There will be storms for the disciple. When Jesus speaks of them in Matthew 7:24ff, it is a when rather than an if type of statement that He makes. This shouldn’t surprise us, the Scripture promises believers will have their share of difficulties and hardships (Acts 14:22; 2 Timothy 3:12, etc.). They are part of the tapestry of our faith.
Storms were also part of Jesus’ story. The Hebrew writer writes that, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered,” (5:8). Jesus learned obedience in the school of suffering. Do we suppose that we will we learn it somewhere else?
Can we embrace His character but reject His curriculum?
But that’s precisely the temptation we fall into—Jesus promises that we can stand during the storm and our response is something along the lines of, Lord, we have a better idea—what if just skip the storm altogether? He wants us to build strong houses on solid rock and we want to build sandcastles on the beach. In fairness, this is just our consumer culture seeping through. It encourages us to think of reality in almost exclusively physical terms. The result is that we end up living a sensual existence rather than by a spiritual one. In such a world, pleasure is at the top of the pyramid and pain and hardship (i.e., storms), are at the bottom. They are something to be avoided at all costs.
When followers of Jesus walk by sight rather than faith, we build sandcastles on the beach rather than houses on the rock. Our sandcastles look spectacular, we get compliments on them, and they bring us pleasure. But they have a significant downside—they cannot survive a storm. We are left with no other option than to pray they don’t occur while living under the mistaken assumption that storms are not meant to be part of life on this fallen planet. Our culture has succeeded in blurring our identity by blurring our reality.
We need to remember our history. We need to remind ourselves that we are part of the great army of God that marches by faith and not by sight. It was our people who crossed through the Red Sea, trusting that God would hold the water back. And it was our ancestors who walked around Jericho, confident that God would bring its walls down. It was one of our own who stood before a giant with no armor but five smooth stones of faith. And it is we who walk through the valley of the shadow of death not because we like it, but because we know that God is with us. It is to disciples that the Hebrew writer wrote, “We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved,” (10:39).
This is who we are!
Therefore, when storms blow into our life, we’ll also remember what to ask for. God helping us, we’ll ask for nothing more than what our Lord asked for in the garden. We’ll ask for the cup/storm to pass, but if that’s not meant to be, then bring on the storm! We’ll ask for His help to stand because that’s what He wants. We’ll ask for help to stand because for all of their emphasis on the physical, the world is starving to see an authentic, enabling hope that reaches beyond this life! And when the winds howl and the waters rise and the darkness sets in, we’ll stand for He is able to make us stand!
And we’ll remember that the last word is not with the storm! The last word is not from the loved ones who gather around us as we take in our final breath. It’s certainly not from the attending who gives the time of our death or from those who eulogize us when we’re gone. That last word does not come from anyone on this earth. It comes from our Father when He tells us, Well done good and faithful servant.
Like Peter, we may have our sandcastle moments (Matthew 16:21ff), but we refuse to have a sandcastle faith!