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STORM MANAGEMENT TOOLS

Storms in life are real! That was the subject of last week's blog. We looked at one storm Jesus and His disciples encountered and made application to the storms (adversities) we face; we all have them! This week, I want to talk about "what the storms of life teach us". It is truly important to realize that we will either manage the storms encountered in life or be managed by them! This then begs the question, are we managing or being managed? We need "tools" to enable us to manage our storms and so I would like to point us to some "tools".

Do you know you can read through the entire New Testament and very seldom find our Lord to be in a hurry? Let's consider the Scripture in Matthew 14:22-23. "Straightway He constrained or commanded His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone." As we search out the life of Jesus recorded in the Gospels, we know He was accustomed to time constraints, just as we are. He too felt the pressures that accompany life; He also knew well the reality of encountering storms.

In Matthew 14:22-23, we see one of the few times Jesus was in a hurry. It was a time when the Lord was with His disciples. It had been a long day. The crowd was very large and had listened to His teaching all day and over 5,000 had been fed with five small loaves of bread and two fishes; it was a miracle performed by Jesus! He was now in a HURRY to get His 12 followers on a boat and to cross the Sea of Galilee without Him. What in these two verses in the Bible reveal that Jesus was in a HURRY? Look at the word "straightway" in verse 22. It is an action word meaning immediately, or without delay or hesitation; it means at once. So Jesus straightway (urgently, swiftly, immediately, without delay) constrained or ordered (compelled, commanded) His disciples to get into the boat and to cross the Sea of Galilee.

Jesus knew a dangerous storm would occur. Why would a loving Savior, who is omniscient (knows ALL things) send His disciples on this dangerous trip without Him? He had a reason and a purpose for having them get on that boat right then! He knows the encroaching storms in our life as well and sometimes, He places us right in the thick of the storm! He has a purpose for that as well! REMEMBER, HE IS ALWAYS NEAR BY US AND COMES TO US IN THE STORM WITH HIS PRESENCE, PEACE AND RESOURCES!

As it turned out, it was a very dangerous trip, since a wild storm came up while they were in the boat! "But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed (tossed violently says the original language) with waves, for the wind was contrary." (Matthew 14:24) The simple answer is because Jesus wanted to teach His followers lessons about what to do when they encountered storms. He wanted to teach them about using "management tools" to enable them to manage the storms of life. You and I need to get a strong hold on these management tools so we can manage our storms and avoid being managed by them!

Let's consider the COMMAND made by Jesus (verse 22). Jesus ordered His discipes to urgently get into the boat and cross the water. Why did He do that? The first reason was BECAUSE OF THE PEOPLE! Jesus wanted to protect His followers from the influence of the people who had witnessed the miraculous meal a bit earlier. He sent the disciples away from the crowd. The people were resorting to acting in the "flesh" (non-spiritual) rather than in the Spirit of Jesus. The crowd was wanting to FORCE Him to be King! "Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, 'This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.' When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take Him by FORCE (caps are mine), to make Him a king, He departed again into a mountain Himself alone". (John 6:14-15)

Management tool #1: when you and I encounter storms in our life, we must stay away from people who spread their ungodly, worldly and fleshly influence! "He sent the multitudes away." (Matthew 14:23) "But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power, AVOID SUCH MEN AS THESE." (II Timothy 3:1-5)

The second reason Jesus ordered His disciples into the boat was BECAUSE HE WAS GOING TO PRAY! (SEE VERSE 23) Jesus hurriedly removed Himself from any and all temptation to succomb to the influence of those who wanted to make Him a king. Management tool #2: Seeking God in prayer is the best and most effective antidote to yielding to temptation! There is a minimum of two occasions when facing temptation requires prayerful resistance. The first is when we experience the "good times". When life is good and our circumstances are pleasant with no pressures, it is easy to get distracted, to relax our guard, and become unfocused. Jesus quickly removed Himself from the crowd to be alone to pray, communicate with His Father and re-focus. The second occasion is during times of weariness. Being very tired or exhausted exposes us to to spiritual weakness and vulnerable to temptation and acting in ways unpleasing to God.

Management tool #3: Guard you heart and mind. Placing a purposeful guard on our heart is not always easy or convenient, but it is absolutely imperative that we do! "Guard your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life". (Proverbs 4:23)

Here are some practical ways to spiritually guard our heart.

  1. Protect everything that comes into your mind and spirit; avoid exposure to all that is detrimental! Place restrictions on yourself so you do not wander into unChristlike thoughts and behavior.

  2. Follow obediently all that the Lord is leading you to do. Ask for His guidance and wisdom!

  3. Keep your priorities in line with Biblical principles and commands, and do not compromise!

  4. Persevere (persist, never give up, give in or give out; press on, stay with it, etc.) in the face of difficulty and adversity.

  5. Cultivate an atmosphere of Christian community. Many today do not desire to hear this, but we all need the community found in the Body of Christ - the Church! We need to be with God's people to be spiritually healthy! We dare not live in isolation. When you barbeque with charcoal, place one charcoal off by itself and it dies out. But place all the charcoal together and you have dynamic heat and effectiveness!

  6. Trust the Lord with physical, mental and emotional rest! We live in a very fast spaced world and community. While we run around like crazy meeting goals, desires and seeking to be productive, we often forget that it is bad for our heart. When we REST IN THE LORD, removing ourself from the hustle and bustle, we are declaring our total dependency on Him. Let your heart, mind and spirit REST!

  7. Preach the Gospel to yourself everyday! Too many hear the Gospel message and "accept Jesus" as their "ticket to heaven" only It's a one-time experience to them. NO, we need to focus on The CROSS upon which Jesus died to forgive us of sins and reconcile us to God, everyday of our lives! Our heart needs to be reminded that because of Jesus' death and resurrection we, in loving and serving Jesus, are forgiven, redeemed and in the Family of God! In starting everyday with this truth we glorify God in all we do!

  8. Pray, read the Scripture and implement its teaching everyday, cultivating your relationship with God, "seeking first His Kingdom and His Righteousness." (Matthew 6:33) GUARD YOUR HEART!!!!

The third reason Jesus ordered His disciples into the boat and cross the sea was BECAUSE THE DISCIPLES NEEDED TO BE OUT AND AWAY FROM HIS PHYSICAL PRESENCE! He was going to die and go away from them, and return to heaven. His followers needed to learn that life's journey was to be by FAITH rather than by SIGHT! "For we walk by faith, not by sight." (II Corinthians 5:7)

Now let's consider the CONFESSION made by the disciples (verse 33). They were very afraid during the storm. ". . .they were terrified. . .and they cried out in fear." Fear comes when we are devoid of the Word of God lodged in our heart and mind! "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control." (II Timothy 1:7) They forgot what Jesus said (verse 22); they were to "go to the other side" of the lake. The storm hit when they were in the midst of the sea and at just the time when the disciples were doing what Jesus said to do; when they were obedient! Don't be misled, just because we are being obedient to the Lord does not mean we will not encounter storms in life. The Gospel is not really about fortune, fame or "smooth sailing"! In fact, Jesus said: "These things I have spoken to you, so that in ME you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

In the midst of the storm, when the disciples cried out in fear, Jesus spoke to them as He approached them walking on the water. "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid." (Matthew 14:27) Peter asked permission to go to Jesus, also walking on the water. Peter was fine for a time, but when he stopped focusing on Jesus and instead focused on the high winds and raging waters, he allowed fear to grip him and he sank into the water. Of course, Jesus rescued him. Notice this! "when they got into the boat, the wind stopped." (Matthew 14:32) When we encounter the storms of life, we better make sure to get into the boat with Jesus. We know Jesus is in the boat and He beckons us to join Him, so the question remains: Are we in His Boat? Remember, (from last week's blog) what is more awesome than storms in our life, is being with Jesus in the boat!

A great confession of faith then proceeded from the disciples: "And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, 'You are certainly God's Son!'"

So, a summary of the "Management Tools" that we need to use when we experience storms in our life:

  1. Stay away from people who spread ungodly, worldly and fleshly influence.

2. Pray earnestly and learn to walk by Faith rather than by sight.

3. Guard your heart, mind and spirit.

4. Make sure you are in the boat (in the presence) of Jesus everyday through confession and obedience, assured of the blessings, protections and promises of God's Word!

Hurricane Katrina was a devasting and deadly Category 5 Atlantic Hurricane that killed 1,392 people and caused $186.3 billion in destruction. It occured in late August 2005. What devastation, suffering and pain it caused. It was referred to as a tragedy and castrophe! There was a flood of emotions and awful feelings engendered in those who were victims as well as the rest of us. There were feelings of fear, worry, frustration, hopelessness, despair, despndency, depression, uncertainty, etc. It was horrible!

In all of our lives, we may not experience a hurricane, but we do encounter personal storms and they are of significant magnitude! There are emotions and feelings engendered by those storms. But as with the disciples, we are not left to ourselves, FOR JESUS INVOLVES HIMSELF IN OUR STORMS! These truths are what the storms of life teach us!

I often wonder WHY it seems to be so hard for us modern-day disciples of Jesus to BELIEVE that he purposefully and lovingly involves Himself in our personal storms and to BELIEVE that He controls and calms the winds and waves we experience as we journey through this life. A young boy attended Sunday School without his Mom and Dad one Sunday. His mother asked him what he had learned that morning. He said, "Well, Mom, we had a very interesting Sunday School lesson. It was about Moses leading the Israelites across the Red Sea. Moses stood up and told his general 'Move 'Em Out!' They were doing pretty good until they looked behind them and saw Pharaoh's army chasing them. They had mountains on both sides, so Moses called the engineers together and they designed a bridge to go from one side to the other. They crossed over the bridge and waited for the Egyptians to get in the middle and then they had their millitary tanks blow the bridge out from beneath them." Mom asked, "Is that really what your teacher taught you today?" Her son said, "No Ma'am, but if you don't believe that story, you certainly wouldn't believe the one she told us in class."

If it is too hard for us to BELIEVE that Jesus is in the storms with us and keeps on delivering us for our good and His glory, then WHAT, I ask, will we believe?

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God has blessed me with a long and fruitful ministry! I have over 40 years in pastoral ministry, retreat speaking, Evangelism, teaching and Christian Radio broadcasting.

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