The Filipinos have been talking, preparing and praying about a typhoon since the beginning of the past week. This typhoon was described as the strongest tropical cyclone worldwide in 2018, so far. Nationwide board exams, college admission tests, flights and office work were all canceled, and evacuations and warnings were advised. With the heartbreaking memories of the 2013 typhoon Haiyan and 2009 Ketsana, this tropical cyclone that was then just about to batter our country brought fear and worry to me and my fellowmen.
I woke up really early today to the sound of heavy rain pour and wind howls. I also heard thrashing trees and even aluminium-sounding objects flying off. I was scared and worried. I was thinking of the people, friends and loved ones, particularly in the north to northeastern parts of Luzon, who are more threatened, has evacuated, and in need of immediate relief at such time.
I was also worried about whether or not I should still attend to important ministry schedules. My friend Eunice and I were scheduled to meet-up with friends whom we desire to share the gospel to. But the travel time to their place from our place is about an hour or more. Given the floods and the weather, it is apt to just stay at home.
As I was praying for these concerns, still hearing the heavy rain pour and wind howls, I suddenly remembered our church worship service topic last Sunday. It was about Jesus calming the storm in the presence of His disciples. My almost five in the morning reflection was, “These sounds, this raging storm, this fear and worry must have been a hundred times more felt by the disciples in that boat.”
Last Sunday, while I was sharing my thoughts on Mark 35:41, I was so judgemental of the disciples in the passage. I mean, “How can you still be so scared of the winds and waves knowing that you have Jesus by your side, right?” Sure, I related my fears and doubts with their fears and doubts. I also self-examined the many times I was afraid of circumstances even though I knew that Jesus was right there with me.
But this morning I realised how much I have underestimated their situation and somehow invalidated their fears during that time.
Mark 4:35-41 – Jesus Calms the Storm
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
There was a furious squall right before their eyes. It was evening time as well so we could just imagine that sight in the night sky. The boat was not only broken because of the crashing waves but it was already being swamped. They were not in a motorboat or yacht, they were in a fishing boat probably made out of a hollowed tree trunk!
There were no rescue crafts or life jackets that time. They were in a boat bare before the Sea of Galilee with crashing waves and a storm with raging winds. That’s a life-and-death situation right there. Really scary.
And then there’s Jesus, the one who told them to go over to the other side. He was at the back end of the boat, sleeping in a cushion. If the person discipling me does this in a life-and-death situation, I would probably shout loudly and ask her in tears, “What must we do now?!” Definitely, I would wake her up in a panic mode.
So if we’re going to look at the reaction of the disciples — waking Him up and saying, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”, we can safely say that their reaction is valid.
But the thing is… Jesus isn’t just a person discipling them. He is God.
Right before the whole scare, Jesus was teaching parables and sharing illustrations to His disciples and crowds from a boat — the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-20), A Lamp on a Stand (Mark 4:21-24), the Parable of the Growing Seed (Mark 4:26-29) and the Parable of the Mustard Seed (Mark 4:30-34). Before that, they witnessed Jesus’ miracles and victories before followers and even accusers. They were also appointed by Jesus as His disciples (Mark 3:13-19).
And then during this whole scare, when He was woken up by His disciples, He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Right there and then, the wind dies down and the surroundings become completely calm. The boat was no longer being swamped. I can only imagine being in that boat and seeing a completely scary situation instantly change into a completely calm situation within seconds. In fact, after just two orders! — “Quiet! Be still!”
I’d probably faint in shock. Yes, I will be terrified too. But I might not have the strength to ask someone the question, “Who is this?” anymore. Yes, I might silently comment, “Even the wind and the waves obey him!” but I’d probably faint in shock afterwards.
So if we’re also going to look at the question of Jesus — “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”, we can safely say that His question is very valid.
Some Christians think that just because they have Jesus in their lives, they should be exempted from storms — trials, persecutions, illness, financial crisis, relationship problems. This entitlement is contrary to the promise of Jesus in John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Jesus did not promise us a life without storms. In fact, He tells us that we will surely have troubles. But He promised us that He has overcome the world. He is with us in every storm. He calls us to take heart, to not be afraid — to have faith.
Storms reveal who we are, how we respond to situations. Storms also reveal our limitations as humans. It is something we do not have a control of. We can’t stop it. It is beyond us. Therefore, storms call us to look unto Jesus – to depend on Him because He is the One capable of controlling it, stopping it. It is never beyond Him; storms, even the winds and waves, obey Him.
It is easy to head towards a destination Jesus tells me to go to if I am before a beautiful sunset on the horizon. But it’s a different story if I am before a furious squall.
Personally, it is easy to attend to ministry appointments when the weather is fine and dandy; it is convenient to minister to people when the traffic isn’t horrible; it is favorable to go and make disciples when you aren’t busy with work or school or not troubled with family or financial problems; it is comfortable to spend time with God when you have a perfectly brewed coffee on the side; it is exciting to share the gospel when you aren’t feeling sick.
But the authenticity of my faith is revealed when it is not easy; when it is inconvenient; when I am troubled and weary; when the circumstances are like roaring winds and crashing waves going against the direction of the boat I am in.
By His grace and leading, I made a decision to head towards the ministry schedule we had today. Around noon, a little sunshine came out. I perceived it as a confirmation from the Lord. It was still raining and windy when I left the house but our schedules pushed through.
It’s only by God’s grace that Eunice and I were able to meet up with our friend and share to her the gospel.
It’s only by God’s grace that we were able to spend time with Eunice’s sister as well. Our intentions and spontaneous conversations led to the sharing of the gospel. She too received Jesus as her Lord and Saviour today.
I was itching to send a text message this morning to cancel all appointments. I thought that it was better for us to just stay at home and be safe. But God reminded me once again of Mark 4:35-41. And indeed, Jesus was with us all along. It may seem like He is sleeping but He isn’t. He led us and was with us all along. He supplied all our needs, including our transportation and food, and provided us even with His protection.
We had encouraging conversations today. I was able to get to know these friends more personally. Was I worried about the things we should say? Yes, but the Holy Spirit promised us that He will give us the words to speak. Was I worried about whether or not we will return home safe? Yes, but God assured me all the more of His presence every step of the way.
When I hugged Eunice to bid goodbye, I was kind of teary-eyed. Our prayers were answered not in a day of sunshine but in a day of a strong tropical cyclone.
To God be all the glory!