(A) Introduction (Read the passage.)

The position of Lake Galilee made it very susceptible to storms. It lies in the bottom of a rift valley 700 feet below sea level. The land rises steeply to the north, east and west to low plateau. Deep valleys that lead down to the lake dissect the plateau. Sometimes cold air is funnelled down these valleys and displaces the warmer, moist air over the lake. This triggers thunderstorms that suck in more air to produce strong, squally winds.

(B) The nature of the storm.

(1) Its four characteristics:

(a) Sudden. The storm was unexpected. Mark records: There were other boats with him. Mk4v36. It is unlikely a whole flotilla of little boats would have set sail if a storm was anticipated. Jesus who had been teaching much of the day from Peter's boat was exhausted but he is unlikely to have fallen asleep in rough conditions.

(b) Very violent. Luke says: A squall came down on the lake. v23. Mark, who probably used Peter as his source, puts it more strongly: a furious squall came up. Mk4v37. Peter could remember the intensity of the storm only too well.

(c) Overwhelming. The squall was so severe that the boat was being swamped. v23. Mark puts it even more graphically: The waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Mk4v37.

(d) Life threatening. All those in the boat - and the other little boats as well - were in great danger. v23. If much more water was shipped the boats would founder and those aboard would perish.

(2) Some storms that threaten Christians.

This passage is only relevant to Christians if we, too, experience storms that are unexpected, violent, overwhelming and a threat to our spiritual well being. Here are some storm that seriously endanger the Christian:

    (a) Romantic love. A married Christian man falls in love with another woman. It may well be unexpected. We all know that this emotion can be violent and overwhelming. It can wreck a marriage and do untold damage to a Christian's walk with the Lord. My uncle David managed to survive a storm of this nature but my youngest brother did not - and lost his faith.

    (b) Grief. It is evident from C.S. Lewis', 'A Grief Observed', that his faith was almost overturned by the overwhelming nature of his sorrow when his wife died. He captures something of the violence of the emotion when he writes: There are moments, most unexpectedly, when something inside me tries to assure me that I don't really mind so much, not so very much, after all. ...... Then comes a sudden jab of red-hot memory and all this 'commonsense' vanishes like an ant in the mouth of a furnace.

    (c) Jealousy. King Saul was so consumed with jealousy of young David that it made him sick. After the king heard the woman sing: "Saul has slain his thousands and David his tens of thousands." he was very angry; this refrain galled him. .... And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David. The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully upon Saul. 1Sam18v7to10.

    Samuel Pepys describes the terrible jealousy he felt for his wife's dancing master - Mr Pembleton - in his famous diary. After he came home for lunch one day and found his wife and Mr Pembleton together he was overwhelmed by the violence of his jealousy. He wrote: This is my devilish jealousy; which I pray God may be false, but it makes a very hell in my mind; which the God of heaven remove, or I shall be very unhappy. So to the office, where we sat a while. By and by, my mind being in great trouble, I went home to see how things were; and there I find as I doubted, Mr Pembleton with my wife and nobody else in the house, which made me almost mad.... .

    (d) Pride. If our ego suffers a small knock Satan can use this to produce a quite irrational surge of outrage. Before we know it we are in the midst of a storm tossed sea. I heard recently of a man who turned up to church and unexpectedly found his parking place taken. Now I know exactly how the man felt. Doubtless he said to himself, "I always park there. Everyone knows that is where I park. So and so knows that's my parking spot - so why has he been so thoughtless and crass to take it. Why has he done it and spoiled my Sunday morning .... ." By the time church finished X was in a right state. He took his brother to task. In no time at all voices were raised - tempers flared - and X left the church never to return again.

    (e) Rejection and injustice can produce a terrible storm of bitterness. I can still remember how I felt when told that I would not receive a loyalty award after working 37 years for Suffolk Education Authority without a missing a day for sickness because I had taken a two-year break to care for my sick father. It spoiled the end of my career and to a certain extent spoiled my witness.

    (f) Fear. Fear can have many causes. However, its onset can be sudden. It is often a violent, overwhelming, disturbing emotion that culminates in panic, despair and inappropriate behaviour. We might experience fear in a situation where we feel unable to cope. I can remember an occasion when I covered for a German class at school. It was a filthy day - stormy in the extreme. The children came into the room in a mood that matched the weather. The girls in particular were up in the air because their previous teacher had upset them. I couldn't settle the class down. I must have sent five girls out of the classroom. I could sense things slipping out of control - a terrible feeling for a teacher. Fear bred frustration and frustration bred anger! I was in danger of destroying my relationship with that particular group of children for a considerable time. Thankfully, the bell went for the dinner break in just the nick of time.

    (g) Disappointment. Once again many things can disappoint us: a Christian does not live up to expectations, a friend lets us down, we get an unforeseen set back. I recently went to see my friend Ros who has had two major operations for cancer of the bowel and liver. Throughout her treatment Ros was conscious that the Lord was with her and because of this she was able to remain remarkably calm. Ros had the peace that passes understanding. After her second operation to remove 70% of her liver Ros made good progress and was discharged from hospital. But after being at home only a few days she had dreadful pain across the chest and was readmitted to hospital where she had to undergo further tests. Suddenly, all the peace that Ros had experienced up to this point was shattered. She had not expected pain to strike - it was a great disappointment. Satan used this disappointment to destroy her sense of God's presence. Suddenly she was in the midst of an awful storm of swirling resentment and anger.

(C) The circumstances of the storm.

(1) The disciples were in a familiar environment - on the lake they knew and loved. They anticipated no problems as they set out for the other side of the lake. The disciples were experienced fishermen and had always coped in the past.

The worst storms often occur in a familiar environment - the home, at work or in the church.

(2) The disciples got into trouble through no fault of their own. C.S. Lewis was not responsible for his wife's death any more than Ros deserved the set back following the operation on her liver.

(3) The disciples encountered the fierce storm while doing the Lord's will. It was Jesus who suggested: "Let's go over to the other side of the lake." v22. This is often the case. Some years ago I was on my way to preach at Walthamstow in North London. Unfortunately I left the M11 at the wrong junction and found myself in a quite unfamiliar part of London. A storm descended upon me. I raged at my stupidity. Why hadn't I concentrated more? I'd never find my way to Walthamstow in time for the service! I began to panic. Then someone banged on the roof of the car so I raged some more.

Not so long ago I set about the task of inspecting the gravestones in our cemetery and making them safe. No one in the church offered any assistance!! One headstone was so unstable that when I gave it a gentle pull it toppled over and narrowly missed taking my foot off. Then the lady whose aunt it commemorated took me to task for trying to pull it over. It wasn't long before others questioned my competence! I could very soon have been engulfed in a storm of wounded pride. However, on this occasion I was ready for trouble! Graveyards bring out the worst in some Christians.

(4) It was dark. Mark tells us that they set sail when evening came. Mk4v38. By the time the storm clouds had gathered it must have been pitch black.

Storms often break when we are at our most vulnerable - when our spirits are low and our mood bleak. Satan will often attack when we are least able to cope. The day I left school to care for my father I felt rather down. My sister-in-law had been looking after him all day. When I went to pick him up my brother asked how I felt. I said that I felt a bit depressed whereupon he took me to task! It was the wrong time! Satan certainly used my brother's insensitivity to trigger a storm of emotion - my self-control was totally shipwrecked and I felt aggrieved for days.

(D) Reactions to the storm.

(1) Helplessness.

The disciples caught up in the terrible storm felt totally unable to do anything about it. This is exactly how people caught up in love, grief, jealousy and fear feel. Samuel Pepys did not want to be so jealous of his wife - he felt it would make him mad - but the only thing he could do to remedy the situation was to sack his wife's dancing master - which made her very miserable and made him look very foolish.

(2) Despair.

We can almost hear the despair in the disciples' cry: "Teacher, don't you care if we drown." v38. Despair is very much the emotion experienced when we feel the situation we are in is too much for us and going to overwhelm us. This is what Ros felt when the crippling, unexplained pain struck after her operation for liver cancer. It seemed that all the help she had been given up to the time of her setback was a cruel trick to deceive her that she was going to get better. Ros' faith in God was threatened.

This was just how Lewis felt about the death of his wife. He wrote in, 'A Grief Observed': What chokes every prayer and every hope is the memory of all the prayers H. and I offered and all the false hopes we had. Not hopes raised merely by our own wishful thinking; hopes encouraged, even forced upon us by false diagnoses, by X-ray photographs, by strange remissions, by one temporary recovery that might have ranked as a miracle. Step by step we were 'led up the garden path'. Time after time, when he seemed most gracious, He was really preparing the next torture.

I can remember being close to despair towards the end of my father's life when dementia kicked in. After spending two to three hours trying to dress someone who is fighting you off despair is not far away.

(3) Resentment.

The disciples showed their resentment by asking Jesus: "Don't you care .... ." Jesus was asleep in the boat and oblivious to the plight of the disciples.

It is a common reaction when in the midst of a storm tossed sea to say to God, "Don't you care? Don't you care about the situation I find myself in? Don't you care about how bad I feel? Don't you care?" Lewis wrote while in danger of being overwhelmed by grief: Meanwhile, where is God? Go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become.

God does not always act as quickly as we would like him to. Moses, David, Elijah and Jeremiah all expressed resentment at the situations they found themselves in. When Elijah discovered that the contest with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel settled nothing he fled before the fury of Jezebel into the desert, sat under a broom tree and wished to die. When God asked Elijah what he was doing hiding in the desert his reply drips with self pity and resentment: "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too." 1Kings19v10.

Resentment and bitterness often accompany injustice, disappointment, dashed hopes and blows to our ego. When these two violent emotions swirl about in our lives it is very much like being in a horrible storm. In Corrie ten Boom's, 'Tramp for the Lord,' she deals with several instances of people, including herself, in the grip of destructive resentment. One lady missionary Corrie met in Mexico was unmarried in her forties. She confessed to bitterness and resentment over being unmarried. Why had she been denied the love of a husband, children and a home? Why was it that the only men whoever paid any attention to her were married to someone else? Long into the night the lady missionary poured out the poison of her frustration to Corrie.

(4) Wisdom

The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Master, Master, we're going to drown." v24.

The disciples did bring their problem - feelings - complaint to Jesus and in this they showed good sense!

Many Christians have discovered that when they cry out to Jesus in fear and despair he answers through his spirit. He answered me when I sat, lost in London, on my way to preach at Walthamstow. Gradually I calmed down - got out my London A to Z - worked out a route and found my way to my destination.

(E) The end of the storm

The end of the storm was marked by:

(1) A rebuke.

Jesus said to his disciples: "Where is your faith?" v25.

The disciples lacked faith - not because they woke Jesus up - but because of the state they were in. Jesus was not impressed by their panic, terror and resentment.

The disciples should have had more faith because:

    (a) It was Christ's intention that they reach the other side of the lake. We can be sure that Jesus wants us to complete the task he has given us to do. So although I got into stormy water sometimes as a teacher, church leader and caring for my father I knew that Jesus wanted me to finish the work he called me to do. See a Eulogy to my Father and Exposition on 1Cor7v17to40.

    Surely another great consolation and aid to faith is the knowledge that Jesus wants us to get safely to the other side and reach that golden shore. Paul reassures us: For I am convinced that neither death nor life; neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom8v38and39.

    (b) Jesus was with them in the boat. He was not far off but near at hand and readily accessible. The disciples could reach out, touch him and tell him of their troubles. Jesus is not far from any of his own. All we have to do in the storms of life is reach out and consult him. We would be spared many a storm if only we spoke to him sooner and asked him to show us what to do for the best.

    If the disciples went down Jesus would go down with them. He had a vested interest in keeping them afloat. Jesus is not going to abandon us to the storms of life. We are his workmanship, his treasured possession - redeemed by his own shed blood. His reputation as the Captain of our Salvation would suffer if we foundered on the rocks. He will keep us afloat.

    (c) The disciples had witnessed previous displays of Jesus' miraculous power. The one who could change water into wine could surely command the wind and the waves to obey him.

    F.W. Boreham in one of his essays recalls a period in his childhood when a storm threatened to shipwreck his parents. For days they were tossed about by doubt and perplexity. Then one morning Boreham's mother turned over the calendar and looked at the text of Scripture for the new month. It was: Hitherto hath the LORD helped us. 1Sam7v12. Those few words spelled the end of the tumult in Boreham's mother's heart and later brought reassurance to his father. So important was the Scripture to them that Boreham's father framed that page of the calendar and hung it in their bedroom. It made a big impression on F.W. Boreham. It was the first time he saw tangible evidence of Christianity working.

    If we remember all the times God has helped us in the past it will help us to weather storms in the future.

(2) A great calm.

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. v24.

I wonder if you have experienced a great, almost miraculous, calm in time of trouble. I believe that Jesus invariably brings the Christian through trouble into calmer waters - if we look to him for help and allow ourselves to be guided by his word.

One evening I got really exasperated while trying to get my demented father to bed. He sat on the bottom stair and refused to budge. In the end I picked him up and carried him up stairs. My father grabbed the banister rail to prevent this happening. I pulled him away and tore his finger open. A few days later I noticed that his finger was going white! I feared that on top of everything else gangrene would set in. It was a Saturday evening and I knew that father was too demented to get him in the car and to A&E at Bury Hospital. But at 10pm in the evening a great calm came over my father. I was able to drive him to the hospital. Amazingly, virtually no one was there!! I very quickly saw a sympathetic nurse and a kind doctor. My father's unnatural calm lasted until I got him home and to bed. I shall always believe that Jesus took mercy on me and provided a window of opportunity to visit the hospital in order to still the turmoil I was in.

I have often sung with the greatest of pleasure the chorus of the old Sankey hymn, 'Master, the tempest is raging!' Perhaps, it is as good an ending as any to this exposition.

            "The winds and the waves shall obey my will!
            Peace! ....... be still! ....
            Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea,
            Or demons, or men, or whatever it be,
            No waters can swallow the ship where lies
            The Master of ocean, and earth and skies:
            They all shall sweetly obey My will;
            Peace! be still! Peace! be still!
            They all shall sweetly obey My will;
            Peace! peace! be still!"