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Riding Out the Storms of Life

August 2017
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Hurricane Harvey was a Category 4 hurricane when it hit the Texas Gulf Coast last night (August 25, 2017) near Corpus Christi which is about 200 miles from where I am staying in Houston. It is forecast to be hanging around this area of Texas–the Gulf Coast and going as far north as San Antonio and Austin, and including Houston and Galveston–for the next several days dumping tons of rain and causing massive flooding.

Storms. . . . They come at us through natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes, and also through circumstances–like divorce, the death of a family member or a close friend, betrayal, addictions, loss of a job, financial devastation, and any number of things that can happen; and often they happen when we are least expecting them. Sometimes we are the cause; sometimes others are the cause; and sometime they are caused by natural disasters.

Storms, in whatever shape they take, remind us of just how fragile this life really is, and how life can turn on a dime.” I ran into an article titled, Riding Out the Storms of Life,” by Dr. Adrian Rogers (1931-2005), pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, “which grew from 9,000 members in 1972 to more than 29,000 at his retirement in March 2005. He also served three terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention (quote source here). Dr. Rogers’ Love Worth Finding Ministries is a publication and broadcast extension of his pulpit ministry. In his article he explains the four types of storms that come our way and our responses:

Riding Out the Storms of Life

Sometimes the sea is calm and the wind blows softly. But other times the wind rises, the sky darkens, and we find ourselves in the midst of a terrible storm. We know that’s the way life is, and in Acts 27 we read of such a storm in the life of the apostle Paul.

He had been arrested for preaching the gospel of Christ and was now being taken to Rome to be adjudicated when they encountered a huge storm. Perhaps you’re even in the midst of a terrible storm yourself, and all hope has seemed to vanish.

First we need to realize there are many different types of storms we all encounter. Then we’re going to see what Paul did in his storm and what we can do.

There are normal storms. The Bible says God makes it rain on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). We simply live in a world that has storms as a natural part of life.

Then there are some storms we engineer by our own foolishness and disobedience. That’s the kind of storm Jonah got into to when he tried to flee from the presence of God (Jonah 1:1-4).

There are also storms God sends us for growth. Jesus commanded His disciples to get into a boat and go to the other side of the sea (Matthew 14:22-24). He knew a storm was brewing but was teaching them a lesson for their development.

And then there are storms we’re dragged into by other people. That’s where we find the apostle Paul. He was a prisoner who had tried to warn them! But they wouldn’t listen so he was dragged into his storm by others.

Sinking the Ship–The sailors on Paul’s ship took some actions that made things worse. We tend to do some of these same things when we find ourselves in a storm. Let’s look at some of the ways we sink the ship.

(1) Make decisions in haste. Verse nine says much time had past, and they felt they had to do something. Have you heard some say “Let’s do something even if it’s wrong!” If you’re in the middle of a decision, wait on God. If you feel something pushing you, I can assure you it’s not the Holy Spirit. He leads and He guides, but He doesn’t shove.

(2) Depend upon worldly wisdom rather than godly wisdom. The captain and owner of the ship believed each other instead of Paul (verse 11). Don’t go to the people of this world and ask them what to do. Seek a godly counselor — one that bases their counsel on the Word of God.

(3) Take the easy way out. Because the harbor wasn’t up to their standards, they decided to depart hastily (Acts 27:12).When they made their decision, it was based on what would be easy. Almost always you’ll find trouble this way! Sometimes, we’re called upon to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.

(4) Follow the crowd. There was a crowd on that boat. When they took a vote, Paul was outvoted (verse 12). They said, “Let’s sail.” But if you think about it, often the majority is wrong. Don’t get the idea that if everybody says it, then it’s right. You may go from person to person trying to get permission to do what you already decided to do, but frequently, the majority is simply a lot of people pooling their ignorance.

(5) Depend upon circumstances. In Acts 27:13 they said, “The sun is shining, the sea is calm, and the wind is blowing in our direction; it must be the right thing.” There are a lot of people who are led by circumstances and say, “Lord, it must be Your will. It looks good.” But that soothing south wind may turn into a horrible, ferocious storm.

(6) Responding to Rain. When they found themselves in the teeth of this torrential rainstorm, the ungodly on this ship reacted in some curious ways:

• In verse 15, they saw dashed dreams as the floundering vessel began to sink.
• And they also saw desperate efforts as described in verse 16. They desperately tried to get the tackle of the ship back together.
• Subsequently in verses 18-19, they experienced wasted resources. They started dumping what they thought were precious things into the ocean. What a waste!
• Then in verse 20, they lost hope. The stars, sun and moon had disappeared and they were in complete darkness.
• And finally, in verse 30, we see their foolish actions almost caused their demise as they tried to escape by lifeboats. In our lives today, we often see escapism in the form of alcohol, divorce, desertion, or even suicide. These are all foolish reactions to the storms of our lives.

In contrast to the ungodly responses, Paul said “be of good cheer” (verses 22 and 25). Can you imagine saying that in the midst of these problems? But the same One Who gave him songs in the night in a dungeon at Philippi (Acts 16:25) gave him peace in the midst of this storm — His name is Jesus.

We serve a mighty God! You may fail, flounder, and sin; but God is ultimately in control. Paul believed in God and could say, “Be of good cheer,” even in the midst of his storm. And you can, too, by relying on the same God Who brought him through the storm. (Quote source here.)

In a devotion titled, The Storms of Life,” by Albert Lee, former director of international ministries for Our Daily Bread Ministries, published in Our Daily Bread, he writes the following:

The Storms of Life

In the book of Mark we read about a terrible storm. The disciples were with Jesus on a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee. When a “furious squall came up,” the disciples—among them some seasoned fishermen—were afraid for their lives (4:37-38). Did God not care? Weren’t they handpicked by Jesus and closest to Him? Weren’t they obeying Jesus who told them to “go over to the other side”? (v. 35). Why, then, were they going through such a turbulent time?

No one is exempt from the storms of life. But just as the disciples who initially feared the storm later came to revere Christ more, so the storms we face can bring us to a deeper knowledge of God. “Who is this,” the disciples pondered, “even the wind and the waves obey him!” (v. 41). Through our trials we can learn that no storm is big enough to prevent God from accomplishing His will.

While we may not understand why God allows trials to enter our lives, we thank Him that through them we can come to know who He is. We live to serve Him because He has preserved our lives.

Lord, I know I don’t need to fear the storms of life around me. Help me to be calm because I stand secure in You.

The storms of life prove the strength of our anchor.

“You may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith . . . may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”1 Peter 1:6-7

INSIGHT: In Mark 4:35–5:43 the gospel writer tells of four miracles to prove that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of God” and therefore has absolute authority over the forces of this physical world (4:35-41), over the powers of the spiritual world (5:1-20), over physical illnesses (5:24-34), and over death (5:35-43). These miracles were designed to answer the question, “Who is this?” (4:41). The first miracle was Jesus calming the storm on Galilee. Because the Sea of Galilee is in a basin about 700 feet below sea level and is surrounded by mountains, sudden and violent storms are common (v. 37). That Jesus was tired and soundly asleep showed that He was fully human (v. 38); that the storm instantly obeyed Him showed He was divine (v. 39). ~Sim Kay Tee (Quote source here.)

One last article on this topic is titled, Weathering the Storms of Life,” by Dr. Charles F. Stanley, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the founder and president of In Touch Ministries and also served two one-year terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Weathering the Storms of Life

Reflecting on the divine purpose in hardship can help us respond to trials in a God-honoring way as we seek to understand the lessons He wants us to learn through life’s dark moments.

The disciples experienced several “mountaintop moments” in their time with Jesus. But when a storm arose while they were out on the Sea of Galilee, fear took over. Amidst the roaring waves and with the boat rocking, Jesus’ chosen ones failed to recall the lessons they had learned about the power and purposes of their leader. Even the appearance of Christ walking on water didn’t bring immediate relief (Matt. 14:26).

When trouble strikes, we sometimes forget our knowledge of God, too. We struggle to recall past answers to prayer, specific guidance provided by the Holy Spirit, and lessons learned in previous crises. Only the present seems real. Our minds spin with future implications, and our troubled emotions inhibit clear thinking.

In our own strength, we lack sufficient resources and abilities to meet life’s challenges. So God provides what we need. Our suffering is never a surprise to the Lord. He knows everything we are going through. More than that, He’s orchestrating our circumstances for His glory and our benefit, according to His good will.

Reflecting on the divine purpose in hardship can help us respond to trials in a God-honoring way. Let’s take a moment to fix our attention on the Lord and seek to understand four lessons He wants us to learn through life’s dark moments:

1. One purpose for hardship is cleansing. Because of our own “flesh” nature and the self-absorbed world we live in, it’s easy to develop selfish attitudes, mixed-up priorities, and ungodly habits. The pressures that bear down on us from stormy situations are meant to bring these impurities to our attention and direct us to a place of repentance. Our trials are intended to purify and guide us back to godliness, not ruin our lives.

2. A second reason we face difficulty is so we’ll be compassionate and bring comfort to others. God’s work in our lives is not intended solely for us. It’s designed to reach a world that does not recognize or acknowledge Him. The Lord uses our challenges to equip us for serving others. As we experience suffering, we will learn about God’s sufficiency, His comforting presence, and His strength to help us endure. Our testimony during times of difficulty will be authentic. Those to whom we minister will recognize we know and understand their pain. What credibility would we have with people in crisis if we never experienced a deep need?

3. Third, God promises us He’ll provide a path through any trial we face. The disciples probably wondered how long the storm would last and whether they would make it safely to shore. Most likely, they wished it never happened. But, had they somehow avoided this storm, they would have missed the demonstration of Jesus’ power over the sea and wind. The frightening situation was transformed into a revelation of the Savior’s divine nature. God wants to make His power known through our trials, as well.

4. The most important thing He gives us is an awareness of His presence. At first, the disciples believed they were alone in a terrifying storm. When they initially spotted Jesus, their fear increased. They thought He was a ghost. But as they recognized Him, their fear changed to relief and hope. Similarly, we may not sense God’s presence during a crisis. But He has promised to always be with us (Heb. 13:5-6). The assurance that the Lord will never leave provides immediate comfort, an infusion of courage, and a sense of confidence to endure.

No one enjoys suffering. But in the hands of almighty God, trials become tools. He uses hardship to shape believers into the people He intends them to be. Jesus allowed the disciples to experience the fear and anxiety of being in a boat on a raging sea. He permitted them to suffer because He had something far more important to teach them. He wanted the disciples to recognize their own helplessness, His sufficiency, and their dependence on Him.

Ask God to reveal His abiding presence in the midst of your trouble. And remember—He always provides for your spiritual needs to help you both endure and grow stronger in your Christian faith. (Quote source here.)

Storms come to all of us wrapped in all kinds of packaging. . . hurricanes, natural disasters, our own mistakes, the mistakes of others, and in life in general. The apostle Paul reminds us of a very important fact no matter what the storm is that we may be going through, and it is found in I Corinthians 10:13:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

A way out . . . . So instead of focusing on the storm, let’s put our focus where it belongs, on the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2) . . .

It is Jesus . . .

Who calms . . .

The storm . . . .

YouTube Video: “Praise You In The Storm” by Casting Crowns:

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Photo #2 credit here

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