Faith in the Middle of the Storm:
You have to be amazed by the people of faith that find peace in the middle of the chaos of life: death, illness, brokenness. That’s Job. Job’s lot is extreme, but there are many Jobs surrounding us that are inspiring, Amazing Faith.
I chose a story to share because the storm came and went so quickly, however long it takes to fall 15 feet. The problem and the resolution came within seconds. I know that in your life many storms take years to unfold, the illnesses we face, sudden life changing accidents, tension in families that spread across families and from generation to generation. A storm, year’s ago, that happened in an instant –
Have you ever been in an accident, happens so fast, but in your mind it happens in slow motion? I remember clearly the sense of peace that all would be well; regardless of the outcome, I was in God’s hands. I can still see in my mind’s eye, the still shots, back in the days of high school, climbing Mt. Baker, Denny Bos was on that trip, the accident happened so fast and so unexpected -- I fell into a into a crevasse. Sureal. I was in the lead, we had reached the summit of Mt. Baker, and the long trudge across the flat top to get to the highest spot, Steve VandenBos walked beside me, roped in the middle. Trailing behind the rope length was Tim VandenBos. Unknowingly, we had been walking next to a hidden crevasse. Trudging along after the long hike to the top, Steve stepped onto the crevasse a split second before me, the snow gave way, and I can still see Steve’s head disappearing, feel the fall, 15 feet down. As I fell there was the oddest sensation I was alone. Where was Steve? And as I fell, I was at complete peace. I had enough time to understand this could easily be my death. I can still see the ice wall as I fell. I had enough time to accept whatever happened as whatever happens. I had enough time to figure out that if Tim was pulled in, we had no way to get escape, because no other ropes were anywhere near, nobody would likely find us because it was foggy, it would be half an hour or more before anyone would even begin to wonder where we were, and surviving wedged in a crevasse next to the ice we would not last long. You can have a lot of thoughts in 15 feet. I was out of control, but at complete peace. Out of control but complete peace. Job is the story of a man that is out of control, he has no control, but he is at peace. A man of faith.
15 feet down, we landed on a ledge, the length of the rope, we hit the ledge before the rope pulled on Tim, if we had stepped on the crevassed 10 feet earlier or later, we would have fallen 30 feet, and surely all three of us could still be on top of Mt. Baker in an icy grave. I landed, I was on my feet, and I was alone. Where was Steve? Steve had fallen back, and the snow we brought down with us buried him, and for a few seconds I wondered what all this meant because I did not see Steve. I was alive in a surreal world. The snow started moving between my legs, Steve was directly beneath me between my legs. Only God could have orchestrated all the amazing miracles. And then I looked up, and there was Tim peering down the small opening above, where we had broken through the snow covering the crevasse. I cannot even say it was a relief to see Tim, because in that eternity of falling and thinking and accepting, I was prepared to accept whatever happened.
I am no great person of faith (I am surrounded by giants of faith). Falling in a crevasse is nothing compared to the raging storms many are called to endure. This I believe: for those who are committed to Jesus Christ, even the smallest measure of faith, when the storm hits, you will discover an incredible faith that will sustain you. Hang out with Job and other Bible characters… connect with any of the incredible people of faith in this church, in this community, watch and learn, practice, embrace, and when the storm hits, you too can find amazing peace that all will be well…out of control, but at peace.
Prepare for the Storm by Practicing Faith when life is easy
Let’s spend time with Job. Here’s the first thing I notice: First of all, the punchline of the chapter, Job 1:22, shows a man of out of control, but amazing peace. That’s true. But go back to the beginning verses of chapter one, and he is a man of faith when life is easy for him. That is Satan’s point when Satan negotiates with God: “look at Job,” Satan says, “life is easy,” it’s easy to be faithful when life is easy. Hang around with Job, and you will see a man that is faithful to God when the way is smooth: Job 1:4-5. “His regular custom.” Prepare your heart and mind ahead of time, before the storm. One of the major reasons I could be at peace when I fell in the crevasse is that I had been on many training trips, I had actually practiced climbing out of crevasses, and as I fell, I was glad it was me, and not somebody else, because I knew that if I survived, I would not have to be taught what to do....trust God when it’s easy, when life is good… never take God for granted…then when the storm hits, you’ll be prepared….
Afflictions do not often come alone.
Spending time with Job, the next thing I notice is a strange phenomena about the Storms of life. The only reason this observation is helpful is because it helps us prepare. Affliction seldom come along: your health breaks and then there is money issues. Problems are piled on top of problems. You fight with a family member and loneliness sets in. This is what happens to Job. Satan is given permission by God, within the limits set by God (God is greater than Satan) to create problems. Job 1:13-15, his servants are attacked and killed. Then comes the piling on of problems, problems seem to come in waves: Job 1:16: “While he was yet speaking,” indicates the rapidity of the movement of Satan, and his desire to overwhelm Job with the suddenness and greatness of his calamities. The object was to give him no time to recover from the shock of one trial before another arrived. Job 1:17, more piling on… Job 1:18, more problems… and that is Satan, and that is a storm… the piling on, problems on top of problems…
At the end of verse Job 1:19 pause and let the grief sink in. The only one taking delight in this scene is Satan. He and his demonic hosts are watching and waiting for the cursing to come from Job’s lips. Storms will come. The piling on of problems. Only two possible responses: many choose to turn away from God. I have no answers for those who wonder about God’s love. A son or daughter that dies before the parents. It’s not the normal order of things. I am privileged to be surrounded by giants of faith like Job, and someday when a storm hits my life, I hope to find the faith to respond with the same incredible faith, and when life is out of control, after the initial grief, to find a measure of peace.
When your mind fails you, and you cannot make sense of what’s happened, for people of faith, God seems to have wired us so that our actions take over.
Job’s response Job 1:20-22. “Why” is a normal question, but in all 42 chapters no rational explanation is ever given Job for why he was called to endure problem upon problem, a major life changing storm. In Hebrew there are nine words to verse 20, five of the nine words are verbs, telling us what Job did. five verbs describe which tell us what Job did: Got up, Tore, Shaved, Fell, Worshipped. This is one of the reasons it is so important to practice your faith when life is easy. I remember clearly when Esther was born we were not sure the outcome, it was a Sunday morning, she turned blue and was whisked away, for five hours we were not sure the outcome… I obviously belonged in the hospital waiting, but in my heart I was sorry it was a Sunday morning because I wanted to be in the church service and sing the songs of faith and be with my church family. When the storm is overwhelming, let your habits of faith take over. For us, we aren’t likely to tear our clothes and shave our head, but we do have patterns, we do have those actions that give us purpose, if you find great comfort in reading the Bible when life is easy, you’ll find it a natural action when tragedy comes.
Do Not ever take Any Privilege in Life for Granted
The Storm hits, and only one cursing is Satan. Satan hated that Job would live through wave after wave of tragedy and then worship a God who allowed these kinds of things to happen. Look at Job’s magnificent response: “Naked I came,” as he looks back to his birth, “naked I will return,” as he looks ahead to his death. Think of that. Perhaps Paul had Job in mind when he wrote those words 1500 years later: 1 Timothy 6:7-8: “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” The curve that Job threw back in the face of Satan: The possessions never owned Job. Don’t let your possessions own you, either. Here is the key: never take the people in your life for granted, never take your privileges for granted, never assume you deserve any advantage you are given, but always recognize the grace that is yours in Christ Jesus. Understand that your life is in the hands of God. The biggest lie Satan tells us is that we are in control, and we deserve… The person that is constantly thankful, keeping everything in perspective, will be able to endure the storms of life that bring problems, because it is God that is above all else, God certainly above possessions, but even God above people.
An amazing caption: Job 1:22: “Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.” Storms will come. You can endure with faith: understanding that while you are out of control, God is in control. The peace of God in the middle of a storm is an incredible gift. Learn from other people of faith how they handle stress. Practice faith when life is peaceful and simple. Problems too often come in wave upon wave, but with faith you can and will endure. When you are completely overwhelmed and nothing makes sense, let your actions of faith take over and go back to the Lord through the practices that have sustained you in the past. Never take any of your blessings for granted, but give thanks for whatever the Lord gives you. Faith is amazing in the middle of a storm.