By: Nathan Rouse, Alumnus
Lead Pastor, Radiant Church, Raleigh, North Carolina

Nathan Rouse Dropping ten thousand feet faster than my stomach could handle, I gripped the arm rests of my seat and looked up to my mom with both a question and declaration, “Are we going to die?” and “I think I’m going to throw …” My mother’s intuition had already kicked in and before I knew it my head was being shoved into an airline vomit bag. (She definitely earned her mother’s pay that night.)

We were on a red eye flight from California to Texas when we ran smack dab into a massive thunderstorm and were tossed around like my dog Sarge’s play toy. Though I was only seven at the time I clearly remember my mom squeezing my hand (cutting off the circulation) as she looked up and prayed, “God please don’t let us die.” (I don’t recommend saying this audibly in front of your kids. It doesn’t calm a kid down.) However, the immediate benefit was that I began to pray along with her, believing that if we teamed up we were bound to get a faster response from the Lord. We must have gotten through because we soon safely landed with a collective applause from all passengers and me asking my mom to loose the death grip she had on my hand.

I pray that you don’t ever have to endure a storm like that in a plane, but we do have to recognize that the storms of life’s circumstances are normal. We can’t stick our head in the sand acting like life isn’t hard, it just plain is. It’s with this in mind that I want us to look at two different storms found in scripture that I believe can shed some light on how we should perceive our own personal storms, view God, and how we should respond in the midst of them.

Let me take you to the gospel of Mark as he gives an account of a very real storm that Jesus and his disciples faced at the height of his ministry. Jesus has just gotten through with a full day of ministry and he’s exhausted and in need of rest. Let’s drop into this story:

Mark 4:35–41:
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

It’s easy to read passages like these and fail to put ourselves in the boat with them, but I want you to climb into the fishing boat with these men. As they cross the sea, a squall kicks up, and this nasty storm begins to bombard the boat. Do you feel the spray of the sea on your face and the raging wind they were sailing into? They're taking on water, and these guys truly believe without exaggeration that they're going to die.

They go to Jesus who is asleep at the back of the ship. They wake him and say, "We're about to die. Don't you know what's going on? Don’t you care?"  Jesus gets up, and commands the wind and the waves, "Peace! Be still!" Immediately there’s "great calm", Mark writes. I imagine water like glass in this moment.

The disciple’s reaction to this divine meteorological miracle is one of Holy fear, "Who is he that even the wind and waves obey his words?" Now, right here is where many stop with this story. We’re amazed at the power that Jesus displays over the weather. (And we should be.)

However, I want you to notice something. There is no indication that Jesus was even going to get up from his nap. The disciples go and wake him, and he does what he has to do to calm them down, but we see no indication Jesus was going to get up.

He doesn't wake up and feel disoriented and yell, "Whoa! What's going on? Why didn't you guys wake me sooner? We have to do something! Let's figure this out!"

No. He gets up and says, "Peace! Be Still!" It is then that he goes on to chastise them for not believing they would make it.

It seems Jesus is less concerned about the wind and the waves, and more concerned about the disciple’s lack of faith. We don’t get a picture that he’s panicking, "Oh my word! Guys, you have to wake me up sooner when things like this happen!" Does Jesus mean that the disciples should have sat in the boat and done nothing? No, that would have been silly.

Imagine when Jesus told them, “let’s go across to the other side”, if the disciples would have just sat in the boat and waited, maybe even began to pray, but never actually began to sail. What do you think Jesus’ reaction would have been? Jesus might wake up and notice that they’re just sitting there, “What are you doing, why aren’t we moving? And the disciples reply: “Well, we’re praying our way over!” No, there’s an obedience and a rowing to our faith!

I was reminded of this lesson God taught me a few years ago as I was on a prayer walk on our church property. Our church sits on sixty-two acres in the woods, so there is plenty of room to roam. As I walked up our long church driveway, I stopped and looked at our church sign near the road and God clearly spoke to me these words, "Pull up those weeds under the sign."

Odd. I know.

It was clearly the Holy Spirit speaking. I walked over and began to pull weeds all the while saying out loud, "Why do I need to pull weeds? I'm out here to pray. This is why we use weed killer." I began to think that maybe this would be one of those miraculous moments that because I was out here pulling weeds someone would drive by and say, "God told me you'd be here" or something.


God said, "Pull." Another few minutes went by as I grappled with the wild onions in the soil when all of a sudden He spoke to me these words, "It's been a long time since you've obeyed me with something this small. Nathan, I don't just want your obedience on the things you perceive as a big deal: ministry, family, the big do's and don'ts. I want it all. Obedience is better than sacrifice."

I kneeled there on the ground for a few moments hit hard by the truth. I prayed, "Lord, I'm yours." He said, "Now, you can go pray." I listened and obeyed. Upon reflection I was reminded that we, many times, miss out on great miracles that God desires to do in and through us because we don't obey the smaller steps that lead to those miracles. There might be small tasks, but there's no such thing as small obedience. When God says pull weeds... pull. When God says to row your boat, you row.

Strong faith works the sails and steers the rudder of our life as needed; with a faith that Jesus is going to get us to the other side. Strong faith works hard with the gifts, resources, and wisdom God’s given us; has the tough conversations; goes through treatment and procedures … knowing that He’s going to walk us through it all.

It is in Him sustaining us through our storms (when others are washing out, and shipwrecking their faith), when we’re walking through the valley of the shadow of death and know He’s with us that our faith is maturing. Look again at Jesus’ response to the disciples, you get the feeling Jesus is expressing, “Guys, you still don’t have faith in me? I'm in the boat with you!"

While there wasn’t an abundance of faith in the boat, there was plenty of fear and that was the problem. We become stopped in our spiritual progress when we allow fear to lead instead of faith. We all know what it's like when all of a sudden we get caught in a fearful moment, when we're freaked out about the future, about a sudden crisis that pounces upon us, about our health or the health of another, about how that job situation is going to work out, our finances, the list goes on. We can all relate.

We become stopped in our spiritual progress when we allow fear to lead instead of faith.

It reminds me of the man who goes to visit his doctor for some test results. The doctor walks in and says, "Well, Mike, I have some bad news, and I have worse news." Mike says, "Hit me with it Doc." The Doctor leans in and says, "The bad news is you have twenty-four hours to live." "What could be worse than that?" the man replies. The doctor sighs and says, "I forgot to tell you yesterday."

That's bad news and a bad joke.

This is the kind of bad news the disciples were facing in their hearts and minds during this storm, but Jesus points out that the remedy is faith in Him. Consider this: had they had faith in the midst of the storm, the miracle would not have been needed. They would have made it across because that’s where Jesus said they were going.

Jesus didn’t say, “We’re going to start across but end up in a storm, capsize and then sink.” No, he said, “Let us go to the other side.” We must cling to God’s promised word!

When it comes to the storms we face, God can certainly remove it, but more often He chooses to take us through it. Yet, many of us would rather have the miracle without the storm. Like the disciples, we’d rather God rescue us than sustain us. We all want the fix, but what if we’ve been called to endure and trust Him in the midst of hardship? You can be sure that there are times when God steps to the bow of the boat of our lives and speaks, “Peace, be still.” Yet, other times He comes and says, “My peace I give you.” God wants us to trust and believe for the miracle, but also trust Him in the midst of our perceived chaos.

In my own life I have to admit that I bring much of this chaos on myself. I am notorious for being forgetful. "Where did I put my wallet, my keys, that book I was reading?" Thankfully my wife Erin has the gift of a photographic memory for where all these items are at any one time. She amazes me. Unfortunately, forgetting inanimate objects are the least of my worries when it comes to forgetting.

Sometimes I forget God is able. Maybe in a moment of struggle or overwhelming stress you've forgotten too. Even as believers we sometimes fail to believe. Listen to this dramatic conversation between Jesus and the father of a child who desperately needed a miracle:

"And Jesus asked his father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ And he said, ‘From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘If you can! All things are possible for one who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief’” (Mark 9:21–24)!

"I believe; help my unbelief." That statement alone sums up the faith of many. Many times we believe in a general sense, but don't believe for our own circumstances. If we read on we find that Jesus meets this father's faith where he is and delivers the child. Jesus is kind that way, meeting us where we are. He desires to meet you where you are today as well.

While I can’t give you the answers to all of life’s hardships, I can tell you why we as followers go through difficult and painful times. It is in the testing of our faith that we become more like Jesus. That’s the Father’s goal.