Read Mark 4:35-36
What happens in this story of Jesus calming the storm for the disciples is well known. What is often over-looked is the mention in scripture that there were “other little ships” in peril in upon the sea.
The Holy Spirit would remind us that we are not alone in trial. Other brothers and sisters, in their little ships, are enduring great difficulty too.
“Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” (1 Peter 5:9–10, NKJV)
There is something fortifying for our faith when we know this. Suffering has a tendency to make us feel alone. Isolation in affliction can lead one to self-pity and soul-shattering discouragement. Consider Elijah. He almost came, not only to the end of his ministry, but to the end of his life through spiritual depression. When God cornered him, he said: “…I alone am left; and they seek to take my life (1 Kings 19:10).” The Lord jostled him out of his self-pity party by reminding him that he wasn’t alone.
To know you are in a crowd of the faithful in trial is very encouraging.
“I have reserved seven thousand” in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal (1 Kings 4:18).”
Refreshed by the Lord’s encouragement, Elijah got up from there and went forward with renewed vision.
The title, Son of Man, tells us that he is a friend to small people like you and me. He cares.
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6–7, NKJV)
The Lord calmed the crisis and it was a benefit that extended beyond the hull of his disciple’s greater craft to all other little ships in peril upon the sea.
Remember, many, if not all of these little ships, followed Jesus intentionally. They wouldn’t have had the afflicting storm if they had simply stayed behind in the safe little ruts of their life routines.
In one preamble to the same story in the Gospel of Matthew, the last thing that happens before Jesus gets into the boat is a couple of wanna-be disciples say they want to follow him.
“And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side. Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Then another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”” (Matthew 8:18–22, NKJV)
Each of these fellows sounded earnest, but Jesus challenged them both. One wasn’t counting the cost. The other had an excuse dressed up like certifiable reason that kept him from following Jesus in real time. Jesus told the first man, essentially,
“If you are going to follow me, get ready to have hard times. Expect a rock for your pillow.”
There is a counterfeit modern gospel that promises a better life with Jesus. One popular prosperity preacher wrote a best-selling book called, “Your Best Life Now”.
If this life here is supposed to be a Christian’s best life now, he must surely be going to hell later. Heaven is where the true Christian will have his best life.
Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation.” Jesus also told his followers to expect persecution, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.” According to Jesus, being a Christian is not a problem-proofed life. In fact, it will attract difficulty.
Paul described his best life now when he said:
“From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11:24–28, NKJV)
God delivered him time and time again in the storms of life. Each time he came out and each time he came through. It was Paul’s faith and God’s overwatch that buoyed and bobbed him upward under the strongest gales. He was unsinkable. We are all little ships compared to great vessels like Paul. But we have the same access to faith and the same mighty God as he did.
Expect storms, friends. But expect to come safely through them.
Read Mark 4:37-40
Jesus rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith. “Why are you so fearful? How is that you have no faith?” Of the many desperate prayer stories that are found in the Gospels, we would think to find the greatest faith be found in the disciples, but that is not the case.
After he stilled the storm, “He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and marveled. Who can this be, even the wind and the sea obey him!(Mark 4:41).”
Faithless prayer is sadly one of the most common prayers upon the earth. Jesus speaks to the rarity of faith and prayer when he said,
“Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)
The disciple’s prayer without faith got a stern rebuke. But here’s the good part— it didn’t get a refusal! What grace He shows to beginners. These men would go on to become lions of faith though they clearly began as helpless kittens. Here is something to their credit though—at least they cried out for help! How many come to ruin because they trust themselves in life? Jesus said in the beatitudes, “Blessed is the poor (ptōchos) in the spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3).” The Greek word ptōchos means to be reduced to begging, destitute, powerless and without influence. In other words, “Blessed is the man who knows he needs help. He is going to get it.”
Reading Psalm 121 shows us such a blessed man who knows he needs help:
“I look up to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!” (Psalm 121:1–2)
His faith has grown to mountain size though he might have begun with a mustard seed-sized faith. The psalmist is wise to know he needs help from God and he grows in confidence that he will get it. See how quickly he turns the lesson outward to you. “The Lord is your keeper...” And friends He is your keeper. The voice behind the Psalmist is the Lord Himself. He would make you bigger in faith too.
Read Mark 4:38-41
To be sure God never sleeps: "He who keeps Israel Shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper…” (Psalm 121:4)
But to be also sure, Jesus was incarnate God in the flesh as the Son of Man. He ate, he sweat, he grew tired and he slept just like we do.
It is ironic to me that when Jesus sleeps, the disciples are awake. We also find that when Jesus is awake, the disciples sleep. Jesus sleeps in the storm. The disciples are wide awake in terror. The disciples sleep in Gethsemane. Jesus is wide awake with blood, sweat and prayer.
Jesus sleeping during the storm shows us something: He would rest when we would panic. Jesus never panicked. Never. He was calm in every tempest because he was already calm in his soul. He knew what it was to rest in the perfect trust that His Father had all under control.
“Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom. It is the result of long and patient effort in self-control. Its presence is an indication of ripened experience and is the surest sign of trust in God.”
Parents who come home with a new baby learn, very quickly, that their newborn doesn’t share their sleeping schedule. It is a great achievement and well-welcomed goal to get a baby to sleep through the night. We need to get on the same sleeping schedule with Jesus.
And we need to be awake in watching and awake in praying when He is.
A final word to the storm-tossed: Jesus will still every storm. Know this. Every trial, every affliction, every sickness, every crisis, every storm will come to Christ-initiated ending. It will happen. It will happen on His watch and in His time. The storm will end. Until then, persevere with perfect trust.
“As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” (James 5:11, TNIV)
Read Luke 23:33-43
Your faith, or its failure, will affect all the little ships around you.
Friends, consider this:
Others are affected by what you do or do not do in faith. Those who lean on you and look to you are hanging on you. Your children, your intimates, and yes, those you may lead. They are affected by your stability or instability in the Lord. As far as your witness is concerned, even strangers are watching you. Your faith or lack of faith can affect them positively or negatively. Paul said that the suffering apostles were on display and a spectacle before men and angels:
“For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.” (1 Corinthians 4:9)
Jesus was watched by many in his darkest trial upon the cross. Some watched for a miracle. Some watched and sneered. One who was suffering with him saw his integrity and begged salvation from the Son of God.
What a marvelous result came to that humbled criminal in the final storm of his life. Christ’s righteousness was a safe harbor to flee to in his darkest hour.
When they watched Christ in his darkest trial, they saw a man with his eyes lifted. They saw a man trusting God to His last breath. They saw a man pray for his enemies. They saw God marshal nature, through darkness and earthquake, to vindicate the cause of His son. The outcome of events would echo through to the whole land. The centurion saw the way he died and declared, “This was a righteous man!”
The little ships are affected by what you do or do not do when your faith is tested.
I’ve known parents, of a great broken life history, who affected their children very negatively while they were in a life without faith. Some of us are children of such parents. I’ve known some who began a life of faith with Christ that they did not finish. They are the temporary listeners of the parable of the four soils. They worked prayerfully, though temporarily, to bring their teens or emerging young adults back from the wreckage they wrought in the years they parented without Christ.
It is a slow process to heal years of ruin in a young person’s life. But they are watching and they will often inch, hesitantly, to the new faith of parent breaking new ground.
Sadly, and it breaks my heart to say it, I’ve seen that parent shipwreck in sin or compromise. And when they do, all that work and progress to bring their children to faith in Christ is completely lost. The children, teens or emerging adults they sought to bring to faith in Christ are shipwrecked too. The last state of those children are worse than the first. Let the big ships beware, there are little ships in the eternal balance who will be affected by you.