Text: Luke 8:22-25
Fear comes in so many shapes and sizes that it has a vocabulary all of its own:-
Hydrophobia – fear of water
Arachnophobia – fear of spiders
Acrophobia – fear of heights
Xenophobia – fear of strangers
Taxophobia – fear of being buried alive
Triskaidekaphobia – fear of the number 13
Arachibutyrophobia – fear of Peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth
Brontothalassophobia – fear of storms at sea
What kinds of things put you into a cold sweat? I don’t know what your favourite form of fear is, but there’s plenty to choose from. There’s fear of the unknown, fear of pain, fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of being found out, fear of punishment, fear of death.
Jesus has asked his disciples to sail him across to the other side of the lake. They set off on their voyage, but before long a violent storm socks in. Huge waves start crashing down over the boat and it starts filling with water. The disciples are terrified. Jesus, however, is sleeping peacefully in the stern. They wake him up, and shout at him: “Help us! We’re capsizing! We’re all going to drown!” He gets up and rebukes the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsides, and all is calm. Then he turns to his disciples, and says, “Where is your faith?” Astonished, they ask, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”
I want to persuade you of the truth of the following proposition:-
Jesus is the Ruler of the wind and the waves. Therefore, you can trust him to keep you secure.
Think of the various images we have of Jesus. We think of him as the baby in the manger, the friend of sinners, the true vine, the bread of life, the Good Shepherd, the Suffering Servant. But we meet him now as the Ruler of the wind and the waves. Indeed, the consistent witness of Scripture is that Jesus has control over the material world. The beginning of John’s Gospel says that ‘through him all things were made.’ Phil 3:21 refers to ‘the power that enables the Lord Jesus Christ to bring everything under his control.’ Putting together both these ideas, Heb 1 teaches that God made the universe through his Son, who even now sustains all things by his powerful word. From the tiniest clod of earth to the most far-flung galaxy there is not a thumb’s breadth of this universe about which Jesus Christ does not say, “It is mine”.
However Jesus is not a genie in a lamp, just waiting to do our beck and call. His power doesn’t work to formula. There is no set of rules that say, ‘If you do this and this, Jesus will save you from shipwreck.’
We need to take account of the element of faith, and of walking close to God. Jesus says to his disciples, “Where is your faith?” and there’s a lot in the Bible about having no faith, a little faith, and much faith. In 1 Cor 13:2 Paul refers to a faith ‘that can move mountains,’ although he adds, ‘but if I have not love, I am nothing’. James 5:16f says that ‘The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain for three and a half years.’
We also need to take account of God’s sovereign will. God has his own reasons for granting or witholding physical safety. When his own life was under threat, Jesus turns to his disciples and says, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” But it clearly was not the Father’s will to send that kind of help at that time.
Then there’s something else we need to take into accout. God’s ability to keep us secure does not mean that we are excused from taking responsibility for ourselves. Consider the account of that other NT storm at sea, recorded in Acts 27. The storm raged for weeks on end, and even Luke confesses that they had given up all hope of being saved. Paul calls on his experience of having been shipwrecked three times before, and advises the captain accordingly. All kinds of effort are made to prevent the ship from breaking up. Eventually, an angel delivers the message to Paul that not one life will be lost, and it is so. God had sovereignly determined the outcome, yet it was not achieved without a colossal effort on the human side. And, interestingly, at no point does Paul stand up and in Jesus’ name command the storm to be still.
By all means ask God to defend you ‘from all perils and dangers of this night’. But don’t forget to lock the door.
Jesus is able to keep you secure. But he has never promised physical safety. Jesus himself was one of those whose lives were spared by this miracle of the stilling of the storm. Yet his the very next chapter Luke will record how Jesus head towards Jerusalem, and to a certain premature and brutal death, saying “the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
For us, too, the promise of security pertains to life beyond the grave, to eternal life.
John 10 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.”
Now eternal security has enormous repercussions for our lives here and now. Paul says in Col 3:3 that we have already died, as far as this earthly life is concerned, and that our lives are now hidden with Christ in God. Can you think of a safer place to be?
One Easter Sunday morning a pastor from Uganda, Kefa Sempangi, was on his way home after taking the morning service when he was ambushed by a gang of armed men. “We are going to kill you,” said the leader. “If you have anything to say, say it before you die.”
Kefa was terrified. He thought to himself, “They won’t need to kill me, I’m going to drop dead anyway.” But then, he said, “From far away I heard a voice, and I was astonished to realise that it was my own. “I do not need to plead my own cause,” I heard myself saying. “I am a dead man already. My life is dead and hidden with Christ. It is your lives that are in danger, you are dead in your sins. I will pray to God that after you have killed me, he will spare you from eternal destruction.”‘
That came as quite a surprise to Kefa, but what happened next was even more amazing. The leader of the gang, who a moment earlier had been threatening to kill him, visibly changed. He said to the pastor, “Will you pray for us now?” And suddenly the tables were turned. Instead of Kefa facing death, he was able to offer these men life – eternal life. And so he prayed with them, there and then. All five men in that gang went on to become members of Kefa’s church.
The Christian need never be truly afraid, not even of death. Heb 2:14f ‘Jesus has shared in our humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil–and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
‘The wicked person is a coward, and is afraid of everything; of God, because he is his enemy; of Satan, because he is his tormentor; of himself, because he bears about with him his own accuser and executioner. The godly person contrarily is afraid of nothing; not of God, because he knows him as his best friend; not of Satan, because he cannot hurt him; not of afflictions, because he knows they come from a loving God, and end in his good; not of himself, since his conscience is at peace.’ Joseph Hall
Jesus is the Ruler of the wind and the waves. Therefore, you can trust him to keep you secure. And the body and blood of Christ will keep you in eternal life. Amen.