Tag Archives: storms

Control is an Illusion

Peninsula Community Church

Control is an Illusion

July 15, 2018 

Mark 4:35-41 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Last week we looked at Jehoshaphat and how God protects us and keeps us. The focus of our study this morning will be on what happens when we do everything right, and God does not hold up to His part of the bargain? What do you do when it feels that God has let us down? Or at least we think He does! What do you do when things are out of our control? In other words, what do you do when you lose control of a situation, event, or person?

This issue of control is seen in the story before us today. Three of the four gospels have some version of this story that impacts the disciples. Let us look at this story and then make a few comments. After a day of ministry, we find that Jesus tells the disciples to get into the boat and go to the other side of the lake. Jesus joins them and off they go. On their journey, they encountered a storm! Imagine this picture with me. Jesus commanded them to get in the boat and go to the other side. He is right there with them. He commanded, they obeyed.

Jesus was with them, and yet they encountered a fierce storm. It should be noted that this was not a normal storm. We find the disciples were greatly afraid. To understand their fear, we must remember that most of the disciples were fishermen and they had been out on this same lake many times before. They had encountered all kinds of storms in the past, but this storm was a different storm altogether. It effected them to the core of their being. We find the storm was so massive and powerful that water was overflowing into the boat. This could result in the boat sinking and them losing their lives. They were afraid. How many times have you faced a storm that rushed in and overpowered you? It was so powerful that you risked death or you felt like you would drown.

In 1980 I had boarded a plane that was headed from Atlanta to La Guardia airport. I was in God’s will as I was traveling around the US for the ministry that I was leading. It was a normal day but after we took off the weather turned nasty. I had flown many times before and was on other planes when other storms had hit but this flight was different. The plane we were on began to be tossed. We continually felt the storm causing the plane to rise, fall, and shake. I can tell you there was some fear that arose and I was not feeling very safe. I had never worried about crashing before but that thought crossed my mind many times during this flight. I was so excited when we finally landed at LGA. I literally got on the ground and kissed it. 

In this story, we find the disciples had been obedient to Jesus’ command. They had gotten into the boat and had begun to travel to the other side of the lake. What they did not anticipate was the storm that was to blow in. You see they could control the boat. They could control their actions, but they could not control the storm, nor could they control the outcome of the storm.

Even though the disciples were right where they were suppose to be, they encountered a great storm. They were in this situation because they were in obedience to Jesus’ command. One of the great lies propagated by the enemy is that if we encounter a storm, there must be something wrong with us. The enemy of our soul loves to take the storms and issues of life that are beyond our control, and use them to demoralize us and make us feel that we have failed or we are in some state of error. There are times when the storms we face are a result of our actions or our decisions. We face storms because of our failures and because of the sin in our life, but in this case they were right where God wanted them to be. 

For the disciples, notice here they were powerless to control the storm nor could they control Jesus. It is noteworthy that even the best of us can be overwhelmed by the storms of life. We can be a old salt as a Christian so to speak. We can navigate almost anything but then there is that thing, that one event or series of events that rock our world and unsettles us to the core. Lack of control can result in fear which is a powerful emotion. All of us deal with such things at some moment in time. There is the fear of loss. There is the fear of the unknown. There is the fear of pain. There is the fear of death. There is the fear of a hostile world. The result of fear is that we can either be motivated to act in positive ways or it can paralyze us.

Because of the entrapments of the enemy, we are all prone to wander from God’s plan and purpose for our lives. I love the old hymn Come Thou Fount of Blessing. There is a line or two in there that speaks to this. The writer states Bind my wandering heart to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love; Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above. The point here is that we often try to control that which we cannot control and that is tiring and wearisome. It is fruitless.

We are most often effected by what we cannot control. When we feel we have lost control our world gets turned upside down. The fact is we all love to control things to some degree or another. We all love to have things in order and we love to control our destiny. The problem is when our plans do not always work out, we can get bent out of shape and feel distraught.  

Where was Jesus in all of this? He was asleep on the stern of the boat on a cushion. He was not effected by the storm but the disciples were. They panicked and they called to Jesus. “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Notice, they felt that Jesus is not responding to their needs. The disciples who were seasoned fishermen and were acquainted with storms and problems on the lake panicked. For them, everything was out of control. They could not control the storm and they could not control Jesus. 

I wonder if they thought, Jesus, we did our part but you are not living up to your part. We got in this boat because you told us to. If we are honest, we probably all face a moment where we feel that Jesus has failed us. We question whether Jesus is actually with us and whether He is in control. Sometimes, when the pressures of life are overwhelming and seem to overpower us, we can believe God has failed us. We can feel that God is not doing His part. We too can proclaim and at times scream in our hearts, “Oh God where are you?” 

Listen to the words of the disciples. “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” There is so much in this statement. Do you not care? Are you just going to sleep through all of this? Do you not see what is going on here? It is at this point in our walk with Christ that our faith is tested. Do you ever feel that way? 

Notice what Jesus does after this. Scripture says And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” Notice that in a moment Jesus spoke to the wind and there was calm. The storm that moments before was overflowing into the boat, was now calm. The storm that once seemed as if it was going to sink the boat, was now carrying them across the lake to the other side, which was their destination to begin with. While Jesus may seem distant, He is there all of the time. He is on the journey with us. He is near to us. He has not left us nor has He forgotten us. 

Jesus addresses their faith and their fear. Rather than trust Him, they had moved in fear. You see faith and fear are opposed to one another. Faith is opposed to fear and fear counteracts our faith. Fear causes us to be out of focus. For the disciples, they had seen the miracles of God, they had received the teachings of Christ, but these things had not impacted their faith. We can go to church every Sunday. We can go to conferences. We can read books. The question, however, is “Have we grown in our faith?” What we do must cause us to develop a greater faith in Christ. 

In this story, I am amazed at the response of the disciples, once the storm is calmed. You would think they would have been overjoyed but instead they are afraid. But this is a different kind of fear. Their fear of the storm turned to an awe inspiring fear because of what Jesus just did. He spoke and the winds ceased and the storm was abated. And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

They were amazed and they walked in the awe of the miracle God had provided. Their fear turned from worry to being overwhelmed with the power of Jesus to control the storm. Their loss of control turned to victory, and their confidence in Jesus to control every problem we experience. So let me ask you? Where is Jesus? Do you feel He has left you? The truth is He has not left us. He is in the boat. He is at peace. He is in control. We can rest in that. 

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Keep your Eyes on Jesus

Peninsula Community Church 

Keep your Eyes on Jesus

July 8, 2018 

2 Chronicles 20:12 O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

What do you do when the odds are against you? What do you do when the problems of life are overwhelming you? This is what we know from our passage this morning. The land of Judah was in turmoil. They felt powerless and overwhelmed because the armies that were coming against them were powerful and they showed no mercy. In this story, Jehoshaphat gives us insight into how we should respond to the overwhelming difficulties in our life. Let’s look at a few of these this morning. 

When you read all of 2 Chronicles 20, you find a couple of things that assist us when we go through the difficulties of life. In verse 2, we find that Jehoshaphat began with an honest appraisal of the realities they faced. He received a report that a great multitude was coming against them. Sometimes, we can ignore the truth and the reality of what we are facing, but that does not help us in the long run. It only delays healing from the pain, and it can delay the blessing of God. When we acknowledge the issue, we can focus our attention in the right direction. 

My question this morning is what report have you received? What overwhelming news has come to you that has rocked your world? Have you received bad health news? Have you received bad news about a relationship? How about overwhelming financial issues? We all have those things that attack us and keep us wondering what is next. When this happens, are you acknowledging the truth? Are you living in the present reality? Or, do you deny the issues?

Notice Jehoshaphat’s response! He was afraid. What would you do? How would you respond to a coming battle that is sure to devastate you and kill off many that are with you? There was not much to be excited about. This enemy were a formidable army and they were about to do major harm. Jehoshaphat did what most of us would have done. He was afraid. You see fear itself is not the problem, it is what we do with the fear that makes the difference. 

So what did Jehoshaphat do with his fear? He began to pray and to fast with the intent to align his heart and his mind with the heart and mind of God. Elmer Towns, one of the cofounders of Liberty University, along with Jerry Farwell, has written a number of books and articles on fasting. He stated that “we do not fast to get prayers answered as much as we fast to know God.” He describes fasting as that which leads to an intimate knowing of Jesus Christ. Because of Jehoshaphat’s call for prayer and fasting, notice what happens next. Jehoshaphat begins to extol the testimony of all that God has done in the past in an effort to build faith in the present. Through pray and fasting, he was reminded of the goodness and the power of God. 

It is then that Jehoshaphat makes a powerful statement. He said this because their heart was aligned with God’s heart and because they were reminded of all that God had done for them. He proclaimed “We do not know what to do but our eyes are on you.” What a powerful statement of faith. What is he saying? He is saying, yes I see the armies. I see the power of their forces. I acknowledge my fear and my concerns. I recognize that we could be overwhelmed and destroyed. And yet, with all of that in mind there is one thing I can do. We might not know what to do, but we can keep our eyes on God. 

Think about this. Jehoshaphat is saying we do not have a clue, but we have God. He is saying I do not have any answers, but we have God. He is saying this problem is bigger than us and greater than anything we can do, but we have God. The conclusion of this matter could be devastating, but we have God. We are afraid, but we have God. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on God. We trust Him!

Some years ago we had a man in our church that owned a party fishing boat. One day we had been out in the Atlantic fishing the wrecks for black fish and sea bass. Suddenly, on the radio we began to hear chatter about a severe storm that was blowing in and that we needed to return to the dock as soon as possible. You see the inlet we had to go through was rough even on a good day. Now there was a severe storm. Carl, the captain and owner of the boat, asked that I join him in the wheel house, which I did. 

Sure enough the storm came in and the inlet was swirling and the waves were beating the shore with great power. On either side of the inlet were large rocks that would destroy the boat, if we collided with anyone of them. The captain was not deterred. He aligned the boat to go through the inlet and off we went. We were getting tossed around, but he kept his focus and made it through the inlet. How did he do this? He kept his eyes on the boat’s instrumentation and GPS. Though the storm was rough, and I admit I was scared, the captain kept his focus on the instruments. We made it through the inlet and safely to the protected waters of the bay.

When I talked to him later about this event, He stated that he had faith in his equipment and by focusing on the equipment, he navigated the storm. So it is with us. we need to focus on God and He will direct our steps. You may not know what to do, but you can focus on God. He will keep you no matter what. He will move you safely to the protection of the bay. 

Listen to the words of 2 Chronicles 20:14-17. They speak to us more than anything else.  And the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly. And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, east of the wilderness of Jeruel. You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.”

Did you catch the key to this passage? Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. The battle they were facing was not their battle, it was God’s. How many times do we try to fight battles that we were never intended to fight? We try to work things out, and sometimes we try to get involved where we should be allowing God to work out the situation. Notice they were to stand and see the salvation of the Lord. They were to stand in faith and by faith. They were to let God fight their battles. If we will allow God to do so, we can give every problem we face to Him. We can surrender our will to His will, and we will see Him fight for us.

Notice that Judah did not do nothing, they were moved to action but look at the action they took. ’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.” Notice what they did. They did not just sit on the sidelines. They engaged, but not in the way that we might think. They began to worship God. They worshipped Him with song, and they worshipped Him with their praise. They prayed, they trusted God, they realized that this was God’s battle, and they praised God with the words of song and worship. Notice that all of their actions aligned their focus on God and His work in their lives. 

Then the most amazing thing happened. God confuses the armies that were set against them and they began to fight amongst themselves to the point that they utterly destroyed one another. They were destroyed but God was glorified. The people praised God and God came through. They focused on Him, and He won the battle. They turned their eyes upon God, and He came through big time. 

How about you? Are you fighting battles that are not yours? Have you become focused on things other than God? Have you forgotten the blessings of God on your life? 

I love the story of Peter and the fact that He walked on water. Why? Because he had his eyes on Jesus, when he stepped from the boat. He was focused on Jesus. Notice that as soon as he took his eyes off of Jesus, he fell into the water and was overcome by the storm. While he remained focused on Jesus, he was walking on water. Peter, Peter was walking on water. How awesome is that? What changed in his condition? He was distracted by the waves. He took his eyes off of Jesus. He lost his focus and into the water he went. 

In the end we must keep our eyes on Jesus. We may not know what to do but we can trust God. We can stay focused on Him. We can worship God with songs of praise and songs of worship. We can pick our battles and not fight the ones God already has under His control. 

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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The Perfect Storm

Several years ago I was fishing with a friend of mine that owned a party boat out of Long Island. Captain Carl had called me the night before because he was taking the boat on an ocean trip, a trip he only took once or twice a year. The trip would consist of fishing the wrecks out in the Atlantic Ocean. As we left the docks that day, the weather was absolutely beautiful. It was hot but being on the boat we had a wind that was blowing that kept us cool, plus I was able to ride in the wheel house where there was air conditioning.

After a great day of fishing, (I had caught 20 -30 black fish and sea bass) Carl called for me to come to the wheel house. As I climbed the stairs to meet up with Carl, I could hear excessive chatter on the boat’s two-way radio. What Carl began to explain is that a storm had been brewing over the ocean and was moving up the coast at a far greater speed than anyone had imagined. The result was that we had to stop fishing and begin the race back to the dock.

As we neared the inlet into the sound, the waves were already 5 to 6 feet high which meant that the waves within the narrow inlet were more than 10 feet high. The inlet on a good day was a difficult one to navigate. We now had to shoot the gap with gale force winds and waves that were beginning to crash over the sides of the boat. I have to tell I was a bit frightened actually a lot frightened. All Carl would say to me is “please pray.”

In the midst of the storm, I watched as this seasoned captain navigated through the treacherous inlet. After we made it through, he revealed his secret to me. He had invested in very expensive radar and GPS equipment for just such a time as this. He did not take his eyes off of the equipment as he was navigating through the inlet. As a result, we safely made it through the storm.

As I later reflected on the day, I thought about the storms we face in our lives. Sometimes it seems that they last forever and others seem to come and go. Others blow in unexpectedly and leave just as quickly. As Christians, it is critical that we keep our eyes fixed on the One that can and will help navigate us through the storms of life.

The writer of Proverbs recognized this need when he wrote the passage that most of us can quote from memory. He said “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” Proverbs 3:5-9 (ESV)

Too many times, I tend to lean upon “my” abilities and on “my” experience to get me through life’s issues but when I do this I often crash against the rocks. However, when I stay focused on God and trust Him to lead me, He directs my steps even when I don’t understand what is going on. My challenge to you today is to stay focused on God and allow Him to direct your steps. You may not know where He is leading or what He is doing in the moment but stay focused and keep leaning and you will be amazed at what God does. He has a plan and He will see it fulfilled because He is God.

Things to consider:

Are you facing storms in your life right now? If so, what are you focusing on to get you through the storm? Is it God and His Word or is there something else?

Why do you think it is so hard to trust God when the storms of life blow in?

Can you share a time when you had a storm blow in and how you dealt with that storm?

What scripture passage do you hold onto when you are faced with a storm?

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