January 24, 2010

God, Don't You Care? - Jan 24, 2010

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For the last couple Sundays we’ve been reading from the Gospel of Mark. In each reading Mark has given us a snapshot of Jesus. He’s been showing us something about who Jesus is, by describing something that He did.

As Mark has shown us these snapshots we’ve been able to see Jesus, and then we’ve also tried to see ourselves also. We ask, if this is Jesus, where am I in this picture.

Today our snapshot of Jesus comes from…

Mark 4:35-41 (NIV)

35That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Jesus was teaching the people along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The crowd that had gathered was so large, that He had decided to preach to them from a boat. So, He got into a boat and pushed off into the shallow waters. From there Jesus preached to them, all day long. When evening came, and Jesus was done teaching, He said goodbye to the people and headed for the other side of the lake.

The Sea of Galilee is nowhere near the size of Michigan’s Great Lakes, but it isn’t exactly small either. It’s a roundish lake. At it’s widest point it’s eight miles across, east to west. That’s further across than most places on the Puget Sound.

After a whole day of projecting His voice to crowds on the beach, Jesus was tired. It’s not surprising that He fell asleep as His disciples rowed across the lake.

Maybe this was the first snapshot of Jesus that His disciples saw on this particular day day. They looked back in the boat and saw the dedicated teacher, taking some well deserved rest. But it wasn’t long before this perception of Jesus changed in the disciples minds.

As they rowed, a nasty wind came barreling through the hills and roared across the lake unexpectedly. And the little fleet of boats was overtaken. Shaken. Battered by rough seas.

Now, these men weren’t vacationing tourists in rented paddleboats. Some of them were experienced fishermen. And we can assume that those who weren’t were at least familiar with travelling on the lake. But this storm was violent enough to shake their courage. In fact, Luke’s Gospel tells us point blank that they were in real danger.

Some bailed water as fast as they could. Some yelled directions against the howl of the wind. Some pulled on the oars with all the force their tired muscles would allow.

And then their eyes fell on Jesus. There He was, still in the back of the boat, sleeping on a cushion. This detail tells us a lot. Mark could have just said Jesus was sleeping. But he adds the detail of the cushion.

This was appalling. Here they were fighting for their lives, and Jesus was taking a nap, as if they were back in Capernaum in someone’s living room. So, in the voice of the disciples we hear contempt. Listen again to their words found in verse 38.

“…Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 3:38 NIV)

In this question there is an accusation. Maybe an accusation of laziness? Perhaps. But there is definitely a worse accusation here: that Jesus didn’t care.

This accusation has fallen on God throughout the course of human history, and still falls on God today: God don’t you care?

God, don’t you care about the hungry?
The homeless?
Don’t you care that I’ve lost my job?
That I have cancer? That my child has died?
That my friend has left the church?
Don’t you care about all the suffering people in Haiti?
Can’t you see what’s happening on this planet God?
Don’t you care?

The underlying implication is this: If God really cared, He’d listen to us and solve our problems, when and how we think they ought to be solved. Most of the time that means, “Right now God. If you really care about me you’re going to do this now. Now listen up I’ll tell you what you need to do.”

Obviously disciples weren’t thinking about all these things. But with their words they were expressing their doubt of God. Their doubt that He was watching over them, guarding them from danger.

And so Jesus did something.

Their questions was, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” His answer is in verse 39.

“39He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:38-40 NIV).

Jesus didn’t JUST still the storm in order to save these men from drowning. The danger from the storm was real, but so was the God who held their lives in the palm of His hand. Jesus stilled the storm so that He could SPEAK TO THEM, and address the greater problem that faced them out there on the lake. They were already drowning, in doubt and fear.

Now fear is an emotion. So, in one sense we can say that fear is unavoidable. We don’t consent to our emotions, they just are. People say things or do things that make us sad, angry, happy, frustrated, fearful. Pick an emotion. We can’t help it.

This is especially true for those who suffer from depression or anxiety stemming from a chemical imbalance in their body. Ever since sin entered the world, things don’t work the way God intended them to work. Our emotions included. We may feel something completely inappropriate, or illogical, and have no explanation for why we feel that way.

But, even though we can’t control whether we feel fear, we can learn to control our reaction to it. I’m not saying that we can learn to never flinch or feel afraid. I’m just saying we can learn to react better to fear. God can help.

As God’s followers our first response to fear is prayer. God instructs us to respond to fear with prayer in Psalm 50, verse 15.

“…call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Psalm 50:15 NIV).

This may seem like quite an obvious thing for a Christian to do, but in the middle of tragedy we may forget. Rushing to do what we can with our own hands, we easily forget to tag God with a prayer, saying, “Lord, I need some help here!”

That’s why God tells us to cultivate a constant prayer habit. He wants us to continually depend on Him through prayer. Philippians 4, verse 6 says…

“6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV).

When a problem is drawn out over a longer period of time, there is another thing we can do. We can review God’s past record to calm our fears.

When we look at how God has dealt with His people’s problems in the past, we see a pattern. There’s the initial problem. Then there’s time in which a person either doubts or trusts God. Then there’s the end of the matter when God comes to the rescue.

Think of Joseph in the Old Testament. He was sold into slavery by his own brothers. For years he remained a slave in one form or another. Then Joseph was made second in command over all Egypt and brought his whole family to live there in the rich region of Goshen. Problem, time in between, God comes to the rescue.

Think of Job. His children died. His possessions were taken away. His health went downhill in a serious way. There was a time where he questioned God’s wisdom in these things. Then God restored Job, gave Him more children, greater possessions and health once more. He lived to be an old, old man. Problem, time in between, God comes to the rescue.

Think of Adam and Eve. You thought you’ve messed things up before. They screwed up EVERYTHING. They brought sin and death into the perfect world God had made for them. They cursed every one of their descendants because of their foolishness. But, God promised to save them through one of Eve’s children. Thousands of years went by, but finally, the Savior arrived, set the sins of the whole human race on His back and took them away through dying on the cross. Problem, time in between, God come to the rescue.

When we’re in the middle of our problems and fear is biting at our hearts, we need to recall that we are just in that middle time. The God who says He loves us is NOT GOING TO FORGET ABOUT US! Maybe that sound cliché to say, the He’s not going to forget about us, but that’s His promise. He says, “Trust in me, I will not let you down.” In Romans 10, verse 9 it says…

“9That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame”” (Romans 10:9-11 NIV).

I find it pretty amazing that Jesus didn’t respond to the disciples’ question in the boat more sharply. They said,

“…Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 3:38 NIV)

YES HE CARED ABOUT THEM! That’s why He was there! That’s why God the Son had been born into the human race! That’s why He was preaching the message of salvation through the countryside in Galilee! He was on his way to Jerusalem where He would suffer for them, die for them, and take away the greatest threat to their souls, their own guilt and sin. And they asked DON’T YOU CARE?

Here is the snapshot of Jesus that I see here. I see a Polaroid picture labeled, “Exhibit A”. Here Jesus is the EVIDENCE that God does care. Jesus stilling the storm says: God is with us. He cares. He is to be trusted.

King David knew God would come through. He expressed his trust in the Psalm we read together earlier this morning. In Psalm 27, verse 1 David wrote…

“1 The LORD is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1 NIV).

And at the end of this Psalm, after David has talked about all the enemies and problems and fears that existed in his life then he says…

“13 I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD” (Psalm 27:13-14 NIV).

I heard someone once say, “Jesus is not going to come and solve our problems for us.” I’m here to tell you the opposite. All the problems we face in life ARE solved by Jesus. He either resolves them right here and now in life, or He supports us through them by His Holy Spirit until He takes us away from all problems and fears, into Heaven.

At the end of Mark’s reading the disciples whispered to one another, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” We know the answer to that question. He is our mighty God before whom even our greatest anxieties and our most sticky problems must eventually fall away.

Jesus is with you now, just as much as He was with those disciples. He before He ascended to the Father’s side He told them,

“…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”” (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV).

Wait for the LORD, dear Christians, be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. We’ve got problems now. We’re in that waiting time in between. But eventually He will come again, visibly. And He will come to rescue us. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

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