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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Crying Out in the Storm (Isaiah 43:1-3; Matthew 14:22-33)

November 2, 2008
Sermon by: the Rev. Dr. William G. Katibah, Jr.
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Imagine yourself in the boat with the other disciples when this incident occurred. Jesus stayed behind to dismiss the crowd. He had just miraculously fed the 5000 with just 5 loaves and 2 fish. This act displayed Jesus’ unique power and authority and his deep compassion. The crowd began clamoring to make him king. But that wasn’t God’s plan! Jesus sent the disciples across the lake to the other side. He wanted to commune with his father to strengthen his resolve to be the suffering servant and face the cross. While he was praying, the disciples were heading to the other side. Suddenly, a storm developed. The wind whipped up the waves and rocked the boat. It was between 3-6am. These experienced, veteran fishermen became afraid. Where was Jesus when you needed him? Can you just feel their fear?

Jesus saw the storm battering the boat and went to help his disciples. The disciples seeing this figure coming toward them on the water were terrified. They began to freak out. Jesus shouted to them: “Don’t be afraid! Take courage, it is I!”

Peter wasn’t certain it was Jesus but this was no time to sit still! Not impetuous peter. “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you.” Jesus said: “Come.” Peter quickly got out of the boat and began walking toward Jesus. Suddenly, a gust of wind blew against him. He panicked and began to sink. “Lord, save me”! Jesus caught his arm and said, “Peter, why do you have such little faith? Didn’t you see my power at work in feeding the 5000? Didn’t it strengthen your faith and trust in me?”

One night a house caught fire and a young boy was forced to flee to the roof. The father stood on the ground with outstretched arms calling to his son, “Jump! I’ll catch you”! But all the boy could see was smoke and darkness. The boy cried out: “Daddy, I can’t see you.” His father replied, “But I can see you and that’s all that matters.” And the boy jumped to safety.

Each of us has moments when doubts and fears arise. Maybe it’s been triggered by some difficult experience - a bitter disappointment. A serious illness. A terrible tragedy. A strain in a family relationship. Losing a job with the economic downturn. Some anguish of the soul. None of us is immune from such times. And often they leave us helpless. The props get knocked out from under us and we’re afraid. We feel battered and tossed by the storms that hammer against us.

What do we do during those storms when we cry out for help; when our faith is shaken by doubts and fears? Do we tell ourselves it’s wrong or sinful to doubt? Do we repress it pushing it down into our subconscious mind where it can be detrimental to us emotionally or physically? Do we allow these storms to defeat us? Or is there a way for us to face the storms of life in a constructive, productive, healthy, and positive way?

There is! Our Bible passage tells us how. It’s by putting our faith and trust in Jesus!! There’s no way we can cope with the difficult storms that confront us in our daily lives without him! We weaken and crumble under the weight of such circumstances. But we don’t have to face them alone! We are not helpless! Christ has promised to be with us through that storm!

Jesus comes to us just like he came to Peter and the other disciples offering his help. No matter what storm we have to face. No matter what trial we have to endure. Jesus has promised to be there with us. We’re never alone when we live in a trust relationship with him as a child of God!

Even in the O.T. God told his people thru the prophet Isaiah: “when you go thru deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go thru rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk thru the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up - the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, your Savior, the Holy One of Israel” (43:2-4a). That’s our assurance as his children! Even when we’re not conscious of his presence, Jesus is there in every hill we have to climb and give us hope and confidence!

One day a robin flew into a home thru a partially open sliding glass door. It became frightened by its confinement and the family’s excitement. It fluttered its wings around the room, hitting the windows and screens in an effort to find freedom. Finally, completely exhausted, it perched itself on the back of a chair in total helplessness. At that point the father picked up the bird, petted its head gently, took it outside, and released it. Soon, the bird began to sing knowing it was safe. (Our Daily Bread 11-22-76).

When the storms of life threaten to defeat you, and your faith weakens; when you feel helpless under the weight of difficult circumstances and fears, remember God is with you and loves you as his child in Christ. Seek his help and you will find support and direction! He will provide peace, strength, and encouragement!

I won’t promise you that the storm will disappear right away or the pain will stop. I won’t promise that you will never have any more difficult or hard times. Jesus didn’t come to take away all our trials and burdens.

In fact, God may have a purpose he wants to fulfill thru our struggles or to strengthen us in our faith. The storm may continue but you won’t bear it alone. The hymn says: “Be still, my soul, the Lord is on thy side. Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.”

Chuck Swindoll tells the story of Alexander Solzhenitsyn who was in a Soviet Union prison labor camp. He said only once during his long imprisonment did he feel discouraged and consider suicide. He was outdoors on a prison detail feeling very downhearted. When the time came for a break, a stranger sat down beside him. He had never seen him before and as it turned out, never saw him again. The man bent over, took a stick and drew a cross on the ground. Solzhenitsyn stared at that cross for a long time. Later, the truth hit him. Because of what Christ had done for him on the cross, nothing the authorities did could bring him lasting harm. He was covered by the blood of Jesus. Still facing the horrible ordeal of imprisonment, he discovered new strength and courage to endure his ordeal, knowing he was in the arms of Jesus.

Are you crying out in the storm right now? Reach out for Jesus’ hand like Peter did and hear Jesus say, “Take courage, it is I! Do not be afraid. I’m here with you. Keep on trusting in me!” Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and the cross and you’ll be able to weather any storm that comes your way!

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