We cannot always see our next landing due to the storm we are wading through, but we have a promise that better shores are on the horizon.
My first sermon to ever preach was on Luke 8:22-25 where Jesus and His disciples jump on a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee in order to rest and continue their ministry. I was an intern at a small church in South Houston and the pastor must have been desperate or tired, but he asked me to "bring a word" to the folks that attend the Wednesday night service. Now, you may not be familiar with Wednesday night service crowd, but typically its chalked full of senior adults that love their pot-lucks and Jesus. Sure enough, I walked into the sanctuary to find that the youngest member in the audience was 75. I love this crowd because I promise you there is some sweet lady that will listen to the worst preaching anyone has ever heard and yet, because she is seasoned with grace, will come and tell the inept preacher how wonderful of a job they did. My first sermon would have been great if it were not for the fact that I preached heresy. Yep. First time up to bat, I aimed for the fences, but instead not only did I strike out, I was almost kicked out of the game. If you are not familiar with the story of Jesus calming the storm, let me give you a brief overview. Jesus jumps into the boat with his disciples after a long day of ministering to the people and tells them they are heading over to the other shore. During their voyage a storm comes out of nowhere and slams the small boat to the point where the disciples feel they shall surely parish. They run to grab Jesus who is catching some z's and pretty much accuse him of not caring they are about to take a dip. Jesus calms the storm and gives us that great line that we love to use when talking to our spouses, "oh ye of little faith" (of course thats the line we use when we go all King James version on our loved ones). No problem, right? Simple story about the power of Jesus, unless you tell a group of adults who are more than twice your age that if you ask Jesus, He will instantly calm the storms in your life. My sermon points rhymed (we were in a Baptist church after all) and I thought it was perfectly rational to tell a group of mature saints that if they have issues they just need to trust Jesus and then magically all their worries melt away. I call this the "Jesus Copperfield" effect. Of course, this is ridiculous. After you come to faith in Christ it takes all of 5 minutes to realize your troubles are still there, it's just now you have a God to trust will work them out. Instead of the "atta boy" I was expecting, the pastor gave me a nice lecture on theology and I had to literally redo the sermon the following Wednesday! Both times though, sweet Mrs. Green told me I did a great job...
“God never promises us a smooth ride in this life, just that in the end, we will make it to the other side.”
Over the past 13 years of speaking, this passage of Scripture has become one of my favorites to teach. It brings back a wonderful memory of an opportunity I was given to grow, but it also reflects really the promise that Jesus gives us. At the start of the story, Jesus tells His disciples, "Let us go across to the other side" referring to the opposite shore where they could find rest (Luke 8:22). He never mentioned they would have a beautiful cruise along calm waters while taking in refreshments. He simply promises they will make it to the other side. Jesus knew His life was not going to end by drowning at sea. He knew what His ultimate objective was and the mission that God had tasked him to accomplish. He promised his passengers that they would make it to the other side and Jesus never makes promises He can not keep. When the storm hits, the disciples were freaked out because they doubted who they were riding with. Some of these men were experienced sailors so for them to think they were on the brink of death means this must have been a pretty rough storm. They run down to Jesus and ask Him if He even cares that they are about to die. I love the fact that Christ is sleeping. He has His feet up, laying down with His hands prompted up behind His head resting not because He was unaware of the storm or did not care for His companions, He just knew that He was going to get to better shores. I think the most important aspect of this story is not necessarily when Christ lifted His hands and calmed the storm (though how amazing would that have been to witness?). I think one of the most important parts of this story is when after the storm has settled the disciples look at one another and ask "who is this, that the wind and waves obey Him?" (Luke 8:25). That is truly the question we must all ask about Jesus. Who is this person that can quiet the storms in my life and get me to better shores? Some of us still have not entered into the boat and into the presence of Jesus. We are checking the rudder, inspecting the sails, and questioning the captain. Some of us are in the boat, but do not remember the promise that was given to us when we first began our voyage that we are going to make it to the other side. We may even believe this truth at the beginning of the journey, but when the storm hits, we forget the promise that Jesus gives us that ensures us that better shores are coming. On a side note, when the disciples ran to Jesus at the hull of the ship, though they were so worried this was their final moments, they addressed Jesus as "master" despite literally questioning if He even cared if they lived or died. I think that is an important lesson for us as well. Jesus can handle your questions, anger, and doubt. His patience with us is unending. However, I love how the disciples, even in a time of crisis, still addressed Him as master, the one they trusted, the one that could fix this situation.
"Storms of life will come. There is no way to avoid them is this broken world. However, know that there is not a storm that Jesus is not Lord over."
I have seen my fair share of storms. Whether it was the time we lost 2 children due to miscarriage, had to go on government assistance, or had to maneuver through the rough waters of adoption. However, Jesus has always brought us to better shores, out of the storms, and to a place of rest. Here's the crazy part, even if the "storm" we battle in this life claims a momentary victory and we find that we will not make it this time, we still find better shores. As a pastor, I have stood beside people countless times who are breathing their last breath on this earth. They are not going to get through this earthy storm this time, but through Christ, they will soon be able to find the peaceful shores that they have always longed for and that only God can provide. The ultimate victory is not successfully battling the storms we face on this side of heaven, but it's the victory we have when we first enter in a relationship with Jesus who assures us, we will get to the other side. We will get to better shores and on those peaceful banks is the presence of God where we will find rest. I am thankful for my pastor who made me redo my sermon and for the gracious comments from my senior adult fan club. Understanding this passage has made all the difference when facing storms of life. My friends, storms will hit. In this broken world, they are unavoidable. It is not the amount of faith you have that will see you through, but it is the faithfulness of Jesus to get His passengers to the other side that makes all the difference. When the storms hit, find rest with Christ in the hull of your ship, knowing He is in control, the storm will pass, we will be stronger passengers for it, and better shores are just beyond the horizon.