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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Theology is a Holy Work, a Service of Worship | Main | Musings On Endurance »

    Images of the Savior (23 – His Calming of a Storm)

    And they feared greatly, and were saying to one another, “Who then is this man, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”. – Mark 4:41

    From the account of this notable miracle of the Savior, in which he commanded the winds and the waves to cease with calm authority, and immediately they obeyed him, we may learn much of what manner of man he truly is; in the surrounding circumstances, we may observe many ways in which we are similar to the disciples, loved by Jesus, striving to follow his will, but ah, so weak and filled with doubts, which ever rise to the surface when the storms of life stir the waters of our soul; and finally, in Jesus' reactions and words of response to the disciples, we may be instructed even as they – for he has not changed, and his words still resound with the same authority and wisdom that they possessed some two thousand years ago, when first he uttered them. Let us, then, be diligent to examine in what ways we resemble those first disciples, and then to discern what we may of the fearful and wonderful person, deeds, and words of our Savior; for in so doing, we will find that whatever our needs are, their solution is found in Christ. This the first disciples learned long ago, and this the disciples throughout the world are still learning today.

    Our first task is to note the parallels between the disciples' circumstances and our own, so that we might be able to apply what we shall learn of our Savior with greater skill to our own lives. In pursuit of which goal, let us consider how this storm arose, and what we may learn thereby of how trials and difficulties so often come upon us, as we strive to follow our Savior. First, we notice that the storm was unexpected: this was just another day in which the disciples were serving their Savior; there was nothing to set it apart from any other day, and there was no presage of the coming tempest. So it is with us, as well: when we are walking in confidence, certain of our routine, thinking ourselves fully capable of the task in front of us, even as these seasoned fishermen thought themselves fully-qualified to handle a boat on the Sea of Galilee, then it is that fierce trials arise. Is this not according to the divine plan, and designed to prove what is in our hearts at every moment? If we had but a few days of warning, we could prepare ourselves, steel our resolve to trust in Jesus, seek his mercy and strength, and so be ready for the trial. Let us learn from this that we must always be leaning hard upon Jesus, always ready to face the worst attacks of the enemy in utter peace, knowing that Jesus is with us, and that our lives are in his hand. There is no more dangerous place to be than the familiar and routine, for that is when it is the easiest for us to take our eyes off of our Savior, and trust in our own strength. But whether in the bitterest of straits or the greenest of pastures, Jesus' saying holds true: “Without me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

    Second, we notice that this storm arose when the disciples were obediently following their Savior. Who had commanded these disciples to cross the Sea of Galilee? Was it not Jesus himself? These men were not as Jonah, fleeing to Tarshish against God's command, and yet a storm overtook them just as it had overtaken him. Let us apply this truth well: for many immature Christians, so soon as a trial arises, will think, “My Father must be angry with me – surely, this is his hand of punishment! What have I done, that I might repent? How have I wandered from his will, and what shall I do now to locate myself again in his good favor?” Ah, weak believer, do you not yet understand that God pours out many difficulties and trials upon his children, not in wrath, but in tenderest love, knowing the good effects which they will produce? If you are indeed rebelling against the Father's will, then use the trial to work within your heart a godly repentance; but if not, it will not be to your advantage to torture your poor soul by seeking for some specific sin which occasioned the tempest, and supposing that, when once you have dealt with that sin, the trial will pass away. Do you not understand that Jesus suffered much, and never on account of his own sin, for he had none? And if you would follow in his steps, will you not drink often from the cup of affliction, not in consequence of your shortcomings, but because, thus pursuing the example of Christ, you will overcome the world, and be crowned with victory at last? When trials come, there is no better thing to do than to consider how it is often God's will to perfect his children through suffering, even as his own Son was made perfectly qualified to be our Redeemer and sympathetic High Priest through his own sufferings (Hebrews 2:10).

    Third, we notice that this trial arose by God's will. Was Jesus unaware of the coming storm, when he sent his disciples across the Sea? Might he not have sent them around by foot, or waited for a time of peaceful sailing? We must assure ourselves that every event in our lives is ordained by him who works all things out according to the counsel of his own will (Ephesians 3:14). Happy is the man who can say with Job, “The Lord gives and the Lord has taken away”; and again, “Shall we receive good from the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 1:21; 2:10). Many weak believers think that they are doing God a favor by saying, “God permitted such and such, but he did not plan it. He allowed it, but it was not his own will”. But is it more comforting to have a God who passively watches the designs of his creatures unfold, and only now and again steps in to re-direct their deeds? Is it not more re-assuring by far to take our comfort in the God of the Bible, who directs all events according to his own pleasure, who does not just permit things that are less than best, for fear of violating his own creatures' wills, but actively accomplishes everything, and works out everything for the good of his own people (see Romans 8:28)? Is not this sovereign God more glorious and more comfortable to all who are in need? No one was long sustained in the bitterness of his spirit by saying, “This event was not for my best, but God permitted it”; but no one can fail to be comforted in all his difficulties by realizing, “God has done this thing, and he has done it for my good. It may be heavy and hard to go through, but he who has brought it upon me will sustain me, yes, and better me through it.”

    And finally, we notice that this storm arose with terrifying forcefulness. The disciples feared for their very lives, and their boat was in danger of immediate destruction. Let us be careful not to minimize the rage and power of our enemy, for his attacks are often fierce beyond description. Let us walk soberly, and realize that we are in no way able to resist him or to stand fast in trials, unless the Savior is with us.

    Next, let us examine the disciples' response to this trial, and see if it is not one and the same as our own response has so often been, when we were in any difficulty. First, we see that they doubted. How weak was their faith! They had seen the power of Jesus, and had known his love for them; now, when this storm had come upon them, would they doubt Jesus' knowledge, and suppose that they were perishing unobserved? Would they doubt his love, and suppose that he no longer cared for them? Would they doubt his power, and suppose that he was not able to deliver them from so great a distress? How foolish, and yet how similar we ourselves are, so ready to doubt in the heat of the trial what we had known so confidently in the sweetness of rest. Let us learn never to doubt what we have learned of our Savior, when the storm clouds hide his face! As he was before the storm, he remains throughout its fiercest gales; or will so small a thing as the winds and waves change him who is “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8)? Storms may come and storms may go; but God's love remains unchanged forever.

    Second, they fled to Jesus. And who will not do the same, who has but glimpsed his power and grace, his divine strength and infinite compassion? Oh believer, are you hard-pressed? Flee to Christ! Do you doubt his love? Flee to him and see for yourself if he is still loving. Whatever your problem may be, whether the storm which has come upon you or the weakness of your own faith, there is only one way to see it resolved: follow the example of the disciples, and cry out to Jesus! He is infinite in love and compassion, and he will deliver you too!

    Now, we must finally take note of what we may learn of Jesus from this event. First, we are struck with the fullness of his humanity: this man, who had eternally existed as the Almighty God, through whose word all the worlds leapt into being, who continually sustained and is sustaining all the universe, as a human became tired and slept. Ah, how comforting is this truth to us: our High Priest feels our weaknesses and knows our infirmities! What could fill our hearts with a sweeter peace and a deeper consolation in the midst of trials than that most precious of truths?

    Second, we see that the fullness of Jesus' humanity is marvelously joined with the fullness of his deity. Who could be more qualified to save and deliver than this? He holds within his matchless being all the knowledge and power of God, and is able to calm the fiercest storm with the word of his mouth. And yet, he holds this fearful and staggering glory within the lowly and eminently approachable form of a humble servant. How meek and gentle is this Savior of men, how wondrous and sweetly un-terrifying to the most delicate soul who would taste of his goodness, how unwilling to quench the slightly smoldering wick (Isaiah 42:3)! He is able to save us to the uttermost, and to command fear and praise, worship and adoration, for all eternity – because he is at once the strong and terrible Lion of the tribe of Judah, and the meek and gentle Lamb who was slain.

    And third, we see how he employs all the unfathomable wonders of his own diversely excellent person for the good of his disciples. As the gentlest of men, he responds to their cries of despair. As the Almighty God, he calms the storm for them. As the Wisdom of God, he rebukes their doubt, and instructs them in the truth. Ah, to dwell on the diverse wonder of the matchless Jesus is staggering indeed; but to dwell on all those gloriously different and marvelously harmonious attributes of perfect humanity and infinite deity all thrown into action for this cause alone, our own eternal good – the hardest soul must melt in worship, and faint with the overwhelming flood of love and wonder which must attend even the slightest glimpse of such unspeakable goodness! There is no one like Jesus! No one so great as he, so powerful to save, so glorious to inspire fear and awe and soul-thrilling worship. No one so meek as he, ready to descend to the lowest depths, to be cut off from fellowship with his own beloved Father, to endure scorn and pain and ridicule and wrath and the abominable weight of sin, all because of love, free, undeserved, divine love and mercy. Whatever your trial may be, dear reader, whatever storm may be threatening your boat, is it not small in comparison with this man Jesus? Will not the slightest glimpse of him in all his glory, filled with power and clothed with meekness, working with all the matchless attributes of flawless humanity and eternal deity for your eternal salvation and unfading joy – will it not turn the angriest winds into whispers of praise, and change the deepest seas of despair into floods of worship, filled to the brim with the sweet tears of joy and gratitude that run down your cheeks as you gaze upon this Wonder of delight, hanging upon the cross for your sin?

    Posted by Nathan on May 19, 2007 11:44 AM

    Comments

    is there a verse in the bible that says there arose a storm and God was not in it

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