WHATEVER THE STORM
HE IS LORD OF THE STORM
IF HE SENDS IT TO HIS CHILD, HIS PURPOSE IS ALWAYS GRACE
IF HE ALLOWS IT FOR HIS MYSTERIOUS PURPOSES,
HE HAS AN ULTIMATE PLAN FOR GOOD
Over the next two weeks let us consider three kinds of storms:
- Daily storms we experience when we cling to idols
- Monster storms we experience when we cling to idols
- Storms we do not understand
1. DAILY STORMS WHEN WE CLING TO IDOLS
Last week “Laura-dancer” honestly answered the question: “When do you flee from God?” with:
“Wow — probably daily.”
Rebecca vulnerably shared the jealousy she felt when a new young worship leader was so talented — but quickly, she realized her idol temptation, repented, and was able to enter into worship with this leader.
As we are seeing more clearly into the murky waters of our souls, we are seeing how we are daily tempted by idols, and when we succumb, “forfeit the grace that could be ours.”
For the last two weeks I’ve been helping my grand-daughter Emily prepare her high school senior thesis speech. She is graduating as valedictorian of her Christian classical senior class. She has become passionate about how America has changed its perspective toward immigrants from an open “Golden Door” that proclaimed “Give me your tired, your poor…” to a very closed and cold attitude toward immigrants. Emily’s content was so strong, but not her delivery. Why? She is naturally reserved, uncomfortable with the spotlight. (As a toddler, she turned to us before she went to her new potty chair and said, “I’m going to potty — but I don’t want you to cheer and clap.)
But I knew there was something else holding her back. The idol of approval — the fear of man. I told her how Keller used to look at his congregation before he preached and say (silently) “You are not my life — Christ is my life.” Emily nodded, and yet, I still saw her retreat, and fail to connect with me when she spoke, quenching the Spirit. She was forfeiting the power that could be hers. She was also daily, in great angst about her speech. She wanted to do well, but worried she would not.
The day before she spoke we practiced again — and I said, “Emily — I know you care about what you are saying. I know you want them to care about this. THINK ABOUT EVERY WORD YOU ARE SAYING WHILE YOU ARE SAYING IT. Not only will that help you feel what God feels, it will help you forget about yourself. DO IT AGAIN — AND THINK THINK THINK ABOUT THE WORDS.”
Suddenly she locked eyes with me and passion rose in her. She began with the words on The Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor…” but it was different. A burst of light breaking through the dark clouds. What happened? Instead of thinking about herself and what others were thinking of her, by thinking about the words, she was setting her affections on God, on what He cared about, and she was transformed. I saw it before my very eyes. And that can happen to each of us moment by moment throughout the day. As we allow ourselves to be passionate about what He is passionate about, our fears and gloomy doubts are expelled.
I wanted to weep. I was flying to Virginia when she gave the actual speech, but her dad texted me: SHE WAS SO PASSIONATE. IT WAS TREMENDOUS!
And then she e-mailed me afterwards: “Grandma — I want to go into missions this year before college. I know it.” I wept again. Passion rising… the power of God breaking the fears that hold us back…
Many of you shared how letting go of an idol brought the sun out. Chris S. shared a story of her drawer being short on St. Patrick’s Day — fearing suspicion — but then reminded herself her identity was in Christ. She wrote: “My identity is hidden with Christ in God, no matter what misunderstanding or failure might befall me, no power of hell or scheme of man can ever pluck me from His hand. What relief there is in that!” Getting our identity from Christ — not from man — and not even from ourselves is huge. Both Renee and Susan had an epiphany of understanding about this last week and articulated it beautifully.
Daily, whenever we are aware of an idol temptation, we must turn and surrender to Him, and we will experience grace. It may be a quick fix, as with Emily and Chris, or it may take time, but it will come.
He is Lord of every storm.
2. MONSTER STORMS WHEN WE CLING TO IDOLS
Monster storms threaten to wreck our whole lives. They are especially grievous when we know, as Jonah did, that they are a direct result of our clinging to a worthless idol: that they have, indeed, been sent by God to bring his erring child to his senses.
Four years ago on Mother’s Day I got the surprising news that my nephew, who has always been a favorite of mine, was going to prison in Texas for four years for doing something “stupid and wrong” (his words). This week marked the end of those four long years and he was released and reunited with his wife and three young children. He knew that it was a storm sent by God and responded immediately in deep repentance. Though we felt his sentence severe, he did not. Though we were deeply grieved by the treatment in Texas prisons, concerned he might be a victim of violence or succumb, as many do, to the 130 degree summer temperatures. But he took it without complaint. When I visited him in prison, I thought, What a godly and humble young man.
This week he was released to his wife and three young children. He wondered if he would ever see them again, if he would survive, if he would ever see his home again, and is tearful and so grateful. Though there are many challenges ahead, he is a transformed man, and is experiencing the power of God, no longer forfeiting the grace that God longs to daily give him.
And as so often happens, a storm sent by God to His child will impact all who love that child. But our amazing God can use that for good. My nephew’s storm hit his whole family and others as well. But those who have run to God have been changed for the good. I know that before my nephew went to prison, my prison ministry was lacking in passion — and now I am seeing inmates more and more as God does and I have PASSION.
He is Lord of every storm.
3. STORMS WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND (Next Week)
MY NEWS — AND HAPPY HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!
Before we plunge into our study, I will share my personal news, which also explains why I must do a two week study right now. (The first week has more homework than the second, so if you want to slow down more this first week, go ahead.)
Last week my daughter Sally called me with some concerns the doctors had concerning her pregnancy. They said the baby was very small — at the 11th percentile. The baby was also breech, so they planned to try to turn her. But then Sally’s water broke.
Had we lived a century ago it would have been a fatal scenario. I wept to think of that and thanked God so for modern medicine and the C-section that rescued them. How thankful we are for His mercies. Sadie was a gift after years of infertility. Claire’s life was rescued by modern medicine. Mercy. Mercy. Mercy. I am here with them now and filled with gratitude. Thank you for your prayers and love.
I also have a renewed appreciation for mothers — this brings back so many memories — dealing with sensitive children’s feelings, with the constant clamoring for needs to be met — with the mess and the multitude of tasks — all to be done calmly and with gratitude! I used to get bent out of shape on Mother’s Day because I expected GREAT ACCOLADES and didn’t always get them. The children were too little, and for the first several years Steve didn’t relate because “I wasn’t his mother!” (But he soon realized it was a day he needed to fuss over me!) But whether you are recognized or not, I THINK WHAT YOU ARE DOING IS AMAZING, and God sees and is pleased with even a cup of water given to a little child.
We are also so blessed if we have physical or spiritual children. This is a special day. Happy Mother’s Day to every mother reading this blog. And for those of you who are not mothers, but long to be, I pray God will give you the desires of your heart or change the desires of your heart. I know this is a hard day for you.
1. What thoughts do you have about the opening and why?
2. Share one reason you are thankful for your mother.
Monday-Wednesday: Bible Study
DAILY STORMS WHEN WE CLING TO IDOLS
Both Emily and Chris had to overcome the approval idol, the “fear of man.” How did each do it and how does either speak to you?
3. Read 1 Peter 3:14-15 in this Good News, or in your own translation:
Who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?
But even if you should suffer for doing what is right, how happy you are! Do not be afraid of anyone, and do not worry.
A. What reassurance is there in the first part of this verse?
B. But if we do suffer, what reassurance should still help us overcome the fear of man?
C. Is this fear of man, this need for approval, an idol in your life that daily tempts you? Explain, and then speak the truth to your soul.
4. A second idol that tempts us to forfeit grace is control or power. I myself often want to “fix” people, instead of trusting God. I often think of the example of Christ — who faced so much more. Read 1 Peter 2:21-23 and explain how Christ was able to do this.
5. How could this help you overcome your control/power idol? Be specific.
6. A third idol that daily tempts us is comfort/security. Rebecca’s testimony in regard to food was that she had to stop running to food and start running to God. She read books that helped her grow in intimacy with God. She also had to endure pain, but then experienced peace and freedom. How does Hebrews 12:1-2 speak to this?
Monster Storms When We Cling To Idols
7. Read Jonah 2:1-4 again. Who sent the storm and why, do you think?
8. This week I’ve been reading to Sadie and she has a book about Jonah. I find so many children’s books distort the real story, wanting to make all the Bible characters simplistic heroes. Sadie’s book said, “Jonah loved God but he was afraid of the Ninevites so he ran way.” This makes Jonah sound nobler than he really was. According to Jonah 4:1-2, what was his real reason for fleeing?
9. In the same way, though I love this little girl and her telling of Jonah, in the beginning of the story I see the author of this children’s version made the same error — but the rest is great. Watch and comment.
Thursday-Friday: Keller Sermon
Listen to this in the series: They Greatly Feared. If you are purchasing this individually instead of in the set, then go to this link
10. The stormy sea (What do storms reveal about every human heart?)
11.The religious sailors (Why doesn’t their religion help them?)
12. The willing substitute (How do you deal with fear?)
13. What is your take-away for week 1?
WEEK 2. STORMS WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND
I do not understand why Joyce’s husband left her when her child with so many physical needs was born. I do not understand why Chris’s son was assaulted and died. I do not understand why Elizabeth is plagued with physical pain that feels like fire ants all over her body. Each of you, I know, has experienced a storm you do not understand. Jesus makes it very clear that not every storm is a result of personal sin, but that it can be used to reveal the glory of God.
And so part of trusting God is to accept the mystery of suffering, and to know that in the end, He will do all things well. That even perhaps, as Tolkein says, “Everything sad will be untrue.” These mysterious storms we will consider in this 2nd week of this study. But we know: He is Lord of every storm.
Perhaps the worst storm our country has endured in the last twenty-five years is 9/11.
In God’s providence, Keller began preaching on Jonah two weeks before 9/11. A story that talked about what happens to us when we are overcome by hatred and fear. During that week Redeemer had a special service — and that is part of the Jonah package. It is also a free sermon.
This is the whole service following 9/11: LINK
Also for those who are interested in another message, this is one that ministered to me deeply in the midst of my worst storm — my husband’s death. It is called “Heman’s Cry of Darkness.” We will look at Psalm 88 this week. Here is the link — it is 2.50 so it is optional:
(A funny story with this sermon. One time our own dear Anne, our nurse from Carolina (I think South) was going through a terrible time and I recommended this sermon to her, but she had it in her mind that I wrote Haman instead of Heman. So she listened to a stern sermon about Haman and the sin of pride. (It was as opposite as you can imagine to the soothing message I wanted her to hear.) But vulnerably, and I will always remember this about her, wrote: “I needed to hear that so badly.” Her humble heart is one of the reasons she is so mature.)
1. Find one or two comments that stood out to you from your sisters’ comments last week and explain why.
2. Each of you has no doubt experienced a storm you did not understand. Yet if you look back, you may also be able to see ways God prepared you for that storm. If so, share something about that.
Monday-Wednesday Bible Study
Last week the sermon showed us how religion fails us in the midst of fear, but the “greater Jonah” never does. I want you to begin to contrast the first and second Jonah. Read again, Jonah 1:1-6 and also Matthew 8:23-26.
3. Find all the similarities in the two stories that you can.
4. Find all the differences — and why “the greater Jonah” is One we can trust in the fiercest storm.
5. Psalm 88 is one of the two psalms of lament that do not close with trust in God. Derek Kidner explains that even God understands that there are going to be times when our pain is too great to end our prayer with a resolve of trust. This ministered deeply to me, that God should so understand and forgive our weakness. Read Psalm 88. Find the lament, the despair — and see the graciousness of God to us when we rail at Him, the giver of every good gift. In miniature I’ve seen that a bit in 23 month old Sadie this week — as she is upset with Sally for having another little girl. She doesn’t understand and she cries — and Sally simply holds her and reassures her of her love. If anything quickens you in Psalm 88, share it here.
Thursday/Friday: Listen to one of Keller’s sermons listed above and share your thoughts.
Rebecca found the link to Heman’s Cry of Darkness as a free sermon!
Saturday: What is your take-a-way and why?