THE STORMS OF OUR LIVES
Our lesson today is entitled "Grace Among Storms" [from Cassandra Martin's book, Paul: By the Grace of God]. As we have examined some of the adventures of Paul over the last few weeks, we have seen that he endured some stormy times, even though he was fully committed to serving and obeying God. I think that sometimes today we expect God to give us "smooth sailing" throughout our lives if we are committed to Him, even though He has never promised us we will be without trouble on the earth. Job 14:1 says, "Man born of woman is of a few days and full of trouble." Jesus tells us in Matthew chapter six to "not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
Why is it, then, that so many leave God, His Word, and His church when troubles come? The answer is found in the simple children's song, "The Wise Man." Listen to Matthew 7:24-27. "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall" We see here that hearing, reading, and knowing God's Word are not enough. We must put God's Word into practice if we are to withstand the storms of our lives. James 1:21-25. Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
I vividly remember as a young child being at my granny and grampa's house when a storm was approaching. My grampa would go out on the porch, out in the yard and look all around. It was like he could "feel" a storm. He used all his senses, previous experiences, and information learned from others to make the call as to whether or not we would all go to the cellar.
When I was in the 6th grade, there were tornadoes all around Harrison one Spring day. I was at school, where we heard the signal to take cover. As 11 and 12 year olds, we didn't even realize the danger that lurked so close to us. We were unconcerned, so we sat under our desks and played cards to help pass the time.
As a teen, I remember having to go to the basement at our house when storms were rolling through. If it was nighttime, we pulled out the hide-a-bed and I continued my sleep. I obviously felt very safe and secure there with my family and didn't worry about the "what ifs."
Now as an adult, I am amazed at all the modern technology concerning the weather and storm tracking. When those sirens sound, rest assured I grab my girls and get to a downstairs room with no outside walls. I recognize now the real danger of a storm, and yet, I will wander out of the "safe room" to check the latest update and radar report on television. They can now pinpoint the exact location of tornadoes, so if it is not that close, I let my guard down, relax, and take it easy. I have not been up close and personal with a tornado, but I have spoken to people who have. I have learned when that storm is ripping the roof off your house, it is a serious time. There is no relaxing or letting down your guard. You are alert: you notice the sights, the sounds, the feel, and the smells.
Now let's relate these stories with our "spiritual storms." We have to be active, not passive, when preparing ourselves for these storms. What do I mean by "spiritual storms"? Sometimes it might be a temptation with a particular weakness. We are all different. The sins with which I wrestle may not even tempt you in the slightest way. But we all have our weaknesses. You know yours, God knows yours, and Satan knows yours. In fact, Satan uses it over and over to lure you onto his team. Sometimes a storm might be a dark page in the story of your life. Maybe you lost a spouse or a child. Maybe your spouse left you. Maybe it's a physical illness or ailment. Maybe it's an emotional challenge. It could be disappointments with loved ones, dealing with addictions, financial problems, or complications with aging parents. Maybe it's dealing with guilt. Whatever the struggle, we must be prepared to deal with it.
Like my grampa, we have to be aware of our surroundings. We must rely on our past experiences, the experiences of others, and our "gut" feelings when facing danger. We have to seek shelter in Christ when the storms bear down on us. We need to take it seriously. Then we can relax under our desks or sleep because we feel the security our heavenly Father provides. We truly believe that He will take care of us and eliminate any danger. I'm afraid we sometimes seek refuge in Jesus, but wander away, back and forth, to "keep up with what's going on." When we do this, we have convinced ourselves we're stronger than we really are and feel confident that in the event of a dangerous storm, we could "run right back" to our shelter in the nick of time. We almost mock the storm. You've seen boards over windows in Florida with spray painted messages intended for the storm. "Bring it on, Andrew!" Do we do that? Do we put our faith in ourselves and taunt the storms that approach us? Are we sometimes overly confident in ourselves concerning our ability to deal with storms? Do we run risks?
There are some people who love to chase storms. They follow them for hundreds of miles sometimes because they enjoy the rush of excitement they get from being so close to something so dangerous. Have you known anyone like that? They try to get as close as possible to the danger, or sin, fooling themselves into thinking that they are strong enough to escape unharmed. If your weakness is drinking, you best stay away from the bars. If your weakness is selfishness, you best be thinking about and serving someone else. We can't afford to take risks that may well cost us our soul. It is serious business, you know. We are told in I Thessalonians [5:21-22] to "hold on to the good, and to avoid every kind of evil."
I hope that we are always prepared for the storms that inevitably come our way. If the storm is a temptation, we need to "board up our windows" with His Word, so that we might not sin against Him. I Corinthians 10:13 says, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." If we are battling loneliness, sadness, or depression, we need to fortify ourselves with doses of scripture like I Peter 5:7-9 and Deuteronomy 31:8. "Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are going through the same kinds of suffering." "The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." If we are afraid, we should gain confidence in scripture like Deuteronomy 31:6. "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you." If we are feeling guilty, let us remember I John 1:9. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." And if we are just plain suffering, we need scripture like James 1:2. "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." Romans 8:18 says, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."
Sometimes the storms that come our way vary with intensity. Some are strong, some are weak. Sometimes, they seem to continually come, uninterrupted, while at other times there are spaces in between. Either way, we must be prepared for them. Have you ever found yourself thanking God for the rain that came with the storm the night before? Good things can come from the storms in our lives, sometimes we can see how it all works out and sometimes we can't. Again, we must have faith in God that He is in control and will take care of us, no matter what.
Sometimes the storms of our lives sneak up on us like the tornado that hit Fort Smith and Van Buren a few years ago. No sirens. No warnings. But, sometimes, we know for days that we're about to be put in a vulnerable position. The hurricanes that are so destructive often meet boarded up windows and completely empty buildings because people had plenty of time to prepare. It's the same spiritually. There are times when situations arise that are totally surprising. Hearing the words, "You have cancer," would be one of those times. On the other hand, there are storms in our lives that we have seen coming for a long time. Watching your child leave home would be one of those. Either way, we must be prepared. We can't wait until the storm is ripping the roof of our house to decide where our safe place is. If we don't make that decision before the crisis hits, we likely won't make the right decision. When we wait, we rely on emotion, adrenaline, and information that is only of the moment, which is usually misleading. We must choose the safety and shelter that Jesus provides. There is no other shelter that can compare with the benefits of His.
I encourage you to build your life on the solid rock which cannot be moved. By doing this, you don't have to worry about anything else. When we choose Jesus as our shelter, we don't have to worry about the "what ifs" any more. I'm not saying that in Christ we never have any trouble here on earth. I am saying that we have a peace in Christ that passes all understanding. When we are safe in the arms of Jesus, we are like children who don't even realize all the danger that surrounds us. The world just doesn't get it. The world is full of change, instability, danger, stress, trouble, problems, and difficulties. How wonderful it is to be able to escape all that in Jesus! What a great peace to be able to say, like David said in Psalm 18: "I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies."
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Ladies Bible Class, 16 November 2004
Link to Rochelle's lecture "The Resurrection: Believe It or Not"
Link to Rochelle's lecture "Our Inheritance"
Link to Jeannie Cole's Ladies' Bible Class lectures
Link to WINGS Home Page