Coming Through the Storms of Life
Jerry A Collins
² Do you have a strong faith?
² Is it strong enough to withstand the storms of life that may come?
² How can we have a strong enough faith for this?
Sometimes I think we have the idea that having faith in Christ means we will have no fears in life, or not be troubled by what we might call storms which will come. In addition to the ones we might expect, are troubles that come unexpectedly. We can be distressed, troubled by the problems of life, and then get caught in a fresh storm that raises our fears again or even higher than before. But having faith means in those hours of distress, trial, hardship and unexpected storms, we can find the way to turn to Jesus as our only hope and be delivered. So, the disciples, like us, are in their faith, growing but still doubting, responding still from where they are to the place of faith Jesus desires them to be. All of this is illustrated in the story of Jesus walking on the water. Let’s make some observations before we discover the essential lessons here.
OBSERVATIONS FROM TEXT
1. We have a lot of dialogue. Some between the disciples and Jesus and an interchange between Jesus and Peter. What we notice here is that Jesus’ words are mostly a response to theirs. Jesus words have a confident tone 27, 29, 31, while the disciples are panicked and fearful 26, 28, 30. This dialogue is all during the storm which motivates these responses. Then only afterward, when the storm has passed and all seems safe, that the final affirmation of Jesus’ deity is articulated by them in vs. 33.
2. We also have prayer mentioned both by Jesus and the disciple—Peter. Jesus goes ahead to the hills by Himself to pray. What is interesting is that Jesus first sent the disciples ahead, until he freed Himself from the crowds. We do not know how He did this. On one hand, Matthew says He felt compassion for the crowd vs 14. Then in the next He sends them away vs 22. John explains this to us in Jn 6:15. This crowd wanted to make Him King-the same idea may be true in Jn 2:23-25, where Jesus was not willing to entrust Himself to men—the crowd—probably because they too had an agenda for Jesus that was not His own, one He already had from the Father—to make Him some type of leader of some type of movement. Don’t let other people define your ministry for you. Jesus ministry was defined by the Father not by those He ministered to and neither should yours. Now Jesus would free Himself from that by going up into the hills to pray. A good example for us whenever we may discern that God’s will is being threatened by people or moments. Peter’s prayer is the other, which displays he did not have strong faith to ignore the waves and wind and is threatened to drown otherwise.
3. Three times it says ‘immediately’ in telling this story 22, 27, 31. In all cases it is Jesus doing something, making disciples go in the boat, speaking to take courage, and stretching out his hand to deliver Peter. On one level we see that this whole event is divinely orchestrated. Both, that of the storm & disciples & storm and Peter. There is a divinely inspired purpose for all of it. Jesus had never lost sight of them. They did not know where He was but He knew exactly where they were physically and spiritually and serves them in both ways. The immediacy also shows the sequence of events is rapid.
4. Storms and water reveals Jesus has authority over nature recalling OT Exodus, Jordan, and Elijah. Connecting these dots brings you to Jesus as the Son of God vs 33.
Interpretation: WHEN WE KNOW HE IS PRESENT THERE IS NOTHING TO FEAR
These are seasoned fisherman and used to storms. The men were out far enough now—a stadia is about 200 yards—that their rowing in the storm is not going to make much of a difference. Especially with the winds against them and the waves harassing them or better tormenting them. It is now —fourth watch—when Jesus came to them walking on the water. Now the wind and the waves are still brewing. So when Jesus did the completely unexpected, walking on the water, they were terrified with what appeared to be a phantom and they screamed in terror. Of course, they had been in a fearful state of mind already with the storm and their unsuccessful exertions. This was just one more fear too many and they caved into their mounting fears. In an instant, Jesus spoke to calm those fears. They could stop being afraid. There was no need for that anymore. Start being confident, it is I. So, in the middle of the storm, in response to their terror, Jesus identified Himself and to not be afraid of Him—He was no phantom—nor of the storm.
Jesus could have come sooner before the storm. Jesus could have calmed the storm or He could have waited until later at night. He came through the storm—the danger. They were not lost or in trouble. They just thought they were. So, rather than keep us from turmoil, God often comes to us through the turmoil. So we know that He is present and have nothing to fear when we face our storms-have any?
Interpretation: STORMS REVEAL THE WEAKNESS AND STRENTGHS OF OUR FAITH
Only Matthew records Peter walking on water. His speaking is most likely what the others were thinking. He says ‘if’ meaning ‘since’ it is you then let me come. Jesus response ‘come’ was in response to Peter’s faith. He did not step over and sink but walked. Jesus initiates this response whenever we chose to believe Him. So Peter had faith fir sure but we shall see that it was not the fully developed confident faith eh would have later—at least not yet. The problem he had is the one we always have. He ‘saw the wind’ vs 30 meaning the storm the wind had produced. Peter’s faith was strong enough to get him out of the boat and onto the raging water but not strong enough to overcome the storm. When we launch out in faith we too may initially believe and trust but then the path that faith takes us on, unknown and unexpected, brings panic. We get overwhelmed by circumstances that our faith walk must manage. His prayer is a good one ‘Lord save me’ without any embellishment. Like Nehemiah, a quick prayer in an urgent situation is biblical. He needed saving fast. Jesus grabs him holds him safely and gives a mild rebuke about ‘little faith’ 31.
Storms can extract a faith response but it may be weak and we begin to sink. They can reveal where we are in faith and like them we may be growing but still doubting. Our faith grows as our doubts decrease.
Interpretation: WE LEARN STROMS NO PROBLEM FOR JESUS AND WE WORSHIP HIM
In the boat after the deliverance they declare ‘You are certainly the God’s Son’ 33. This is the climax. The disciples learned by degrees as do we, would fall back in confusion, then see something new by Jesus, gain more insight only to be uncertain again.
Application: Some of our greatest spiritual victories come from dark moments. We go through a storm we would prefer not to and afterwards even say I would not want to endure that again but also praise Him for out of it His presence made known otherwise impossible. We focus our acclaim upon Him.
1. God is never absent from your storm.
2. The storms test our faith to reveal where it is strong and where it needs strengthening.
3. Our faith grows as we sense His presence in the storms of life.