Jesus is Sovereign Over Every Storm – An Encouragement For Troubled Days

“He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great fear…”

Mark 4:40-41

Asleep in the storm, the disciples accuse Jesus of not caring that they are about to die. Despite this accusation, Jesus rebukes the cause of distress rather than rebuking those in distress. He is sovereign over the weather; they should know this by now.

He then asks them why they are so afraid and immediately diagnoses the source of their fear: they still lack faith. After all that they have seen him do, after what he has just done, these obvious miracles before their eyes, they still lack faith! And even after this miracle and a direct challenge from Jesus, it says they were immediately filled with great fear. 

Why Are We So Afraid?

We may wonder or even chuckle at the thick-headedness of the disciples, but aren’t we the same? We have seen God’s repeated interventions on our behalf yet we constantly wonder how and if he will come through for us again.

Christian brother or sister, Jesus is going to rebuke the storm that threatens you! Even if the storm continues to rage it will not rage forever, and he may even use the storm to transport you to your eternal home. 

Either way, he is with you and he is for you. He is sovereign over every storm, literal and metaphorical, and we can place our faith in that!

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You Can’t Forgive Yourself But You Can Be Forgiven

(*this is a continuation of a previous post. You might want to read that one first.)

In Genesis 50:15-21, we see that after Joseph expresses his forgiveness to his brothers, they still find it hard to accept and trust him. Believing it was their father’s presence that ensured their safety, they concoct a story shortly after his passing to deceive Joseph into treating them well. This deception is unnecessary since Joseph was completely sincere in his earlier expressions of forgiveness – as we saw in Genesis 45:5,15.

“I Can’t Forgive Myself!”

Not only did they find it difficult to accept his forgiveness, in terms of a phrase commonly used today, it also seems they weren’t able to “forgive themselves” for what they did to Joseph and were assuming that he would eventually take revenge on them. But can we “forgive ourselves” for sins committed against others? 

In Scripture, we see forgiveness granted to us by God and by others whom we’ve sinned against, but we don’t see anyone “forgive himself.” (For further reading on this idea, see the article “Say No to the Gospel of Self-Forgiveness”) The truth is that not only do we find it difficult to forgive, but we also find it difficult to accept forgiveness. And both of these are manifestations of a lack of faith.

Jesus on Forgiveness…

Jesus was unwavering in his pronouncements about forgiveness: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:14-15)

When we refuse to forgive, we withhold what God has freely granted both to us and to others. We see that Joseph understands this when he says, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?” (50:19)

Accepting Forgiveness

Saying “I can’t forgive myself” is really an admission that we are refusing to accept what God has freely granted to us. There may be many complex reasons for this, but for those who are stuck in the loop of repeating this phrase, faith in God’s forgiveness must steadily chip away at our reluctance to accept it. 

We contradict God if we claim that what we’ve done is unforgivable, for who are we to withhold from ourselves what God has freely given to us for his glory and our benefit?

You can’t forgive yourself but you can be forgiven completely. God freely offers forgiveness for any sin you have committed. You don’t need anything more than that.

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Counting Present Sorrow as Future Joy

“But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge.”

Psalm 71:14-15

I remember as a child in the church being led in song and the leader telling us not to sing if we couldn’t honestly affirm the words. On the surface that seems fairly harmless instruction, and in some cases this might be wise, but I have come to see many songs, and some of what is written in scripture, as what I would call “aspirational statements.” 

When we aren’t feeling what we wish we did, we can still aspire to feel rightly according to God’s word. We can proclaim what we know to be true even when our feelings lead us in the opposite direction. Psalm 71:14 strikes me as that kind of statement: “But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.” 

King David often felt hopeless, but he aspired to hope continually, and this increased his ability to hope. 

And we can do the same. We can proclaim the truth that this darkness will not last, even as we despair that it seems to have no end. We can rejoice in our trials and sufferings not by coming to somehow “enjoy” them, but by being obedient to this command, with the truths of scripture as the fuel of our obedience.

When I meet trials of various kinds I often find it difficult to rejoice in the clear light of truth and so easy to get lost in the labyrinth of despair. But in those times I remind myself of this: “Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

By faith, we can count present sorrow as future joy, and this can bring that future joy into the present for us to enjoy.

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Jordan Peterson, Deconstruction, Marvel’s Multiverse, TikTok Timeline Shifters, and the Kingdom of God – Points of Interest for January 24, 2022

Jordan Peterson, Deconstruction, Marvel’s Multiverse, TikTok Timeline Shifters, and the Kingdom of God – Points of Interest for January 24, 2022

This is a weekly roundup of pieces I read on other sites around the web. Click on the titles to open the articles in a new tab. Happy reading!

Jordan Peterson: Open the damn country back up, before Canadians wreck something we can’t fix

A scathing assessment of the handling of COVID by Canada’s politicians: 

“There are no risk-free paths forward. There is only one risk, or another. Pick your poison: that’s the choice life often offers. I am weary of living under the increasingly authoritarian dictates of a polity hyper-concerned with one risk, and oblivious to all others. And things are shaking around us.”

What do you think? Is he right?

Is Deconstruction the Same as Deconversion? A Few Reflections on Reforming the Church

Deconstruction/deconversion has been an area of interest for me for many years. And I agree with the assessment made here: 

“For many, it [deconstruction] simply means that we should ask hard questions about whether the version of Christianity we are following is consistent with the Scriptures, or with historic Christian beliefs through the centuries.”

I went through a process like this myself in my 20s and I’m glad that I did. It was long, hard, and sometimes scary work, but in the end I emerged with a stronger faith.

Marvel’s Multiverse, TikTok Timeline Shifters, and the Kingdom of God

“Just as a supernova explodes a star into trillions of nebulous particles, a disenchanted world explodes the human mind into an endless, anxiety-inducing nebula of alternative selves. No one needed theoretical physicists to propose the multiverse. The modern mind was already living in one.”

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COVID Has Made Us Weary, But We Should Still Be Doing Good

If you are in a season that feels barren and fruitless, take heart – over time, if we are persistent in our pursuit of God and obedient to his will and plan, we will bear fruit. Now might be a time when you are being pruned and watered and weathered so that your fruit will be both sweeter and more abundant when the appointed season comes. 

“As for you, brothers and sisters, do not grow weary in doing good.”

2 Thessalonians 3:13

Seldom in the world’s history has the entirety of humankind been subjected to such mind-numbing and soul-crushing stress and chaos that has led to such persistent weariness. During this time, on days when I’m feeling down, it’s easy to look for the fruits of my efforts and wonder if I’ve accomplished anything at all. On those weary days, progress seems painfully slow and tangible “results” seem like a barren field on a foggy morning. This is quite opposite of what we desire, isn’t it? 

We would all love for our efforts to result in immediate, visible, tangible fruit, but fruit is a fitting metaphor, and it is no accident that this metaphor is employed frequently in Scripture. As Psalm 1 points out, the blessed person is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season

How the Wicked and the Righteous Grow

In Psalm 92 we see a clear contrast between the wicked and the righteous. In v7 we learn that “though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever,” while in v12 we see that “the righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar” that still bears fruit in old age and is ever full of sap and green (v14). 

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The wicked have their day in the sun, their flash in the pan, their proverbial “15 minutes of fame.” They sprout like grass, which grows rapidly but provides little value and fades away just as quickly as it appeared. Although these people are often among the most prominent in the world and seem to be successful by worldly standards (we might even envy them sometimes), in the end, such people are doomed to destruction.

The righteous, however, are like palm or cedar trees. Palm trees take about five years to grow a trunk and another 15 years to produce coconuts, but they can live for hundreds of years. They represent slow growth and much fruit, just the opposite of grass.

Cedars are evergreen trees that can grow to over 150 ft and live up to 300 years. They are known for their alluring scent and have an ornamental quality because of their beauty. Cedar is also used for guitar tops and is known for its warm tone. Cedar trees represent beauty, warmth, and an inviting aroma. We might think of this aroma as “the fragrance of life” that is mentioned in 2 Cor. 2:16.

The Long Blessings of Slow Growth

In contrast to the wicked, the righteous grow slowly but they live long and fruitful lives. For such people, what often looks like a season of fruitlessness is actually a season of preparation. If we see a tree as only useful when there is ripe fruit to pick, we might see it as useless at all other times. 

But trees are not useless during seasons when the fruit is not visibly emerging. During times of not bearing fruit, a tree is still being prepared to be fruitful: it is being pruned and watered and weathered, all of which will make the fruit sweeter and more abundant. Even the blessed person is not bearing fruit in all seasons but in the appointed season; there is a cyclical pattern to fruit-bearing. 

If you are in a season that feels barren and fruitless, take heart – over time, if we are persistent in our pursuit of God and obedient to his will and plan, we will bear fruit. Now might be a time when you are being pruned and watered and weathered so that your fruit will be both sweeter and more abundant when the appointed season comes. 

So, as for you, do not grow weary in doing good.

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How Can We Keep Our Anxieties at Bay?

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Philippians 4:5-6

The command is: “Do not be anxious about anything…” And yet never in our lifetimes have we had so much opportunity to worry and so little ability to contribute any effective first-hand solutions to the situations that are the subject of our stresses.

In the time of Paul’s writing, a person’s potential sphere of worry was much smaller. The raw materials of their anxieties were restricted to local events. Not that these weren’t legitimate worries, but they were not exposed – as we are daily – to a barrage of news of events near and far that might cause us to fret. In this way, our technological progress has become a disadvantage. So we might be tempted, given our technological disadvantages, to proclaim that obedience to this command is impossible! However, when God inspired these words to be written he was not ignorant of how our world would look in our present.

We’re in a challenging period of time, and you’re probably experiencing some combination of spiritual, emotional, physical, and financial problems. Well, you are not alone. Jesus told us that in this world we will have trouble. So we should not be surprised at what the Apostle Peter called the “fiery trials” of life. They are not pleasant, but they are very normal, they are to be expected and accepted with faith. 

And they are to be endured together, not alone. We often hesitate to share our struggles, not wanting to burden others with our pains, but we miss out on a double blessing when we do this. We are blessed when our burdens are shared with others, and we are blessed in bearing the burdens of others. 

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