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The Storm Before the Calm

Matthew 8:23-27



Oft in literature life is compared to a voyage at sea.  The same is so in music—such as the song “The Lighthouse”…

There's a Lighthouse on the hillside that over looks life's sea
When I'm tossed it sends out a light that I might see
And the light that shines in darkness now
will safely lead me o’er
If it wasn't for The Lighthouse my ship would sail no more

And I thank God for The Lighthouse, I owe my life to Him
For JESUS Is The Lighthouse, and from the rocks of sin
He has shone a light around me, that I might clearly see
If it wasn't for The Lighthouse, where would this ship be?

Or, “’Til the Storm Passes By”


In the dark of the midnight have I oft hid my face,

While the storm howls above me, and there's no hiding place.

'Mid the crash of the thunder, Precious Lord, hear my cry,

Keep me safe till the storm passes by.


Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more,

Till the clouds roll forever from the sky;

Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand,

Keep me safe till the storm passes by.


The Apostle Paul also used the metaphor, like in

2 Tim. 4:6

    For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.


The word departure is a nautical term meaning to pull in the anchor and set sail.


Our text today finds Jesus and His disciples on a literal sea, and we can learn much about our voyage thru life by way of this passage.


All of us at times are storm tossed, and some today may feel they are about to go under.  Well, there’s peace and stillness on the way for you, if you’ll listen to God’s Word now…


1.     The Problem

Actually 2 problems:  a Sinking Ship and a Sleeping Savior.


Let’s remember that the disciples were led into this storm by following their Master.

v. 23        They followed Him right into a storm.  Some believe that storms come for the Christian only when they rebel or disobey God, but that’s not true.  God’s will isn’t always smooth sailing.


This kind of a storm is not out of the ordinary on the Sea of Galilee.  Kimberly has been there…it’s really more of a big lake—13 miles long and 8 miles wide.  It’s surrounded by mountains and hills.  The cool air comes over the mountains and mixes w/ the warm sea air and violent storms can erupt w/out much warning.


And that’s just how the storms of life come, isn’t it?!  One minute the sun is shining, and the next the lightning is flashing, thunder booming, and the winds and the waves go wild.  The phone rings and in seconds your life is changed, you’re in the midst of a storm.  You have a routine Dr. visit that was to be quick and simple, but the look on his face tells the story even before the words are out of his mouth…you’re in a terrible storm!


It can happen as you go thru an intersection in a flash, or when your boss calls you into the office, or when you open that hospital bill.  Storms arise suddenly and violently, and without warning.


Storms come due to a variety of causes:

  • Sometimes we blow up our own storms.  These storms are of our own making, like in Jonah’s case.  He decided not to do God’s will.  It’s amazing as you read the story how many times it says that Jonah ‘went down.’  After he decided to go his own way it says he went down to Tarshish, down into the heart of the ship, down into the sea, down into the belly of the whale.  And once you decide not to follow God’s best there’s only 1 way to go and that’s ‘down!’


This storm was brought on himself by Jonah and his stubborn will, and he holds the distinction of being the first man in history to spend the night on a foam blubber mattress!  But in the end you can’t keep a good man down and God used even that storm in the life of His child and though he was spiraling down, down, down, he eventually came up! [urp!]


  • Some storms God creates Himself.  Such as in John 6, after He fed the 5,000, the people wanted to make Him a king.  Oh how tempted the disciples must’ve been to give in to the pressure of popularity but Jesus said, no, get in the boat and go to Capernaum, and along the way they again ran directly into the middle of another storm.  Why?  I believe He did it to divert their attention from something that would have created a bigger problem in their lives.  Sometimes God sends us a little storm to keep us from heading into a bigger one!


Ill.—a little boy was playing w/ his sailboat at the edge of a lake…it got away from him and he couldn’t reach it.  He didn’t want to lose it, and ingeniously he thought of a plan.  He started picking up rocks and tossing them on the other side, past the boat.  The waves brought the boat back to him, and his outstretched arms.  And when we drift away from the Lord He sometimes does the same, and the storm drives us right back into the arms of Jesus!


Some storms are of our making, some are brought by God…


  • Some storms are Satanic in origin.  The devil himself is sometimes the source.  Most Bible scholars believe this storm in Matt. 8 was devil driven, because in v. 26 it says Jesus ‘rebuked’ the storm.  Jesus is oft said to have ‘rebuked’ demons.  In Luke 8 the same storm is written about and Jesus said to it, “Be still.”  In the Greek language it’s the word for muzzling a dog.  It’s possible that this storm was another attempt of Satan to destroy Jesus, while He was sleeping no less!  But Satan had no power to take the life of Jesus…only He Himself would be able to give His life, laying it down willingly for us!  The soldiers didn’t take His life, He ‘gave up the ghost.’


Sometimes Satan kicks up a storm in our life to try to get us off track.  On one occasion the Apostle Paul said, I would have come to you, but Satan hindered me.  [try that on your boss next time you’re late for work!]


Another reason I believe the devil was behind this storm is because it was extraordinary in nature.  Understand that most of these disciples were raised on this sea and had fished it for years…they no doubt had been thru countless storms, but in this case they all thought they were going to die, it was so severe.  They were frantic.


So, we have a problem…a sinking ship, and to make matters worse, we’ve got a sleeping Savior.


v. 24b      ‘He was asleep’.  This is the only time we find Jesus asleep, and it’s in a storm.  Several other times we find the disciples sleeping when Jesus has important business, but this time He’s asleep and they are biting their nails to the quick!


Ever been in a storm of life and it seemed like God was sleeping?  “Where are you, Lord?  Don’t you know what’s going on?  Don’t you care?”


When I go thru a storm I feel like I have it all figured out.  I know what the Lord ought to do, how He ought to do it, and when…now! 


2 hard lessons:  1. God doesn’t need my advice.  2. God doesn’t work on my timetable.  He’ll do it in His way and His time.  He doesn’t need a wake up call, and He never oversleeps.  He’s always on the throne and in full control.


Remember Lazarus?  They sent word to Jesus that His friend Lazarus was sick.  But the Bible says specifically that Jesus stayed where He was for 2 more days.  Then when He finally arrived there Lazarus was dead, and I want you to know that Martha was waiting for Him.  She said, if you had been here our brother would not have died.  Translation:  “Well, look who has finally decided to show up!  Hope it isn’t too much of an inconvenience!  It might interest you to know that He’s dead now!”

        The rest of the story:  “Lazarus, come forth!”


It may seem sometimes like He’s asleep or is late, but we need to remember His ways are higher than our ways, and though God is sometimes early, He’s never late!


Joke—man asked the Lord, “Is it true that for you 10,000 years is just like a minute?”  Yes.  “And is it true that a million dollars to us on earth is like a penny in heaven?”  Yes.  “Lord, may I have one of your pennies?”  He replied, Sure, it’ll be just a minute!


We move now from the problem to the prayer…


2.     The Prayer

v. 25        Notice what they did and what they said.

What you do during a storm reveals who you are and what you are. 


What’s your first impulse in a storm?  Run to a friend?  That’s not entirely bad if they will give you Godly counsel, but it’s not the first response you should have.

[Run to nearest exit? / Try to make your own way out thru diversion or drug?  The storm will still be there when you come back down!  And maybe more will await you due to your bad behavior.]


The disciples went to Jesus first, and so should we.  Character is revealed in the storm.  The storms of life will either draw you closer to the Lord or further away, but no one will emerge on the other side of the storm the same as they went in!  Either you will become bitter or better!


What they did—they went to Jesus.

What they said—Lord, save us:  we perish.  It’s one of the shortest prayers in the Bible.  And when we’re in trouble, we cut down on the long, fancy prayers and ramblings and get right down to business.  It happened when Peter walked on the water and took his eyes off Jesus and looked at the storm and began to go under, but then he prayed his famous 3 word prayer “Lord, save me!”  He didn’t have time for “Oh Holy, Mighty God of Jeroboam and Rehoboam and all the Boam boys” or “Oh God of Jehoshaphat and all the Phat boys…”


There’s a contradiction in that prayer.  “Lord, save us” is the language of faith.  “We perish” is the language of fear.  Now, isn’t that just like us humans?  Trying to have faith and fear at the same time?!  And yet they are mutually exclusive…spiritual opposites!  Faith and fear cannot cohabit the same heart at the same time.  When you are looking at the storm you are filled w/ fear but when looking to Jesus you are filled w/ faith!


v. 26a      Fear is looking at God thru your circumstances.  Faith is looking at your circumstances thru God!


Here’s 3 reasons they shouldn’t have mingled fear with their faith:

  • They had a promise from Jesus that they were going to make it to the other side.  [parallel passage in Mark 4]  And God’s commandments are God’s enablements.  He won’t ask us to do something we cannot do w/ His help.  He didn’t promise a storm free, easy trip, but He did indeed guarantee success!  And that’s what faith is, really, is just trusting in the promises of God!
  • The Lord Himself was in the boat with them!  That very day they had seen Him cleanse the leper and heal countless others and cast out demons…by now they should have complete confidence that He can handle their situation.  This is good reason for all of us to keep a prayer journal.  Not only a list of requests but of the answers and the dates.  They serve us for life as a reminding testimony of God’s power!
  • They could see that the Lord Himself was at perfect peace.  When you have a situation and you see someone you respect is calm as they view it, it has a calming effect on you.  The opposite is true if they react in a fuss.


Ill.—I wrecked my bicycle as a kid and skinned my knee…it didn’t hurt, I was fine.  I went home…and when momma saw the blood caked on my leg she lost it.  I cried!


We need to learn how to weather the storms of life…not just pray for them to go away.


Ill.—our kids get scared in a thunderstorm, and they run to our bed and ask if we are scared.  Oh no, we say…[even if we are!] and that calms them. 

It should calm us to know that whatever we’re going thru, our God is not shucked…He’s not wringing His hands in despair wondering what’s next.  He’s in full control.


The problem…the prayer…


3.     The Power

v. 26b      Then He arose…


v. 24 said a storm arose, and now it says in v. 26 that Jesus arose!  He calmed that storm.  He doesn’t always do this…sometimes He calms you, His child!  Always, He keeps us safe ‘til the storm passes by!


The problem that day was not the storm, the sinking ship, or the sleeping Savior…it was the unbelief in the hearts of the disciples.  Jesus asked them, “Why are ye fearful?”


Here’s some verses written hundreds of years before this storm, that the disciples should have trusted in, and we should today:

Psalm 107:23-30

    They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; [24] These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. [25] For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. [26] They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. [27] They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit's end. [28] Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. [29] He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. [30] Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.


“Sheltered in the Arms of God”

So let the storms rage high, The dark clouds rise

They won't worry me

For I'm sheltered safe within the arms of God

He walks with me, And naught of earth shall harm me

For I'm sheltered in the arms of God.

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