Ministry Letter

Ministry Letter

MARCH 2015 

Dear Loved One,

Every year when storm season hits, I have to chuckle at how excited the meteorologists get about it. Whenever winds start howling and clouds start swirling, it seems they can hardly wait to charge outside into the thick of the storm to holler out an exuberant description of it on live TV. 

While I appreciate the public service they provide, I don’t personally share their enthusiasm. Foul weather, especially the kind that’s severe and disruptive, is not generally my idea of fun. 

It is, however, something every one of us has to deal with. 

Not just meteorologically but in the circumstances of life, we all go through storms—which is why the Bible is full of lessons about them. Storms in the Scriptures are like pictures of the various kinds of problems we encounter: They come in different shapes and sizes. They can be unpredictable in their timing, and they often materialize in ways we didn’t expect. 

Some storms, like the one Elijah prayed for on top of Mount Carmel, look threatening at first but bring much needed rain and turn out to be a blessing. Others, like the tornado in Job, are whipped up by Satan and meant to destroy. 

But there’s a third kind of storm we see in the Bible that does something very different. 

It brings neither rains of blessing nor cyclones of destruction. Instead, it just keeps raging on and on, opposing us as we endeavor to follow the direction God has given us, until we feel completely worn out 

Have you ever had to battle your way through that kind of storm? 

Sure you have. I have too. So has every other Christian—including Jesus’ first twelve disciples. They ran into a storm like that on the Sea of Galilee on what started out to be one of the most thrilling days of their lives. It was the day Jesus fed the multitude with the five loaves and two fish. You probably remember the story. Right after Jesus completed the miracle, as the disciples were still reeling over how the food had multiplied in their hands: 

Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida . . . And when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray. Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land. Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. (Mk. 6:45-48) 

Actually, to say the wind was against them is putting it mildly. According to other Gospel accounts, the wind pounded the disciples that night with such relentless force and pummeled their ship with waves so high that after eight hours of rowing they found themselves exhausted and essentially stalled in the middle of the sea. 

You don’t have to be a mariner to identify with the feeling. Like every other believer, you know what it’s like to hit those kinds of circumstantial headwinds; to be exactly where God has instructed you to be and yet have things turn against you until, no matter how hard you press toward your goal, you can’t seem to get where you want to go. 

It can be an exhausting, exasperating experience! 

But I’m writing you about it today because, as in the case of the disciples, it can also have a very happy ending. You can not only survive a storm like this, you get through it in victory. How? By doing three very practical things. 

First, decide to accept that God’s hand is in this. And His plan is to settle your soul, not to sink your ship. 

This doesn’t mean you should blame God for the storm. It’s not His fault. He didn’t design it. But He may well have assigned you to go through it as part of His plan to develop and mature you. 

Think about what Jesus did that day and you’ll see what I mean. According to the Bible, He made the disciples get in the boat. The word made in the Greek means to force the situation. It indicates Jesus compelled the disciples to make this trip. He knew full well what they were going to face. The contrary winds didn’t catch Him by surprise. But He sent the disciples across the sea anyway because He had a plan. 

What was the plan? I don’t claim to know all about it, but it might have had something to do with the miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fishes. Maybe the disciples, after witnessing that miracle, were thinking, Hey, from now on, everything is going to be easy. All we’ll have to do is open our hands and we’ll have whatever we need. 

Jesus knew that wasn’t true. The disciples would have to do more to finish their course in life than just wave a magic-wand of miracle grace wherever they went. They’d need to exercise faith and endurance. So perhaps Jesus sent them across the Galilee to help them develop those qualities. 

“But Pastor Jack,” you might say, “why did He send them on the trip alone?” 

He didn’t. He could see them the whole time from the mountain where He was praying. So, really, they were never alone at all. The same is true for you. Which brings me to the second thing you’ll want to remember when you’re going through a storm. 

You may feel stressed by the struggle, but you’re never outside the scope of God’s vision or interest. 

Even when He gives you an assignment that takes you through strong winds and high waves, God is never insensitive to your struggles. He keeps watch over you just as Jesus kept watch over the disciples and He sees when you’re straining. 

The word straining is translated from the Greek word basanizo. It was used during the days of Jesus’ ministry to describe significant pressure or pain. It might be used to refer to the strain of a torturous and protracted legal battle, for instance, or the distress of a severe and lingering disease, or even the torment that comes from a direct satanic assault. 

Why is this word important? Because it lets us know that when we’re battling our way through a storm, straining to press through contrary conditions to get to the place God has called us to go, the Lord doesn’t shrug off what we’re going through as inconsequential. He understands and cares. And because He does, He’ll make sure we ultimately have much the same experience the disciples did when, somewhere between three and six o’clock in the morning: 

In the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. (Matt 14:25) 

Sounds like the perfect ending to the story, doesn’t it? And it was—except for this: Because initially the disciples didn’t recognize Jesus, they thought things had gone from bad to worse. Now they not only had a storm to deal with, they had a ghost after them! So “they were troubled . . . and they cried out for fear” (v. 26). 

Sometimes, toward the end of a storm, we encounter a similar situation. Just as we think we’ve had all we can take, something else goes wrong. When it does, we can encourage ourselves with this third scriptural fact: 

As we pursue God’s plan for our lives, it may get dark and then get even darker, but Jesus always shows up and His presence changes everything.

The disciples found this out that night on the sea. When they recognized Jesus and received Him into the boat, “immediately the boat was at the land where they were going” (Jn. 6:21). 

This is one the great blessings of being a disciple: you can rest assured the storm you’re facing won’t last forever. It will come to an end. Jesus will show up in your circumstances and when He does your victory will come quickly. 

I want with all my heart for you to make it through to that place of victory no matter what kind of storms you face. So, as my “thank you” for your financial support this month, I’d like to send you a special CD series we assembled called, “Stand Strong.” In addition to three of my messages, we’ve picked two faith-building messages from my dear friend, Pastor Robert Morris of Gateway Church in Dallas. All five of these messages will help strengthen you and settle your soul when the winds of adversity turn against you. They’ll help you get through the strongest storm – or the darkest night – and reach the other side. 

Loved one, God has great things prepared for you this year. And though every day may not be smooth sailing, you can be “confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). 

God is faithful. So keep pressing forward. Wind and waves notwithstanding—by His grace you will get where you’re destined to go! 

Yours in Him, 

Pastor Jack 

P.S. Whether you’re going through stormy weather right now, or you just want to be prepared when it hits, I believe you’ll want to have our special collection of five messages—"Stand Strong." So be sure to click here and find out how to receive it. It’ll be a blessing to you!