Strength for the Next Storm
Good morning Facebook Friends,
Today is post number five in a series on the Song of Ascents Psalm 124. This Psalm is written from the standpoint of the team that had just come through a storm and is praising God for the victory. There was once a rowboat team that had worked to compete for a title. Day and night the team worked together, albeit not always perfectly, to develop their skills. As the day of the competition arrived, the team got in the boat, the leader gave the command to pick up the oars and place them in the water. When the shot went off, the leader gave crisp commands to “row” and so the team followed. At the end of the competition, the leader gave the command to pick up the oars as the boat reached the destination. The observers remarked how well the team worked together and how brilliant the leader was in carrying out his duties. When the reporter interviewed the leader, the comment was made “Sir, you did a superb job with the military precision, how did you do it and what word would you give to anyone who is starting off”? The leader said, “it looked easy because you didn’t see the first time we worked together”! The storms you have gone through should give you strength to face the storms you are going to go through. As a child, I watched my Dad interact with people, attack big projects, and it all seemed so effortless. I asked him “why is so easy for you”? He said, “it looks easy because I had practiced”. In the same way, as we go through storms, we need to practice what God’s word says about our life so that, in time, we can weather bigger storms. As you read the points I am presenting, I would like to encourage you to think back on the storms you have gone through and ask God to speak to your spirit about those victories and/or defeats and then use them to encourage you through each succeeding storm. I would like to share with you four points that I believe are crucial to our life today; I hope that you will be blessed by this writing.
Point 1 – Have a Little Faith
It is hard to have faith when all we have received for your effort has been the disappointment, aggravation, and abandonment. Each of us can recall a time(s) when we have given our word and our best effort to those we support only to have at least one individual cast doubt because your promise did not occur immediately. As a child, I remember an interaction I had with my dad. It seems he promised he would do something for me and he didn’t do it right away so, I thought he had forgotten all about it. My dad turned to me at that moment and said, “Mike, have a little faith in me”. Having faith in someone can be difficult because each of us perceives time differently depending on how old we are at the time of the promise. Who has not heard their child(ren) say “Mom and Dad just love ___ more than me because they didn’t ____ when they promised”? I believe God hears similar refrains almost hourly and when we are in the midst of a test, he is not about to give us the answer – ask Job.
For us to make it through a storm, we need everyone in the boat to have faith in each other and not break it. Having faith is not easy because faith is believing without seeing the matter resolved (Hebrews 11:1). If we have no faith in God, even though we say we do, we’ll always turn our focus inward and believe in self-preservation. The enemy uses the thoughts of self-preservation to push us over the edge. Consider the promise to Abram and Sarai how Sarai took matters into her own hands and for it, a future hostile nation was given birth (Gen 15-16,18:10-15, 21:8-21). It would not be until well into the 1st century that the reader would understand that the promise was not so much a physical seed, while there was a physical seed, as it was a seed of faith. When we are in a storm, we hear God say, “I will get you safely to the shore” and think “how can that be”; yet, when we reach the shore, we thank God for getting us there. When the next storm crops up, we’ll have the courage to hold on a little longer and so on.
Point 2 – Unity in the Rowboat
Towards the end of Jesus’ ministry, a storm was brewing that would shake the strongest most ardent believer in Jesus. Knowing this, Jesus said to the disciples “Behold I am with you always even to the end of times” (Mat 28:20). I want you to write next to the word “times”, “the end of ‘your name’ life” (i.e. the end of Mike’s life). This was hard to believe because, knowing the disciples, the thought was “you are going to be killed how can you be with us to the end of our life”? After Jesus was taken from the group, the team had to learn how to trust and work with each other in order to survive the coming days of trouble. The disciples had many unspoken questions not to mention fears and concerns about who would lead them, teach them, and console them. For this reason, I believe, he said “Peace I leave with you; My [perfect] peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. [Let My perfect peace calms you in every circumstance and give you courage and strength for every challenge.]” (John 14:27). In the same way, when someone is taken from us to death, mankind has a tendency to fight for control and then a ministry or marriage is upended. For this reason, we need to be at one in the boat and keep it on course no matter what storm so that when the boat makes it to shore, we can be greatly uplifted by the words “well done good and faithful servant” (Mat 25:23).
The Bible is an amazing book but, I want to challenge your thinking a little bit. Consider that the writings were done often in the aftermath of the deepest storms. What we see when we read the Bible is a completed version and we are not privy to all that went into the making. The 21st century Bible reader has the luxury of reading Psalms 23, 91, and many other comforting chapters; some of which we have committed to memory. The original writers did not have that luxury and by it learned to trust God through the “School of Hard Knocks, Bumps, and Bruises”. In the same way, children look to the parents for clues on what a marriage looks, whether a good one or a bad one. From the children’s viewpoint comes the notion that “marriage is easy”, “all men are jerks”, and/or “all women are complainers”; what they usually do not account for is the events that would unfold in the parent’s time.
Ministry, like parenting, is very difficult because clashes occur in which the occupants may disagree on a course of action. In the book of Acts, as an example, we read about John Marc who purportedly abandons Paul and Barnabus for whatever reason (Acts 13:13). When two people or people groups are at odds with each other, it is tantamount to people rowing in opposite directions hoping to get somewhere. The funny part is, we put God in the middle and ask “which side are you on God” as though God really took sides. When the team members are not in agreement, troubles can occur that might require a time of separation (Amos 3:3).
Point 3 – Looking Past the Storm (V. 6)
It is hard to believe but, storms never last forever. Once the storms pass, there is usually some damage but, with time, work, and above all, patience, the damage is usually cleaned up. As an example, our neighbor lost a large Weeping Willow tree during a storm. When I got up in the morning and saw this huge tree laying across the road, I commented on it how much work it looked like it will take, and the neighbor said, “By this afternoon, you will never know the tree existed”. When I got home at 4p, the tree was gone roots and all in place was a piece of new sod; the tree was only a memory. The story of Noah and the Ark brings out many topics of conversation but, among them is the rainbow (Genesis 9:13-17). A rainbow comes out just before the rain stops and as the sun shines through the raindrops (Mike’s definition). So, too, the storms of our life. During the storm, the boat is rocked in every possible direction but, after the storm, the waters are calm.
Peter, a man I greatly respect, faced many obstacles but, the one that stuck out the most was the day he denied our Lord. The Bible reader may say of Peter “why did you deny Jesus especially after hearing what he had to say”? The answer is there is a difference between knowing about an obstacle and going through it personally. We will not always do well in navigating struggles, but, we will always win at least one time in our life. It is in those times when we are at our weakest that we need the help of others to get through what we are facing in life. Admitting to weakness is not a bad thing it is a good thing because in our weakness we are willing to ask for help. After Jesus restored Peter, there was no leader like him who was able to keep a ragtag group of men together with eyes focused on what was pleasing to God. The dangerous curves of life will either build us up or they will always defeat us depending on what we make of them.
Point 4 – Keep the Oar in the Water (V. 8)
It is funny but, I have never seen a rowboat move in a straight line when the occupant(s) stop rowing or row at cross purposes. If we allow the storms of our life to dictate the direction of our boat, we will always be shipwrecked at some point in time or another. When we are in the same boat with other like-minded people, it is common to do what the group does and think “it must be the right thing to do”. Unfortunately, the decision of the group is not always the right decision. I think of Paul on the final leg of his journey to Rome how he faced a storm of epic proportions; something Paul was very accustomed to, but the other occupants were not. Everyone on the boat, except for Paul thought “we are doomed” and began to throw the supplies overboard to lighten the load (Acts 27:13-27). Paul could have quite easily have given up and thrown away needed supplies yet, listen to the verse 23 “Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said ‘do not be afraid Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar, and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you’” (NIV). Each of us has at least one person that is depending on us; because of this, we owe it to ourselves to never give up in our struggles. For Joshua, it was the nation of Israel who was just about to embark on a new nation. In the movie “Ann Frank”, the father recounting the horrors he faced said of his family “when you give up, they got you”. When God tells us something good is about to happen, we can be assured it will happen and we must never give up.
Conclusion: Life is difficult, and God knows it but, what makes it more difficult is when we quit trying or the occupants use the oars to fight with each other. I have read the pages of Facebook and have found numerous entries from my Facebook friends who are facing great difficulties; My heart goes out to you as I know just how hard life can be and how unfair it is. When not if, we fail, and the storms overwhelm us, we can be assured that God still loves us and is still at work in our life (Phil 1:16). Consider this, even a minor victory is still a victory. From each succeeding victory, we gain the strength to face the next storm. May you know the peace of God that surpasses today and every day of your life (Phil 4:7). Come walk with me up the steps to the Temple of God.
May your day be filled with all the best of the Kingdom of God.