17th Sunday after Trinity October 15, 2000
396, 346, 521, 532
Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on a mountain by Himself to pray. And when evening had come, He was alone there. But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.” So far the Holy Word.
In the Name of Jesus Christ, Dear Fellow Redeemed,
It’s funny how the changing seasons sneak up on you when you’re not ready, isn’t it? Last Thursday was the first official day of fall. Unfortunately, not far behind it on Friday came the first nasty windstorm of fall. We live, I’m convinced, in one of the most blessedly beautiful parts of God’s great earth. But even our Pacific Northwest climate can be extreme at times, and people here know how to get ready for stormy weather. Every year about this time, you’ll see them scurrying around, cleaning out the gutters and wrapping up the shrubs. They install plastic weather-stripping along the bottoms of all their doors to keep out the cold drafts. In short, they do everything they can to try and make their homes weatherproof.
We want to learn something today about “weatherproofing.” That old cliche, “Into each life some rain must fall,” is a mild way of saying that every human being is going to encounter some stormy weather during the course of his life—hard times, trials, situations that seem impossible to cope with. And yet, God wants us to have faith that is weatherproof. He wants us to know that, in life’s stormy weather, we should not doubt, but have courage, and trust in Him for deliverance. That’s why the theme of our message this morning is:
Oh yes, the storms are coming, so you may as well expect them. Some of you may be right in the middle of some storm in your life right now. Maybe you’ve recently passed through a storm. But you know, it’s funny how often people make it through some difficult episode in their life, and then immediately let their guard down, as if they expected their life to be trouble free from that point onward. As if to say, “Wow, I’m glad that’s over! Now I can get on with my life and live happily ever after.” That’s why it’s often so heartbreaking and confusing for a person when one thing after another seems to go wrong in his life. Make no mistake, the storms will come, and they will keep coming!
We know that sin is the root cause of all sorrow and suffering in this world—and how often don’t we bring our own trouble upon ourselves? Hard words or thoughtlessness can strain a marriage. A worker who is slack or neglects his duty can find himself out of a job. Abuse of alcohol or drugs will always wreak damaging consequences. You and I are sinners, and it’s inevitable that, sooner or later, we’re going to run into trouble because of our sin. King David went through one of the worst kinds of storms: the turmoil of a guilty conscience after a particularly blatant sin. In his case, it was his adultery with Bathsheba, and his murder of her husband, Uriah. It hurt him so badly that he cried out and pleaded with God, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me.”—Psa 51:2-3.
The storms will come. So expect them! Sometimes, if you’re following a course in life that doesn’t fit God’s plan for your eternal welfare, He’ll correct you and show you your error by sending a storm—literally, in the case of Jonah. God had told Jonah to go carry a message of repentance to Nineveh, and he didn’t like that idea, so he got on a boat heading in the opposite direction. A huge storm came up, the sailors tossed Jonah into the ocean where he was swallowed by a great fish, and later he was spit out onto the shore. Needless to say, the next time the Lord told him to go to Nineveh, he went.
Sometimes, God sends storms in our life that seem to have no explanation. He does this in order to test us, and strengthen our faith. Such was the case with the disciples that night, on the stormy sea of Galilee. They didn’t just happen to take their boat out for a ride, and happen to run into a storm. Our text tells us, “Immediately Jesus MADE His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side.” He literally compelled them to do it. He sent them out there on purpose, knowing what was going to happen to them. Further, our text says, “And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on a mountain by Himself to pray. And when evening had come, He was alone there. But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary.” The parallel account in Mark tells us that Jesus could see that the disciples were struggling, and yet He didn’t go out there to help them until the fourth watch of the night, between three and six a.m.!
Why? Why do some of the troubles we experience in life go on for months, or even years? Sometimes we can’t see a clear answer—not even in hindsight. But one thing we can be sure of: God sees our suffering, and He knows exactly what will best serve our spiritual good.
And so in this case. Jesus came to the disciples, walking on the water. Now these men had been in a storm on this sea once before, and Jesus had miraculously saved them. Just the day before He had performed all sorts of miracles, healing the sick and feeding a crowd of five thousand people with a few loaves of bread and two small fish. This was Jesus, the Son of God, coming to them! So you’d expect that when they caught sight of Him, they’d say, “Whew! Are we ever glad to see you! Now, at last, we’re safe.” But what happened? “…They were troubled, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.’ And Peter answered Him and said, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ So He said, ‘Come.’ And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’ And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” Peter, you’ve been watching Me perform miracles for months and months. Why did you doubt that I could perform this one?
We know the answer to that, don’t we?—It’s because Peter was a human being, like us. And sinful human beings inevitably have doubts. Doubts about God and His Word. Doubts about His divine providence, and whether He’s really paying as much attention to us as He ought to be. And now comes step two in the process of weatherproofing our faith: you have to face up to your doubts. Because it’s especially during times of trouble, when waves of anxiety and sadness are crashing against you, that doubts can arise. Doubts that God really cares for you, or that He knows what you’re going through. And the worst doubt of all, the doubt of a sinner with a guilty conscience, who doesn’t quite believe that God is willing to forgive that certain sin that’s been bothering him. These are the times when you can’t just shove your doubts in a corner and hope they’ll go away. You have to face those doubts squarely, take them by the throat and DO something about them!
Which brings us to step three in weatherproofing your faith: go straight to your Bible and overcome those doubts with the Word and promises of God. Because god will never let you down. You know what happened with the disciples on the Sea of Galilee; it only took one word from Jesus, and the wind stopped. All of a sudden the sea was calm and the storm was gone. The disciples, amazed and relieved, could only gasp, “Truly You are the Son of God!”
So many other times in Bible history, God has delivered His people from impossible situations. Job, for example, who lost his family, his money, and finally his health—Job learned a lot about himself and his faith God finally restored him to health and happiness. Daniel in the lions; den, the Apostle Peter in prison, Paul in a shipwreck off the coast of Malta, and the list goes on. All delivered by God, in His good time. All strengthened, and the better servants of God for their experience.
We’re all acquainted with these Bible stories, and we all believe that they’re true. But we’re so slow to apply God’s Word to our own lives, and the storms that we’re going through! And that’s really too bad, because God’s Word applies as much to us Christians in 1999 as it did to God’s people in Bible times. Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Every day, while you’re going about your business on the farm, at the factory, in the office—God’s paying as much attention to you and your problems as He paid to Daniel while he was in the lions’ den. And He promises in His Word that your problems and the storms in your life are not overlooked. He knows about the storms. Sometimes He’s the One that sends them. And He is the One who will deliver you from them.
Above everything else, God gives you peace for your stormy conscience. When your sins confront you in waves, making you feel ashamed and unworthy, when you get to thinking that anybody else in this world could get to heaven but not you—that’s when our Savior speaks the Word that calms the storm. “Do not be afraid. I have put away your sin; you shall not die. I bore the punishment for your sin upon the cross. I have redeemed you and made you My own, and no one will ever be able to snatch you out of My hand!” This greatest storm our Lord Jesus has conquered for us. The smaller storms in our lives—the temporary, earthly storms—these we can and will conquer with the strength our Lord gives us.
Have you ever watched a pharmacist measure out drugs for a prescription? The process is painstakingly accurate and meticulous. With certain medicines, he knows that a single grain too little could render the medication ineffective, while a single grain too much could be harmful. Well, it is with an even great precision that our Lord weighs out trials into our lives. Not a single grain too much does He ever permit to be put upon us. Rest assured that the storms in your life, though severe, will never be TOO severe—especially if you have a faith that is WEATHERPROOF. AMEN.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.