“No man is an island…”

Today I read Jonah as part of my reading plan. I think Jonah is one of those stories that many people like, particularly because we can relate to his tale. Many of us have run from God. Perhaps we ran because we were afraid of what God would ask of us. Perhaps we didn’t want to submit to His calling on our lives. Perhaps we fail to see God’s authority over our lives so we run away from His will. Or, perhaps, if we’re as honest about ourselves as Jonah was, we don’t want to see certain people come to know Christ. Earlier this year, I did a couple posts on The Storms of Life, and I thought I’d add another one that really jumped out to me today.

Not Alone

In 1624 a man named John Donne wrote that “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…” Too bad these words were written long after Jonah ran from God. Today, perhaps for the first time, I really understood that when Jonah ran from God, he wound up on a boat with a whole crew (Jonah 1:3). Jonah, in the midst of his rebellion and folly, was not alone. There were lots of other people on the boat with Jonah! Now, all the other people who are on the boat are about to have an encounter with God they’ll never forget.
I think it’s easy for us to focus on Jonah. We seldom think about all the other people what were on that ship, too. They were terrified and lost many of their possessions (Jonah 1:5, 10); they were in anguish over whether or not they should throw Jonah overboard (Jonah 1:12-14). They even fought to save Jonah (Jonah 1:13)! They tried to save the guy that almost got them all killed!
We all know what happens:  they throw Jonah overboard (Jonah 1:15) and the fish swallows Jonah (Jonah 1:17). The rest is history…
Our Folly, God’s Glory
But what about the other dudes? I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anyone talk about them before. Particularly, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anyone mention the fact that, after their night with Jonah, they starting worshipping God (Jonah 1:16).
I think it’s important for us to realize that when we rebel against God, we seldom do it without causing others to suffer in our storm. No man could have an addiction to porn that doesn’t affect his entire family as a result. No divorce doesn’t affect the children for the rest of their lives. No one could commit suicide without leaving a permanent mark on their family and loved ones. Even smaller sins, like stealing a candy bar from a 7/11, can have secondary and tertiary effects on other people. This is why it’s important for us to walk blamelessly before God and men, because when one Christian sins it affects the entire Church (1 Cor 12:26).
I also think it’s amazing that God will use our folly and rebellion to draw innocent bystanders to Him as well. God is able to use man’s rebellion to bring glory to Himself (Gen 50:20). Our God is an amazing God and I pray that I won’t be rebellious; but I pray that even if I am, He will still use me for His glory.

(For some great content about Jonah, check out the Jonah series at The Resurgence.)


The Storms of Life (pt 2) – Mark 4:37-40

(This is an unplanned follow-up to a post I did about this passage earlier this week.)

“I was in that boat.”
Sometime in the middle of the night I woke up and had to go to the bathroom. Don’t you hate when that happens? I usually try not to think about anything when I wake up so as not to get my mind going because then I have trouble falling back asleep. I checked the time: 2:30. I realized I was thirsty so I poured myself a glass of water and suddenly a realization dawned on me about the storms of life and specifically about this passage.
I felt God gently whisper something to me: “I was in that boat.”
Think about it for a minute! The disciples were never actually alone; Jesus was with them in the boat. Similarly, don’t I have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside me? So am I ever actually alone when the storms come? Never!
Our suffering pales in comparison to that of our Savior!
Jesus promised that He will be with us. One of my favorite Bible verses (Heb 4:15) says that Jesus, because He has experienced being human, is able to sympathize with us! But that verse doesn’t say that Jesus is able to sympathize with just the good parts of human life; it’s talking specifically about suffering. Jesus is able to sympathize with our weakness. Earlier, in Hebrews 2:18, the author states that Jesus is able to help us when we suffer because He has suffered Himself.
In fact, it’s doubtful that anyone has suffered to the degree that Jesus has. On the cross, Jesus absorbed God’s full wrath for the sins of all mankind (Mt 27:46). Our suffering pales in comparison to that of our Savior! He is infinitely more familiar with suffering than we are.
And that is one of the most beautiful parts of the Gospel. It means that, no matter how dark the storm clouds, Jesus is always able to help us walk through. This is because, as Jesus promised in John 16:7, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside us. We have God dwelling inside us!
So my encouragement to you is the same as that of the author of Hebrews: look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured more suffering than we can ever hope to imagine on the cross and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb 12:2, paraphrase). Look to Jesus not only for an example, but also for hope and empathy!

The Storms of Life – Mark 4:37-40

We all claim that we want God to reveal Himself to us, but what does that look like? How does God most often seem to demonstrate His power? Perhaps for the same reason people tell us to be careful what we wish for…

“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

There was a time early in Jesus’ ministry when He was traveling with His disciples in a boat at night. But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself! During the day before, Jesus had spent some time teaching on the shore in this boat (Mk 4:1). At the end of the day, for whatever reason, He decided to go to the other side of the sea (Mk 4:35). (By the way, I have my suspicions that Jesus knew what He was doing.) All seemed well until “a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling” (Mk 4:37). It’s at this point that the disciples get scared. Wouldn’t you? Mark 4:38 says that they woke Jesus up and said, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
Isn’t that an easy question to ask? When the storms of this life come, and they will, don’t we sometimes feel as though God doesn’t care? Don’t we wonder if He sees what we’re going through? I can make you one sure promise in this life: Troubles will come (Jn 16:33). Ask anyone who has been around longer than… a week! You’ll find that this life does bring storms. Storms may look different from person-to-person; for some it may be a bounced check, for others it may be a broken leg! But Jesus promised us that the storms will come (Mt 7:24-27).

Don’t you care that I’m drowning?

And don’t we find it easy to wonder why it seems as though God does nothing? Doesn’t it sometimes feel as though God is just watching from afar; as though He’s sitting up in Heaven on His throne watching us as the storm sweeps over us, the waves crash into us, and it’s all we can do to keep our head above water?
“Teacher, don’t you care that my life is falling apart? Don’t you care that I don’t think I can make it? Don’t you care that I’m hurting, I’m alone? Don’t you care that I’m drowning?”
“Don’t you care?”
But isn’t this what gives our lives their meaning? Doesn’t God demonstrate His peace through our storms? Doesn’t God demonstrate His power through our weakness? What would happen if we didn’t have any storms? I know I would become arrogant and self-reliant. Wouldn’t we start to think that we deserved all the credit for all our great accomplishments? I know I would.

Are we really that different?

After the disciples cry out to Jesus, He simply commands the wind and waves to “be still” and they obey (Mk 4:39). Just like that the storm simply stopped. It’s almost like He was God. It’s almost like He was in charge the whole time. It’s almost like the disciples were worrying for no reason… But we already knew that didn’t we?
It’s easy for us to read this story and wonder why the disciples were so terrified. I mean, they had Jesus with them. Surely they knew that God was all-powerful and could stop the storm at any time. How could the disciples be so foolish? But are we really that different? Is our storm really that much bigger? Are our circumstances the special exception where God has no power to act on our behalf?
Look at how Jesus responds to His disciples: “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” It’s almost as though Jesus is disappointed. I can’t help but read this with my name in front of it: “Daniel, why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith? After all that we’ve been through, after all that you’ve seen, have you still no faith?”
Have you still no faith?
So here’s how the conversation goes:
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing,” we ask as soon as the storm starts getting rough.
Jesus answers our question with a question: “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
So why are we still afraid? Could it be that we lose perspective? Could it be that we forget that, just as Jesus had power over the storm in Mark 4:37-40, He also has power of the storms in 2011? Could it be that we believe the storm has more power than God? I ask God to show Himself to me, but as soon as that takes me out of my comfort zone, I become afraid. Jesus simply asks us to trust Him even in the midst of the storm.
Which brings us to the original question: We all claim that we want God to reveal Himself to us, but what does that look like?
I firmly believe that it will look like cloudy skies more often than clear skies.