22 Now it came to pass on a certain day,
that he went into a ship with his disciples:
and he said unto them,
Let us go over unto the other side of the lake.
And they launched forth.
23 But as they sailed he fell asleep:
and there came down a storm of wind on the lake;
and they were filled with water,
and were in jeopardy.
24 And they came to him,
and awoke him,
Master, master, we perish.
Then he arose,
and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water:
and they ceased,
and there was a calm.
25 And he said unto them,
Where is your faith?
And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another,
What manner of man is this!
for he commandeth even the winds and water,
and they obey him. (Luke 8:22–25)
This passage will teach us about faith. First, we learn that…
FAITH IS REFUSING TO PANIC (8:22-24a)
Luke 8:22 Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth.
Luke wasn’t as concerned about what day that this happened on as Mark and Matthew are. They tell us that great crowds had come to hear Jesus teach and be healed. They tell us that it had been a hard day for Jesus.
To escape the crowds, Jesus and his disciples—probably just the Twelve—got into a fishing boat. This boat, we’ve discovered one back in the 1980’s, was about 30 feet long and 8 feet wide. It could be sailed or rowed.
They set off to a point on the opposite side of the lake. The lake—the Sea of Galilee—was about 13 miles long and 8 miles wide. The point that they were crossing the lake to was probably about five or six miles distant.
Luke 8:23 But as they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy.
Two things happen here that cause a crisis for the disciples. First, Jesus falls “asleep.” Again, Matthew and Mark tell us that he had a very busy day and was completely exhausted. Jesus is God, but in his incarnation, he was limited by his human body.
Second, “there came down a storm of wind on the lake.” High hills surround the Sea of Galilee, and channel the wind. Meteorologists call this “gap flow wind.”
If you have ever been over by Livingston, Montana, you will know what gap flow wind is like. The high pressure air over Yellowstone National Park is channeled and accelerated down the Paradise Valley.
On the Interstate by Livingston, there are high wind warning signs because the wind can make it dangerous to drive. I had a subcompact Ford Fiesta when I was a teenager. If I drove from Big Timber to Livingston when the wind came up, you could feel that car lift. If I had added some wings, it would have flown.
That’s what the Sea of Galilee was like. When the gap flow wind “came down” (as Luke says) off from the hills, the sea would become a very treacherous place for a thirty foot sailing boat.
Some of you might recall Gordon Lightfoot’s 1976 hit ballad, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” The Edmund Fitzgerald was a freighter that operated on the Great Lakes between Duluth, Minnesota and Detroit, Michigan. At over 700 feet long, “The Titanic of the Lakes” was the largest ship operating on the Great Lakes.
In early November, 1975, she was loaded with 26,000 tons of marble-sized taconite pellets made of iron ore. A vicious storm came up on Lake Superior, one that surprised even the weather services, who weren’t expecting weather so bad.
According to the crew of the Arthur Anderson, a freighter following the Fitzgerald at a distance of ten miles, one moment she was on radar and the next instance she wasn’t—it is estimated that she went down in ten seconds…a giant wave crashed over her and she was gone.
As Gordon Lightfoot sings,
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty
That good ship and crew was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early
The Sea of Galilee is no Lake Superior in terms of size, but she probably hides many small fishing boats and their crews at her bottom. Who knows, the fishermen of that day probably sang songs about lost sailors and their vessels.
Luke tells us that the boat was “filled with water” and they “were in jeopardy.” Matthew says that the boat was “covered with waves” (Matthew 8:24). This little fishing boat was moments away from going under.
And during all this, Jesus is asleep. He has to be soaked to the bone, lying in water, and pelted with wind and water. Yet, he remains calmly asleep. But this does not comfort the disciples. Instead it irritates them.
Luke 8:24a And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish.
If you think about it, the disciples could have had a faith-filled response, like, “Well, Jesus is sleeping through this, so we must be that we will be okay.”
We might chide the disciples for their lack of faith, but really, we struggle with the same thing in a crisis: is God there and does he care? Why isn’t he doing something about the crisis I’m in? Why did he allow this to happen to me?
What do we learn about faith here? “Faith is,” the old British preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “a refusal to panic.” Faith is a refusal to panic. I had to chuckle when I read that because of the British attitude to “keep calm and carry on” in times of crisis.
What did he mean by faith being a refusal to panic? In a time of crisis, we must maintain self-control. This is what the disciples should have done right away when the storm came up. They should have said to themselves, “We’ve got Jesus in the boat with us, so we are not going to panic.”
This is really the first step in acting on faith. Faith isn’t some magic thing; it’s something that you need to act on. In his stoic, never say surrender, British manner, Lloyd-Jones said,
So you take charge of yourself, and pull yourself up, you control yourself. You do not let yourself go, you assert yourself. 1
If that sounds unspiritual to you, remember that self-control is both a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and also a principle taught throughout scripture. One of the great Proverbs of Solomon says:
28 He that hath no rule over his own spirit Is like a city that is broken down, and without walls. (Proverbs 25:28)
Faith is not magic. It’s the power to act in time of crisis. We don’t sit around waiting for faith to kick in like a thermostat. We must get up an act in the power of faith. And the first act we should do in faith is to exhibit some self-control.
Faith is refusing to panic and…
FAITH IS REMEMBERING WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT GOD (8:24b)
Luke 8:24b Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm.
Jesus rose from his sleep and “rebuked” the wind and the water. It’s hard to know why exactly Luke says that he rebuked the wind. The word is used in Luke 4:35 and 41 to rebuke demons and in 4:39 to rebuke a fever. So there are those who say that Jesus was rebuking demonic powers when he rebuked the wind and waves.
But Jesus also rebuked his disciples in Luke 9:55, so it’s not exactly clear that he was rebuking demons. Maybe, when you are God, commanding the forces of nature sometimes requires that you rebuke them. Or maybe the reason Luke used the word “rebuked” was simply because that’s what it looked like to the disciples. So we can’t know for sure.
But what we can know is that Jesus demonstrated his power over creation, and that, by doing so, he proved himself again to be God.
1 Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty, Give unto the Lord glory and strength. 2 Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. 3 The voice of the Lord is upon the waters: The God of glory thundereth: The Lord is upon many waters. 4 The voice of the Lord is powerful; The voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
10 The Lord sitteth upon the flood; Yea, the Lord sitteth King for ever. (Psalm 29:1–5, 10)
This is saying more than just that God—Jesus—is more powerful than the wind and waves. It’s saying that nature’s power comes from God. We sometimes tell our children not to fear the thunder because it’s God who is thundering. Well, in a sense, that is true! What if the disciples had remembered Psalm 29 that day on the stormy Sea of Galilee?
We said that the first step of acting in faith is refusing to panic, now the second step is remembering what we know about God. The disciples are in this boat with the one who controls the universe. They had already seen many displays of his power: he had healed people, he had turned water into wine, he had feed 5,000, he had even raised the dead.
But they had forgotten all that. If they had just exhibited self-control and had stopped for a moment and remembered these things, they might had caught themselves and said: “Has Jesus done all this to drown us all in a boating accident? No!”
The Israelites did the same when God had led them out of Egypt. They had seen his power displayed in ten terrible plagues on Egypt. They had seen the Red Sea parted, and the Egyptian army drowned. But how did they act the first time it looked as if they wouldn’t get to eat? They panicked.
They forgot all the power the Lord had displayed. They didn’t stop to remember all the things he had done…if they had they would have asked themselves, “Has he done all this for us only to let us starve in the desert? No!”
By the way, we sometimes complain that if God would just do miracles for us like he did in the Bible, we would have a greater faith. Really? How did that work out for the Israelites and the disciples? No, faith remembers what you already know about the Lord.
In the wake of the recent school shooting, Denny Burk, a Southern Baptist college professor, posted several reminders to encourage Christians to have hope in these times. They are all things that we should already know:
1. God is good all the time.
2. God is near to the broken-hearted.
3. The delay of God’s justice isn’t the absence of God’s justice.
4. God is sovereign over our pain and works it for our good.
5. God will one day wipe every tear from our eyes. 2
Acting in faith is first, not panicking by having self-control, and second, remembering what you know about God. Finally, we must see that…
FAITH IS RELYING ON A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH THE LORD (8:25)
Luke 8:25 And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him.
When you were a kid, you probably got yourself in a situation where you were in trouble, maybe even serious danger. Then your mom or dad reached in and rescued you. Then came the scolding, “You were running too fast; you need to watch where you’re going; be more careful!”
In the same way, Jesus scolds his disciples with a gentle rebuke, “Where is your faith?” I like how the question is put here in Luke. It implies that they have faith but, in this instance, they misplaced their faith. They should have looked at Jesus sleeping and said to themselves, “Well, he’s not worried, so we ought not be worried either.”
As believers, I think we misplace our faith often. We believe that the Lord God is in control and cares for us, but when a crisis happens, we temporarily resort to things like fear, anxiety, or even anger.
Look, while our emotions are important—what’s love without that gushy feeling sometimes—but faith is not just feelings. It can’t be. If it were, then our faith would ebb and flow. It would change with the circumstances.
We’d sing a great spiritual song and feel very faithful. Then something bad will happen and our faith will crash and burn. Don’t let your feelings dictate your faith. If you do, then Jesus will be asking you, “Where is your faith?” And you’ll say, “Aw, I just don’t feel like it today.”
Instead, faith looks at the situation and relies on it’s relationship to the Lord. If you are in a real relationship with God, if he is your Lord, and Savior, and very best Friend, then how should you respond? Good night, folks, we have a relationship with the Lord! It’s not just a intellectual philosophy we have as Christians; it’s a relationship! We can rely on this relationship with the Lord in times of crisis.
How does this work? Consider this illustration: Pretend that you have a dishwasher from a particular company. One day the dishwasher starts making loud squealing noises.
Faith is applied, first, we have learned, by not panicking. You will not get upset about this dishwasher. You will not say, “How will I ever live without my dishwasher!” You will not go off and pout about it.
Second, we apply faith by remembering what we know. We know that there is a lifetime warranty on this dishwasher. We know that the company has always stood by their products. We know that the company is consistently rated first in consumer satisfaction.
Third, faith relies on a relationship. As it turns out, the CEO of this particular dishwasher company is your loving father. You dig out your phone and call him, “Daddy,” you cry, “my dishwasher is broke!”
And your daddy is going to respond. He may tell you to wait patiently, and that washing dishes by hand will build your character. He may send a miracle Maytag man to fix the dishwasher. Whatever he does, faith will rely on him because you have a real relationship with him.
You may not know why the crisis has happened. Perhaps you will notice a few things you learned or grew in later on, but then again, maybe it will always be a dark spot in your life with no meaning. No meaning, that is, except that you know that your Lord and Savior and Friend was in control during that time and he knows exactly what meaning it had for your life and the lives of those who went through it with you.
When the storms of life suddenly crash into your well-ordered life, you will not panic. You will tell yourself to remain in control—of yourself, obviously, because you can’t remain in control of your circumstances.
You will adopt British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s motto: KBO. He would end telephone conversations with “Goodbye and KBO.” KBO stands for Keep Buggering On. We Christians should adopt this little phrase.
With this bit of self-control, you will remind yourself of what you know of God. You will say to yourself—no, you will preach to yourself—that God is good, that God is sovereign, that God loves you and works all things for your good.
When the waters are rushing into your boat, you will stand up and say, “Do your worst, you stupid storm, I know personally the God who controls you. You can’t do anything to me that he doesn’t allow. I will keep calm and carry on. Even if you kill me, it will be all right because I personally know the CEO of the universe!”
Now, I know that I’ve set the bar pretty high. You might be complaining inside, “I could never do that.” Well, here’s a bit of encouragement for you. I tremble at giving it to you, because you might think, “Well, there you go, I can just ignore the rest of the sermon and rely on this little bit he gives here.” Please, this bit of encouragement is for emergency use only. You have to keep it on the top shelf of the pantry for the times nothing seems to work right.
Here it is: Jesus’s response did not depend on the quality of the disciple’s prayer. They prayed a lousy prayer, with a mustard seed of faith at best. “Hey, Jesus, wake up!” But Jesus did say, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed…nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matthew 17:20).
Lloyd-Jones imagines Jesus’s response to us when we don’t stand strong in the storm:
He will say: ‘Why did you not reason it out, why did you not apply your faith, why do you appear agitated before that worldly person, why do you behave as if you were not a Christian at all, why didn’t you apply your faith as you should have done? I would have been so pleased if I could have watched you standing like a man in the midst of the hurricane or storm—O why didn’t you?’ He will let us know that He is disappointed in us and He will rebuke us; but, blessed be His Name, He will nevertheless still receive us…
Such is the gracious Lord that you and I believe in and follow. Though He is disappointed in us often and though He rebukes us, He will never neglect us; He will receive us, He will bless us, He will give us peace, indeed He will do for us what He did for these men. With this peace He gave them a still greater conception of Himself than they had had before. They marvelled, and were full of amazement at His wonderful power. 3
Even when we fail to apply our faith to the crisis we’re in, Jesus still loves us. He will rebuke us, and attempt to teach us from our failure, but he will always love us.
Go out into the world now and KBO—keep buggering on.
1 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016).
3 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016).