the if / then game…
You’ve probably already noticed that I’m studying the book of Matthew because it shows up in my writing every week. This blog is no exception. I’m studying Matthew 14, a chapter I have read 100 times already.
But this time it was different…so wanted to share my thoughts with you.
This time, I saw the story through a different lens than I have seen it before.
To set the stage, Jesus has just finished feeding 5,000 men (and even more women and children) with 5 loaves and 2 fish. Pretty miraculous! After cleaning up, He sends his disciples out in a boat to cross the lake while he goes up into the hills to pray. The disciples leave without him, but then encounter a storm. A big storm with strong winds, the scary kind that cause big waves that could overturn their boat.
I’m going to stop right here to mention what I realized for the first time: Jesus sent them into the storm.
His chosen ones.
The future bearers of the Good News.
He sent them into a storm.
This revelation stopped me, mostly because I don’t like storms. Especially the storms of life. I avoid them. I pray for them to go away. I beg for God to calm them.
And here Jesus was sending his disciples INTO A STORM.
It doesn’t sit well with me.
I don’t like the idea that a loving God sends us into storms.
I don’t like storms.
I have struggled for most of my life to understand why God uses storms.
They are scary and not fun (speaking from recent experience).
However, I have come to believe that if God uses storms, it’s probably time I start to embrace them and see what I can learn from them.
Here’s how the rest of the story goes:
After sending them into the storm, Jesus walks out to the disciples on the water. They are terrified and think he is a ghost, so Jesus attempts to calm them. Peter, the adventurous one, asks Jesus to prove who he is by allowing him to also walk on the water. After a few steps, Peter is overcome with fear and starts sinking. Jesus saves him, and as they climb into the boat, the storm is stilled.
I can’t even imagine what that event was like to witness. It seems like a crazy situation, doesn’t it?
Why would Jesus have sent them into the storm in the first place?
Here’s what I think: He sent them because storms have purpose…and I think two of those purposes are revealed in Matthew 14.
- Storms reveal God to us: they provide an opportunity for him to show us his glory and his sovereignty over any situation. When we glimpse his glory, our faith is increased and we grow. The disciples got to witness God’s glory in the storm 3 different ways. First, Jesus walks on water, a feat the bible says only God can do. Job 9:8 declares “He alone has spread out the heavens and marches on the waves of the sea.” Second, he comforts them by claiming to be the I AM, which is God’s promised name to his chosen people (Exodus 3:14-15). Third, he calms the wind and the waves just by climbing into the boat. He demonstrates that he is Lord over the storm. The story recounts that the disciples worshiped him and exclaimed, “You really are the Son of God.” Seeing his glory increases their faith.
- Storms reveal weak spots in our faith that need to be strengthened: when they are revealed, we have an opportunity to learn and grow. The disciple Peter is an excellent example of this; he shows his weak faith twice in this particular situation. I have always been taught that Peter has admirable faith because he is the only disciple brave enough to get out of the boat and attempt to walk on water. But now I wonder if that isn’t really the case. Peter is the only disciple in the boat to ask Jesus to prove his claim to be God by giving a sign. If he is God, then let Peter walk on water. The only other people to demand a miraculous sign are the Pharisees. “If you are God, then prove it by giving us a sign,” they say over and over. If and then is a sign of unbelief. Once out on the water, Peter is so frightened by the waves that he starts to sink. He doubts again! Jesus says to him, “You have so little faith, why did you doubt me?” Peter’s actions in the storm reveal the weak spots in his faith.
I’m not so different than Peter. When I encounter a storm, my natural reaction is to ask God to prove his power and calm the storm. Then, if it doesn’t, I get overwhelmed sink deep into anxiety.
I play the if / then game.
If you love me, then you will heal me.
If you care about my kids, then you will take away their struggles.
If you are good, then you will deliver me from financial hardship.
Do you ever play that game?
God, if you love me, then you will ________________________.
I think playing this game shows my lack of faith.
And I don’t want to have weak faith. I want to have strong faith in the one who makes and calms the storms with his command.
So, instead of playing the if / then game, I’m going to try to lean in to the storms.
Believe that God is in control.
Have faith that storms serve a higher purpose. An eternal one.
See the storms as an opportunity to learn and grow.
Trust that the wind and waves are cultivating strength.
The kind of strength I need to do God’s will and accomplish his purposes.
Because it’s not about me.
It’s about him.
And if that means that I need to be sent into a storm, so be it.
I trust the one who sends me.
As always, I love hearing from you. God is doing amazing things and moving in big ways. Send me an email or comment on the blog and I will get on my knees for you. Let’s do this faith journey together.
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