Be still and have faith – through the changes that life will certainly bring you while you are on your journey, how much faith do you have that God is in control over all things?
Yesterday, I had the great privilege of being able to celebrate another year of life. As you have heard me say before on several occasions, I am a man that does not mind being off by myself in peace and quiet to think and to reflect on things. As I reflected throughout this past week, I considered this last decade of my life and just how long a decade can actually feel, though relatively speaking, it is a short period of time. That said, there are many changes – many ups and downs – that can take place in that span of time.
So, I thought about life and its constant changes and considered that life is a lot like being on a lake or a sea, as we will see here today from this passage of scripture in Mark’s gospel. Like a sea or a lake, there are times where things seem to be still (at peace) and at other times it seems that things are always in motion (changing and shifting). Yet, as much as things shift and change in life, we know this truth is certain — God is always with us and that He is always at work on our behalf. So, what I want to do today is focus on life and our pilgrimage through life. What is your level of faith in God while on this journey? How patient are you with God when life brings many shifts and changes?
A Certain Level of Faith
In this passage of scripture from Mark’s gospel (Mark 4:35-41), we will see the disciples and Jesus on a boat crossing the sea from Galilee to the country of the Gadarenes (Mark 3:7-8; 5:1). We are a lot like the disciples in that we are on a boat, crossing over the sea of life, trying to reach our destination which we should hope is the Lord’s heavenly kingdom.
Now, as they crossed over to the other side, scripture points out to us that Jesus was in the stern of the boat (this is the rear of the boat) and had fallen to sleep (Mark 4:38). While He was divine, we must remember that Jesus dealt with some of the same things that you and I do in this flesh! When I teach or preach from this scripture, I liken how we go through life and God is with us. Now, I want you to understand that God is not at the stern of the boat asleep – He is the captain of the boat and is at the front.
We are told here in this recording of events that as they made their way across the sea, the weather began to change and a windstorm arose (Mark 4:37). Scripture suggests that this storm was terrible in that the waves of the storm began to beat against the boat and the boat began to fill with water. To speak figuratively again for a brief moment, you and I are on the boat trying to make it over to the other side and both the weather and the water of the sea is always changing. Sometimes the weather and the water can be treacherous so, in order to be able to make it across, it will require a great amount of faith.
Three levels of faith
Now, I believe that there are three levels of faith that are shown to us throughout scripture, and attached to each level are sublevels or sub-groups.
The first level of faith that we see in scripture is a level of no faith. This might sound strange at first, but the truth of the matter is that everybody starts out at this level as no person is born having a great amount of faith in God.
At this level of faith there are a couple of sub-groups: fully convicted non-believers and then those that are like newborn babies in need of spiritual nourishment. The fully convicted non-believer is one of absolutely no faith as they have completely rejected and rebelled against God; there is no repentance or turning to God for this person. On the other side, there are those who are simply wandering and are in search of something to believe in their souls.
We all start out as newborn babes and are in constant search and need of spiritual nourishment. Peter suggests that as newborn babes, we should desire the pure milk of the word that we may grow thereby (1 Pet. 2:2). Some will give this pure milk a taste and see that it is good (Ps. 34:8); it will be good enough for them to continue to give it a drink.
Those that continue to drink the pure milk of the word, and genuinely love what they are drinking, will begin to grow to have a little faith. The second level of faith is having a little faith. We will remember that Jesus once said that with faith the size of a mustard seed, one can move mountains and that nothing would be impossible through having a little faith in Him (Matt. 17:20).
Those of a little faith should continue to drink the pure milk of the word, so that their faith grows even stronger to reach the next level of faith. The next level of faith is that of having strong faith. Those who are of strong faith have a faith that is unmovable. Jesus said that those who hear and do His sayings are like a man who built his house on a rock: and when treacherous storms moved against that house, it did not fall because it was built on a strong foundation (Matt. 7:24-25).
Be Still or Move With Panic
For us to be able to traverse the sea through its constant and sudden changes, I believe that having strong faith is required. So, I feel I must ask this question: what is your level of faith in God? Are you of no faith? Do you have a little faith? Or, are you strong in your faith in the Lord? Be honest with yourself when answering this question.
As we go through this scripture, we will see that as the storms came in, it seems that the disciples were in great fear of their life. We are not told exactly what the disciples did on the boat as the storm came in. This event is recorded in both Matthew and Luke’s gospel and so we can pull the disciples’ emotions and feelings from the three synoptic gospels.
In both Matthew and Mark’s gospel, the disciples felt that they were going to perish (Matt. 8:25; Mark 4:38). In Luke’s gospel, the disciples were described as feeling like they were in jeopardy and would perish (Luke 8:23-24). So, the feeling of hope (faith) for the disciples was fleeting.
This is confirmed for us when we see Jesus ask the disciples, after they woke Him up in our key verse, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith (Mark 4:40)?” Again, in Matthew and Luke’s gospel, Jesus is recorded asking the disciples, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith (Matt. 8:26)? Where is your faith (Luke 8:25)?”
At this point of time, the disciples were of little faith and that little faith that they had was fleeting. This was not long into Jesus’ ministry and the disciples had not been following Him long. What I do want to point out about a little faith is that while a little faith can move mountains, there is another truth that we must also be aware of in that a little faith can also be easily shaken, stirred, and moved; in other words, a little faith can be rattled easily.
So, with their little faith, I believe that the disciples began to panic a bit during the sudden change of weather on the sea. In this storm, even though the Lord was with them, their little faith made it hard for them to be still and have faith. Fear, we should understand, can make it hard for us to be able to overcome, to persevere, or to even focus.
The most unfortunate thing about having little faith is that little faith can quickly be turned into having no faith – this is especially not good with the sudden changes of life. This is not being said to shame those of little faith, but to encourage those of little faith to keep on growing in the faith to become strong in faith in God.
Trusting God’s control
Our faith should not be fleeting; we should always strive to be calm and at peace. The mind that is at peace, full of faith, is one that can focus, endure, persevere, and succeed through the ups and downs of life. Now, the honest truth is that we are all going to have our moments of panic. In those moments of panic, we must learn to go to God.
I believe that we should always be prayerful in our life, but we should be even more prayerful to the Lord when the winds suddenly begin to change and when things are beyond our control. Though they may have been in a panic, we will see that the disciples went to Jesus, God in the flesh, and sought His care and protection. I believe the one and important thing that the disciples believed was that Jesus had power over that which they certainly was powerless against.
In our key verse, we will see Jesus show His authority and control over what is uncontrollable to us as He stood and looked out at the raging sea. Jesus then moved on the behalf of the disciple as He said to the raging sea, “Peace, be still (Mark 4:39).” So, with just a few words we see that as sudden as the storm arose on the sea, the winds suddenly changed and the waves died down. At Jesus’ command, we are told, “the wind ceased and there was a great calm.”
God was in control. The disciples had run into a storm that they had absolutely no control over – it was beyond them – yet Jesus, unmoved, calmed the storm with no trouble. As you and I know, there are many things in life that are beyond our control and yet, God is in control over all things. I would think that we should trust in the Lord when it comes to that which we cannot control.
Fear of change
We often fear change(life) because we often realize that we do not have control over most things that happen around us. So, we fear change greatly because of our lack of control. Yet, the one thing that you and I do have control over in life is when we choose to go to God in prayer. Consider that when you go to God in prayer, you suddenly take control over all that once seemed uncontrollable. How so, you might ask?
Well, the Lord is in control over all things around us, whether those things are visible or invisible. Of this fact, Paul said, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist (Col. 1:16-17).”
So, we are praying to the one who is in control. Because we have placed our faith in the Lord, we should be confident in His control, His power, and His authority! As Jesus calmed the mighty storm on the sea, I believe that this is how the Lord moves for both you and me on a daily basis. When you go to God in prayer, the Lord will move for you and you will have truly taken control over your life.
Standing Confidently in the Lord
Knowing that God is in such control over both the visible and the invisible (the known and unknown), and that He moves on your behalf, it should give you the confidence to be still – to stand firm, strong, steadfast, and at peace – in the midst of the changes of life.
For me this is very important for all of you to come to understand, especially as a child of God. The reason why this is so important to me is because I have seen how afraid we become of change. I have seen how we can let the shifts and changes of life flood us and ultimately sink us in our soul. Because the Lord is always with us and always moving on our behalf, we have no reason to ever be afraid.
A lot of times our impatience with God can make handling change – handling life – incredibly difficult. We live with a mindset that everything should happen instantly. So, we often display little faith and get frustrated and upset at life while it seems the storm is raging on instead of it coming to an end swiftly. We begin to feel like God is taking His precious time and moving slowly. We must remember what Peter said when he said, “The Lord is not slack (slow or sluggish) concerning His promise, as some count slackness (2 Pet. 3:9).”
Be still and have faith in God
One of my favorite verses in the bible is what Paul wrote to the Romans in his letter to them. To the Romans, Paul said that all things (whether good or bad) work together for good to those that love the Lord (Rom 8:28). You see, it takes strong faith for the believer to come to this very conclusion and accept it.
We will never understand how the Lord moves, especially considering that His thoughts are far higher than our thoughts (Is. 55:8-9). Oftentimes we actually pray for the Lord to move on our behalf and to make certain changes in our life. The best thing that you and I can do is be still and have faith – have patience with God. I often preach about patience, and I will tell you, it has taken me many years to grow to the point of patience that I have today and still, my patience is not yet full.
In the book of Isaiah, the Lord spoke through the prophet and said, “Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert (Is. 43:19).”
I want you to understand that the Lord is in control over all things. As shown to us in scripture today, God is in control of both the subtle and immediate changes of a lake or sea. If God is in control of the subtle and immediate changes of a sea, imagine how much control He has over the changes that affect you who are a treasure in His eyes. If our sea dries out and turns into a barren wilderness, God is still in control and He will make a way for us out of that wilderness. The Lord will even make rivers in a dry and desolate desert so that you and I can make it!
Keep growing stronger
Again, we have no reason to fear! Though things are always changing around us, let us remember that God remains the same – He is the same today, as He was yesterday, and will be forever (Heb. 13:8). God has constantly brought all of His children across the changing sea of life and He will certainly do the same for both me and you. So, let our faith continue to grow today.
If you are a newborn of faith, I pray that you desire the pure milk of the word so that you can grow in your faith. If you are of a little faith in the Lord, I pray you continue to desire the pure milk of the word so that your faith can continue to strengthen. We who are strong in our faith in the Lord, I pray today that even you continue to desire the pure milk of the word so that your strength can continue to mature.
The genuine believer’s faith in God should get to the point where we are strong and confident in our Lord, no matter the circumstance, and we should never be moved because God is always in control.