When Grace Sends You into the Storm

Leslie Basham: When you go through a storm that stretches you, do you know what that is? Paul David Tripp says . . . 

Paul David Tripp: It's grace! It's grace! It's grace! God will take you where you haven't chosen to go in order to produce in you what you could not achieve on your own. That's glorious grace.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, February 20.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: When you walk through a trial that you never asked for, it’s tempting to feel alone; to wonder if God really cares about your situation. I've discovered that at most points in life you’re either in a trying situation or coming out of one or about to head into one—that’s what life is like.

The disciples of Jesus went through a very difficult, frightening storm. In the midst of that storm they came to see their Savior in a whole new way. We’re about to get some important perspective about the storms we go through as we listen to the story.

We’re going to hear a message Paul David Tripp delivered at Revive '13, a conference for women's ministry leaders that we hosted last fall. Paul is an author and speaker. H has a passion to help counsel people with the wisdom of God's Word as they walk through life’s most difficult situations. Let’s listen to Paul David Tripp.

Paul David Tripp: Think with me right now. If you could ask God one question, what would it be? If you could just get His ear for one moment and ask Him one question that you would get an immediate answer to, what would that be?

For many people, if they could get away from their fear and get away from their formal theology for a moment, and be in a moment where they're really honest about themselves and honest about life and honest about their struggles as a believer, they would say to God, "Do You really care? Do You really care?"

Oh, I don't mean as an item of theology . . . do You care about my marriage that's gone places I never thought my marriage would go? God, where are You? Do you care about this child that I was so glad to receive that now wants nothing to do with You and nothing to do with me? God, where are You? Do You really care?

Do You care that I lost my job eighteen months ago because a man a thousand miles away made some executive decision for the betterment of the company, and we haven't had work for eighteen months, and we're sinking down into this hole of financial need? And it seems like nothing will stop us. God, do You really care?

Do You care about the fact that my body has been taken over by a disease that makes me feel weak, that haunts me every moment of my day? God, are You there? Do You care? Do You care about that betrayal of a friendship that has ripped my heart apart? I thought I'd never face this with this person.

God, do You care? Do You care about the fact that I'm dealing with the weaknesses of old age, and I feel so alone and so vulnerable? Are You there? Do You care?

If your gospel can't sit with people in those situations with confidence and encouragement, you will help no one. They don't need you to say, "This too will pass. I'm there for you. I understand." Baloney! It doesn't help. It doesn't work.

Maybe the two most important questions we can ask between the "already" of our salvation and the "not yet" of our final resurrection are these two questions: First one—what in the world is God doing? If you're going to live a life of confident faith and if you're going to help others, you've got to be able to answer that question. You can't leave that question unanswered. What in the world is God doing?

The corollary question is this: And how in the world should I respond to it?

I want you to take your Bibles and turn to Mark 6. We're going to look at verses 45–52. I love the gospel of Mark. I love how fast-paced it is, and how straightforward it is, and hard-hitting. Mark sticks in your face that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, and he gives you no room for neutrality. That's Mark. I love Mark.

Mark is not like Luke. Luke makes all kinds of editorial comments. Mark is just history, history, history, history—just Jesus-in-your-face. It's wonderful. That's where I need Jesus.

Along with that, there's this other theme that goes through Mark. Jesus has collected disciples around Him, and His purpose is not that these men would just be recipients of the work of His kingdom, but that they would be instruments of the work of that kingdom as well.

That's God's call to everyone. No one is meant to just be a recipient. Everyone is meant to be an instrument. Enough of consumeristic Christianity. Enough of ecclesiastical Macy's. This is a not a department store—this is a kingdom. But these men were not men of faith, and so Jesus was working to craft faith in them—faith that could root at the deepest moments of difficulty of everyday life, faith that was sturdy and strong and assured and bold and courageous. That's not who these people were. And so Jesus would introduce His disciples to some kind of difficulty, and then in that difficulty He would reveal His glory. That was meant to craft faith in them.

There's a bit of what I call a gospel equation that goes through Mark—it's divine power plus divine compassion equals everything you need. DP + DC = EYN, for you mathematicians in the room. Now we're ready for Mark 6:45–52:

Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them.
And about the fourth watch of the night, he came to them walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid." And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly [amazed or] astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

Now, here's the scene: the disciples find themselves in another moment of difficulty. They're trying to row their way across the Sea of Galilee; they're facing an impossible headwind, angry seas. If you look at the larger time clues in the passage, they've probably been rowing now for eight hours.

It's a situation that's exhausting and discouraging and potentially dangerous. Now, when you read the Bible, you should always have an interactive relationship with your Bible. You shouldn't read with a mental monotone. And you should ask yourself the question, How in the world did the disciples get themselves in this mess?

Maybe they were just full of themselves. Maybe they just assigned to themselves much more strength and wisdom than they actually had. Maybe they had been disobedient to the commands of Christ. Maybe they had just made another foolish choice.

Well, the answer to that is, "No, no, no, and no." If you look at verse 45, Scripture says, "Immediately he [Christ] commanded them to get into the boat." You will understand nothing about this passage and nothing about the way God works in our lives if you don't understand this mess was Jesus' mess. He's got the disciples in this moment exactly where He wants them to be.

Now you ought to say, "Why would a God of such grace, why would a God of such tender love, why would a God who proclaims again and again that He cares for us ever want His children to be in this kind of difficulty? Why? Why? Why?" Millions of Christians over the years have asked this question: "Why, God, why?"

Well, Jesus knows something about the boys in the boat. He knows how self-righteous they can be. He knows how full of a sense of their own strength and wisdom they can be. It's always amazing to me when you watch the disciples argue with Jesus. You want to say, "He's Jesus! Messiah."

It's amazing! He knows how much they're committed more to their little kingdoms than to His kingdom. There's an amazing moment in Mark 9 where Jesus has just laid out the fact that He's going to suffer and die in the most specific way He's laid it out so far.

Do you know what the next conversation is? It's not grief, it's not, "Oh, Jesus, they shouldn't do this to You!" They're walking toward Capernaum, and Jesus notices the disciples are arguing, and He asks them what they're arguing about. They're kind of embarrassed; they don't want to answer the question.

Finally, someone answers the question, and they're fighting about who's going to be greatest in the kingdom. Amazing! So Jesus knows the guys who are in the boat, and—watch this—so He will take them where they haven't chosen to go in order to produce in them what they could not achieve on their own.

God will take you where you haven't intended to go in order to produce in you what you could not achieve on your own. God will take you . . . and you . . . and you . . . and you . . . and me where we have not intended to go in order to produce in us what we could not achieve on our own. Do you know what the Bible calls that? Grace!

I think for many of us—and I've been here many times in my life—there are moments where I'm crying out, "Where is the grace of God?" And I'm getting it. But it's not a cool drink. It's not a soft pillow. Oh, I want the grace of relief and the grace of release, and I get those in pieces, but largely those are to come.

What I actually need is the transforming grace of refinement. It's grace! Sisters, we'd better become committed to encouraging one another and teaching one another and preaching to one another (get this terminology) the theology of uncomfortable grace.

Because very often, this side of eternity, the grace of God comes to me in uncomfortable forms. It's grace! It's grace! It's grace! God will take you where you haven't chosen to go in order to produce in you what you could not achieve on your own. That's glorious grace.

Back to your Bibles. The plot thickens. Verses 47–48:

And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them.

Now, this moment—you need to understand this—this moment where Jesus rises and begins to walk out on the sea toward the disciples is the linchpin, the epicenter, of this passage. If you don't understand what that action is about, you'll never understand the glory and grace that is meant to be communicated to you in the here and now, through this little story that has been retained for your example and your instruction.

There are two things that you need to observe here. Let me read again: "And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea." Walking on the sea. Walking on the sea. Walking on the sea. You are way too passive. (laughter) You ought to be saying, "Hallelujah!" at this point. Don't try this at home!

The minute Jesus steps His first foot on that water, you know this is Lord God Almighty, King of Creation. He can do anything He wants with His creation. This is the Lord! If what Mark wanted to do was demonstrate that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, case closed, argument won, deal done. The average person doesn't walk on water. This is the Lord!

But there's something else you must observe. The minute Jesus takes that walk, you are clued-in to what this whole event is about. The minute Jesus takes that walk, His intention for this moment is being revealed to you. Because—think with me—if all Jesus wanted to do was remove the difficulty, He wouldn't have had to take the walk.

All He would have had to do is say, "Peace be still." The wind would have died, the waves would have calmed, and the guys in the boat happily would have ridden the rest of the way across the Sea of Galilee to Bethsaida. The minute Jesus takes the walk, you know that He's not after the difficulty; He's after the people in the middle of the difficulty—that's what He's after.

Now when you're in difficulty, what do you want? A little more redemption? "Send a little more difficulty my way, Lord. I'm not redeemed enough yet." (laughter) You're sitting in a moment of a life mess, in the middle of a mess, singing, "Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it. Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb." I don't think so.

There are moments where we're very tempted to attach our assent to the faithfulness of God to His willingness to remove the difficulty. That's the spiritual equation for us: "You remove the difficulty; I'll gladly praise You."

So now the waves are still crashing, the wind is blowing, and Jesus is now walking out on the water toward the disciples. When it says, "He meant to pass by them," it didn't mean He needed a GPS. It means that Jesus wanted to take a big enough arc so all of the disciples would be sure to see Him.

Now back to your Bibles, verse 49: "But when they saw him walking on the sea, they stood and sang the doxology." (laughter) Oh, that's not what the Bible says, actually.

"When they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out." They're not heartened at all. Amazing! This is one of the clearest physical demonstrations of the utter glory of Christ and the wonder of His grace in all of the New Testament, and these guys are freaked out. They're not feeling heartened at all.

And lest you and I be too hard on the people in the boat, what happens inside of you when you face unexpected trial?

  • Do you wonder about God's goodness all over again? 
  • Do you wonder if prayer works all over again? 
  • Do you wonder if God is near all over again? 
  • Do you wonder about His faithfulness all over again? 
  • Are you tempted to bring God into the court of your judgment and question His faithfulness and love? 
  • Do you go through the same panic all over again? 
  • Be honest in this holy moment . . . do you?

The shocking thing about this moment is these people had seen His glory. They had just recently watched Him raise a little girl from the dead. She was dead. Dead dead! And she lived again.

They had actually watched Him calm another storm. They had watched Him feed a large multitude with the little boy's lunch. They had seen the stunning glory of the Messiah, yet here they are in the same old panic all over again as if they had never seen anything. What about you?

You've seen God's glory again and again and again. What happens to you when you're in the storm?

Nancy: That’s Dr. Paul David Tripp, speaking at Revive '13, the conference Revive Our Hearts hosted for women's ministry leaders. 

I know a lot of us are listening to that today thinking, I'm in the midst of a storm right now. Storms come. That’s the nature of life this side of eternity. I hope for you that today’s message has been a word of encouragement, a reminder that Jesus really does care about you as you go through those storms. And in fact, He cares enough about us to allow us to go through those storms and sometimes to even stir up the storms for our ultimate good.

Those disciples needed to take their eyes off the storm and keep their eyes on Jesus. And coming up next month, we are going to take an extended time on Revive Our Hearts to focus on Jesus by studying thirty-two of the names of Jesus found in the Scripture.  

On March 5, the beginning of the Lenten season, we’ll begin a series called "The Wonder of His Name: 32 Life-Changing Names of Jesus." To help you prepare for this series, I hope you’ll get a copy of a devotional book I’ve written that's a companion guide to the teaching series. 

Each day, you’ll read about another name of Jesus and how to get to know Him deeper. I've written a short devotional on each of these names and then we've also included throughout the book a number of hymn stanzas, verses of poetry, and quotes by other believers from across the centuries that point us to the wonder of His name. And then throughout the book you'll find the beautiful artwork of Timothy Botts as he uses calligraphy and watercolor. You may have seen his designs at the local Christian bookstore. 

It is a lovely resource that will point you to the loveliness and the wonder of who Jesus is. We’d like to send you The Wonder of His Name companion guide when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. I hope you’ll consider what you can give to help make Revive Our Hearts possible.

Let me encourage you to give that gift now so that you can get a copy of this Wonder of His Name book in time to have it so you can follow along in that series with us beginning on March 5.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy. 

When you donate any amount by phone, ask for The Wonder of His Name by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. The number is 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com

Tomorrow, we’ll hear part two of the message from Paul David Tripp. He continues to explain why a storm can be evidence of God’s grace. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.

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