Dealing With the Storm
Perserverence is a virtue that is learned.

The weather was unsettled, the wind had been rising for several hours, and the waves had grown in size as stronger and stronger gusts swept out from the western hills and battered the little boat. The Master had insisted they set out, though any sailor knew it was crazy, late in the day and the sky already growing dark. But it was too late to worry about that, here they were, far out from the shore, tossed about by dangerous waves that looked set to grow even larger, unable to raise the sail, use the oars, or steer the boat. It began to rain and the wind rose to a furious and terrifying strength in the space of a minute or two. They were familiar with storms like this which blew up suddenly and could sink a strong boat in an instant.

They had earned their living by fishing from this boat. Good and experienced sailors though they were, they were starting to lose hope and could feel the panic and fear taking over. The waves crashed into the tossing boat and repeatedly threw great masses of water into the air. Much of it came down inside the boat, making the timber slippery so they could hardly keep their feet. The boat wallowed deeper and deeper in the water. ‘Wake up the Master’, one of them shouted, ‘How can he sleep through this? We’re going to die out here tonight’.

They woke him up, shouting, ‘We’re going to drown, don’t you care what happens to us?’

He spoke to the storm, ‘Be quiet! Be still! Calm down!’

The wind died away and the waves quickly disappeared. The lake was completely still and calm. (Matt 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-41, Luke 8:22-25)

Storms in the church

And how about you? How about me? Do you experience fierce and unexpected storms? Of course you do, and so do I, not necessarily storms on Lake Genessaret, but storms in the church that are just as dangerous! But like the disciples in the boat, if we truly trust Jesus the King, then even in the middle of the worst storm we needn’t be afraid.

Paul used the idea of a storm at sea when he wrote to the Ephesian church (Eph 4:11-16). And if we are to survive the storms that threaten to overwhelm us we will need to understand clearly what he wrote, and why.

He wrote that Christ gave us gifts, some to be sent out to guide and explain, some to speak out in prophecy, some to take out the good news to be shared, some as shepherds to watch out for the sheep or to tell out the truth as teachers. And all this is to prepare us to serve and to build us up in unity. We are to be one in faith, one in knowing the Son, mature, as mature as Christ. What an amazing purpose!

And when we’re as mature as Christ we won’t be like children any longer! We won’t, says Paul, be ‘tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.’

‘Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the head, that is, Christ.’

Paul of Tarsus was no stranger to storms. On his way to Rome he had been shipwrecked on the island of Malta and the sailors had been sure they would all die, so sure that they planned to make off in the lifeboat! In fact no-one was lost on that occasion; though the cargo of grain was thrown overboard to lighten the ship, despite which it ran aground and was destroyed. (Acts 27:13-44) This memory was surely fresh in his mind as he wrote to Ephesus.

Growing to Christ’s stature

Let’s see what Paul is saying. We will need to go right back to the beginning of Ephesians 4 where he urges the saints there to live lives worthy of their calling. They are to be completely humble and gentle, patient, and loving. This doesn’t come easily and they must make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit. Paul reminds them (and us) that oneness is at the core; there is one body, one Spirit, one hope, and so on. These are powerful themes.

Are we making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit? Are we leaving no stone unturned to achieve this? If I give up on this struggle for any reason, I have failed to do as Paul writes! There is no cost so great, no sacrifice so demanding, no alternative so compelling that we should fail in this duty to be united, to be one.

But how is it to be achieved? Paul explains that we have each been given grace personally by the Saviour. He has taken the trouble to measure out to you, to me, to each one, just the measure of grace which we will need to succeed in this task. So where there’s a prophet or a teacher or an apostle or a pastor or an evangelist, there we see a person who has been chosen and given grace and given a gift in order that – what? Verse 12 holds the answer. In essence, so that we can be prepared to serve, so that we can be built up, so that we can be one, and can become mature. Wow! Let’s just run through those thoughts again.

The objective is to become mature, in fact to become as mature as Christ himself, indeed to grow up ‘into’ the head (Eph 4:15). Are you that mature yet?

Paul sets out a process for us, a series of steps.

Becoming one

To attain that level of maturity we will first need to be one, fully united, without division, one in the faith, one in our knowledge of the Son of the Most High. Are we fully one yet? Hardly! The church is sundered into a multitude of denominations. Sometimes there’s little co-operation, let alone unity.

The key here is to reach unity in the knowledge of the Son. Until we all know him, really know him, we cannot hope to be one. We can grow to be united with one another, but only in him. We will never find any other place where we can all agree! We have no other common ground.

The building process

To become one we must first be built up into the body of Christ. We’re not looking here for some foundations, or just a few stones put in place into a wall; we’re looking for the completed Temple, finished, perfect, ready and fit for its purpose which is to honour the King and be a holy place in which he can live. It’s not good enough to be partly built, and it’s not enough to build the stones up into a series of little denominations each complete in itself but not complete with one another and made, not by him, but by us. We’re not to worry about any of that, we’re called to be built by him and cemented in love to those he places us amongst - whoever they may be.

Ready to serve

To be built up into the body, first we need to be prepared for works of service for we must serve, not ourselves, but one another. We will have to learn to serve one another in every way so that each need is met, every weakness strengthened, every fear replaced with courage, and every vagueness replaced with a clarity of vision. It’s not enough to serve according to our own wishes, it must be according to the needs of the body. If feet need washing we must wash them. No matter how mean or humdrum the task; if it needs doing, we must do it.

Gifts to the church

To be made ready for these works of service we are going to need those apostles, prophets, teachers, pastors and evangelists (Eph 4:11). They’re not optional, they’re essential! And they’re not selected by leaders or committees, they are given by Christ himself. These gifts to the church are not people in positions, they are men and women who act and speak in ways that get us ready to serve. They’re not placed in authority over us, rather we recognise that they’re people who know the author.

They’re not like generals or policemen or schoolteachers, they’re like nurses or heating engineers. You don’t do what they say because they have a position, you listen to them because of their depth of knowledge and experience and because you know they’re there to help in your time of need. You’re not there to obey them; but you feel gratitude and a sense of relief when you find them.

Tossed on the waves, blown by the wind

But we are not yet mature, we are still babies. And because of that we are, as Paul writes, tossed about by the waves and blown this way and that by every wind of teaching and by the cunning, deceitful schemes of men.

When we’re grown up we will, he says, ‘Speak the truth in love’.

And that’s what it was like for the disciples in their boat on the lake. The waves rocked the boat and started to fill it with water, the wind pushed them in the wrong direction, they were going to die when the boat sank and it was going to happen at any moment. They were babies, tossed about by the waves and blown by the wind.

So they shook Jesus by the shoulder and said, ‘Don’t you care what happens to us? We’re going to drown!’

And he said, ‘Don’t you have any faith?’

It wasn’t that the waves and winds weren’t real, it’s just that they shouldn’t have been anxious for they were with Jesus. So our place is to have faith because he said, ‘I will build my church’. We’re not to be anxious about the waves and the wind. The storm is real, there is much wrong teaching and wrong thinking in the church, but we’re not to be concerned about it, even if the Master seems to be asleep.

He will not allow the storm to harm us, he is here with us and he isn’t anxious.

What to do?

There’s no room for doubt or discussion. We are to recognise the gifts in those around us (bestowed for our benefit) and we are to become prepared for service. We will then find that we are being built up, that we are reaching unity, and that we’re becoming mature and growing more and more like Christ.

But until we reach maturity we must expect to be caught up in the misleading storm of false teaching and deceit. Who will tell you which teaching is false and which is true? Only maturity will enable you to know for sure, and our enemy often looks like an angel of light.

There are no short cuts, that’s why growing up into maturity is so important. You can’t get there any other way than by growing. Look for maturity, and grace, and the fruit of the Spirit in your brothers and sisters.

And whenever the storm makes you anxious cry out like the disciples, ‘Lord, save me’. And he will say, ‘Why do you have so little faith?’ But he will also command the waves and the wind to be still and you’ll experience peace and encouragement in the roots of your heart.

And here’s one last point, but a very important one. John 6:21 tells us that if the Master’s in the boat with us (if we will let him into the boat) that we’ll immediately reach our destination. Isn’t that amazing? The key is that we must allow Jesus into the boat. If he’s with us we’ll be just fine. HalleluYah!

This is not a question of what we believe or think or say or do. It’s not about doctrines or statements of faith. It’s not even about becoming less so that Christ can become more. It’s about becoming nothing so that he becomes everything! When he is everything in me and I’m nothing, then I will have the same view of the storm that he does for I will see it through his eyes.

So let’s ‘grow up into Christ, who is the head’. Read Ephesians 4:11-16 again and understand that everything depends on maturity in him. And don’t be afraidof the storm for it has no power over us – none at all!

 

Copyright Ó 2003 Chris Jefferies – Everyone is hereby granted the right to freely copy, edit, and republish the whole text or extracts from it, in any form. The only requirement is that this copyright notice must be included, ensuring that the text remains free for all to use.

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