I read something last week that made me chuckle … and then made me groan.
Me: I’m happy right now!
Life: LOL …one sec…
It is inevitable isn’t it that our best days will give way to our worst.Sooner or later life will turn, sometimes completely blind siding us and we are faced with managing another storm.
· Some of you are staring down a storm right now. I pray for you peace and the presence of God.
Rhetorical question: should there be a qualitative difference in the way a person who has embraced the nickname “Christian” handles a storm and one who doesn’t?
· Put two people side by side who are dealing with trouble, struggle, tragedy … one who is a follower of Jesus and one who is not...should their reaction be different…
· Should that reaction distinguish them?
Those are the questions I want to try to answer…
This summer we’re trying to figure out just what it means to Christian…beyond the nickname which has nearly lost all meaning.
As we have been reading through the stories in the Gospel of Mark we’ve been highlighting the real inner distinguishing marks of a true follower of Jesus.
· Trying to identify the DNA Jesus was building into his followers
· Trying to get a handle on just who we are.
What we’ve learned so far…
1. True followers of Jesus are people of the Good News.
a. Our lives should absolutely be dominated by the Good News of the Kingdom of God and our words laced with the message of the KoG.
2. Real Christians are people who “run to it”
a. Run to the danger. Run to the tragedy. Run to the chaos. Run to the brokenness. Run to the need. Run to the uncomfortable. Run to that which will likely cost you dearly.
The hard truth we need to face is that if this is not true about you…
…if…You are NOT a person of the Good News
…if...You are not a person who by nature “runs to it”
…then maybe the time has come to abandon the nickname…it just doesn’t fit you anymore.
Call yourself mildly religious or somewhat spiritual or a generally good person but don’t call yourself Christian because I don’t think Jesus is crazy about having you associate yourself with him…unless you embrace what he wants you to be!
So today...let’s return to the gospel of Mark and look at another distinguishing mark of real followers of Jesus.
Mark 4:35-41 page 833
· Today we’re jumping ahead in the text
· Context: at the end of a long day of teaching a huge crowd on the shore of the sea of Galilee
35 As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. 38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” 39 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the water, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!” Mark 4:35-41
· A perplexing story in some ways
o How could Jesus be asleep in a storm in which his boat is being swamped, a storm is pounding, and people are shouting?
o How can a person just rebuke a storm and it suddenly calm down?
o Why did Jesus accuse his followers of lacking faith and being afraid? What was his point?
o Why were the disciples terrified of him?
· But …Ultimately I want to know– what does this tell us about us? How does this bring clarity to our identity? How does this story indicate what it means to be a Christian?
o If you had been in the boat – what would YOU have done?
Let's start with some facts...
Fact: Storms are inevitable
· Life will always rise up a smack us and sometimes it will be a boat swamping storm.
· Being a follower of Jesus does not exempt you.
· Christians are not pain and tragedy free…
· Some of the NT writers went out of their way to make this clear...
“…when troubles come your way” James
“we warned you that troubles would soon come—and they did.” Paul
“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.” Jesus
“… tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Jesus
Fact: When storms hit, we will most likely be afraid.
Vs. 38 - The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?
The picture of a Marvel superhero walking calmly into the teeth of the destruction of the universe is simply not reality. That’ll never be you.
When storms hit, we panic – it is hard wired into us:
· The reaction begins in theamygdala, which triggers a neural response in thehypothalamus. The initial reaction is followed by activation of thepituitary glandand secretion of the hormoneACTH. Theadrenal glandis activated almost simultaneously and releases the hormoneepinephrine. The release of chemical messengers results in the production of the hormonecortisol, which increasesblood pressure,blood sugar, and suppresses theimmune system. This gives you a boost of energy. This boost of energy is activated by epinephrine binding toliver cellsand the subsequent production ofglucose. Additionally, the circulation of cortisol functions to turnfatty acidsinto available energy, which prepares muscles throughout the body for a violent muscular response…
· Some people call it Thefight-or-flight response some call it hyperarousal, and some…acute stress response...I call it freaking out.
We will never wipe out the natural response of panic
· And I don’t care how mature you are – when a storm hits, you will worry…you may panic…you may cry your eyes out, you may wring your hands , you may even get angry, but you will be afraid.
Which makes Jesus reaction to their fear curious…
40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
· Was he rebuking them for being freaked out?
· We he saying that Christians don’t cry! Christians should be able to pull it together?
· Was he maybe even mocking them? What are you scaredy cats? Can’t take a little storm?
No, I don’t think so. Yes, he was trying to show them that there should be something unique about the way they handle storms but it wasn’t that they should be uber calm in the middle of them.
· Side note: this is exactly what many well-meaning Christians think…we assume that the more mature you are the more unflappable you will be.
o That giants of the faith are calm superheroes in the storm
o Like faith is some kind of martial arts belt…black belts are just better at faith
o … and all this is nonsense
So what WAS Jesus implying?
40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!” Mark 4:35-41
Don’t miss this…Mark records clearly for us why they lacked faith and even what faith is…
· They 1) did not know who Jesus was and 2) they were afraid of him
o Literally terrified with a great terror
o More afraid of Him than the storm!
Their lack of faith was rooted in a misunderstanding of Jesus and lack of trust that HE could help them through a storm!
· They didn’t get Him. They didn’t trust Him. They didn’t assume that since he was in the boat with them they were ultimately going to be OK.
· His question…why are you afraid implied…because I'm right here!
· His question …do you still have no faith …implied…no faith that I'll be with you through the storm.
· Their lack of faith was in keeping their eyes on the storm and not on Him.
Faith is not an ability to handle a storm it is a steady gaze on Jesus through the storm.
Faith is not a measure of mature patience it is a measure of childlike trust.
Faith is less about resolve and more about surrender.
Faith is less about personal courage and more about confidence in Christ.
So, should followers of Jesus be unique from others in how they handle a storm. Yes.
The measure of a Christian is not how steadfastly you walk through a storm but how much you believe in Jesus’ ability to help you through it.
· Christians surrender to the Lord of the storm
· Christians trust in the Lord of the wind
· Christians realize that their faith does not calm storms. Jesus does.
Christians are people who have real faith in Jesus through the storm.
Now…today we have the privilege to hear a story of just how true this is…
I am pleased to allow you all to get in on the story of Todd and Kathy Erb.
Interview of Todd and Kathy Erb
First, congratulations again…Todd and Kathy are newlyweds! Thank you for being willing to share your story!
· A longer version of their story we will post very soon…there’s way more than we can cover in just a few moments today.
Your story together arises out of the violent life storms you both faced separately.
· Kathy – February of 2009 you awoke to your husband, at the time, Mark telling you he needed to go to the hospital. He then collapsed…you called 911 and began to do CPR. But to no avail…he was gone within a few minutes.
o Can you tell me what those initial moments were like for you and your daughters?
· Todd – your storm began 3 ½ years ago, December of 2013 when you returned from work to discover that your wife Marylyn and daughter Kelley had been brutally murdered. I say began because you then had to face many months of investigation and trial before a conviction was handed down for the murderer.
o Again…how would you describe those surreal moments and days?
· You both had been followers of Jesus for a long time leading up to your tragedies. How did that prepare you (or did it?) for what you had to face?
· Where was God in the middle of it all?
· How did you pray through the storm?
Eventually your stories came together, obviously, and we’ll take a deeper look (in a subsequent video) at how God led you to marry and begin your new life but…
· How has your faith changed in the years since the storm?
If we have time…
· What one thought would you offer to a person who is in the middle of a storm right now?