23 And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. 24 And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. 25 And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. 26 And he saith unto them, why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?
Navy Seal, Robert O’Neal was on the most historic mission of an entire generation. He was with Seal Team 6, the elite of the elite. He had gone out on missions nightly well over 400 times. Gun fights were a normal job for him. This night he was going to kill Osama Bin Laden. After years of searching, and months of planning, and weeks of training for this mission, it was now ‘game on.’ All the men on the two super-secret, re-designed Black Hawk helicopters felt that they would not return. They had all written letters to be sent to their families in case they died. Yet he noted, “Some of the men actually fell asleep during the 90-minute flight to Pakistan!”
Before the Seal team left, they were found gathered around a camp fire, eating, telling jokes, relaxing, and playing some games. “Aren’t you nervous,” someone asked. “Why? We do this every night. It’s just another job.” But one of the reasons they were relaxed, though going on a dangerous mission, was that they had already accepted death. They had seen it many times. They were not afraid. They were focused. This Seal team had gone on over 400-night raids, killing or capturing terrorists, and not one member had been injured!
The disciples that night weren’t so focused on the mission. They feared for their lives while Jesus slept in the boat that night in the storm. Now, in 2020, we are in a storm, and we are learning to believe God. Just like these men, both on the boat and in the helicopters, we are on a journey of learning what is truly important. Are you afraid? Many are lonely, worried, or sorrowful because of what is happening.
For the last two years I have had to learn to give up the most important career activity of my life – my ministry as a pastor. I have given my life, given up everything I have had, twice, to answer the call. I remember the months of struggling very well as I was forced to let go. With myalgic encephalomyelitis the inflammation in the brain and spinal column causes pain and extreme fatigue. But you mostly look ok. “Why is this happening? What have I done wrong? Why was my church closed? What am I going to do to support my family? How much longer can I do this TV business? Is God chastening me to prepare for something or is He getting ready to take me home? Why isn’t anyone reaching out?” On, and on, and on it went.
I had lost everything before because I freely gave it up to God. But this was different…maybe. I had learned years and years ago how to handle tough losses. I have been homeless with my family. The last time it happened, well over 20 years ago, not one person from the church down the road that we attended came to help, not one time, (except the land owner of course) when I was struggling to rebuild and put a broken down mobile home on a farm lot. It took me many weeks. But God said to me, “You’re going to be learning that sometimes you have to walk through dark valleys alone.” I’d just been through a very deep one in Texas where people who were discouraged would stop by because, as someone said, “I was really going through a hard time, but when I came over here and realized what you were going through, I didn’t feel so bad at all!”
I could easily write a book on just the hard things in life. The giving up all I held onto, and the giving in to God in many lonely times, it is been all about surrender. When I quit the pastorate because it was too exhausting to preach, no one gave us a gold watch. No one reached out and said, “Wow, you’ve had a long and victorious ministry. We’re here to send you off into your next adventure, and we’re rooting for you.” Oh, I told my church that I did not want a party. It was too hard to admit quitting. My wife and I just stepped into the next day, wondering what was going on.
Why am I saying this? I am not walking in defeat. I am not sad, depressed, or lonely. I am not angry, confused, or afraid. I am realizing that the world, the nation, our city, and my family are just starting to go through a process that I’ve been in most of my life – learning to surrender to God on a deeper level, and to trust Him when He lets all of the ‘props’ that we’ve been holding onto get knocked out from under us. I have learned very well and mostly the hard way what it really means when the only thing that you have to depend on for anything at all is Jesus. Oh, I am not alone, for sure. We have all had some hard things. But this virus that we are all facing, this is God allowing the world to experience the natural consequences of a fallen and diseased world where some are going to learn to let go and trust in Him on a deeper level.
I remember a prophetic word many years ago at a revival meeting in Pensacola, Florida. “I am calling you to loosen yourself from your hold on this world. If you do not loose yourself, I’m going to help you do it.” This is that! I know the journey that many are going to need to learn to take. I know the questions, the struggles, and the hope that God is going to give you!
We are going to become something like those Navy Seals riding in a helicopter that is taking us into battle, and we are going to learn how to sleep in the storm. We are going to be forced to let go of some things that have been very dear to us, and we will learn of something far more precious. Maybe my whole life has just been a preparation to help someone overcome in an extremely hard place. We will learn that God will be far more inclined to calm the storm around us when we have first allowed Him to calm the storm that has been inside of us. Listen, He is not trying to kill you, or punish you, or hurt you. He is trying to calm you! I believe He is trying to slow down the whole world in this plunge towards oblivion that it has been heading for – very rapidly in the last 20 years. We need to learn this now, because there is a much, much bigger storm that our kids are going to face one day.
How many troubling earthly circumstances are there, whether they be by the hands of men, the earth itself, or the weather? There is nothing conceivable whereby Jesus would have said, "You have been wise to be afraid of this." Neither oncoming armies, the threats of leaders of nations, stormy seas, overflowing rivers and oceans, nor roaring lions, plagues of disease, dry desserts, poison waters, demons, serpents, nor any other thing can defy the will of God to keep His saints. "Do not fear! I am with you to keep you wherever you go." This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord. Though God allows those who are His to be tested from time to time, He will never fail. It is one thing to command the winds to cease blowing. It is a greater victory when we have commanded the internal winds of the carnal man to be still while all around us is a raging storm.
Then he arose and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. 27 But the men marveled, saying, what manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him! Matthew 8:26-27
I can't hardly imagine anything that would freak a man out any more than experiencing the brutality of a storm at sea, and then someone speaks and everything suddenly calms down so much so that it was described as a "great calm!" In that instant I can only think that there would be a greater fear of the man than of the storm. It is encouraging to write this: The storm that threatened the men in the boat was in greater danger because of the man in the boat!
"Nothing shall by any means harm you!" Is there a place here where the disciples could have exercised their own faith and commanded the storm? That may be an implication from Jesus' rebuke of them - "Where is your faith? Why are you afraid?" Or did anything need to be done at all? Were they supposed to just ride it out and go take a nap like Jesus was napping? It probably does not matter what they did. So often we live in fear because we think we should be doing something, but we do not know what to do. Or perhaps there is someone who is sick, and we spend all our spiritual/emotional/mental energy trying to figure out what our next move should be. Faith does not need a next move! Faith does not have to incessantly ask, “What did we miss, what did we do wrong, what should we do next.”
The point is the condition of faith or of fear. That is what Jesus addresses. He didn't say, "You could've thrown out an anchor. You could have made for shore in peace. You could've just waited it out." Whatever they could have done, they should have done in faith. It is not as if they could have done the wrong thing even though they were fully trusting Jesus. Whatever you do in a time of crisis, do it from a place of faith in God, not faith in what you decided to do.
These disciples probably would have never thought to just speak to the storm themselves. But give them some credit here. They did come to Jesus and ask for help. He did not let them drown or lose the boat because they were asking in fear instead of faith! This was a point of testing for the sake of growth. Today if someone took a bunch of people out into a storm on purpose, and they became terrified, they would sue somebody! People usually blame someone or God himself. That is why Jesus told those who asked about following Him earlier that they needed to be radically ready to forsake everything to follow Him - even their pride, reputation, and sense of what they felt they deserved. Training for greater faith requires a heart that is not quickly ready to accuse, criticize, or complain - ever. It requires a letting go of our present life for the best life, His life .
I cannot give you money if I do not have any. I cannot give you joy if I do not have any. Neither can I give you peace without having it. This storm we are facing, we cannot speak peace to it if we do not have any peace to give. But do not worry. God is at work to give you supernatural hope, peace, and faith. That's what storms are for! No matter how dark it gets, the darkness cannot stop a shining light. That is the light that He is giving to you.
Chad Williams was a young man who decided one day in front of his school that he was going to be a Navy Seal. So, he went home. “I don’t need to keep going to classes if I’m going into the Navy,” he thought. He told his dad who then contacted a man who had been a Seal. “I want you to take my son out and work him out until you crush him. He’s not ready for the military.” So, the man emailed Chad, “Let’s go out and play tomorrow.” He took him on a run but gave him a 15-minute head start. “I’ll catch up,” the Seal said. “Great, he’ll never catch me.” So, the further he ran, the more juiced he got, because the man was nowhere in sight behind him on the California beach.
However, a bit later he saw a figure closing the gap behind him. It was not too long before this man had passed him, turned around and punched him in the gut. Then he proceeded to ‘crush him.’ “He was like a psycho,” Chad said. Then they ran a few more miles. When Chad got home, the Navy Seal said, “I think your son can make it! I’m going to work with him every day until I deploy.”
The Navy Seal was Scott Halverson, the youngest man to ever complete the brutal BUD’s program at 17. He held the record for the notorious obstacle course on the island of Coronado. He was indeed a man among men. Soon the two became close, though Scott never let up on him. He became like a second father to him. But then one day he deployed to Iraq. “I’ll be back before you graduate. I’ll see you there.”
A few weeks later Chad saw Scott’s picture on TV. “He must be going on some other show. He’s becoming more popular than I thought.” But it was a news feature item. Scott and a couple other Seals had been caught, tortured, dragged through the streets, and been killed. As you can imagine, Chad was deeply shaken. Seals train hard for two plus years in the most brutal, thorough, and high-tech program of anyone in the military, worldwide. Their purpose was now to avenge the deaths of thousands, and the sorrow of hundreds of thousands because of 9/11. Scott’s death was horrible, but it was one of honor, valor, and of love.
Chad, though blindsided, determined that he would serve to honor his brother in arms, his friend. Through the brutality of training so hard that many are injured, hospitalized, and some have died, he was among the 20 percent that made it. Chad went into the program because of selfish and ego driven motives. When he came out of the storm that is the most challenging military training in the world, he had become determined to live his life to bring freedom and honor to others.
Jesus had a reason for bringing the disciples out into the storm that night, and He has a reason for bringing us into this viral storm that the devil has brewed up. He did it for love, for peace, and for you. There is a reason for every gale that blows in our lives. Victor Frankl said, “Those who have a ‘why’ and a purpose in a trial, can bear almost anything.
” Listen, there is no pain that you will bear, but that God is not shaping it to give you a pathway to victory that you can pass on to your children and the world. Nothing will be in vain with God.