I had the opportunity to preach at my home church this past Sunday and below is a manuscript of that sermon. Something went wrong with the recording, so only the last 5 minutes or so got recorded, but you can find that here.
Have you ever felt like life just keeps throwing more stuff at you? Sometimes it is just one thing or sometimes it’s one thing after another. What’s worse is it is usually unexpected. As you may know, I wasn’t planning on coming back to Toronto after serving at HQ, but here I am
This summer was setting up to be the best summer of my life, I had my dream job of working at Wesleyan headquarters and to top it off I got to work with my best friend Matt from Kingswood. We left after school finished and made the 26 hour drive from Kingswood to Indiana and as we pulled into the town we were staying and it was literal paradise – basically like rural Ontario where I grew up, surrounded by fields and the air smelled like dirt.
Matthew and I look at each other and agreed that this was going to be the best summer of our lives. For three weeks we worked at HQ, running into famous Wesleyans, eating cheap food at buffets, life was good. My spiritual life was on the up and up, I was chasing after God. Every Sunday I would spend a good hour alone with God praying and journaling and just being quiet in his presense.
We had a goal to visit all the Wesleyan churches in Marion because there were 9 total, so one Sunday we agreed to go to a new church but we would have to wake up early. I woke up and got ready and came downstairs and Matthew wasn’t awake yet, so I let him sleep and went to church figuring that he had just slept through his alarm or had stayed up late.
I came back and he still wasn’t awake so I left again and got some lunch. I came back and went into his room and found that he had passed away in the night. I fell into a tail spin and ran from the house, I called my mom and knocked on neighbours doors but nobody could help me. I was in a foreign country with no one around to help me. Even the people I know who lived in town were in another state for the weekend.
It was so hot outside I was hyperventilating and fell over. Everything felt like it was spinning and I couldn’t breathe from the heat and the replaying of seeing Matthew. What was I going to do?
I raised both my hands to the sky and cried out to God “you are the only one who can help me now, I need YOUR PEACE” and a supernatural peace fell over me. I used the word supernatural because I instantly calmed down. I stopped crying. My breathing slowed. I was no longer dizzy, I could see and think clearly. God was with me in the moment. Only God could have done that for me.
My boss Kory offered me to stay at his house so I didn’t have to stay in our house alone so I took him up on that offer and we went to his house and I mentioned that I didn’t get to do my quiet time so he took me to this park beside the river and I walked and watched the Sunset and talked to God and he gave me an even bigger peace about the day’s events. I can’t explain how I was so calm and accepting of everything that happened, but God was literally bringing me deep comfort and peace, a peace that surpassed understanding.
Can we all be honest with each other and admit that life seems to be unfair and really really hard sometimes?
Maybe for you it’s the crushing workload you have to do for your job on top of being a parent. You try so hard to provide for your family but the city is expensive to live in and hydro’s going up and so are all the other bills. You can’t take anymore.
Maybe it’s your health. Maybe it keeps getting worse no matter how hard you try and you just want to give up. Life doesn’t seem worth the suffering. Why bother when nothing seems to be working and you keep going downhill.
Do you face anxiety about the everyday things that build up and those feel like massive hurdles? The stresses of everyday just building up, things never seem to go your way and the weight of responsibility begins to drag you down? There aren’t enough minutes in the day to finish everything you have to? Not everyone is on the brink of crisis but I think everyone has stuff that they worry about, thinking about, and don’t want to be alone in.
Is it family? Worried about giving your kids a bright future?
Or maybe you’ve lost a lot of loved ones in a short period of time. How can you go on in this storm without them? They meant the world to you. I’m here to tell you today that God is for you and no matter WHAT comes your way, God can and will bring you peace even in the darkest and most hopeless time.
The Apostles faced a lot of problems too, and one of these was when Jesus sent them out to go ahead of him across the lake while he took sometime to pray by himself. The Apostles boat gets about halfway across the lake when a horrible storm hits up and they get scared that their boat was going to get destroyed.
Open your Bibles to Matthew 14:22-33 (This is the NIV):
22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.
23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone,
24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.
26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.”
28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
29 “Come,” Jesus said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
30 But when Peter saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.
33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped Jesus, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
We have probably heard this story before even if you don’t go to church often. Jesus walks on water and Peter sinks because he didn’t have faith. But while reading it this time new things jumped out at me. We always read this as a story about faith, and I think it is, but I also think it’s a story about the power of God. We are so focused on the miracle we miss the Messiah.
We need to remember that these men were all fishermen – they lived their life on the seas, so the storm had to be pretty bad for them to be afraid. They were crying out in fear, and Jesus replied to them to take courage. It is I. Do not be afraid.
V.27 The interesting thing about this is our english loses some of the nuance of the Greek here. Jesus isn’t saying “it’s me, your friend Jesus”, when he says it is I.
He is echoing what God said to Moses with the Burning Bush that we heard read earlier. It is me, God, the great I AM. I am that I am. Jesus is God and was with them even when they thought that their boat was going to sink.
V.28-32 The second thing I notice in the passage is that once Peter understands WHO Jesus was he moves towards Jesus. In the midst of a storm, he would have been safer in the boat than in the water. But he still gets out and moves towards Jesus, even though it would have been safer to sit tight.
He knows who Jesus is and trusts him to help and care for him. He only gets vulnerable when his perspective of what’s going on REPLACES his knowledge of the power of God. Once we begin to think about our situation too much we forget about God and sink.
The verse says that Jesus caught Peter, and once they got into the boat, the wind stopped. Once Jesus was in the boat with them, the wind ceased. It doesn’t say it stopped being a really bad storm, it just says that the wind stopped and they were safe. They were no longer being blown about.
This story gives us a threefold plan of what to do when a storm hits us.
The first thing we should do is stop, and remember who God is. He is the I AM, the beginning and the end. He is the all powerful God who knows you better than anyone in the world. He measures the universe in the span of two fingers. He is the creator of the universe. He is so powerful we do not need to worry or be afraid. We need to REMEMBER who God is.
The second thing we need to do is to call out to him, to pray, and invite him into our struggle. We need to trust him, and move towards him. Invite him into the boat of your life and rely on him. The breaking point is when God can most easily work in your life. We need to REACH OUT to God.
The third thing we need to do is respond him. He is God and He is all the things I said earlier plus infinity more. This called Revelation and response – God does something and we respond to him in Worship. It’s a back and forth between us and God, a conversation. Because we return what he does for us back to him in Worship he reveals more of himself which gives us more reasons to worship him. So we respond to him again and the Lord keeps providing for our needs because he is faithful. This draws us closer to him, this is what we need to do, we need to respond to God. We have to RESPOND to God.
Trusting in God doesn’t doesn’t make the storm go away but trusting in Him does make it easier to bear. WE ARE UNSTOPPABLE WITH GOD, WE CAN FACE ANYTHING.
Say this with me:
Remember, reach, respond. If you’re taking notes write this down
Remember who God is. He will never let you down. He cares for you and wants to comfort you in your hard times.
Reach out to God. It is so easy to try and do things on our own without God, but we were never meant to do things on our own. People say I can’t take it any more. THat’s perfect – now God can use you.
Respond to God. When God bring you comfort, or moves in your life, even in a small way, reflect it back to him. Worship him for who he is and what he’s done. Revelation and Response. God shows up, we respond in worship.
No matter how big our storms are our God is always bigger than them, whether it’s our health, our jobs, our worries, our fears. So what are are you facing right now that is threatening to sink you.
When are you going to run into the loving arms of God?