In the Middle of the Storm

lightning-232516_1920I read about a group of men who went out on this lake. Their boat was small but they were experienced fishermen. Nothing to worry about, they thought. Then the sky grew dark, the wind became strong and the waves were too high for their boat. They were going under! “We’re gonna’ drown! Jesus, help us!” Fortunately for them, Jesus was in the boat. He stood, the wind whipping His hair, the spray soaking His clothes, and He spoke, “Peace, be still.” And there was silence. (Mark 4:35-39)

Do you feel like you are in a storm? Do you feel buffeted by the waves of circumstances and the wind of trials? You are in good company. Noah escaped a flood that destroyed the earth and then spent over a year on the Ark with the cows and horses and elephants, feeding them, shoveling the… never mind. King David was running from his son Absalom who wanted to kill him and take the throne of Israel when he wrote Psalm 3, “But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.” (Psalm 3:3 NIV) Paul’s ministry was a story of stonings, shipwrecks, and persecution. As he approached Jerusalem he faced imprisonment and death, yet his statement was, “None of these things move me.” (Acts 20:24 NKJV)

In March, 2000 our 22 year old son was declared brain dead following a collision with a drunk driver. We gave his body to the organ transplant team. Paul told us at 14 that he wanted to be an organ donor. His older sister was getting her license and struggling with her decision about organ donation when he said, “Give it up, sis. You aren’t going to need them.” Fast forward to November, 2000. The phone rang and the person on the other end I recognized as friends who had moved to New Mexico a couple of years prior. He asked if they could come over and I said, “Sure, we would love to see you.” A half hour later the doorbell rang. It wasn’t our friends from New Mexico but a couple I had never seen before with 5 kids in tow. I invited them in and asked, “Who are you? Why are you here?” The wife was Paul’s heart recipient.

Before leaving the hospital each member of our family took a few minutes privately with Paul to say goodbye. Knowing Paul’s heart was to be donated, I put my ear to his chest and declared, “Someday I’ll hear this heart again.” That night 8 months later, I heard Paul’s heart again.

Faith means finding hope even in the midst of despair. Storms will come. No one is exempt. The question is, “How will I respond?” Victor Frankl was a prisoner in a Nazi death camp. His family and friends were all dead. As he stood naked before his tormentors, he realized, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”

God promised Abraham He would make his descendants a great nation. He even changed his name from Abram to Abraham which means father of many nations. That was an awesome promise but Abraham and Sarah were well past childbearing age. Abraham had no hope so God took him outside under the night sky. He told Abraham to count the stars. “So shall your offspring be.” (Genesis 15:5 NIV) Astronomers tell us there are over 8,000 stars visible in the night sky. God painted a picture in Abraham’s heart to stir up hope. As a result, “even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping.” (Romans 4:18 NLT)

Dog – we each see a picture in our mind. It might be anything from a Chihuahua to a Great Dane. Tree – a pine or an oak or perhaps a Christmas tree. Video games, movies, books all develop mental pictures. Satan is after my hope, my image of where my life is going. The battle zone is my thinking, that which is playing on the screen of my imagination. My future begins as the seed of an image. It can be an image of failure that leads to destruction or an image of overcoming that leads to fulfillment of God’s plan.

Jesus didn’t bring hope for the sweet bye and bye. He brought sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf. He demonstrated a physical manifestation of spiritual victory. John the Baptist warned, “The Kingdom of Heaven is near.” (Matthew 3:2 NLT) That changed when Jesus declared, “The kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21 KJV) The Kingdom of God is Christ in me.

Paul wrote, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.” (Ephesians 1:18 NIV) What is your hope? Picture it. Only then can you press into it.

1Corinthians 13:13 (NLT) says, “Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love.” We are always doing things to build our faith. We are constantly singing and writing about love. Why don’t we talk about hope? Christian hope is not a weak “I hope so.” It is confident, firm expectation. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV)

“We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1Thessalonians 1:3 NIV) Hope produces endurance. Am I lacking endurance for the storms of life? Then I need hope. How do I pray? Is it pleading or thanksgiving? Pleading shows that I have lost hope. Thanksgiving shows confidence in the vision and promise that God has given me. I don’t plead for God’s blessing on my life; I declare it:

“The Lord bless you and keep you;

The Lord make His face shine upon you,

And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,

And give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26 NKJV)

Have you ever asked someone how they are doing and gotten the response, “I’m doing OK under the circumstances.” As Christians why would we be “under the circumstances?” According to Deuteronomy 28:13 (NKJV), “The Lord will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath.” How will I live above my circumstances? By knowing who I am in Christ, by knowing God’s power working in me. “I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 1:19-20 NLT)

I’m considered a pretty conservative guy, but I used to have a wild side. I loved to race up twisting mountain roads on my motorcycle, the wind rushing through my hair, the bike leaning low into the curves. One day the rear tire hit a patch of grave and the bike went down. I could see I was headed for the guardrail when everything went dark. The next thing I knew I was clinging to a tree root suspended above a 100 foot drop. Far below I could see the flaming wreckage of my bike. Above me the edge of the road was far out of reach.

“Help! Help! Is anybody up there?”

“I am here.”

“Who is it?”

“I am the Lord. I will help you. Do you trust me?”

“Oh, yes Lord!”

“First you must let go.”

I looked down at the drop below me and then back up. “Is anybody else up there?”

OK, it didn’t really happen, but you get the point. Why do we wait until we are at the end of ourselves before we turn to God? Christian maturity is developing the willingness to hope and trust in God sooner rather than later.

Moses encountered God in a burning bush (Exodus 3). When Moses asked God’s name, He responded, “I AM”, not “I am your deliverer” even though He is; Not “I am your protector” even though He is. Just “I AM”, I am whatever you need. I am your everything. The Lord says to you today:

I am your victory.

I am your provider.

I am your healer.

I am your redeemer.

I am your strength.

I am your hope.

In the middle of the storm, I AM