September 10, 2017
A Sunday Devotional Thought from Mark 4:35-5:1
Canceling worship services this Sunday, September 10, 2017 is something I did not want to do; however, facing the uncertainty of Hurricane Irma’s direction and arrival in Tampa Bay, Hillsdale’s pastoral leadership felt it wise to not place upon our church family an expectation to leave your places of safety.
I am writing this devotional knowing I will miss the opportunity to worship, sing, and study God’s Word with you this Sunday, but purposing to remind you the LORD gives peace to those who put their faith in Him, even in the midst of storms. Storms, trials and troubles are, after all, our lot because we live in a sin cursed world.
The focus of this Sunday devotional is Mark 4:35-5:1. Jesus had been teaching parables throughout the day and when the crowd became too large and pressed upon Him, He sat in a fishing boat and taught them near the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Exhausted from teaching, Jesus asked His disciples to cross the lake to the other side, some seven miles away. Lying down in the boat, Jesus slept.
Although named a Sea, the body of water known as the Sea of Galilee is a large lake, only 14 miles long and 7 miles wide. This body of water; however, is notorious for violent storms that without warning turn the lake into a raging sea.
Lying 700 feet below sea level, the Sea of Galilee has a sub-tropical climate that is warm and pleasant year-round, much like our own Tampa Bay. Encircled by the Galilean mountains and the Golan Heights, the Sea of Galilee is part of the Jordan rift. To the north is the snow-covered peak of Mt. Hermon whose melting snows feed the tributaries that form the Jordan River, running southward into the Sea of Galilee and finally into the Dead Sea. Cold winds from mountain peaks in the north drift down through hillsides funneling cold air into the warm sub-tropical air of the Sea of Galilee causing sudden, violent storms. It is a storm such as this we find the disciples and Jesus.
Luke writes, “as they sailed He [Jesus] fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy” (Luke 8:23). Matthew writes of the same incident, “there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep” (Matthew 8:24).
The magnitude of the storm is evident when we remember at least four of the disciples were experienced fisherman on the Sea of Galilee; however, not even veteran fishermen were able to salvage the desperate situation in which they found themselves. Cold winds whipped up the waves threatening to overwhelm the ship while exhausted disciples fought to keep the vessel afloat. Finally, when all seemed lost, we read, “they came to Him, and awoke Him, saying, Master, master, we perish…” (Luke 8:23-24).
Physically and emotionally exhausted, the disciples realized they could not save themselves and cried out to Jesus: “Master [lit. – Teacher], carest though not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38)
Embodied in that question is sadly, a revelation of their lack of faith and understanding of the LORD. In their distress, they questioned the LORD’s compassion, “Carest thou not” (Mark 4:38). Years later, Peter would write, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
It was not a lack of compassion, but a lack of faith that was the problem. The disciples viewed the storm as a challenge and threat to their physical well-being. The LORD was not surprised by the storm, nor overwhelmed; He had a far greater purpose for the storm…a lesson in faith.
Mark 4:39-40 – “And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 And He said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?”
Jesus knew the weakness of His disciples’ faith and their failure to trust Him. When He rebuked the storm and the winds immediately ceased and the water was stilled, “they feared exceedingly [terrfied], and said [lit. kept saying] one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41)
They had heard Him teach, but did not know Him. Witnessed His miracles, but failed to understand His divine power and nature. What manner of man is this?
The disciples should have known the man sleeping in the hindermost part of the boat and whose command, “Peace Be Still” the winds and waves obeyed was no mere man…He was Jesus, the Son of God, Creator.
King David wrote of the LORD, “Which stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people” (Psalm 65:7).
Another psalmist wrote, “O Lord God of host….Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them” (Psalm 89:8-9).
Many reading this Sunday devotional are in the midst of a very real storm.
My church family in Tampa Bay is awaiting the arrival of Hurricane Irma. Many in Houston are nigh overwhelmed by the devastation left by Hurricane Harvey. Some are in storms deeply personal in nature…a crisis of health, problems at home, in marriage or a financial crisis. Many are ill-prepared for storms because their faith is anchored on a shallow, unbibilical theology duping them to believe “Something good is going to happen!”
Friend, God does not promise to spare us from trouble or trials; however, He promises to be with us! Before ascending to heaven Jesus promised His disciples, “lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20b).
What spiritual benefits can we derive from storms?
Storms remind us we are weak and incapable of saving ourselves. Storms are opportunities to know God personally and intimately. Storms invite us to turn our focus from oursevles to the LORD. The disciples experienced what David as shepherd wrote, “thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4).
I assure you, the safest place in the world is in the will of God and yes, He sometimes leads you into the midst of storms!
I close inviting you to listen to Evangelist Ben Everson singing, “What Manner of Man Is his?”
With the heart of a shepherd,
Pastor Travis D. Smith, Senior Pastor
Hillsdale Baptist Church
Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith