Monday, 25 June 2018

Calming the storms of life.

Job 38: 1-11; We all suffer and sometimes rail against the injustices of life. This is part of the human experience. The message of this book is that while human questioning is not to be discouraged we are nevertheless so small and insignificant and powerless in comparison to God that our speculations have no chance of understanding the mysteries of life. The only proper response to the omnipotence of God is submission and faith. There is no automatic connection between spirituality and health and prosperity. The only option is to believe that God has a good plan for our lives. 
2 Corinthians 6: 1-13; God's plan for Paul's Christian ministry has resulted in plenty of hardships, misunderstandings and opposition but as this mirrors the ministry of Christ, Paul is accepting of it and in a way sees it as a validation. The opening verse is interesting "As we work together with Christ" Paul sees Christian ministry as collaborating with Christ and every believer as caught up in God's work of salvation. 
Mark 4: 35-41; The very first report of the content of Jesus' preaching is in Mark chapter 1 and is "The time is fulfilled. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel". Today's offering provides an example of what that means. The calming of the storm has a deep spiritual meaning so it matters not one jot whether the incident itself can be convincingly explained or not. Jesus' sleep is key. In the depth of the storm Jesus enjoys perfect calm and peace. The waters (as elsewhere in the Bible) double as a metaphor for chaos and disorder and Jesus has mastery over it. The disciples are rescued from the chaos and fear of life.    

Is there anyone in this church who has never suffered, or who life has dealt a body blow, which left you reeling; or someone who has been conned, belittled, seen disreputable people prosper and good people go to the wall and has been left wondering what on earth is going on and wondering whether there really is a guiding hand in the universe that we can say is “good”?
I suggest we have all experiences like that and therefore the book of Job is for all of us.
It is part of our human nature to try and understand what is going on but in the end we fail miserably. We have to admit defeat and succumb to the fact that as it says in Isaiah; 
Isaiah 55:8-9 New King James Version (NKJV)
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
We have to submit to the sovereignty of God. There is no direct connection between having faith and worldly success, health or good fortune.
If you need convincing look at the life of Jesus, any of the apostles or especially Paul here today.
He has endured “afflictions, hardships, calamaties, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger” all for doing God’s work. And it is God’s work.
This passage today starts “As we work together with Christ”. The risen Christ is living and active and as Christians we work together with him in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Being at one with God and doing his will, will not win you many friends or plaudits in this world but what you will gain is the inner peace and joy that comes from knowing that you are at one with God and his people.
This kind of serenity, deep inner peace is shown in the acted parable of the stilling of the storm.
Now I could spend ages trying to convince you that this incident actually happened, or conversely I could spend ages convincing you that it didn’t, and neither makes any difference to the spiritual truth that is being conveyed by this acted parable.
This storm was so great, that the boat was already being swamped and the disciples were terrified.
It is no accident that Jesus was asleep, totally at peace amidst the storms and chaos of life.
We must understand that in Biblical Hebrew thought, the sea, water in general stood for chaos and disorder. In Genesis 1, in the creation story, God created the world by parting the waters. In creation God’s Spirit brought order out of chaos.
In calming the storm, Jesus displays that same divine mastery over the waters, and through him the disciples are rescued from the chaos and fear of life.
This is one of the gifts of faith in God and his gospel of salvation. Whatever is going on in this world, whatever is happening to us, however much injustice and opposition there is from our unbelieving and fallen world, we have a faith and hope that can never be taken away from us.
It is that gift of faith and hope in the future that is the ground on which our faith stands. It is that peace, which is God’s gift that we wish to impart to others.
It rests on the identity of that man Jesus Christ. When the storm was stilled, it says they were filled with great awe and said to one another “Then who is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
He is the person who revealed God’s character and will to us. The man who died for us. Jesus Christ, the son of God. 

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