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A Calm in the Storm

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A Calm in the Storm

Text: Philippians 4:4-9 (NIV)

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.[1]

I.         Introduction:

In order to realize the worth of the anchor, we need to feel the stress of the storm.

But

Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.

   Publius Syrus

--James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988)

   When everything has fallen apart around me, it is God, the psalmist says, upon whom we can depend. It is God upon whom we can trust, and it is God upon whom we will call if we die in the middle of the tragedy.

   I heard a television interview with a lady who had been in the closet under the stairs during the hurricane. They asked what was she doing as her house fell apart around her. She said, "All we could do was pray."

   I saw a video taken by a man and woman during the storm. They got in the bathtub, and he said the thing he wanted to do was hold the trigger down on that video camera, because they both thought they were going to die, and this at least would be a record of the last moments of their lives.

   When these tragedies happen, when there is no explanation and no reason beyond what meteorologists will tell us is a natural occurrence, we can only say, "God, you are my rock; you are my fortress. As my house falls apart around me, you are my hope and my strength ."

   -- David L. Haun, "The Whys That Have No Answer," Preaching Today, Tape No. 112.

Central Idea: Reliance on God relieves distress.

Transition: Its not the storms of life that are the real test of our relationship with God, but it is the trust and confidence we have in Him under pressure that is the real test. The storm is only the tool that tests our faith, but it is our faith that is on trial. The Apostle Paul suffered and was in prison, but he trusted in God throughout all of the trials he faced and experienced peace. If we follow his advice today, we can face trials and hardship with peace in our hearts. He tells us to:

II.       Rejoice in the Present

A.      In Him, Not Feelings

-          It is your savior, not your situations that bring you joy.

-          Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble, but be not afraid, I have overcome the world.”

B.      In Harmony, Not Fighting

-          As far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men

-          If your brother has anything against you, resolve it, and then bring your gift to the altar.

-          Just like Cain and Able, if you carry hatred in your heart against your brother, you can not carry love in your heart to God.

-          It is like trying to use a net to carry water. Some of you carry relationships in your hearts that are punching holes in the lining, and your love for God is draining out.

-          How can you claim to love God whom you haven’t seen if you can’t love your brother whom you have seen?

-          How can you love God if you don’t love the child whom He loves?

-          Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. (Matthew 5:9)

C.      In Hope, Not Fearing

-          You can’t rejoice with hope if you fear his coming, any more than you can walk both North and South at the same time.

-          In the Bugs Bunny cartoon, Bugs would get someone chasing him, and then throw an a costume and wait for the one who was chasing him and when they would ask which way he went, he woud point both ways at once and say, “He went that-a-way.”

III.     Relax in Peace

A.      Reliant in Prayer

-          You can’t trust and tremble at the same time.

*   When Scripture encourages us to pray without ceasing, and to cast all our care upon him, it is literally saying redirect those restless, energetic minds into a positive stream of communication with God.  Turn it all into prayer! 

   Instead of nursing our wounds of self-pity, pray for the grace to forgive.  Instead of worrying about those for whom we are responsible, ask God to intervene and lift the burden from our shoulders.  Instead of thinking creatively about how to bring someone else down, pray creatively about how to build them up. 

   When I lived in England, my landlady had a little wall plaque that read, "Why pray when you can worry?"  I always saw the humor of it--and the reverse psychology was good for me.  It always drove me to really say, "Why worry when you can pray?" 

   -- John Guest in Only a Prayer Away.  Christianity Today, Vol. 33, no. 2.

* What we do in the crisis always depends on whether we see the difficulties in the light of God, or God in the shadow of the difficulties.

   -- G. Campbell Morgan,  Leadership, Vol. 9, no. 3.

B.      Releasing  Thanks

-          If you count your blessings, you begin to lose count of your troubles.

-          Have you ever had someone counting while you were trying to count something else? It is hard to keep track of where you are at in your counting the one thing, when the counting of the other thing is going on. Try counting your blessings, and you will lose track of your troubles.

C.      Retreating to shelter

-          If you trust God with your troubles, he will guard your heart with peace. It is a peace that we can not come to through reason, or understanding, because it is beyond all that. It is a peace that only God can give, and it might fly in the face of every thing that our reason would tell us. After all, reason would have told David not to fight Goliath, but God delivered David from the hands of the giant because David was assured in his heart with the knowledge that God was greater than the giants in his life.

-          He tells us to cast our burdens on Him and he will give us rest for our souls. He will be our shelter in the time of storm, and he will guard our hearts in mind.

-          Isaiah says the God will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are stayed on thee.

-          It is God’s desire that you run to him when you are troubled about anything, and he will calm your fears, and guard your hearts.

-          It reminds me of the picture of the little boy on the playground that has lost his fear of the bully, because his daddy is now sitting on the park bench within earshot.

IV.    Reflect the Positive

A.      Examining Godly Principles

-          We live in a world polluted by ungodly ideas, but like a breath of fresh air in smoke filled room, so are Godly principles in a world choking on sin.

-          Paul says to take in the Godly principles, and breathe deep.

B.      Exhibiting Godly Practice

-          Not just reflect in our minds, but reflect in our lives.

-          It is not just in our minds, but in our practice that these Godly principles must be allowed to work. Just as air goes into the lungs, but must be taken into our blood stream through our lungs, and be delivered to the entire body through the bloodstream, so it is with godly principles. They must not only enter our minds, but Godly principles must be allowed to pump through our hearts and out into the reality of our lives, pumping life through the bloodstream of our very existence. To many people who call themselves Christians are holding their breath. They are eager to take in the beautiful truths and wonderful Godly principles of the Bible, but are reluctant, or unwilling to exhale them into the atmosphere of everyday activity.

-          Not only was this Paul’s desire for them, it was his demonstration to them. Paul proved to them it could be done. Paul is saying that the ideas must become a reality. Unless we are real Christians, our peace is just a figment of our imagination.

-          We do not get to heaven by our works, but what we do demonstrates who we have become in Christ, and we have become what we are in Christ by grace, so it is by grace that we are saved, it is not our own work, it is Christ working in us. You say you have faith, but show me your works, for faith without works is not a living faith, but a figment of your imagination. Not a living thing, but a dead idea. Paul says carry those Godly ideas to the level of reality, and do not think you will be life-flighted to heaven on the wings of a dream, because the dream will turn into a vapor and you will come crashing down to cold hard reality.

C.      Exploring God’s Presence

-          If you do these things, not only will the peace of God guard your     hearts, but the God of Peace will be with you.

* Listening to a student read the Scripture in seminary chapel, Joseph Sittler, now blind, heard something he'd never heard before. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me."

   "The text does not speak," said Sittler, "of the valley of death but the valley of the shadow of death. There is a difference. ... The wonderful truth ... is that God is with us now. It is not simply that God will be with us in the experience of death itself; it is that God will walk with us through all of life, a life over which death sometimes casts its shadow."

   -- Quoted by Martin Marty in "Context," August 1 and 15, 1984. Christianity Today, Vol. 30, no. 2.

*    One night, while my young son, Ryan, was sleeping, a storm began brewing outside. After a loud clap of thunder, I heard Ryan wake up and run to find me. When I tucked him back into bed, he asked me to stay with him until he fell asleep.

   As I lay there with him, I realized Ryan hadn't asked me to make the storm go away, but to stay with him. How many times, I wondered, have I asked God to take away the storms of life, when instead, I need to ask Him to stay with me and help me weather the storms more peacefully!

   -- Kim Sherer, Ponca City, OK.  Today's Christian Woman, "Heart to Heart."  

* Peace is not the absence of trouble, but the presence of God.

   -- J. Oswald Sanders.  Today's Christian Woman, "Heart to Heart."

V.      Conclusion:

   Do you remember Tom Dooley, that young doctor who organized hospitals, raised money, and literally poured out his life in the service of the afflicted peoples of Southeast Asia? Here was a man whose deep relationship with God motivated him to abandon a soft career in the United States for a desperately difficult ministry overseas. In the end that relationship enabled him to die victoriously at the age of thirty-four. Here is the letter which on December 1, 1960, he wrote to the president of Notre Dame, his alma mater:

   Dear Father Hesburgh: They've got me down. Flat on the back, with plaster, sand bags, and hot water bottles. I've contrived a way of pumping the bed up a bit so that, with a long reach, I can get to my typewriter. Two things prompt this note to you. The first is that whenever my cancer acts up a bit, and it is certainly "acting up" now, I turn inward. Less do I think of my hospitals around the world, or of 94 doctors, fund-raisers, and the like. More do I think of one Divine Doctor and my personal fund of grace. It has become pretty definite that the cancer has spread to the lumbar vertebra, accounting for all the back problems over the last two months. I have monstrous phantoms; all men do. And inside and outside the wind blows. But when the time comes, like now, then the storm around me does not matter. The winds within me do not matter. Nothing human or earthly can touch me. A peace gathers in my heart. What seems unpossessable, I can possess. What seems unfathomable, I can fathom. What is unutterable, I can utter. Because I can pray. I can communicate. How do people endure anything on earth if they cannot have God?

   What though my joys and comforts die? The Lord my Savior liveth;

   What though the darkness gather round? Songs in the night he giveth;

   No storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that refuge clinging;

   Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?

      Robert Lowry

   I know a man who was bearing the weight of the whole world on his shoulders. His name is Dr. George McCauslin. Dr. George McCauslin was one of the greatest YMCA directors this world has ever seen. But some years ago, he was serving a YMCA out in western Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. And in that western Pennsylvania YMCA that was losing membership, that had financial difficulties and terrible staff problems, George McCauslin found himself working 85 hours a week. He found himself getting little sleep at night. He took little time off. And when he was off, he was worrying and fretting about the problems of this ymca.

   He went to a therapist who told him he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He had to learn somehow to let go and somehow to let God into his problems. He didn't know quite how to do that.

   So George McCauslin took an afternoon off, took a pad and paper, and took a walk in the western Pennsylvania woods. As he walked through the cool woods, he could just feel his tight body and his tight neck start to relax. He sat down under a tree and sighed. For the first time in months he relaxed.

   He got out his pad and paper, and he decided that he would let them go, the burdens of his life. He wrote God a letter. He said, "Dear God, today I hereby resign as general manager of the universe. Love, George."

   Then with a twinkle in his eye that is so characteristic of George McCauslin, he said, "And wonder of wonders, God accepted my resignation."

   -- Thomas Tewell, "The Weight of the World [1995]," Preaching Today, Tape No. 147.

The more we depend on God, the more dependable we find he is.

   Cliff Richards (1940- )


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[1] The Holy Bible : New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984.

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