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What are You Afraid of?

That's a good question, isn't it? Given the current state of our world as it battles a contagious disease, it's clear that we have some fears. Whether it's now or even remembering our time growing up, the list of natural fears is seemingly endless. The thing is -- fear is a natural part of our survival instinct. We need fear to make us feel uncomfortable in certain situations so we will get out of them. Fear, in these situations, is not unhealthy.

There’s a story about a little boy who was in the kitchen with his mother while she was making supper. She asked him to go into the pantry and get her the white can with a picture of a tomato, but he didn’t want to go in alone. "It’s dark in there and I’m scared." She asked again, and he persisted. Finally, she said, "It’s OK--Jesus will be in there with you." So the little boy walked hesitantly to the door and slowly opened it. He peeked inside, saw it was dark, and started to leave when all at once an idea came, and he said: "Jesus, if you’re in there, would you hand me that white can with a picture of a tomato?"

I believe this boy’s story is like a lot of ours. His imagination is very good and his fears keep him from swinging the door open wide to allow the light in because he does not know if his fears will run out. However, this young boy does something very, very, very important. He calls on Jesus to help.

That is what scripture centers on. The disciples are afraid and that fear grows to some level of panic as they react to a tremendous storm upon the sea. It’s likely already dark when they set to move across the Sea of Galilee. You’d think that this would be no big deal for these fisherman—they were used to fishing at night and the sea was only 8 miles wide and 13 miles long…nothing like the Pacific or Atlantic Oceans. And yet, we read that they were petrified. Why? Well, it seems that this was no ordinary storm. Scripture tells us that it was a furious storm. The wording “furious storm” comes from the Greek word - Seismos – earthquake, also whorl-wind. In other words, this was a storm that could spell death for them! With all that movement, noise, screaming, and dousing by the waves, where do we find Jesus? Fast asleep, and taking a little siesta. He’s obvious exhausted. And he’d also have to be soaked to the skin by the waves slamming against the side of the boat. Yet, he’s sleeping as if nothing can bother him. Hold that thought…

In the meantime, the storm continues to increase and it gets to the point where Jesus’ disciples have done all that they can to keep things under control. They finally come and wake up Jesus saying, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!" You know that they must be in trouble. Here we have sailors and fishermen asking a carpenter what to do in this situation. They’ve run out of all their own ideas and strength and turn to anyone, anyone at all, who can help. At this point, they’re not necessarily believing that he is God in the flesh but, in that moment, they’re praying he is. They’ve got nothing left, they are out of options and full of fear.

To them (and to us, if we’re honest), it sounds like a real problem situation. The disciples had run out of energy and human solutions. They had no more human answers and they turn to the divine for help. They hoped that the miracle worker that healed so many people could somehow save them from the storm. They came to the end of themselves and questioned what they would find there. If they had total faith they would have been asleep too, letting God steer the boat. They would also be confident in God’s protection and care. It is possible that they were just as tired as Jesus that day. But they took on the job and the fears that were attached to crossing the lake and suddenly it became more than they could handle. They went to Jesus in desperation like so many of us do when we run out of ideas. Unfortunately, their story could be ours.

First, no matter how mature our faith, no matter how close we feel to Jesus (remember, these were his disciples), we ultimately realize that our life will include some storms, Amen? Storms happen. Storms in our lives help us to grow and to adapt in life.

Second, it is not really about what you have a fear of but at what point you start to involve Jesus. Lots of people wait until they are already in the middle of a storm to call out to the Lord. When the sickness comes, when the economy stinks, when the dirt hits the fan and fear turns to desperation--only then do we cry out to God and hope for a miracle.

Third, even though Jesus had no concern about the storm, He was still attentive to the desperate cries of the followers. Do you see—there was nothing that woke him up except the cry of those who needed him? I could well imagine the disciples could simply have whispered their need and he would have awoken to save them. He is right with us just as he was right with the disciples.

So, we have a need and we finally cry out to Jesus. Then what happens? What was Jesus’ response to the disciples? He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. Based on what we read in the passage, we learn that their fear turns to amazement as they spent the rest of the night considering what had just happened. "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!"

The disciples that day didn’t truly realize and truly believe that they had the life saver with them right in the boat. I think we do exactly this all the time. We fall into hard times, difficult times, painful times—sometimes of our own choices and sometimes we fall into them unexpectedly—but just the same we are there. And we act is if we are set out to sea by ourselves. How we react to life’s storms says a lot about who we are and what we believe.

So what would we do? What should we do? What would change Jesus’ response to us?

First, don’t wait until the storms come into your life to involve Jesus. Start with your day conversations about life and decisions. Dive deep into God’s word, spend time in prayer, be fueled in worship. Think about it: the disciples who had been with him didn’t really know him. They say, “Who is this man that the wind and sea obey him?” Jesus invites each one of us to get to know him and we can only do that by studying, reading, praying and gathering with others to sit at his feet. By remaining connected with Christ, you might even be able to avoid some storms that way or make the passage a whole lot smoother. An example of this: Think about the National Weather Service and how they offer checklists to prepare for severe winter weather or what to do in the case of a tornado. Not during but before. The same with God. God has already given us what we need and who we need. Why ignore it?

A second thing we can do when surprised by a storm (notice I said when, not if), involve Jesus immediately. We often try to do things in our own strength and frequently botch them and make them worse. How different the disciples’ experience would have been if they’d gone to Jesus when the first drops of rain came their way.

Max Lucado tells a wonderful story about his 4 yr old daughter, Sara. Her favorite game is to jump into her father’s arms. When she gets him at just the right distance she throws her whole self at him. Superman without a cape. Skydiver without a parachute. Her only hope is her father. If he proves weak, she’ll fall. If he proves cruel, she’ll crash. If he forgets, she’ll tumble to the ground. But she doesn’t worry about any of that because she trusts her father. Four years under the same roof with him has convinced her that he is reliable. So she flies and soars, and he always catches her.

One day Sara’s older sister was watching. Max asked Sara if she would jump to Andrea. Sara refused. Her father tried to coax her, but she wouldn’t budge. Why not, he asked. "I only jump to big arms," she said. Don’t we all? If we think the arms are weak we won’t jump either. Will we? Don’t worry. Jump. God controls the future. He will catch you. He will not let you fall. God can be trusted. There’s no need to be afraid!

This same Jesus who exercised complete authority over that storm on the Sea of Galilee also has authority over the storms of life that strike us. He may, in his wisdom and love, allow us to experience them; but they are never outside of his control. With nothing more than a word, he is able to bring the storm to an end, and replace it with a great calm. And so, as long as he is with us in the midst of the storms of life, we will never have a reason to fear. All to say, if God is all you have, you have all you need!

Let’s pray:

Lord, our prayer today is simply this: Help us to find courage and faith to turn over our cares, worries, concerns, and fears to you, trusting always that you will hear us and respond. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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