Good morning, good to be with you again. We're turning in our Bibles to Matthew's Gospel chapter 8, and we're just going to read one of the stories from this allocated passage, and maybe a wee bit further on - but, as I said last week, I'm on next week so I think I can do that OK! Let's just pray before we read the scriptures together. Will you pray with me please, that we might have a meeting with the Lord just now. Maybe it's not your custom to be at church, let alone pray in church - but why not just raise a prayer to the Lord now, that would be good, right now, to say: 'Lord, have You anything to say to me? Would You speak to me?'. Maybe you're a Christian, and you really need to hear a word from God. The Lord can do that, though this might be an evangelistic message as such, there is plenty in it to speak to all of our hearts. So let's come expecting from the Lord now, and let's just pray - I want you to pray now, I know Paul has just prayed and I appreciate that, but I want you to pray, please, now at this moment that God will speak. Would you do that?
Father, we thank You for all that has already gone, and we give You praise and glory for what You're doing in our world and in our lives. We pray, Lord, we welcome You to come and to minister to each heart. We pray for a very definite sense of Your Spirit in our midst, and we pray that You will reach in, Lord, and that You will speak, and that we will have a disposition to hear - that we will be able to hear what You're saying through Your Word, particularly for those who are estranged from You, those who are far off, and those who don't know You personally as Lord and Saviour. But all of us, Lord, whether we're cold or struggling, or whether we need an encouragement, Lord, would You come? Would You speak to everyone and glorify the Lord Jesus, in whose name we pray, Amen.
We're going to read from verse 23, and down to the end of chapter 8. Matthew 8 verse 23: "Now when He", that is, Jesus, "got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, 'Lord, save us! We are perishing!'. But He said to them, 'Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?'. Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. So the men marvelled, saying, 'Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?'. When He had come to the other side, to the country of the Gergesenes, there met Him two demonpossessed men, coming out of the tombs, exceedingly fierce, so that no one could pass that way. And suddenly they cried out, saying, 'What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?'. Now a good way off from them there was a herd of many swine feeding. So the demons begged Him, saying, 'If You cast us out, permit us to go away into the herd of swine'. And He said to them, 'Go'. So when they had come out, they went into the herd of swine. And suddenly the whole herd of swine ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and perished in the water. Then those who kept them fled; and they went away into the city and told everything, including what had happened to the demonpossessed men. And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus. And when they saw Him, they begged Him to depart from their region".
Now if you were here last Sunday morning, you will remember that I was emphasising quite a bit through the beginning verses of this chapter that Jesus had authority in His words. He spoke a word, and things started to happen. I quoted to you Ecclesiastes 8 verse 4: 'Where the word of a king is, there is power'. I also recited to you a wonderful new song by Stuart Townend, 'Say the Word'. This is really what we were seeing last week: the authority and the power of God backing up the authority of the Word of Christ. Also in this chapter, the context of the power of the Word of Christ is the emphasis that is placed on man's extremity, as being an opportunity for God to do something as His Word goes forth in authority and power. Right throughout this chapter, and I suppose it's a bit of a cameo of the whole Gospels, there are crises of different kinds. We see diseases that doctors cannot cure, and we see even Jesus - in the centurion's servant incident last week - how distance was not even a barrier to Jesus healing disease. We see that He has power over disorders, medical conditions, but He's even got power and authority over distance, over time and space. We see a storm - we've read about that just a moment or two ago - that no seaman could overcome; and just at the end of this chapter we see demoniacs that no society could tame.
So we're starting to build up a picture, painted by the Holy Spirit, of this King of Kings and Lord of Lords, this Son of God, this Saviour and Anointed Messiah who has been promised and is now entering into the world - that He has got authority and power over nature and over the demonic realm, over nature and super-nature. He is Lord of all, and when He speaks His Word with the authority that God has given to Him, all of heaven backs Him up. I believe the He is the same today as He ever has been. The God of heaven is the great 'I Am', so if you're asking God: 'Lord, how are You?', He is the way He always has been, and He is the way He always will be - He is the same. He is eternal great 'I Am', the One who was, is, and ever shall be. His Son, Jesus Christ, is the same also - the same yesterday, today, and forever. What we're seeing here in these stories, in this chapter in particular, is that Jesus proved His sufficiency for every circumstance that life can throw at us.
I wonder do you know that today? Whether you call yourself a Christian or not: Jesus is sufficient for everything that you face today. Now what we're going to home in on just now is this storm from verse 23 through to verse 27. I want to call it a Satanic storm, and I've mentioned this to you, I think, in the past when I preached - I think it was during the Mission a couple of years ago - on the demoniac. I believe this is a Satanic storm, and I'll explain my reason for that in a moment. But it's a storm on the Sea of Galilee, and some of you who have been to Israel will know that Galilee is only approximately 8 miles across, and it's notoriously prone to storms. Some of you may have even experienced them as you've gone out on one of those boats! Galilee is situated 700 feet below sea level, and it is surrounded on the West, the North, and the East by mountains that rise around between 3000 and 4000 feet above sea level - so that whole relationship between the water, the atmosphere, the altitude, and the surrounding mountains causes an environment to produce storms very, very suddenly. A squall can arise in a matter of minutes, and this is what happened on this particular day.
You might say: 'Well, if that's the case, why would you suggest that this was Satanic?'. Well, it appears that this storm was more severe than usual. Do remember that the crew on this boat, they were hardened fishermen - Peter, Andrew, James, and John - and they appeared to be absolutely terrified with what is going on around them. But add to that the fact that we read that Jesus 'rebuked' the winds and the waves. The word that is used for 'rebuke' here is a word that Jesus used to rebuke demonic spirits. If you were to turn, you don't need to, to Matthew 17:18, the actual Greek word is used: 'Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour' - it's the exact same word that Jesus uses to rebuke the winds and the waves. In Mark's account of this event, Mark 4:39, Jesus speaks to the storm and says: 'Peace, be still' - 'be muzzled' is the literal rendering, 'be muzzled', and He uses that over demonic spirits as well. There seems to be a personality, as it were, behind what's going on in nature with this storm.
Of course, the context here in Matthew 8 and in the other Gospels is that Jesus is on His way to deliver a man who is possessed, overrun by demonic spirits - a man that society had given up on completely, and thrown him, metaphorically speaking, into a padded room, their equivalent of the day. He was thrown out into a graveyard, and he was left as a madman to run around naked, cutting himself and squealing. They had no answer for him, and Jesus is on His way to deliver what you might say, for Satan, a man who was a trophy for him. So bringing all those factors together, I believe that the enemy was wanting to disrupt what Jesus was going to do. Of course, he was constantly attending to disrupt the service of the Lord Jesus - whether it was at Nazareth, trying to get Him pushed over a cliff; or in various other ways. By the way, the devil hasn't gone away, and he is still alive and well on planet earth, and he will do anything and everything in his power to hinder you - if you're not a Christian - on your journey to coming to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. He will put every obstacle in your pathway. He wants to prevent you, he wants to blind your eyes from seeing the light of the Gospel of Christ. He wants to hinder you.
Maybe you have experienced that? Every time you have made a tentative move toward Jesus, a storm arises, some crisis, some calamity, and it causes you to - as we say - put it on the long finger, and leave it a while. You've got to understand that these are not just circumstances, that there often can be a personality, an entity behind that, an enemy who wants to stop you coming to Christ, stop you experiencing the deliverance and the freedom and the salvation that He brings. Maybe you can identify with this? Every time you move toward God, a hornet's nest is stirred up. I have seen it, even in the life of Christians, particularly in relation to people coming for prayer for deliverance from various problems. Certain individuals, everything seems to be thrown in their path preventing them coming.
If you are in the storm, I want to encourage you just now not to be conscious of the storm. Even if it is a Satanic storm, not to be devil-conscious - because that is what Satan wants. He wants us to think he is so powerful. You see, Satan is into storms, Satan is into big light shows and sound shows, he likes to make a bit of a fuss. He wants to blow himself up, exaggerate himself and his power, to be greater than God - that's his objective. He wants you to think he is powerful and God is weak. What helps him is whenever it appears that God is asleep on the job. Jesus was asleep on this boat, and Satan wants us to think that God has forgotten us. He wants us to doubt God's goodness and His love toward us, and that's the reason why the disciples here in verse 25, it says they: 'came to Him and awoke Him, saying, 'Lord, save us! We are perishing!''. Mark, in his account, adds a wee bit to that, the disciples actually said: 'Do You not care that we are perishing?'. That was the motivation - not only to save their own skin, but they were questioning: 'How can You sleep through what we are going through?'.
But the good news is: God is good. Whatever puffing and blowing Satan is doing in the storms of our life, God is good and He is in control. But if you're going to enter into the blessing of God's goodness and God's providence in your life, you've got to believe that He is good, and you've got to believe He's in control. Satan had been permitted to interject momentarily with a storm, the disciples were aghast, but God was not taken by surprise. If you look at verse 18 just leading up to this event: 'When Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side'. Do you know what that means? Jesus had given instructions, it was at His behest that they had went into the Lake of Galilee. If you look at verse 28, it says: 'When He had come to the other side'. So if you were to drop out the storm in the middle, you would see very clearly that the will of God in Jesus Christ was accomplished. Now, of course, there's a bit of a blip in the middle, but this is what I want you to see the emphasis of: Jesus spoke the word, there He is speaking again in verse 18, He spoke the word, 'Let us go over to the other side'. It was actually a command, and in verse 28 it came to pass.
Why the blip then? Well, the disciples had to learn the lesson and pass the test of faith. What's that? To believe God's word, to believe that where the word of the King is there is power, to believe that Jesus has the authority and the backing of heaven so that when He says something it will come to pass - even if the external factors and the environment seem to say everything contrary. That's the lesson that we have to learn ourselves, and it is the test of faith that all of us - well, I hope we want to pass it - to believe God's word and the power of Christ, literally through hell or high water.
Maybe you're facing a Satanic storm. Maybe you haven't believed in the Lord Jesus and repented and been converted, but there is a storm hindering you. Or maybe you're a Christian, and you feel that you are being assailed by the powers of darkness. Well, I want you to see finally the words of the King. The first word was a word of strong rebuke to the storm. He speaks to the storm, and He commands it to be still: 'Peace, be still!' - 'Be muzzled', as Mark put it. You see, we've got to understand the power of the King of kings to speak to enemies in our lives. But actually it's more than that, I believe if you study the New Testament you will see that He has actually delegated certain power and authority to us as Christians to speak to the enemy ourselves in our lives. This is something that many of us, as Christians, have never practised. In Luke chapter 10 and verse 19, Jesus said: 'Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions' - that's a picture of the enemy and demonic forces - 'and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you'.
So let me ask you: how many scorpions and serpents have you crushed in the last week or month? Is this something you do on a regular basis? Well, I can assure you, whether you're conscious of it or not, these forces are coming against you and may even be hurting you because you're not conscious of the authority and power that Jesus has given you over them. In Revelation chapter 12 verse 11 it says, probably looking into the future slightly, but very relevant to the present: 'They overcame him', that is, the devil, 'by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony'. I believe that 'the word of their testimony' entails what the word of God says the blood of Jesus Christ does for us. So they're not just putting their faith in something that Jesus did 2000 years ago, but by their declaration and their confession of faith, they are declaring what the word of God says the blood of Jesus does for them. This is often where we fall down, because we have some kind of conceptual belief, but we fail to appropriate it in more than a simple, quiet assurance in our hearts, and some kind of theoretical assent - but we need to actually take God's word and declare and proclaim what God says our victory over darkness is.
Romans 10 verse 17 says: 'Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God' - it doesn't say 'faith comes by the word of God'. It doesn't say that! If you want it to say that, write your own Bible - but it doesn't say that. It says: 'Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God'. Now that emphasises the necessity to preach and to speak the word of God, and it also, I believe, indicates that God speaks to our hearts by the Holy Spirit. If you want to find out about that, read Galatians 3 - people are converted not by the works of the law, but by the hearing of faith. Miracles are done in the midst of the Galatian Christians not by the works of the law, but by the hearing of faith. But one of the ways we can hear the word of God - have you ever thought about this? - in a manner that bolsters and increases our faith, is hearing ourselves declare and proclaim the word of God! I do believe there is power in verbal proclamation and declaration of Scripture - you should try it some time. You should try, when you're doing your Bible reading some day - assuming you do do it - do it out loud! But certainly, when we face a storm that is coming against us from the enemy, we need - sometimes we are so lethargic in our spiritual disciplines - we need to take ourselves, as it were, by the scruff of the neck, and declare. It's like the psalmist in Psalm 42, where he speaks to himself: 'Why are you downcast, O my soul? Hope in God'. He's not praying to God, he's talking to his own soul, and he's knocking it into shape according to the Scriptures. We need to take what Jesus has purchased for us at the cross, and we need to appropriate it and use the weapons of our warfare that are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds in our lives and in the lives of others.
The first word of Christ the King is a word of rebuke to the storm, and He has given you authority - and I really feel that I'm speaking to someone here today, and I know this is not part of the evangelistic aspect of this, but I'm not too worried about that, all I'm worried about is that God speaks and you hear. There is somebody here, and you have been lying under, you have been passive in a battle, and you're conscious that it's from the enemy. God is saying to you today: you need to get up, you need to appropriate the weapons and the armour that God has given you through the blood of Jesus, and you need to start declaring and proclaiming the victory.
The second word was more gentle, and it was a word of rebuke to the disciples. In verse 26 He said to them: 'Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?'. Why did He rebuke them? Because they feared, and they failed the test. They needed faith to pass the test. They should have believed. First of all they should have believed the word of Christ in verse 18: 'He gave a command to depart to the other side'. Jesus didn't say: 'Let's have a go, boys, and try and get over to the other shore, let's have an attempt'. It was a very emphatic statement: 'Let us go to the other side'. Again, faith comes by hearing the word of God. This was a practical test of what they had heard.
Now imagine if we were to have an examination - some of you are big into exams and stuff at the moment, I'm sure, studying hard. Imagine if we were to have an examination, a practical examination based on what we have heard over the years. This is the reason why God permits tests to come into our lives. These are actual tests, they are examinations, and the reason they have to come is because it's not enough to learn lessons, we need to live lives. I fear greatly, particularly for those who have been schooled in Scripture for generations, those in the church who are most biblically literate - and I would include your good selves among those - that there is an awful lot of head knowledge, and a great deficit of experience in life. I include myself there as well.
Secondly, the Lord rebuked them not only because they failed to believe the promise, but they failed to recognise the Presence. They failed to recognise the presence of the incarnate Christ in their midst in the boat. They were in the same boat as the Son of God. You might say: 'Well, He was fast asleep' - that's a good point, but nevertheless He was there. It says in verse 23: 'When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him'. In verse 18 He had spoken the word, they were following His bodily presence, and He was there with them. He is there with you, if you're a Christian; or if you're not a Christian, He wants to get into your boat, He wants to be Captain and Lord, He wants to be in charge of your life.
Now, does this teach that Christ will always miraculously deliver us from all storms? Well, it would be great if it did, but He doesn't. I personally believe that most of the time we could be very quickly delivered from the Satanic type of storm, but there are times when He allows, even engages us in a particular storm for a purpose, and there is a time period to it. As we look in Scripture, we see that there are storms people were delivered out of, like the disciples here; but in Acts chapter 27 you've got Paul the apostle, and he was of great faith - in fact, he stood in the midst of that storm, and he relayed how an angelic messenger from the Lord had given him the assurance that they would all live if they all obeyed whatt he was about to say - and he declared: 'I believe God, that it will be even as He told me'. It was as God had told him, but he had to go through a shipwreck!
Warren Weirsbe said that the greatest danger was not the winds and the waves, it was the unbelief in the disciples' hearts: 'Our greatest problems are within us, not around us'. Sometimes God does save us from trouble, but other times He saves us in trouble. Sometimes He saves us from death, like Peter who was miraculously delivered from prison by angelic messengers; and yet sometimes He delivers us in death, and uses our death for His glory, like the apostle James who was beheaded. But this is the point: whatever, in life, in death, we're in the same boat as Christ. That's what the disciples failed to recognise: they failed to engage their faith in the word of God, and they failed to recognise the presence of the incarnate God with them.
He says to you today, the Spirit says to you: 'For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord'. 'We know', therefore, 'that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose'. Jesus has authority over all these aforementioned: disease, death, demonic, nature and super-nature - but He has also got authority over fear. I speak with authority, because fear has probably been my biggest enemy in my life. But victory does not come through accommodating fear, it comes from conquering it in faith.
I used to use an illustration, I've maybe even used it here, where I make the point that fear and faith are mutually exclusive. It's a bit like the old cowboy films, the two guys, you know, they square up to each other, and one says to the other: 'This town is not big enough for the both of us', and faith and fear cannot cohabit in the same heart. That was wrong, there was truth in that, but I have now come to discover that it is actually in the presence of fear that faith breaks through. Do you understand? It's not getting rid of fear and then inviting faith, it's actually in the midst - I mean, think of Peter putting his foot over the side of the boat to walk on water. You're not going to tell me he wasn't frightened? You're not going to tell me that his human, natural senses weren't filled with trepidation at what he was seeing all around him? Of course not, but it was in the presence of fear, in the presence of fear that he chose to believe God's word and stepped out - and then faith replaced fear.
The problem is, as God has been saying to me of late: I want to play it safe. I do! But when you discover that faith is spelt R-I-S-K, and it's right throughout the Bible, it will push you out of your comfort zone - whatever that is. It's not a leap into the dark, it's a leap into the light - but it's a leap nevertheless. You say, 'How could it be a risk to believe God?'. Aye, well, you walk on water then! It's not a risk to believe God, it's God's word, but the risk comes from our human, natural senses, because faith sense and common sense are not the same thing at times. When God is asking us to do something that is absolutely ridiculous, and our human wisdom says 'That's mad!', but you see the wisdom of God is greater than the wisdom of man - indeed the foolishness of God is greater than the wisdom of man!
God asks us to believe His word, and to believe that He is with us, even if there is a Satanic assault that comes upon us. Yes, we are to put our armour on and to take all our authority, and to proclaim and declare everything that we possibly can, but we are to choose to believe His promises, and choose to believe that His presence is with us - and if we don't break out of the storm, we will break through the storm living or dead. But what He doesn't want us to be is in fear and trepidation of the storm. Jesus is the master of every situation, and the conqueror of every enemy, and if we trust Him and follow His orders, we need never be afraid.
Do you know what the greatest miracle in this story is? Do you know what the greatest miracle is? Jesus asleep in the storm. I believe that's the lesson that He wants to teach some of you here today. Amy Carmichael, that great missionary, wrote a poem based on this story - here's how it goes:
'Thou art the Lord who slept upon the pillow,
Thou art the Lord who soothed the furious sea,
What matter beating wind and tossing billow
If only we are in the boat with Thee?
Keep us quiet through the age-long minute
While the waves are high and wind is shrill :
Can the boat sink when Thou, dear Lord, are in it;
Can the heart faint that waiteth on Thy will?'
Another hymn puts it like this:
'No water can swallow the ship where lies,
The Master of ocean and earth and skies!'.
Or, as another hymn puts it:
'Be still, my soul; the waves and wind still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below'.
Let us pray. Are you a person who is not a Christian yet, and you know the Gospel, you know you're a sinner, you know you are in need of Christ. You know that He died in love for you on the cross, you've heard it maybe even here in previous weeks - but you've never taken that step of faith. God has revealed to you this morning the reason why, and it's not a matter that you have just been putting it off, or that circumstances have not been conducive - but rather there is a force, there is a devil, a malevolent foe who wants to hinder you coming to Jesus. You realise that now, you've worked it out now, God has opened your eyes to see that that is why there is a battle on. Will you take that step today? Would you realise that the victory is in Jesus, the devil is already defeated - so why give him victory in your life? If you meet Jesus today on His terms, that is: repenting of your sin - that means changing your mind, that your sin is hurting God, it's damning your soul, and you need to turn. I know you don't have the power to do that right at the moment, but if you are willing He will give you the power, and you say: 'Lord, I'm going to repent of my sins, I'm going to turn from my selfish ways and turn to You' - and believe His word. His word is that He loves you, He died for you to cleanse you of all your sins, He is alive and risen, and He is able to receive you. If you make Him Lord of your life, He will transform everything.
Is there anyone in the building just now and you want to take that step of faith to Jesus? Well, just where you are, you come and pray to the Lord and express your repentance and faith to the Lord like this - just repeat after me from your heart, between you and God: 'O God, I come to You in the name of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. I confess I am a sinner, and I repent of all my sins, turning from them I turn to You. Cleanse me and forgive me, because Jesus died for me. Save me and make me Your child, as I declare Jesus as Lord of my life. I renounce Satan and all his works, and I ask You now to fill me full of the Holy Spirit'.
Now maybe this isn't the place for verbal declarations, I imagine if I asked you to do it you wouldn't do it - but are some of you, as Christians, needing to get alone with God and really start to declare the promises of God that He has spoken over your life; to stop listening to the lies of the enemy, to stop listening to what other people have said about you in your past, whether it was your parents or authority figures, teachers, bosses, even church leaders - there's a lot of spiritual abuse goes on, and words of curse that can be spoken from church leaders over people's lives. Is it time for you to go home and get a quiet place with the Lord, and start declaring maybe the promises that have died - they haven't died before God, but in your psyche and in your heart they have died long ago. You need to start declaring those again to God, over your life, over your family, over your marriage, over your ministry.
Father, we spoke a couple of weeks ago about the perfect storm, and all that is going on in the world just at the moment and how it may be indicating that Jesus is coming soon - and Lord, how we feel buffeted at times, and how our brothers and sisters are facing the sword in distant lands, jihad. Yet, Lord, some of us can experience spiritual jihad with principalities and powers around us, and the influence of the gods of this age that touch us in every sense day by day. Lord, would You help us to realise the victory that is in Jesus, and what Christ has wrought for us through the shedding of His blood and His resurrection, and all the blessings of God that are ours in Christ Jesus in heavenly places. Help us, Lord, to start living heavenly lives, that we might see heaven break-in on earth, that we might see Your Kingdom come, and Your will be done in our lives, in our homes, in our workplace, in our places of worship, as we start to believe what You have said, and we start to realise that You're with us - You haven't left us, You're in the boat! You might seem to be asleep to us - Lord, we pray that especially those of us who are paralysed by fear, Lord, that's not something we can deal with ourselves - so I pray for the gift of faith to be imparted even to folk here today, that they might hear Your voice to them, maybe bringing old words that they had long ago to life again, or speaking new words of life into them, Lord. We thank You most of all that what appears to be over our heads is under His feet, and may we believe that and live in the good of it this day and every day. Through Jesus Christ our Lord we pray, Amen.
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This sermon was delivered at Scrabo Hall in Newtownards, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording, titled "The Waves And Wind Still Know" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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