat.

Then Jesus, speaks: “Silence!  Be Still!” or literally “be still, and stay still” and nature responds immediately with a great calm.  The fear of the disciples refers to timidity and lack of confidence in God.  But even so, Jesus transformed the great storm into a great calm with a single breath.

But don’t miss the real gut punch here!  After Jesus had calmed the storm and rebuked them for their lack of faith, this happened:

THEY WERE TERRIFIED – literally “they feared a great fear”.  The great storm that Jesus turned into a great calm now led to great fear! “Who is this that even the wind and sea obey him?”

This is the fear which brings a reset and re-calibration.  It’s me and you eclipsed in the sheer magnitude and power of Almighty God.  It’s a fall on your knees and worship kind of fear.  It’s a fear that brings unity, without question or regard.  It’s a fear that melts away all our other fears.

If you find yourself faced with a hurricane, remember: God is in the boat.  But even more so, when He melts the storm away with a word, concede your flesh and ambitions for a place of humility, subjection and submissiveness before the magnitude of who He is!

There’s never been a better place to be before a Holy God!  And just like those scenes from Florida of help, caring and selflessness in the wake of a storm; choose gentleness and kindness as you lead unity in His Church!

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