“Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, "It is a ghost!" and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.’” – Matthew 14:22-27 (ESV)
As a child, I was afraid of storms. Terrified is a better word. One rumble of thunder, and I would spring from my bed and into my parents’ room. One evening – I must have been around my son’s age at the time (four or so) – I remember a storm rolling in. The thunder rumbled and pounded in the distance, the summer sky darkened as the clouds rolled in. My dad took me out on the front porch, lifted me up and held on to me as we watched the storm move in across the field opposite our house. “See, son,” Dad said. “It’s only a storm. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
Here is a fact believers may as well accept: as we mature in Christ, storms are going to come – probably more frequently and perhaps stronger than previous. If you read Matthew, you see the process of growth unfold through the disciples – especially Peter. (Rabbit trail: the accounts in Matthew are probably not written in perfect chronological order. However, I believe strongly that there is not one wasted word or intention in Scripture, including the order in which things are recorded. In our modern thinking, we are more concerned with data and quick, easily digestible facts. To ancient writers, accuracy and info was important. But, the lesson to be learned, the context, the reason behind the account, was of greater importance. “Why” superseded “what.”)
So, let’s take a moment to walk through Matthew and see what Peter saw. First, Peter is called by Jesus to be a disciple (4:18-22). He sees Jesus’ notoriety and reputation grow. As people are healed and delivered, the crowds following Christ swell. He hears the teachings of Jesus through the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7) and a lot of parables. Most telling (at least in this lesson), we need to look at Matthew 9:23-27:
“And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, "Save us, Lord; we are perishing." And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?’ Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?’” – Matthew 9:23-27 (ESV)
As Yogi Berra once famously quipped, “It’s déjà vu all over again!” Here Peter and the disciples are again, out on a boat in the midst of a raging storm. The first time, Jesus was right in the boat with them – unruffled and fast asleep. The second time, He was not. In fact, look closely… Jesus sent them right into the storm. As they are riding high on the participation in the great miracle of feeding the five-thousand, before the crowds have even dispersed, Jesus sends the twelve off immediately into seas that will soon be roiling and choppy.
Yet… and here is the lesson (at least for today), Jesus is right there with them. Even though He is not sitting in the boat this time, He has never left them. The faith of the disciples was still solidifying. They had witnessed much, heard much, learned much. But the events they had witnessed and teachings they had taken in – often with great difficulty – needed to become reality. In school, we are given tests to measure how well the root of our learning has taken.
So it is in life.
I could go on with the classic examples of a diamond being formed from a lump of coal under great pressure, or gold being refined by fire, but that might belabor the point. Simply put, we need storms in our spiritual life to help us grow, because we need to learn to get out of our own way and see God in all circumstances. God doesn’t send us into a storm because He needs to see how our faith-walk is going. (He already knows.) He does it because we need to see Him in every circumstance and grow deeper in our reliance – our utter reliance – on the Lord. He does it because every storm we successfully go through strengthens our faith, steels our resolve to follow God, prepares us for the next storm. As James wrote:
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” – James 1:2-4 (ESV)
Today, I want to encourage you to face the storms in your life with boldness, knowing Jesus is with you and God is in control and through this hardship – no matter what it may be – hold fast to your faith in Christ and let Him be your strength. Through your faith, God will receive glory. And that, friends, is why we were created in the first place.
See, son, it’s only a storm. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Your Father is with you – always.