THE QUESTIONS JESUS ASKED: Why Are You So Afraid? (Matthew 8:23-27)
By Ted Schroder,
January 8, 2017
"Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, 'Lord, save us! We're going to drown!' He replied, 'You of little faith, why are you so afraid?'"
Fear comes from unexpected storms in life. They had no warning of the storm that hit them. Panic gripped them. They feared they were going to drown. It is the unexpected that interrupts our complacency. We sail along in life, taking care of ourselves, our concerns and our responsibilities, thinking that we have everything under control. Then, without warning, disaster strikes. We get an unexpected diagnosis. Our investments tank. Our business partner fails us. Our spouse serves us divorce papers. Our loved one is in trouble. Our children reject us. Our health deteriorates. Our political party loses power. When hurricanes hit we find that there is nothing more we can do but to evacuate. When we return we find trees down, our yards devastated, our house damaged. We are depressed at the prospect of clean up and repair.
When tornados strike without warning there is a swath of destruction throughout the community destroying homes and lives. When earthquakes occur the buildings shake uncontrollably throwing cabinets off the walls, smashing windows, cracking foundations and roads are blocked by the earth rupturing and fissures forming. When wildfires race across country driven by winds they devour forests and homes that stand in their way.
Fear is part of the human condition. We are fragile creatures at the mercy of the elements. We think that we are in control and we do everything we can to maintain the illusion of coping and managing our circumstances. But there are times when we panic, when we can no longer cope, when we fear that we are having a breakdown. Reason, our vaunted educational attainments, our intellectual abilities, our arrogant optimism, our prowess, our social standing, our connections, our wealth, our experience in problem solving, is of no help. We feel that we are drowning. We come to the end of ourselves and we cry out: "Lord, save us!"
The Lord then tells us what our problem is: "you have little faith." It is not that we have no faith. We are, after all, followers of Jesus. The problem is not absence of faith. We have believed in the Lord and we follow him. We have been baptized and worship on Sundays. We read our Bibles and pray. We know the Gospel. We believe, but our faith is deficient. Our faith is defective. Our faith is ineffective. Our faith is weak. In moments of danger and distress our faith fails us. Like the father of the boy afflicted by seizures, we cry, "I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief" (Mark 9:24).
What is the measure of your faith? On a scale of one to ten how would you quantify your faith? When the disciples could not heal the boy they asked 'why?' Jesus replied, "Because you have little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you" (Matthew 17:20). "What he meant was: 'If you have faith enough, all difficulties can be solved, and even the hardest task can be accomplished.' Faith in God is the instrument which enables men to remove the hills of difficulty which block their path." (William Barclay)
You can have faith as little as a mustard seed, but it can accomplish great things if you are willing to use it in moments of danger. Consider the storm in your life, whatever it is: physical, emotional, financial, or relational; whatever the difficulty is that you face, how can you exercise the faith that you have, whether little or great? Your tendency is to worry about everything that has brought you to this point. You blame yourselves for not taking better care of yourselves and your finances, you review all the poor decisions that you or your loved ones have made, you get down on yourself and others. You look ahead and see all the problems you face. In other words, you focus on yourselves and your earthly circumstances. You are feeding your fears. You catastrophize. This is the opposite of faith. You are not looking to the greatness of God and his provision for your life. You are acting as though it all depends on you, and that you have to take care of everything. The waves are sweeping over your boat and you fear you are going to drown. But you are not on your own. Jesus is in the boat with you.
You may believe that Jesus is with you, but your faith is so little that you think that he is asleep and indifferent to your difficulties. Your little faith is like that of the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel who called on the name of their god, but there was no response. Elijah taunted them saying, "Shout louder! Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened" (1 Kings 18:27). You think that the Lord is absent, or that he doesn't care for you in your crisis. There are no answers to your prayers. You are sinking under the waves and there is one to help. No wonder, you believe Ben Franklin's saying: "God helps those who help themselves." If you are sinking then it is your fault for not learning to swim. If you are sinking then you should have consulted the weather forecast before setting out. Use your brain, take precautions, update your insurance policies, don't marry the reprobate, don't move to Florida! All this may be good advice after the fact, but it is no help in the middle of a crisis.
Faith is trust in a great God. Faith is believing in the promises of God in the Scriptures. Faith is dependence on a loving and caring God. Faith is a personal relationship with God who has revealed himself to us in Jesus. Faith is the realization that the Lord is with you always. Faith is believing that you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength. Faith is believing that no matter what happens God is working out his purposes in your life. Faith is believing that Jesus can calm the storm. Even the winds and the waves obey Jesus. He is the Lord of nature. There is no storm that is beyond his control. He is with you in the storm, through the storm and after the storm. He has experienced the pain of betrayal, the pain of physical suffering, the pain of bearing the sins of the world, the pain of aloneness, the despair of rejection, the terrors of hell. There is no depth he has not plunged. When you think that you are sinking you believe that he is underneath you to hold you up and save you. "Underneath are the everlasting arms" (Deut.33:27). When storms arise in your lives and fears chill your hearts Jesus is there to preserve you. You have to trust that he will bring you through to safety.
The bottom line is whether you have enough faith to believe that Jesus is able to calm the winds and waves in your lives. Do you believe that he is Lord of all, Lord of nature and Lord of life? Do you believe that he is Lord even over death? "We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us" (2 Cor.1:8-10).
Fear is a choice. The Lord is in the boat with you. Trust in him to take care of you. Exercise your faith and stop listening to your fears. Faith will drive out your fears. "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1). Pray for the gift of faith in a great God.
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