Life is filled with storms some of our own making. Covetousness causes its own storms in our lives and the lives of others. Jesus taught us to live by faith instead of fear. He slept through a storm but we react in fear. The world needs us to tell the story of Jesus who calms storms.
Let’s understand that Jesus calms the storms.
We will look at storms, the storm caused by covetousness, living by faith instead of fear, How Jesus slept through a storm while we would react in fear, and how the world needs us to tell the story of Jesus who calms storms.
The Storm of Covetousness
Jethro advised Moses that national leaders ought to hate covetousness (Exodus 18:21). Samuel warned Israel about government excess spending and high taxes (1 Samuel 8:10-18). Modern governments have far exceeded the ten percent tax which he predicted kings would levy. Covetous people rob others of their inheritance (Micah 2:1-5). To someone defrauded of an inheritance by a greedy brother Jesus said not to covet what others have stolen from us, because they are the losers (Luke 12:13-21). The Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31) decries the greedy accumulation of private wealth by those who do not share with the poor. Covetous swindlers will not be in the kingdom of heaven (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Covetousness is a major cause of war and conflict (James 4:1-4) and false religion (2 Peter 2). It is a storm that only Jesus can control.
Covetousness, the Fear of Missing Out
Why do we covet what does not belong to us? Do we believe God is unfair and therefore we will miss out on the best things? Do we believe that what God will provide abundantly is far inferior to anything that our neighbor has? Is it because we fear and panic instead of rest in faith? Lust and covetousness attack us from many different directions. We fear that we may never have as nice a house as our neighbor, or that our neighbor found a better marriage partner, or that our neighbor has a business with great employees. We may feel like God cheated us out of a nice car or truck like our neighbor’s. Like a furious squall at sea the fear of missing out can drown us. Only Jesus can calm the storms of covetousness (Mark 4:35-41).
Faith-Filled or Fear-Filled Living
Jesus spent a large part of his ministry around and even at times on the Sea of Galilee. The lake is below sea level and contains freshwater. It is 13 old fashioned miles (21 modern kilometers) north-south and 7½ miles (12 kilometers) east-west. So when the disciples wanted to cross the lake, it was a long way. The lake is known as Yam Kinneret locally and has a mild climate. It is also known for sudden and violent lake storms. Large storms can create waves even ten feet (3 meters) high and have caused damage to lakefront towns. It was a similar storm that tested the faith of the disciples in Mark 4:35-41. Jesus used the opportunity to challenge his disciples about their lack of faith. Though our faith may be small, we can ask Jesus to calm the storm.
Taking Jesus Just as He Is
It is amazing how we like to create a Jesus in our minds to be just like we want him to be instead of just as he is. When the disciples took Jesus across the lake, they took him along just as he was (Mark 4:35-41). What would our churches look like if we took Jesus along just as he is? The way he lived wouldn’t fit in with many of our churches today. He partied with the rich and touched the unclean and marginalized. The way he spoke was sometimes offensive and blunt and sometimes mysterious and hidden in the veiled language of parables. He often went against local religious customs and expected his followers to live lives of self-sacrifice instead of materialistic self-indulgence. How would our lives look if we took Jesus along just as he is? Though the winds of traditionalism are strong, he can calm the storm.
Doesn’t God Care
What do we do when we encounter fierce squalls on the sea of life? We live in a time when median net worth has dropped 38.8% between 2007 and 2010.# We worry about health care, car payments, cancer, identity theft, immigration, industrial pollution, internet viruses, lifestyle changes, military conflicts, strange new religions, terrorism and taxes. Life can be wonderful one minute and we are faced with a terrible even the next (Mark 4:35-41). We are tempted to ask, doesn’t God care? The answer lies not in the disciples’ faith, which was obviously as weak as ours, but in the fact that Jesus was with them. If we open our eyes and look, we will see that God is with us too and always has been. Even as our faith is weak, God’s presence reveals how much he cares and Jesus is there to calm the storm.
If the Unthinkable Happens
When Mark wrote about Jesus calming the storm, many of his audience were facing martyrdom (Mark 4:35-41). It was a Christian holocaust that lasted roughly 300 years, as Roman Emperors attacked the church over ten periods of persecution. How could the story of Jesus calming the storm relate to those who would drown in their own storms? How does it relate to us who face our own catastrophes today, such as losing a loved one, losing a career, facing homelessness, or to Christians in North Korea who face losing their lives to a modern day murderous Caesar? In such circumstances, when faith is tested way beyond its elastic limit, we can have calm in our hearts, knowing that Jesus will never leave us and even if we must die, he will carry us beyond the storm into eternal peace.
Jesus who Sleeps through Storms
Why did Jesus sleep through a storm that had so frightened his disciples (Mark 4:35-41)? Their ordeal even took them to the brink of sinking and losing their lives. In the context we can guess that Jesus was totally exhausted from a day of preaching and healing. However, there is more to it than that. Are we tempted to ask if God has gone to sleep when we face terrifying ordeals? Are we tempted to ask if God even cares? Of course we are. Yet, we read of Jesus’ power over even the waves. We also read of his rebuke regarding the disciples’ lack of faith. We are no different and Jesus is also no different in character. He will often allow our circumstances to go to the point of sinking, but he is there and always has been to calm the storm.
Reactions to Fear
Science has taught us that there are two normal reactions to fear, fight or flight. As an international traveler who has lived and traveled around the world, I notice that since 9-11 America has become a more fearful nation. That fear has resulted in both flight from aggressive risk-taking investment in our future and fights both at home and in faraway places. Economists even call recessions a period of fear after a period of greed. Covetousness causes national economic distress and thus fear. So when the disciples panicked as they crossed the Sea of Galilee in a raging storm (Mark 4:35-41) their fear was something quite normal. When our emotions drive us to fight or flight let us fight on the only side worth fighting for, Jesus’ and let us flee to the only sure place of safety from the storm, Jesus.
While the storm on Lake Galilee was a natural calamity (Mark 4:35-41) we often face man-made storms. Real estate collapse, family destruction, hostile takeovers, recessions and fraud are all storms caused by covetousness among other things. No amount of legislation can change hearts from greed to generosity, from corruption to nobility, from covetousness to chastity. We have all coveted our neighbor’s house, spouse, car or other possessions. It is part of the human condition. And so we must recognize that we are also in part responsible for the storms that such lusts create. We have all contributed to national debt, family destruction and even worldwide recessions. The power over such storms does not lie within us. We are helpless victims of human vices. The answer is spiritual. The answer is a power beyond our own. The answer to the storms of our own making is Jesus.
What the World Needs is You
When national storms come along, politicians argue with little result. We do not need another political solution from either side. What the world needs is you, the Christian to stand up and tell everyone that you have found the answer. The disciples faced a storm and complained to the right source (Mark 4:35-41). They did not have the faith. They did not have the ability. But, they did go to the right source, Jesus. The church is not here to take political sides. Human solutions are not the answer. Neither side of politics has the ability to rebuke our national cloudbursts, nor the authority to tell our economic squalls to be still. There are people who know where the answer lies. What the world needs is for Christians to tell the good news, that only Jesus can calm the storm. To tell that story, what the world needs is: you.
Life is filled with storms some of our own making. Covetousness causes its own storms in our lives and the lives of others. Jesus taught us to live by faith instead of fear. He slept through a storm while we would react in fear. The world needs us to tell the story of Jesus who calms storms.