My college degree was in history. It was kind of a back-up plan, in case churches wouldn't hire me or fired me. I thought that I could get a teaching credential or go to law school with a history degree. Praise God, I never had to do that!
But I do remember a few things from my study of history. I remember that the United States has had financial recessions and depressions during our history. The Great Depression was our worst economic event so far. Of course, the Civil War, and the two World Wars harmed our nation greatly and caused untold heartache.
But we have had six events that historians call "panics." They happened in 1819, 1837, 1857, 1873, 1893, and in 1907. Each of these panics began with changes in the economy, politics, governmental regulations, and in the banking industry. These changes were not that devastating or cataclysmic, but they got people worried. Then people began to think those dangerous two words:
"what if ..." and speculate what might happen. Soon people were not operating on the basis of facts but on their fears. From there, fear became irrational. There were runs on the bank's holdings, riots in the streets, and violence. They panicked! And, as they say, the rest is history.
When people panic, it is a very dangerous thing! Have you ever been in a building that is on fire, an airliner with an emergency, or a shooting incident? People can be so panicked that they stampede, harm others, and hurt themselves.
Folks, in difficult times like these,
it is vital that we do not surrender to panic! If you aspire to be a mature Christian, then we need to know how to handle our emotions with God's help. The best place to learn that is in God's Word, the Bible.
In February, in our EHCC Bible readings, we read Mark 4. It was before the coronavirus became the big thing that it has become. One morning in my personal devotional time, I read Mark 4:37-41. This is where disciples got panicked. They had finished a busy day of teaching and preaching with Jesus by the Sea of Galilee. As the day ended, they took a boat to the other side of the lake when a ferocious storm came up. Although several of Jesus' disciples who were experienced sailors, they panicked!
I had no idea of what was coming on March 15. But God did! As I read that passage that day, I jotted down
five valuable pieces of advice that God showed me in those verses. I pray they will be helpful to you as we go through this hard time. Here they are:
First, don't expect to always have calm waters. It should not have surprised Peter, James and John when this storm came up. They were fisherman who sailed the Sea of Galilee hundreds of times and seen many storms. Meteorologists will tell you that the terrain around Galilee is very conducive for storms. Wherever cool mountain thermals meet the warm temperatures of a plain, it will produce storms.
Yet, the disciples seem totally panicked by this storm. It makes you wonder why, doesn't it? Perhaps, they thought that they would not face storms if Jesus was in the boat. Nevertheless, they were caught flat-footed and unprepared for the storm.
Panic will set in if people are not realistic about life. There are people who think that because you are a Christian, you will never have problems, never get sick, and never have conflict. In John (16:33), Jesus said:
"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." So, that means that Christians may lose their jobs, get cancer, have financial setbacks and face hardships. Christians will have wayward kids, have spouses who leave them, and have disappointments of all kinds.
If you want to prevent panic and the accompanying folly that goes with it, expect storms in your life, maybe even more storms than others get. Remember: being a Christian doesn't take away your problems, but it will give you the strength to face them!
Secondly, don't lose your perspective in danger. Three of the disciples were fisherman. They must have gone through dozens of storms before. No doubt, this was a huge storm, but these experienced sailors were panicked. When you are panicked you can lose perspective and behave foolishly.
Panic begins with worry. Then, worry moves fear. Fear is like the wash cycle in washing machine, wiping out logic and clear thinking. Panic is the spin cycle that whirls you around with irrational thoughts that result from fear. When you are in a panic, facts, the Bible, your faith, and good sense go out the window. Panic will spin you around by our emotions until you lose perspective on reality, truths, and God.
Proverbs (19:20) says:
"Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise." If you are going to prevent panic, you need a good church, good friends, a small group Bible study. They will help you keep God's perspective.
Thirdly, don't assume that God doesn't know. Verse 38 in this story says
"Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion" in the boat while the storm raged. Jesus was sleeping so peacefully that the disciples thought that Jesus didn't know about the storm. They assumed that Jesus needed to be awakened and brought up to speed on what was going on. The disciples wrongly presumed that Jesus was oblivious to the storm. Instead, Jesus was resting in the sovereignty of God the Father. That's why He was sleeping. Jesus didn't have a thing to worry about because He knew that God knew.
Psalm 139:7 asks:
"Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?" The answer is nowhere! God knows about your health, your bank account, your problems, your needs, your family, and your future. 1 John 3:20 say:
"... He knows everything." There is no need to worry, no need to fear, and no need to panic!
Fourthly, don't assume that God doesn't care. This must have been a ferocious storm because many of Jesus' disciples, who were experienced sailors, were afraid. When Jesus was sleeping soundly and unconcerned, they jumped to a wrong conclusion. In Mark 4:38, they said:
"Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" Well, nothing could have been further from the truth!
When the storms of life come and you are in despair, always remember: that God deeply cares about you and whatever are your worries and cares. He may not answer your prayers as quickly or exactly as you wish, but God deeply cares about us. God told Isaiah (59:1):
"Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear." Believe that He knows, cares, and will help you through the storms of life.
1 Peter 5:7 says:
"Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." God will help you, guide you, empower you, and will calm your soul in whatever storm you face if you trust Him. In times of panic, you really have only two options, to pray or to panic. Panic won't accomplish a thing! But prayer will unleash the power of God in your life!
Lastly, don't forget that God is all-powerful. In their panic, the disciples forgot who was in the boat with them. This was not some ordinary man! Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, was there in their boat. I imagine that the disciples were astonished when Jesus got up, scolded the wind, and spoke to the waves saying,
"Quiet! Be still!" (Mark 4:39). And they were dumbfounded when the wind died down and storm was gone. It is no wonder that in verse 41, they asked:
"Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!" They forgot God's power and they forgot that Jesus was God!
As we go through hardships and difficulties, it is easy to get panicked and forget the authority and power of Jesus. He can order the storm to cease! He can calm our storms, answer our prayers, and solve our problems. That is why Jesus asked the disciples back then and asks us today:
"Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?"
Today, I ask you to join me in trusting Jesus, living confidently for Him in the middle of the storms, and living assuredly that He can calm these storms! Mature followers of Jesus do not panic! They know that their only danger is the storm on the inside, not the storm on the outside. So, they use faith in God's power to stop their panic and find God's peace.
Casting Crowns has a song that says:
"I'll praise You in this storm, and I will lift my hands for You are who You are. No matter where I am, and every tear I've cried, You hold me in Your hand, You never left my side, and though my heart is torn, I will praise You in this storm."
I pray that you will praise God in the middle of this storm too and not panic! I strive to do the same!!
Well, that ends my epistle for another week.
I hope you will visit the "online" campus of East Hills Church this Sunday!
Bring a Bible and a smile! Invite your friends, family, neighbors, and work contacts to watch.
Pastor Jonathan and I are still available by email. Let us know how we can help you and pray for you. Meanwhile, don't panic! Trust God! He is with you right now!