Overcoming Obstacles

Luke 8:22-25 English Standard Version (ESV)

Jesus Calms a Storm
22 One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, 23 and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. 24 And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. 25 He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”


            I want you to picture something with me.  It’s the fall of 1997.  There is a brisk fall chill in the air.  The early morning sun is shining through the trees onto a grassy field.  The trees are covered with leaves of vibrant oranges, reds, and yellows.  There is a dampness of dew on the grass that had been mowed the day before.  In the distance one can see fog hovering over the creek and one can hear the birds sweetly singing in background.  It’s a picturesque morning which could easily grace the cover of any conservation magazine.

            At the quick tweet of a whistle, 15 high school males start grunting and groaning as they sprint up this monstrous hill behind the parking lot of the high school.  So much for the picturesque scene huh?  This was my reality on Wednesday mornings my Sophomore and Junior years of high school.  Even though the view from the top of the hill was awesome and could very easily be on the cover of a magazine, the view looking up that hill knowing I would have to sprint up it however many times coach blew that whistle … that was a different story.

            As torturous as that hill was and no matter how many times I stood there bent over, gasping for air and thinking that I would never make it to the top … I stand before you having survived it.  That hill is nothing compared to hiking up a mountain or trying to make to through an American Ninja Warrior obstacle course.  Even though my coach made it sound like it was a life or death matter if I didn’t make it up that hill … it wasn’t.  I was just going to get yelled at more and have to run even more hills if I didn’t make it to the top, that’s all. 

But some of the obstacles people do face in life are life or death type of obstacles and overcoming them isn’t as easy as simply running up a hill or overcoming an obstacle course.  Overcoming these life or death obstacles involves a lot more physical, emotional, and even spiritual hardship for the individual, as well as for the family involved.

For Jesus and his disciples, traveling in a boat from one side of the Sea of Galilee to the other was like you and me deciding to go for a little Sunday cruise to Dairy Mart.  They didn’t think anything of it.  They were fishermen for peats sake.  And even though the pop up kind of storm was a common thing for these fishermen … the obstacle they face in our gospel reading is one like they had never seen before.  This type of storm which sprung up out of nowhere was the kind of storm which places fishermen’s names on a dedicated wall back in the local marina coffee shop.  It was the type of storm where these fishermen would be remembered by a plaque on a wall showing they went out, but they never returned home.  Out of utter panic and afraid for their lives they wake up Jesus.  “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” (Luke 8:24). 

Now remember … Jesus, even though he is God … he doesn’t look like God.  He doesn’t look any different than his fishermen disciples.  If anyone has the skill to maneuver a boat in a storm, it’s the disciples.  Jesus was a carpenter by trade.  He was used to working with his feet firmly planted on solid ground.  And yet, who do these veteran fishermen turn to for help … the carpenter, the one who is sound asleep in the front of the boat on a pillow.

Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” the disciples yell at Jesus.  Jesus, he simply wakes up, stands up, looks out at the storming waters and rebukes them.  No more than do the words leave the lips of Jesus, this humble looking carpenter, does the storm totally subsides, and all is calm.  At the words of Jesus, everything was still, not even a small breeze is blowing across the sea.  Jesus then turns the disciples and asks, “Where is your faith?” (Luke 8:25).  Where is your faith? 

Given all the different miracles which the disciples had already witnessed in their short time with Jesus … it seems like Jesus had a higher expectation level of his disciples than what they were showing him.  But yet in the midst of what seemed like the end of their life, out of total fear for their lives … the disciples … they panicked, they freaked out. 

And honestly I can’t blame them.  If you or I were on that boat, even if we were experienced fishermen, I’m sure we would have turned to anyone for help.  And if the only person I can find to help just happened to be sleeping on a pillow, I guarantee you I would be waking him up too!

Does the fact that the disciples wake up Jesus because their afraid mean that they are faithless?  Does the fact that when in the midst of your storms you cry out to Jesus mean that you are faithless or that I am faithless?  No.  No it doesn’t

In the midst of the storm, in the midst of needing to overcome the obstacle of the storm, yes, the disciple’s faith was weak.  No doubt about it, considering who was with them in the boat.  And the disciples did the right thing in turning to Jesus for help.  The only thing is that their cry that they were perishing, that they were going to drown if something didn’t happen soon was wrong.

In the midst of the storms we face, when trying to overcome the obstacle in front of us … yes, our faith may be weak in those moments.  It may seem like there is no way out.  It may seem like there is no way we are getting through and that we are literally being hit from every side.  As the chaotic waves of temptation and doubt keep beating down over us causing us to feel as if we are literally drowning and the end is near … know this … even though our heart is torn and we don’t think we will make it … we can praise God in the midst of the storm.

Now I know, that sounds like a weird thing to say, especially if you are currently in the midst of your storm.  But here’s why you can say it.  God’s care … it never ever goes away.  No matter where you are, no matter how deep you feel you have sunk … God’s care is there with you.  The words of Psalm 121 are some of my favorite.  “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come? My help comes for the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2).  From the very depths of your darkest valley … you can lift up your eyes and know that God is there.  Even though your foot may slip and you may fall into the depths of the chaos of the storms, God is still watching over you.  But pastor, Jesus was a sleep in the boat when the disciples needed him.  Yes, yes he was.  Remember, Jesus is 100% man and 100% God.  As a man, Jesus grew tired and he needed some sleep.  But as God … his care, his care for his disciples, his care for you is one that never takes a break.  “He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:3-4).  God is the one, He alone is the one who is watching over you, who is walking alongside of you, who will remain with you all the way through the gates of paradise.

This, this promise which God makes is one of the timeless truth that you and I keep coming back to over and over again.   This morning we celebrate the kick off of another Sunday School year, another year of adult Bible classes, and another year of Confirmation, this timeless truth of God’s love is one we keep coming back, no matter what stage of life we are living.  Growing in God’s Word is not like trying to climb a mountain with all of its peaks and valleys along the way.  Growing in God’s Word is more like going up or down a spiral staircase with God’s Word at the center.  As we go out and experience the world, we face trials, temptations, and obstacles.  But as we journey on, whether we are growing in our faith or find ourselves going down because of a weak moment of faith, we encounter God’s people and we keep coming back to God’s promises found in His Word.  The ultimate victory over any obstacle is the one which God gives to us.  A love and presence in our lives which says I am with you in the midst of your storm, thus why you can praise me in this storm.

Remember these words: “The LORD will keep you from all evil – he will keep your life. The LORD will keep your going out and coming in from this time forth and forevermore” (Psalm 121:7-8 ESV).  Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in the peace and presence of Christ amidst your storms, now and forever.  Amen.