See the Power of the Gospel 5) It Brings Calming Peace

I heard a story on our local radio this week from a former police officer who was recalling a time he faced a crisis. A man was driving drunk, and he pulled him over. And the drunk man attempted to load his weapon as the office approached. Thankfully disaster was averted, and no one died that day. But that police officer described how hard it is to encounter these types of life-ending situations. Have you ever faced a crisis? No doubt every one of you has. But how do you respond to a crisis? I’m not just talking about springing into action. I’m talking about how you spiritually handle it. This morning, we continue our series looking at the power of the gospel. We look at Mark 4 to see how the gospel brings calming peace.

We start with a weary Jesus. He had just finished a long day of preaching and teaching the crowds. His energy was spent, and he became exhausted just as we do. Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s go to the other side of the lake.” It was evening, and he was ready to move on for the night. They dismissed the crowd that Jesus had been teaching. Finally! Jesus had an opportunity for some rest. His disciples took him along in the boat to cross the lake.

Those disciples who guided the boat no doubt felt confident they would be able to make it across the lake that night. They weren’t fools. Some of them were experienced fishermen who throughout their lives had routinely fished on this lake. They were used to sitting in the dark, over a pitch-black body of water. They knew what they were doing. Or did they? Something was about to happen that would shake their confidence. They were about to face a crisis.

You can imagine their concern as this storm first began. They had dealt with such things before. Perhaps a small amount of stress came as they thought they could tough it out. “Everything is under control.” Yet this storm grew stronger. It became something greater than they could handle. Mark records for us that this was a great storm. The waves piled up in the sea and tossed into the boat. The wind, the waves, and the boat! The disciples were overwhelmed! They couldn’t swim any better than this boat! They knew one thing: If this boat goes down, they go down! They began to fear death.

Where was Jesus? They looked at the back of the boat and they saw exactly what Jesus was doing. He was sleeping! “Sure teacher, you had a busy day. But do you have to just sleep there and let us die!” They were doing all they could just to survive. And this man was just sleeping during all this commotion! They weren’t about to just let Jesus sleep peacefully. They woke him. “Teacher! Doesn’t it bother you that we are going to drown?” Jesus woke to their cries. They doubted if Jesus cared. They doubted if Jesus would really do much to help.

When a crisis hits us in our lives, we too feel stress. Crisis grows and removes hope in our abilities. We feel overwhelmed by it. We panic as pressure builds up. Troubles become a giant heap over us, and we become drenched in despair. Simply put: When difficulty comes, doubt and despair increase, panic takes hold.

Doesn’t it often feel like God doesn’t care? “Lord, you know I am already suffering so much! I can’t pay for this medical bill; I can’t pay for this auto bill; Now you expect me to put up with more trouble? Don’t you care about me? First you let me get in a car accident, then you let me lose my job, then I get this illness?! Why doesn’t God care?”

We even go so far as to think God is unable to help us. I would never openly say, “God can’t.” I know God has all power.. Although, there are those uncertain things. There is that whole recent study about the deadly bird flu. Experts say it is just one step away from a dangerous pandemic. Can God really stop a tiny little virus from reaching me or people I love? Something so tiny is beyond God’s control, right? And that heart attack, stroke, or medical crisis, when you reach your deepest pain or trouble, do you still have confidence in God’s authority over all things?

At the height of every crisis, do you turn to God as the one who loves you and the only one who is able to save? Sometimes I find myself acting just like the disciples here. “I can handle this. I think I can handle it. Okay, it’s difficult. Maybe this is more than I can handle. Okay, this is getting out of hand. Maybe this is more than God can handle. But still, I can turn to my last resort and say, ‘God help.'”

So what’s wrong about doubt? We all have doubts, it’s only natural; it’s the human thing to do. You doubt your favorite sports team will win a game. You doubt that your favored candidate will win an election. I even doubt myself. What can I do? I am only a person anyways. Nobody is perfect. But this doubt we have been discussing today is directed at the Almighty God. And he is perfect! We slip into thoughts which doubt his goodness. You may label doubt as ‘natural’ but doubt against a perfect God is really nature rebelling against its creator. With a terrible irony, doubt of our Lord will eventually, in the end, bring about the very thing which we fear: it will separate us from the love and compassion of God. And trouble is not the time to separate ourselves from God!

But the gospel comes to us with power. It removes doubt to bring us calming peace. The disciples were shouting at Jesus, “Don’t you care that we are going to drown!” But Jesus soon changed their attitude. Instead of doubt, they became filled with awe. They would not say, “Don’t you care”, but “Who is this?!” On the sea, Jesus did something that dispelled their doubt. Jesus showed that he is not just a sleeping man, but the Almighty, loving Savior.

“Quiet, be still,” Jesus ordered the wind and waves. At his spoken command the raging waves halted. The wind became motionless, the water became smooth. Now there was no panic, there was no doubt; there was no fear of death. There was only peaceful calm. Perhaps the only sound they heard for the next few seconds was a complete silence apart from water dripping off their hair in the calm air. The creator spoke, and his creation responded to his authority with a great calm. It could not do otherwise.

Jesus turned to his disciples to ask, “Why were you afraid? Don’t you have faith?” Jesus said this in love. There was indeed no reason to doubt. Their faith in Jesus was in a faith in a powerful Savior. Jesus had previously shown his power. He healed the sick, and cured the blind. The same Word of God that calmed the storm had also previously rebuked demons. And now, at his command, they saw that nothing, not even the forces of nature, were beyond Jesus’ power.

“Why were you afraid? Don’t you have faith?” Their faith in Jesus was in an unfailing Savior. Jesus always kept his promises. First, Jesus had implicitly promised they would cross the lake. It was his idea to cross. He said, “Let us go to the other side,” not “let’s go take a swim.” Jesus had given another promise to them that was not yet fulfilled. He said, “I will make you fishers of men.” He did not say, “I will make you dead men with the fishes.” Later Jesus ultimately kept the promise for which he came to fulfill. The disciples would see with their own eyes that Jesus came to fulfill the promise of a Savior. They would see him die on the cross and rise again. There was no reason for them to doubt Jesus’ faithfulness.

“Why were you afraid? Don’t you have faith?” Notice how his love remains even during trouble, even when we doubt! It did not take a super-faith from the disciples to get Jesus into action. All they did was doubt. Jesus responded to their doubts by calming the storm. They did nothing to earn Jesus’ saving action. Despite the doubt, with power Jesus saves.

Perhaps you might be thinking, “If my Savior is so great then why do I even face trouble?” It is important to remember that God does not promise us a life free from trouble on earth. He in fact promises there will be persecution of those who love God. Also, God disciplines those he loves and uses trouble to draw us closer to him. We will still face troubles. God even allowed troubles to come upon the disciples as they shared a boat with the Son of God in the flesh. They faced a life-threatening storm, but they did not have to feel afraid or threatened. God used the storm to show them his love and power. Jesus wanted his disciples to always be fully confident in him.

After Jesus calmed the storm, the disciples were left in awe. An awesome action was done by an awesome man. “Who is this?” God has made it perfectly clear to us who this one is. He is the eternal Son of God. This Jesus who calmed the storm is also the one who said, “Be still and know that I am God.”

As true God he did much more than calm a storm. He made himself the perfect sacrifice for all sin. He lived and died for us. His perfect life and death on the cross as he faced God’s wrath, paid for our sins. He did this to remove our greatest crisis. Jesus did not blame his Father for the storm. For all the sinful doubts of God’s care and concern which our sinful natures cater too, Jesus has paid with perfect trust. He slept during the storm with full confidence in God’s trust.

He loved us so much that even though he was the Creator, he humbled himself and became a man. Perhaps you might be thinking. “Yeah, real humble Jesus. Just get up there and calm that storm so casual like. I wish I could do that. Some humility!” Or you might briefly consider the thought, “If he’s so humble he should have gotten drenched and suffered like I do.” But this is missing the point entirely! Firstly, during his time of humiliation, Jesus did not make full and frequent use of his power, and never for just his own benefit! Secondly, he became a man when he did not have to. He loves us so much he took away our greatest crisis by becoming a man to set us free. As true man he suffered more than a storm on the sea. He willingly suffered God’s wrath on the cross for us. He willingly laid down his life for us. This measure of love dispels every single doubt that God loves us and cares for us.

He did all this purely out of his love. It did not take a super-faith or special prayer from you or me to get Jesus into action. All we did was doubt. Jesus responded to our sinful doubts by giving us faith and freely giving us the gift of forgiveness. We don’t deserve our Savior. Despite the doubting hearts with which we were born, with power Jesus saves.

Jesus wanted his disciples to always be fully confident in him as their Savior. He wants you to always be confident in him. Our Savior is greater than our present troubles in life.

And he will cover all our future troubles. He promised to be with us always. He did not just leave his disciples in the boat to fend for themselves. Imagine if we read, “Lord, don’t you care? …And then Jesus got up, walked on the water, and left them.” Can you picture the disciple’s reaction? “Great job, Simon son of John! Or “Nice going, Nathaniel and Philip! Now Jesus is gone!” But we know this did not happen. Jesus said, “I will be with you always.”

The next time you face a crisis remember: You have a Savior who will bring calming peace with his faithfulness and promises. In life’s greatest troubles, Jesus does not take off and run. He does not leave us alone or remove his love and power. He fulfills his promises, and his love never leaves us. He is the unfailing perfect one who you can always trust in. He has fulfilled his promise to rescue us from our greatest and unending crisis. Now he remains forever living! His rescued loved ones know he has promised to always watch over you, love you, hear you, and be with you. See the power of the gospel to bring calming peace!