Faith in the Storm

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One of the scariest movies of all time is Jaws. When making the movie, they did not expect that. Yet, unknown to the filmmakers, they were tapping in to one of our innate fears. The idea of being in a great big ocean with an unknown predator that could attack at any moment played on our very real fear of the unknown. To make matters worse, the filmmakers accidentally emphasized this fear when the mechanical shark failed and they filmed most of the shark attack scenes with no shark. The audience was left with not being able to see what it was it feared the most.

In a crucial scene this fear is discussed. There is a scene where Sheriff Brody, Hooper the oceanographer, and Quint the grizzly old shark hunter are on Quint’s boat. They are drinking and singing and it is funny, then Quint tells a scary story from his past. He says that he was on the U.S.S. Indianapolis, a real-life ship that was sunk in World War II and saw many of its sailors eaten alive by sharks. In the movie, Quint talks about that fear as they floated in the water, not knowing who would be next. He ends the dialogue by saying that he will never again wear a life jacket. In other words, he would rather die than to face that unknown fear ever again.

Thankfully, we don’t deal with shark attacks. But we do all face circumstances that are beyond our control. They threaten everything we hold dear: our life, our jobs, our health, our loved ones; they cause a lot of fear in our lives.

Now it happened, on a certain day, that He got into a boat with His disciples. And He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.” And they launched out. 23 But as they sailed He fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy. And they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing! (Luke 8:22-24a NKJV)

Jesus and His disciples are going to cross the sea of Galilee in a small boat. This is not generally the plan in Galilee. Boats are great for going out and fishing, but you want to stay close enough to the shore to get out quickly. The sea of Galilee is about 600 feet below sea level and around are hills and mountains. In the hills and mountains, cool dry air begins coming down. On the sea, warm, moist air rises up, creating the chance for some very sudden severe storms. For this reason, a fisherman would keep his boat close enough to be able to get to shore in time should a storm arise.

However, Jesus says to go across, so they do. The fisherman in the group had to be wondering if this is such a good idea. These boats were not large, and crossing could become dangerous in a storm.

As it turns out, that is exactly what happened. They get out in the middle and suddenly they are facing a storm. The waves are getting big, the wind makes it impossible to control the ship, and they are filling with water fast. All while Jesus sleeps, so they wake him up and point out the obvious: We are all going to die!

Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm. 25 But He said to them, “Where is your faith?” (Luke 8:24b-25a NKJV)

Now something completely unexpected happens. Jesus gets up, tells the storm to stop, and it stops! Then He simply asks, “where is your faith.” A simple question with some profound implications. (We’ll get back to that)

And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another, “Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!” (Luke 8:25b NKJV)

Now they are afraid again; not because they were scolded, but because Jesus can apparently control the wind and the water.

Twice in this short passage, the disciples were afraid. Once they were afraid because they thought they would die in the storm. Then they were afraid because Jesus could make the storm go away. Put yourself in their shoes. It would be easy to be afraid.

There you are, taking a trip that you know is not safe. That’s enough to make you a little nervous. Now, a storm comes up, and everything you know says that you are going to die. You would be afraid. That is perfectly normal. In fact, that fear reaction is what preserves your life by keeping from from these kind of situations.

Yet, when it is all said and done, Jesus asks “where is your faith” as though if you had faith you wouldn’t have jumped to this conclusions. That strikes us as little harsh; a little unfair. That is because we misunderstand what faith is. We hear “faith” and think believe enough. We think what we’re supposed to do use our imaginations, shut out reality and just say “good will happen” and then we won’t be afraid. And we try that all the time, and it never works!

That is not faith.

Contrasted with the disciples being in jeopardy is the fact that Jesus is sleeping through this. When I read that, at first I remember Jonah who also slept in a storm, but there is a big difference. The difference is that Jonah had decided it was better to die than to obey and was more than ready to die for running away. Jesus is not sleeping because He doesn’t care if they live for die. Jesus is sleeping because He knows He won’t die.

Perhaps if the disciples had the same faith, they would not have been afraid either. Be careful here. There is a temptation to think we just need to believe that we will prevail. That storm can’t get me. That is foolish because that is placing faith in ourselves. I want to assure you, if you are in a storm at sea in a small boat, death is a very real possibility. The disciples were not in control of the sea and no amount of thinking they were could make it so.

Real faith is knowing Jesus. What the disciples did not realize is that sitting in that boat was the creator of that very wind and water. He had authority over that storm. Faith is not believing the storm can’t get you. Faith is believing that the storm can’t get Jesus! But that is also scary, because it means we will be face to face with the One who is over everything. What might He expect? What might He require? What might He see in me? This is no faith for cowards.

You may not be facing a storm in a small boat (though, that just might depend on whom you fish with), but it is certain that you will face a storm in life. If you are not now, you will. You will face situations that are completely out of your control that threaten everything important to you. Fear, worry, stress, anger. These things are natural when you face something out of control. You will be tempted to try to pacify these problems with a false hope in yourself. You will tell yourself all day long that nothing bad can happen, but it just might, and you will be left with Jesus saying “where is your faith?”

That’s the question: Where is your faith? This is not scolding you for not believing. This is a reminder that your faith is misplaced. Where is your faith?

Jesus is the only one who is in control. We are not. He is. He can handle all the storms in your life. Put your faith in Him.

That is not easy. The storms are scary enough, but the idea that I am not in control? That is terrifying. And the idea that I must turn to the One being in the universe that is in control of everything? I can hardly imagine what that will really mean to me.

Yet, once you stop putting your faith in circumstance you can’t control, and in yourself who can’t control circumstance, and put it in Christ who controls everything; then there is nothing to fear.

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What’s In A Name?

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It has recently been proposed that the Southern Baptist Convention change its name.  After much discussion and prayer in the Task Force and much speculation throughout the rest of Baptist life, a proposal comes for forth to keep the name and  simply add the option of “Doing Business As” Great Commission Baptists for those churches and agencies that might find it beneficial.

 

I have read a lot of discussion about this.  It all seems to follow similar paths.  First is the nostalgic.  We have always been Southern Baptist, we always will be Southern Baptist.    We all have traditions that make us feel comfortable, but such things can be idolized if we are not careful.  When I hear it suggested that “Southern” has some negative connotations (especially given Southern Baptists past views on slavery), I immediately hear the retort:  “What if Baptist is offensive?  What if Jesus is offensive?”  I can answer those questions, but that would not solve the problem that is evident in those questions.  “Southern,” “Baptist,” and “Jesus” are hardly equal even in name (Acts 4:12).  The questions is symptomatic that nostalgia for “Southern Baptist” may be rising to the level of idolatry.

 

Another path of discussion is that of evangelism.  It is said that changing the name from “Southern Baptist” will not share the Gospel with any more people.  This is true.  However, I have not heard proponents of the name change say that it will.  I have heard people discuss wether or not the name is a hinderance.  There is a significant difference between what shares the Gospel and what hinders the Gospel from being shared.  For example, imagine two missionaries travel to a far away country.  One learns his new language perfectly, but the other struggles and barely learns how to find the nearest restroom.  As they begin to share, they may use the same methods, but the former is more successful.  The latter is hindered by his limited vocabulary.  For the former, learning the language did not share the Gospel, but it removed the hinderance of a limited vocabulary.  Sadly, there are many hinderances among many comfortable and nostalgic things in our churches.  We should remove any hinderance to the Gospel, and that goes much deeper than just a name.

 

Ultimately we are left asking, “what’s in a name?”  Is it hindering the Gospel?  I know a lot of research has been done at Lifeway Research, and they are far more knowledgable than I.  I did a very informal poll by simply asking my non-Southern Baptist friends on Facebook to tell me what they thought of when they heard “Southern Baptist.”  The results varied, but there were a few trends.  One, many people assume that some stereotypes are true.  Some of these are well earned, some are not.  Two, the regional name of “Southern” implies only a flavor regarding style.  In either case, the name could be said to be misrepresenting who Southern Baptists are and what we stand for.

 

What does a name change do?  It may avoid misrepresentations like these.  In doing so, it may remove a hinderance to someone hearing the Gospel.  Before I can determine if that name change is necessary, I want to know if the name is hindering people.  In my informal research, I learned that many people did not even realize that some of the largest Baptist churches and institutions in our area are in fact part of the Southern Baptist Convention.  It may be there is very little in a name.  Of course, it may be that there is a great lot in the name or it may be that there is a significant hinderance.  I want to know more about this before I would opt to use the new name or want to see our larger agencies spend significant money to use the new name.

 

Wether the name changes or stays the same (or as the case may be that some churches call themselves Southern Baptist and others Great Commission Baptists), the fact of the matter is that these names do not share the gospel.  The only way is to love God, love others, and tell everyone of this good news of Jesus Christ.