Trust in God

Scriptures: 1 Samuel 17:4-11, 32-49; Mark 4:35-41

This passage from Mark 4 is one of my favorite stories in the Scriptures, because it tells us so much about Jesus, about the disciples, and about what it means to have faith. [It is one of the most revealing passages in the Bible, telling us about Christ’s full humanity, Christ’s full divinity, what it means that God is the Creator … and just how clueless the apostles were.

In all the Gospels, the disciples are a little bit clueless, a little bit dumb, but in Mark especially. His whole Gospel asks that question that is at the end of the passage that we’ll work through, “Who is this man?” He gives us the answer in the very first chapter, very first verse of the Gospel: “this is the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

Also, I want to remind you that there is a difference between faith and belief. Belief is an intellectual assent. You can believe in a concept. You can believe in a thing. You can believe in an idea, a theory. And if evidence shows to the contrary, then you stop believing. You change your mind, and you change what you believe.

But faith involves a person. It involves trust. Even when it seems like things are countermanding what you have faith in, you continue to have faith anyway. You continue to trust anyway, even when it seems like God isn’t there, even when people present arguments, however flawed they might be, that there is no God. for instance. You continue to trust in the one who saved you, the one who loves you, and the one who continues to care for you.

In our Gospel passage, Jesus had finished a very, very long day. He was teaching. He was preaching. He did some miracles. He had kept going, and that evening he said, “Let’s go over to the other side.”

In other words, let’s get away from the crowd. (Although, as we would find out if we continued reading, that’s not going to happen.)

Lake Gennesaret, or rather the Sea of Galilee, as it’s known, is a very shallow lake. It’s fairly large, but it’s easy to follow around the shore of the lake. Because it’s so shallow, when there are storms – and they are fairly frequent – the storms can come up very suddenly and be very, very violent.

I pastored for six years in Michigan at Houghton Lake, which is the largest landlocked lake (meaning that it is not fed by a river, it’s all runoff) in Michigan, and one of the largest in the United States. But at its deepest, it’s only twenty-three feet deep. I know you can drown in that, but for fishing and boating, it’s actually a pretty shallow draft at its deepest.

People like to use pontoon boats because it’s so shallow at the draft, But let me tell you, when the wind starts coming and the storms start hitting, everybody’s leaving the water, because those pontoon boats start doing a bounce, as they begin to move.

So Jesus and his disciples left the crowd behind. And note, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. He was tired. They didn’t change clothes, they didn’t put on any life preservers. And there were other boats with them.

But a furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. How many of you have ever been out sailing or fishing or whatever, and had waves that broke over the bow of the boat and just soaked you?

These didn’t just soak them. The waves were nearly swamping the boat. The water was coming in faster than they could bail it out.

It gives you some idea of how tired Jesus was that he slept through all of this. He was sleeping through a storm that was possibly going to swamp the boat. How many of you think that you could sleep through a storm that was swamping a boat? I don’t think I could.

And mind you, for those of you that have some experience with boating, the average fishing boat was only about twenty-two to twenty-four feet long. We’re not talking the Queen Mary. We’re not even talking the H.M.S. Victory. It’s a small boat. And yet, he was tired.

The disciples woke him, and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Now, what does that tell us about the apostles? Jesus is the one that had said, “Let’s go over to the other side,” right? It wasn’t one of the disciples’ idea. It was Jesus’ idea.

Jesus is sleeping through the whole storm. He’s not very worried, apparently. And yet the disciples wake him up, not to say, “Teacher, the boat’s going to capsize. Help us.” No, they say, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

They were more worried for their own lives than they were for their teacher. They were more worried about their own lives than they were about the boat itself. They were concerned solely with themselves. I imagine if there had been a lifeboat – and there’s not in boats that size – but if there had been a lifeboat, they would have been fighting to see who gets in the lifeboat first.

This is probably about 3:30 or 4 in the morning, by the way. As I said, it was a long day.

Jesus still shows his humanity, at the same time as his deity, in this next verse. He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” This is a better translation than what some translations have done, and I’m glad that they did that when they used “Quiet! Be still!” The old translations, the King James and such, said “Peace, be still.”

But the word that’s used for “rebuke” is the same one as is used when he rebukes demons, and when he rebukes Peter and says, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” And the words that are used for “quiet” and “be still” are actually the kind of words in Greek that were used by animal trainers. It would be the same as if I said to my dog, who was busy barking at me as I came in the door, “Shut up! Sit!” Of course then I have a treat that I give her. So she’s always happy to do that.

That’s what Jesus did. He said to the wind and the waves, “Shut up! Sit!” And the wind died down, and it was completely calm. So you went from waves that were swamping over the boat, filling it faster than they could bail it, to still and flat as a mirror.

I don’t know how you’d feel, if you saw somebody that was able to do that. It would terrify me. So I don’t blame the disciples, when it says they were terrified, and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him.” The Jews understood that you could do many miracles, but only God could control the weather. Only God could control the elements of creation. Jesus was very clearly saying, “I’m God” by what he just did.

At the same time, again he was showing his humanity, as he turns to his disciples and he’s very cranky. I suppose that’s probably why he said “Shut up and sit down” rather than “Peace.” There are other times later on, when he appears to the disciples and they’re terrified and he says eirene, which is peace.

But not this time.

He turns them in he says, “Why are you so afraid?” Well, there’s a dozen answers to that one. But then he says, “Do you still have no faith?” Do you still not trust me? You have seen the miracles I’ve done. You’ve heard the teachings I’ve given. I was the one that suggested we go across the lake. I was the one that was asleep through it all. Could you not have looked at me and said, “Well, he’s not worried. We’ll survive. We may get really wet a little bit sick. But we’ll survive.” No, “Do you still not trust me?”

David, in his battle with Goliath, said something similar. All the Israelites were afraid to face Goliath. Admittedly, he was really imposing. I should have looked up – I didn’t because it wasn’t my primary text – about how much all those shekels weigh. It probably says it at the bottom of your passage in your Bible, in a little footnote.

But he was a big man. Everyone was terrified. And this short, red-headed kid with freckles comes up and says, “I can take him. Because the Lord is on my side.” And when the Philistine trash talks him, he trash talks right back. He says, I’m going to show you just who God is.”

It wasn’t just courage, and it wasn’t foolhardy bravery. He had placed his life in the hands of God. “I trust God. I trust God not just with my life, but to give me victory.”

We have our challenges in life, our Goliaths that we have to face. It may not be in the form of a man or a woman. It may not be in the form of some sort of authority, though it often is. We have to go one on one, and we have to place our life in the hands of the one who created us.

We all have those storms in life, whether it be sickness like cancer, or a friend who’s really suffering. A tough situation, even at work. You’re not sure whether you’re going to lose your job sometimes. I remember three or four years ago, with GPC, when they were having all of the stuff with the management, and there were people there that permanently lost their jobs. And I’m not saying one side was right or one side was wrong. But those people were in the midst of a storm of life.

And instead of looking at ourselves, and dwelling on how we feel about things – although we should not ignore our feelings. That’s a trap that a lot of Christians fall into. You have to be in touch with your feelings. That was the whole point of that sermon series on the Psalms of lament. You need to share them with God. But then you need to focus on God.

And ultimately you need to put your trust in God. Because in the end, it all comes down to this. Do you have faith that the one who loved you, made you, who came and died for you, was raised again solely so that you could have new life, eternal life, and who watches over you now, who lives within you and gives you guidance and strength, do you trust that one to bring you through? Can you stay focused on Him.

It’s a test. Our whole life, in many ways, is a test. Paul says it’s a marathon, which really is a test. It’s one that you probably set yourself up for, and you have to train for it. We’re told you have to stand firm, and the words that are used are military, holding a hill against the armies that are coming against you with your faith.

It’s a test. But what it tests is not you. What it tests is God’s provision. And the question is, do you trust it, or not?

I pray that as you go through your lives, and you face your storms, and you meet your Goliaths, that you will give praise to God, trusting in Him, that He will see you through, that He will calm the waves, and that He will give you that peace that He promises throughout. For He is the God who controls the wind and the waves, and created the very stars in the sky. And that’s a pretty good guy to have on your side.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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