We know that God loves us. Really, truly loves us. He’s the loving Father who has our back – yes, even when it seems like storms are closing in and our fear is rising. In fact, it’s especially in those times of storm and fear that he has our back. Yet, trusting God in difficult times can still require an act of faith That means it’s not always easy, but as this sermon from a man graduating from seminary shows, the rewards are rich indeed.
Trusting Is A Leap Of Faith
“I can’t do it!” I yelled down to my dad. “Yes you can. Trust me!”
His words of encouragement didn’t do much for my courage. I was only about 20 feet in the air, but I might as well have been two miles up. The high dive hadn’t looked nearly so high from the ground, but once I was up there, it felt like I was in the clouds. My dad looked like an ant swimming in the deep end down below. I was six years old that summer, and Dad had assured me again and again that I was old enough now to jump off the high dive. And I had believed him… until I got to the edge and looked down.
The board wobbled under my wet feet. The pool below me slowly began to spin, and my palms felt suddenly cold and sweaty. Every ounce of my confidence was gone and the last thing in the world I wanted to do was jump off that diving board. My dad’s voice came again, “You can do it! I’m right down here to help you!” I knew I had two choices: the stairway behind me or the thin air in front of me. I froze at the end of the diving board. Every eye at the swimming pool was on me and I had a decision to make.
The Difficult Times Are a Part of Life
Man, I can still feel exactly what that felt like. I had hoped that when I became an adult I’d no longer get that queasy high-dive feeling. Actually, high dives are now a thing of the past at most swimming pools, but I’ve found lots of other things to shake my confidence. Like you, perhaps, I’ve found these seminary years to be difficult, uncertain times.
These can be difficult, uncertain days
Has anyone else been so under the pile that you’re not sure if you’re going to make it? I’ve been right there the past two weeks. Anybody else experienced months where you don’t know where the money will come from to pay the bills? (The only question around here is whether that’s the exception or the norm, right?) Have you, like me, had even a little bit of concern about what you’ll do when you get out of here? I mean, what’s the church really going to look like in the next 20 years, and how will we fit into that? (And are we even sure we want to?) Yes, these can be difficult, uncertain days…days that make the high dive seem like a piece of cake.
Trusting God in Difficult Times
So the question is, how do we really trust God during difficult times? I mean, we say we trust Him, but we stress a lot. We worry a lot. We tend to have very little joy on a daily basis. Everything feels fine when we’re in the swimming pool, but then a crisis hits that puts us back up on that high dive, and our knees start to wobble and our palms start to sweat.
Wouldn’t you rather really trust Him? Wouldn’t you rather rest instead of worry? Wouldn’t you rather set aside fear and enjoy the ride a little more? I know I would. So today let’s talk about how to fully trust God during difficult times.
Looking To The Book Of Mark
There’s a story in Mark chapter 4 that illustrates this so well. In this passage we’ll get to see two very different responses to a frightening situation. As we work through this story we’ll focus on three things: What it looks like to fully trust God; Why we struggle to fully trust Him; and How we can begin to fully trust Him. What it looks like to fully trust God; Why we struggle to fully trust Him; and How we can begin to fully trust Him. Open your Bibles to Mark 4, beginning in verse 35. Mark 4:35.
35. As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.”
36. So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats
37. But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it
began to fill with water.
38. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke
him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”
39. When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!”
Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm.
40. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41. The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even
the wind and waves obey him!”
First, what does it look like to fully trust God? We get a perfect example of this in this passage. Who’s the example? Jesus, of course. When we completely trust God, it looks like Jesus resting in the back of the boat while the storm is raging. It looks like Jesus sleeping through a massive storm.
How did He do this? The text tells us it was a really bad storm, and this was no ocean cruiser they were sailing in. Some have wondered whether Jesus purposefully stayed asleep to test the disciples. That’s possible, but I also think he was just exhausted. The context of this passage indicates that Jesus had just completed a long day of teaching, and he was finally free from the crowds. He had worked hard at the work God had called him to do and now he was tired. It was the sleep of a man whose conscience was clear and whose work was well-done.
Finding A Way To Rest in Him
I love watching my little girls sleep. This past Saturday morning Elysa started crying earlier than usual, so I got her out of her crib and we sat in my chair and I laid her against my chest. She sighed and closed her eyes again and was out. She was so trusting, so peaceful… it was beautiful. I think there’s a sense of that going on here with Jesus. He was resting in the care of His Father.
We get a very different picture with the disciples. What a terrific contrast there in the text – Jesus is sleeping and at the very same time his disciples are panicking. I think the disciples illustrate very well the way we tend to respond to trials. When our lives get difficult, we tend to have two responses. Our first response – our default response – is to work harder.
But sometimes God allows the storm to be bigger than us.
Our first thought is, “I can handle this,” so we push ourselves a little more. I’ve got to imagine this is what the disciples did at first. These were experienced fishermen who were well-acquainted with the volatile weather conditions on the Sea of Galilee. They must have tried every trick in the book to weather the storm, but at some point the water started coming over the sides of the boat. Even then, I’m sure they were scooping water like crazy. And that’s what happens to us. We work harder and harder to try to manage the crisis in our own efforts, and many times it seems to work. But sometimes God allows the storm to be bigger than us.
And when that kind of storm hits, we experience the second response of the disciples: panic. It’s clear from the passage that these skilled, experienced fishermen were literally scared for their lives. And so they look back there and see Jesus… and he’s sleeping… just illustrating what it looks like to be fully trusting God in difficult times.
But that’s Jesus right? Jesus can do a lot of stuff that I can’t do. Why is it so hard for us? Why do we struggle so much to fully trust Him? We struggle to fully trust Him because we don’t apply our theology to our circumstances. Let’s look at the disciples first, and then you and me.
Applying Theology to Trying Circumstances
The disciples were at a disadvantage compared to us because at the point of this story they didn’t know all the things about Jesus that we know. Their theology about Jesus wasn’t fully formed. Most importantly, at this point they hadn’t yet grasped the depth of his power and the depth of his love. We know they didn’t understand his power because of their reaction when Jesus rebuked the wind and calmed the waves.
Look at verse 41. “[They] were absolutely terrified. ‘Who is this man?’ they asked each other. ‘Even the wind and waves obey him!’” The obvious answer to their question was… God. Jesus was God. The irony of the whole situation was that the Creator of the wind and waves was lying right there with them in their boat all along. But they didn’t get that yet. That had seen Him cast out demons and heal diseases, but this was on a whole new level. They didn’t fully understand His power.
They also didn’t fully understand His love. We learn this in verse 38. When the storm was so bad that their best efforts weren’t keeping the boat from sinking, they finally woke Jesus up and were kind of ticked at him. It says, “The disciples woke him up, shouting, ‘Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?!’” “Don’t you care?” “Don’t you care?” “Jesus, don’t you love us enough to help? If you can’t do anything else, at least help us bail this water out of the boat. Don’t you care?” Don’t you care?
I wonder how this made Jesus feel… knowing how much he did love them… knowing what he would endure for them later. No wonder he was a little bit frustrated. But the disciples hadn’t yet grasped the extent of Jesus’ love for them. Like His power, they didn’t fully understand His love.
The bottom line for the disciples is that they didn’t get the fact that this man with them in the boat was the all-powerful ruler of the universe who loved them beyond measure.
What We Know About Jesus
Here’s the thing… we know a lot more than those disciples did, and yet often we don’t trust Him in the storm any more than they did. We’ve got the theology down, but it doesn’t really seem to make much difference, does it? In some ways, our lack of trust is worse than theirs: we’ve got the answers, but we don’t apply them to our lives. In calm waters, we’re confident of God’s power and love, but big crises in our lives confront us with a theological dilemma.
Big crises in our lives confront us with a theological dilemma
Either He’s not strong enough to intervene, or He doesn’t really love us enough to do so. “God, if you’re strong enough to calm the storm, why don’t you? I’m sinking, God, and you’re sleeping in the back while I’m paddling for my life?” We know the love that Christ demonstrated for us on the cross, but in the hard moments, don’t we find ourselves asking, “Don’t you care? Don’t you care? Don’t you care?”
Ultimately, we don’t trust God because when difficult times come, we doubt either his power or his love for us. We know what’s supposed to be true about God, but the hardships make us wonder. We fail to apply our theology to our circumstances.
We’ve seen what it looks like to fully trust through Jesus’ example of resting during the storm. And we’ve discussed why we struggle to trust Him – because we fail to apply our theology to our circumstances, specifically our beliefs that God is all-powerful and all-loving. So let’s now turn to how we can learn to fully trust Him.
How We Can Grow Our Trust for Him
Here it is: When the trials come, worship more.
Worship causes us to trust God. This hit me two days ago at church. I was feeling overloaded with a ton of work (this sermon being part of that), and I’ll even admit I briefly considered missing church to try and catch up. I’m glad I didn’t. I was thinking about this idea of how we learn to apply our theology to our circumstances and I found myself singing these lyrics along with the congregation: “He’s got the whole world in His hands… and I fear no evil, for You are with me, strong to deliver, mighty to save.” And in singing that line it occurred to me that worship is an intentional remembrance of what is true about God – namely, that He is powerful and He is loving.
And the very act of singing those words that day brought those truths to bear upon my present condition. Let me explain: I couldn’t sing them and mean them if they didn’t apply to my stress at that very moment. In those lyrics I was proclaiming that God is indeed strong and loving. In re-affirming those two truths in a very tangible way my perspective shifted.
God was bigger and closer than the minute before, and my circumstances were less daunting. Neither the amount of work nor the time I had to complete it had changed, and yet something fundamentally more important had changed. Remembering and proclaiming truth about God was helping me trust Him more fully.
What Happens When We Worship
This is what happens when we worship. I’m talking about engaging in sincere worship, not just going through the motions. When we truly worship, our theology begins to govern our circumstances rather than the other way around. And when you honestly believe, deep down to the core of your soul, that God is all-powerful and His love for you is immeasurable, what will you fear? Nothing – truly trusting God in difficult times brings such peace.
So when he pressures of seminary come, worship more. When finances are tight, worship more to proclaim that God is strong and loving enough to provide for you. When your work-load is overwhelming, worship more to proclaim that God is strong and loving enough to sustain you. When the future is unclear, worship more to proclaim that God is strong and loving enough to lead you.
Fully trusting God is the ability to rest in the Father’s care in the middle of the storm
Fully trusting God is the ability to rest in the Father’s care in the middle of the storm. The only way we will do that is by applying our theology to every circumstance by worshiping more when the trials come.
By the way, I did jump off the high dive that day. I decided that I could trust my dad’s words of encouragement, and of course he was right. That jump was an exhilarating experience of trust for me. Our heavenly Father desires the same for us. He is strong and He is loving. When trials come, worship Him more.
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