This Saturday is the 9th annual Spokenya Run! It’s a 4.3 mile walk or run—some people race, and some of us come out for a leisurely stroll along the river and some ice cream at the end! But here’s the cool part: it’s a benefit event to raise money for clean water in Kenya. Thanks to generous sponsors, every dime of your $25 registration goes to clean water projects in Kenya.
And we’ve got some ambitious projects in the works, including bringing clean water and restrooms to every school in the region. That’s 42 schools with over 10,000 students in them! Imagine going to school where there are no bathroom facilities and no clean water! We can change that!
So go to spokenyarun.org and get registered, and we’ll see you Saturday at 9 am right here. And Laina and I will have some friends from Kenya we’d love for you to meet!
How many of you are in the middle of a storm? Sometimes, life is clear sailing, and other times, you’re just battling to stay afloat. There is almost always a storm brewing somewhere in my life—and sometimes, I’m deep in the middle of one. So how many of you are in the middle of a storm? If you aren’t, you will be soon. And today, we’re going to read a story about Jesus and His disciples weathering a storm and learn what to do in the midst of the storm.
We’re going to read Luke 8:16–25 (p. 888). We’ll read the whole thing, but we’re going to zero in on the storm story.
Luke 8:16–25 (p. 888)
16 “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. 17 For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. 18 Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.”
19 Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. 20 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.”
21 He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”
22 One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. 23 As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.
24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”
He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.
In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”
This story takes place on Lake Galilee. The lake is 13 miles long and 7 miles wide, and because it is in the Jordan Rift Valley, it is 700 feet below sea level. It is the lowest fresh water lake on earth, and the only lake lower is the Dead Sea, which is saltwater. The Jordan River flows through it from the north to the south and terminates in the Dead Sea, 1412 feet below sea level. Why the geography lesson? It will be important in a minute.
The land around the lake was fertile, and the lake was full of fish, so in Jesus’ time, there were a couple dozen fishing and farming villages dotting the shore of the lake. Jesus and His disciples were on the west side of Lake Galilee when Jesus announced that they were going to other side. The western side was mostly Jewish, the eastern side was mostly Gentile. So when Jesus said they were going to “other side” of the lake, it was the “other” not only geographically, but racially, socially and spiritually too.
The other side was the region of Decapolis, which means “the ten cities.” It’s inhabitants were pagans; in fact, there was a rabbinic tradition that the other side is where the seven nations of Canaan had settled—the nations God had driven out before the Israelites centuries before. The other side was filled with pagan temples featuring exaltations of violence and sex and greed. The pig, regarded as unclean in Israel, was used in worship on the other side. The Jews regarded the other side as the place where Satan lived. It was dark, evil, and oppressive. Good Jews avoided the other side—especially the rabbis. But Jesus went. It’s almost like He thought He owned the place—like the other side was His side too.
Jesus is for everyone! Luke loves to remind us that Jesus included the people who had always been excluded. Jesus went to the other side. Jesus moved toward the other, and included them! And for the last couple years, I’ve been beating this drum: move toward the other. When you see someone different than you—different race, different beliefs, different politics—don’t avoid them. Move toward them. Get to know them. Make a new friend. As long as we label each other—“Oh, you’re one of those. You are from the other side”—we will stay polarized. And most importantly, if we’re going to bring the good news of Jesus to the other side, we have to be willing to go there. Let’s follow Jesus to the other side!
So Jesus said, “Let’s go over to the other side.” The disciples were not happy about this, but they went. And what an adventure awaited them, first in the boat, and then on shore when they arrived…but that’s next week’s story!
So they get into the boat and set out, and as they sailed, Jesus fell asleep. Mark tells us that it was evening. After a long day of teaching and healing people, Jesus was exhausted—a reminder that He was fully human. He was so tired that when a violent storm swept down on the lake and threatened to swamp the boat, He slept right through it! Think about it: the boat is pitching back and forth, the wind is roaring, lake water is spraying everywhere, and the men are yelling frantically—and Jesus slept through it all. That’s tired!
The storm—remember I said the geography was important—wasn’t unusual. Lake Galilee lay in a deep depression, 700 feet below sea level, and just 30 miles to the northeast, Mt. Hermon rises to 9200 feet above sea level—this is where modern Israelis ski! The cold air coming down off the mountains often meets the warm air rising from the lake and creates sudden and violent storms like this one.
So here they are, fighting for their lives in this storm, and Jesus is asleep. Some of these men made their livings on the lake. They were seasoned sailors, comfortable in a boat. But this storm was so violent that even these men were terrified, afraid for their lives. It is usually the experts who recognize the need to panic! Their boat was being swamped and they were in great danger. You can see them fighting to get the sail down, and bailing for all they are worth. Finally, they turn to Jesus. Someone shakes Him awake. “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” In Mark’s version of this story, they say, “Don’t you care if we drown?” Isn’t it interesting how they interpreted Jesus sleeping as a lack of care for them? How quickly they assumed that Jesus didn’t care; we do the same thing. We interpret God’s silence or inactivity as a lack of care.
Have you ever been there? Ever been so overwhelmed that you thought you were going under, going down for the count? And you wondered, “God, don’t you care?” Hold that thought.
So they wake Jesus up and He rebuked the wind and waves. “Quiet! Be still! Hushhhhh…” And the wind died, and the sea grew calm. Can you imagine the looks on the disciples’ faces?
Jesus turns to them and asks, “Where is your faith?” In Mark’s version, he adds, “Why were you so afraid?”
Of course, at this moment the disciples are probably thinking, “What do you mean, ‘Why are you afraid?’ We almost drowned for Pete’s sake! And ‘Where is your faith?’ What’s faith got to do with it?” Well, it turns out, everything.
A few moments earlier, they had been afraid of the storm; now they realize that Someone greater than the storm is in their boat, and they are afraid and amazed, and ask, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and waters and they obey Him!” Who is this? It’s the central question of Luke’s gospel, and the most important question in life.
Today, I want to focus on the question that Jesus asked the disciples:
The question: “Where is your faith?”
This question at first seems comical. “We were about to drown and you ask us why we’re afraid and where was our faith? What does faith have to do with it?” As I said, it turns out everything. Faith has everything to do with surviving the storms of your life. Jesus made it the central issue in this story. So why did Jesus ask the question? The disciples lost their faith in the storm because they forgot three important things: Jesus’ promise, Jesus’ presence, and Jesus’ power. And sometimes we lose our faith in the storm because we forget those same three things.
1. Jesus’ promise: we’re going to the other side. v. 22
Look at how the story starts in v. 22. One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out.
Whose idea was it to go to the other side? It was Jesus’ idea to go to the other side. And if Jesus says we’re going to the other side, then we’re going to the other side! But in the midst of the storm, they forgot what Jesus said, and that’s easy to do.
In the 1993 NCAA Championship game, North Carolina played Michigan’s Fab Five. NC was ahead by 2 when Michigan star Chris Webber took the inbounds pass and dribbled across the time line. Two NC defenders trapped him against the baseline in the corner with 11 seconds left, and Webber called timeout. The problem was that Michigan had no timeouts left, so Webber’s decision resulted in a technical foul: NC got two free throws and the ball…and the championship.
Webber said that he heard someone yelling at him from the bench area to call time out, and in the heat of the battle, he did. But he forgot that Coach Steve Fischer had just told them in the huddle moments before that they had no time outs left. Under pressure, he forgot what Coach said.
When we’re under pressure, when we’re in the storm, it’s easy to forget what God told us in our quiet time that morning, or the word He gave us a week ago. This is why it is so important to stay connected to Jesus, to hear from Him every day, and to remember what He says. I need to hear God’s promise. I need to hear a word from Jesus and hang on to it. That’s what will keep me strong in the storm.
In the mid 1990’s, Life Center was growing rapidly, and we had just added a third service. We began to think about ways to manage our growth. We believe that God spoke to us and called us to plant a new church instead of adding a fourth service. Our plan was to hive off about 200 people, then take a couple years to fill back up and do it again. We hired a church planter and gave him an unlimited fishing license—ask anyone you want to go with you—and he did. He asked our staff, our church council, our key volunteers, and our largest givers! 400 people went with him—including half of our kids ministry team, half of our worship and drama team, and dozens of other leaders. One quarter of our church went with him, and one quarter of our offerings went too, and they planted Summit Ridge, now Summit Church on the South Hill.
Normally, losing ¼ of your people and money in a single day is a disaster for a church. And there were moments when we were afraid, when we were thinking, “What have we done?!” But we stayed the course with joy. Do you know why? Because we had a word from God! Because Jesus said to plant a church and we did. Jesus said we were going to the other side, and we knew we would. We knew it would be ok.
And it was. The next week, our attendance wasn’t down by 400; it was down by 40. It didn’t take 2 years to fill the seats—it took a week! And we made budget all the next year. Amazing!
We’re going to plant more churches. Why? Because Jesus said to—so we’re not afraid. We’re going to the other side!
Has Jesus told you to do something? Do it and don’t be afraid! He’s got this! Do you have a promise from God? Hang on to it; don’t forget it and cave in to fear.
But if you are afraid, the best thing you can do is what the disciples did when they feared for their lives: they went straight to Jesus. And Jesus spoke the word that stilled the storm.
A few weeks ago, I was feeling a lot of anxiety for a friend of mine who lost his job. I care about him and I was worried for him. So I was praying—I was praying hard. You know what I mean: you’re praying with lots of feeling. And then the Lord spoke to me. “I love this guy just as much as I love you. I’m going to take care of him. Thanks for your concern, but I’ve got this! Trust me.” That was the word from Jesus that I needed to hear. He’s got this. His word calmed the storm in me. I’m still praying for my friend, but without the worry—with confidence that God’s got this. And I shared that word with my friend, hoping that it will help him in his storm.
Has God given you a promise? Hang on to it. Don’t forget it when the storm comes. In the midst of the storm, their fear overwhelmed their faith; it often does for me too. It’s pretty hard not to be afraid when the water is swamping your boat; when your child has just died; when your business is going under and your house is being repo’d; when the doctor says it’s cancer; when your future suddenly becomes uncertain. Fear is the natural response. Faith is super-natural—it is something beyond our natural response. In that moment, in the midst of the storm, we need to stop and remember what Jesus said. “We’re going to the other side.” So…We’re going to the other side—storm or not!
2. Jesus’ presence: He is in your boat.
They forgot Jesus’ promise that they were going to the other side, and they forgot Jesus’ presence. At least momentarily they seemed to forget who was in the boat with them. Jesus was in their boat.
So think about it. God’s Son is in the boat. God has sent Jesus to bring God’s Kingdom to earth. And do you think God is going to lose Him in a boating accident on Lake Galilee? Can you imagine the scene in heaven? Michael the archangel reports to God:
“Lord, we’ve got a problem. There’s been a boating accident on Lake Galilee, and we lost Jesus. Sorry about that. Unexpected storm—kinda came out of nowhere. And He wasn’t wearing a life preserver. Not much we could do.”
And God responds, “Bummer. That really messes up the plan!” Not gonna happen!
Jesus, God’s Son, was in their boat. They were not going down. And Jesus is in your boat too, if you’ve invited Him into your life. When you give yourself to follow Jesus, He moves into your life—all of it—even the storms. Jesus is in your boat.
When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, Jesus was in our boat. After receiving the news from the doctor, I told Laina, “I woke up this morning in God’s hands; nothing has changed; I’m still in God’s hands.” I knew Jesus was in my boat and that gave me peace in the midst of a storm.
When our son died in 2006, that was easily the biggest storm in our lives; but Laina and I discovered that Jesus was in our boat. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t feel the pain—it was awful. But we weren’t alone; and we knew that we were going to other side. (2006 was a hard year for us—but we had Jesus in our boat and we made it to the other side!)
If you look up in the Bible the words, “Don’t be afraid,” you’ll usually find right after them, “for I am with you.” Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Jesus is in your boat.
“Where is your faith?” Jesus asked them. They forgot that Jesus, God’s Son was in their boat. In the disciples’ defense, I want to point out they eventually remembered that Jesus was in their boat. It finally dawned on someone, “Jesus is in the boat! He can help us!” And in a panic they woke Him up. It’s better to come to Jesus in a panic than not come at all! They eventually did the right thing: they came to Jesus for help. They remembered that Jesus was in the boat and they turned to Him.
Have you done that? Have you turned to Jesus in your storm and asked for His help. Jesus is in your boat. Maybe He’ll still the storm; or maybe He’ll simply calm you and help you get to the other side.
Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.” Jesus is in your boat.
3. Jesus’ power: He can do anything.
They also forgot Jesus’ power. By this point in Luke’s gospel, the disciples have seen Jesus forgive sinners, drive out demons, heal the sick, give sight to the blind, make the lame walk and the deaf hear, cure lepers, produce a miraculous catch of fish, and even raise the dead. Jesus is doing things that only God can do. Now granted, they haven’t seen Jesus calm a storm; but they’ve seen all kinds of other miracles and acts of power, enough to know that Jesus has power. Great power!
Jesus can do anything—nothing is too hard for Him. But they hadn’t quite got that yet—or if they had, they forgot it in the midst of the storm.
Have you ever been in the midst of a storm and suddenly it dawns on you, “I haven’t asked Jesus for help! He can do anything—including help me with this.” I’ve done that—so many times! I told you about praying for my friend who lost his job—but it was anxious praying until God reminded me that He’s got this. He’s powerful—and He loves us. I often catch myself fretting about things, and then finally remembering that God is powerful and cares for me. Jesus can do anything and He’s in my boat! So I turn to Him in prayer—and that’s when the storm inside me is calmed.
Philippians 4:6–7 (p. 1013) Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Anxiety or worry should be a catalyst to prayer. Every time you catch yourself worrying, it should remind you to turn to Jesus—He’s in your boat and He is powerful. So bring every worry, every fear, every anxiety to Him. And what will happen? Peace. God’s peace will guard your hearts and minds. Scott Krippayne sings a song that says, “Sometimes He calms the storm, and other times He calms His child.” Either way, He gives us peace.
What are you worried about? Jesus says, “Peace be still.”
What are you afraid of? Jesus says, “Peace be still.”
What is the storm you’re in? Jesus says, “Peace be still.”
Let’s bring our worries, our fears, our storms to Jesus because He is in our boat and He can do anything. “Peace be still.”
Where is your faith? My faith is in Jesus.
In Jesus’ promise: we’re going to the other side.
In Jesus’ presence: He is in my boat. I’m not alone.
In Jesus’ power: He can do anything.
That’s where my faith is…and I will not be afraid.