Ok, so we have been in a big series, that started all the way back in the beginning of the year and is coming to an end right here around Easter, and I think it has been absolutely awesome.  We’ve been looking at the things that really block us from this life and life to the full that Jesus came to provide us…you know the life I’ve been describing as a life with freedom, victory, and power.  It’s been a lot of fun but I think we are going to shift gears a bit for the next few weeks.  Over the next couple of weeks we are just going to take a time out from that as we move into this Easter season.  Because Easter is a pretty big deal for our faith, next week we are going to look at the magnitude of Jesus, that blood stained Cross, and the Empty Tomb…but leading into that I want to ask you something…and it’s probably not the most fundamental question to ask to get rolling on Palm Sunday, but I think it’s an important one.  You ready?  Have you ever found yourself in a really difficult situation where you are hurting, frustrated, or just flat out exhausted and don’t know if you can even move on another day?  I’m not talking about I’m a little sad, or little upset…or a little fearful.  I’m talking about feeling like you have nothing left…tired, exhausted, overwhelmed, and just wondering if you can even move forward…you know, that type of moment in your life.  Isn’t it interesting in those moments when life is hitting us really hard, just how we begin to question everything?  We do right?  We question everything, including God!  Well now that I think about it, that might be the first thing we question if we are being honest.  I mean isn’t that typically the first question we ask?  Where is God in all this gigantic mess that I am in?  I know, I know its church and we are all super faithful here…but in those really dark and painful moments, we can question everything.  I can think of a few moments of my life that where I found myself in that exact spot…and I want to share some of that with you today.

I can tell you some of those moments have been pretty recent.  You know the spring and fall seasons are always a little overwhelming for me.  The church is very active which is awesome, but so our my children, and all of their activities get rolling and I can feel pretty overwhelmed trying to get through each week as I try to navigate all of my four children’s activites.  Add the fact that I actually have some goals and things to do between the two churches and it can get a little overwhelming.  Then add me running at that pace all evening and weekend long, and bumping into other people also dealing with stuff of their own…leaving some challenging people moments…then add to that probably one of the more monumental life stage moments as my oldest daughter just got her driver’s license.  That was a wow, moment for Mashawn and I for sure.  I doubt I will ever forget that first day I watched her drive down our road and out of sight, without me or her mother in the car.  Just wow, and I must have been standing there for a while because Mashawn finally came out and said, “Ok, dad, why don’t you come in side so the neighbors don’t see you out her crying.” LOL So a lot going on!  And it is easy to feel completely overwhelmed at times.  Sometimes if I’m being honest with you, I can feel very heavy, and tired, and alone as I try to follow God’s lead in ministry, especially on Sunday evenings after church.  It wasn’t too long ago I was in one of those heavier moments on a Sunday night…and I just prayed something really articulate to God like this… “Lord, I just don’t know if I can keep doing this, I don’t have this right now.” And I felt like in that moment God just smiled at me and said lovingly back to me “Good, you are right where I want you, doing exactly what I want you to be doing.”  God didn’t lift the weight off of me, but definitely gave me peace in that moment, as I knew He was with me in the pain and stress and hurts of life and leadership and parenting and ministry.

You know it wasn’t too long ago that I was not working in full time ministry and I hit a really bad spot in my life…I was completely fried, and I didn’t know what to do about it.  I had been working as an electrician for years in commercial construction and was very blessed with a great job.  I had the opportunity to run work and it went pretty well.  Over time I was asked to take over the field operations of the Electrical Department which was a great honor, but it wasn’t a decision I was going to make quickly or take lightly.  I prayed about it for a couple of weeks, and I knew very clearly that God wanted me to do it.  I was sure this was what He wanted me to do…so I said yes…but I wasn’t ready for how challenging things got very quickly.  The next few years just kind of turned into a blur.  It is funny now looking back but I actually thought hanging up my tool belt and moving into the office would simplify my life…you know I’m now not in the 100 degree heat, and frigid temperatures in the winter anymore.  I’m now going to be in the air conditioned office, wearing nicer clothes, not breaking my back anymore.  This should be pretty easy…AND I also knew that God wanted me there…I had prayed through the decision and knew God wanted this to happen…so what could go wrong right?  Well that move was an awesome one in so many ways, BUT it felt like someone cranked a treadmill up to around 100 mph and said, “Hey Sam…jump on and take a run!”  I was now working all the time.  When I say all the time I mean Sunday through Sunday, all day, and all night.  I was the guy who hired or fired you.  I was the guy who made decisions that were making or breaking whether a lot of men and their families had food on the table and work for the next year…and it began to weigh me down, big time.  On top of this, I am a husband.  I am a father of four children and I was doing my best to be as good a dad as I could in those areas as well.  I was preaching on Sunday mornings at MRC as a volunteer.  I was coaching two soccer teams for my children…and I was completely overwhelmed.  I was completely exhausted.  In the middle of it all, I seemed to be spending a lot of time trying to convince myself that I was ok…but I was not.  I was here at MRC and I would pray and smile…but I wasn’t ok.  I was losing it internally.  I would pray and pray and pray to God for help…and you know what…I didn’t hear much from God which hurt me.  When I did hear from Him, all I would hear God whisper was this…  “You are right where I want you to be.”  That’s it…nothing more!  I was overwhelmed by life, and I was hurting physically, emotionally, spiritually drying up and completely on empty and I began to question everything about who I was, and how and why I did things.  I started thinking of ways to get off this wild ride we call life…and it wasn’t pretty and the funny thing is I couldn’t admit it, and I wasn’t asking for help.

I think the lowest moment came on a Sunday morning when I was getting ready to preach here at MRC.  Ken was on vacation, which was and still is a huge deal to me…to give him those chances to just go and be a dad and a husband…and I love preaching so much…but this time, I had nothing to say.  I had nothing to give.  I got up early and that Sunday morning and went to the woods behind my house and just sat on a log and lost it.  I cried and cried and cried…I had nothing left, and I sat their begging God for help, and do you know what I heard?  God whispered the only thing I heard around that time again… “You are right where I want you to be.”  It was so frustrating…and I couldn’t understand why I had to walk through what I walked through.  That Sunday I sat in the storage closet and just begged God to show up, and He did as He always does…after the talk I literally hid from everyone.  Once everyone left, I came out of hiding, and knew that I needed help…and I began reaching out for help.  I talked to people smarter than me, who had been in leadership and ministry longer than me and they would use terms like “season of life” and tell me it would be ok.  And you know they would always drift back to something that I didn’t want to hear because I knew it was coming…good old James 1:2-4.

James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. NIV

You and I, we know this verse is true but do you really want to hear it in the brutal moments of your life?  I can tell you I do not.  I can go back to my childhood where one of my closest friends died in a car accident.  I didn’t know how to process it and I was angry.  I was hurt for their family.  It left me devastated and a lot of good Christian people would say wonderful things like, “God will spin this for good!” I would think really?  You know when you are in those dark and low moments the last thing we want to hear are these words from James.  I know I certainly didn’t need someone far from the situation to tell me with a chipper tone that God will spin all of it for good.  Tell that to the family who lost their son right?  Don’t tell me that as I sit here dying inside.  Easy for you to say right?

It’s amazing how in our darkest moments, in the storms of our lives, it is so hard to see a way out and it is so easy to question what is happening and why things happen in life…it’s so easy to question God.  Well that is what I want to look at with you today.  I know, I know Happy Easter season right?  Well I want to keep pressing in on things that matter, and I think we all hit these low and painful moments of life.  And in these tough moments when the storms of life hit, we struggle to see a way through and we question things as life hits.  I think those moments of doubt spring from you and I forgetting or not being able to focus on the most important thing there is in our Christian faith!  When we forget it, we can wonder where God is in all of this, and I’m excited to get into this with you today.

So this is a big deal because I think we all struggle at times…even us good Christian’s have tough moments in life, now we may not want to admit it, because of this whole idea of life and life to the full that we are supposed to be walking in but we all have these moments, and I want us to be able to work through them.  I just felt this was going to be important today.  I would like to show you a really penetrating question that Jesus asked in Scripture today in a pretty popular moment that Jesus had with His disciples in the middle of a storm out on the sea.  My hope is that as Jesus asked this question of His disciples back in the day, it can be one we can personalize and learn from today.  So with all that to say today’s questions comes out of a really incredible moment where Jesus ends up calming a storm…the question Jesus asked that we really want to focus on today is this…“Where is your faith?”

So we can find this story in Matthew, Mark, and also but I want to read from Luke today…

Luke 8:22 One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. 23 As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. 24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples. NIV

So this is pretty early on in Jesus’ ministry and it is a very important moment with many things that pop out at me, so we are just going to walk through this story together today and really land in the question that Jesus asks in verse 25.  “Where is your faith?”

There will be adversity…even if you are on Jesus’ team.  I think this is really interesting.  Jesus directs them to go to the other side of the lake in verse 22.  They set sail and he falls asleep as they go about driving the boat to the other side of the lake.  These are Jesus’ disciples and I really want you to see this.  They are doing exactly what Jesus asked them to do, and it put them in a really dangerous spot doesn’t it?  That doesn’t see right does it?  I mean they could have just stayed right where they were and had a nice night, and slept in a warm bed but Jesus asked them to do something so they did it.  And what is their reward…to be mixed up in this storm!  Next thing they know they are fighting for their lives thinking they are going to die in the middle of a ferocious storm!  So how does that work?  They are doing everything Jesus asked, and now they are in a bad spot.  Well this is a big deal, because a lot of people end up coming to the conclusion that if they are on Jesus’ team everything will go well for them, and that just isn’t the case.  That isn’t what I read about in Scripture how about you?  Let me blow your mind even more…if Jesus is God in skin which he is, doesn’t that mean He knew they were heading into that storm?  So he instructed them to go into it?  What?!?  Well that is an interesting thought isn’t it?  The reality is that while we don’t want to hear it, Jesus was on mission and this was a teaching moment for these disciples.  Adversity will hit your life as a follower of Jesus.  It’s really hard to read your Bible and not clearly see that, and it can become a real set up for a Christian to think difficult moments won’t come, that the storms of life won’t hit…because they are coming!  It makes me think of this impactful quote from the book ‘The Barbarian Way’ by Erwin McManus.

“Even then Jesus understood his purpose wasn’t to save us from pain and suffering but from meaninglessness.”

So this is a big deal…and we could really argue that Jesus intentionally sent them into this storm.  If you think about it, this is a valuable lesson on a lot of different levels.  Up until this point his disciples really haven’t had much adversity.  Now in a moment where they do what he asks them to do, they end up in a really bad spot.  So there is a major set up for many Christians that think nothing bad can happen to them because they are on Jesus’ team now.  Adversity is coming, that is the reality of life.  So if that is the reality of life, then how we respond when the adversity hits is going to be a really big deal.  It’s amazing how we respond in those tough times?  I mean the painful moments of life can cause us to question everything.  I know they do for me.  They obviously did here for the disciples…as we end this story with Jesus wondering where their faith was.  Listen, tough times can make you question everything right down to whether there is a God who loves you or not right?

I want you to think for a moment about how you react in the really tough moments.  I’m not talking about the time when the air conditioner was broken or when your internet speed was a little slow and you couldn’t watch Netflix.  I’m talking about the devastating moments of life.  It’s hard in those moment to not question life, or God, or just everything right?  It’s hard sometimes to see through all of the mess and realize that you may need to walk through those tough times.  You know, it’s amazing how a storm in your life can bring a different level of focus to what really matters.  I have told you that I learn best through pain…and unfortunately it can take a lot of pain to get my attention.  I want you to see something really interesting about our story here today…

23 As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. 24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.

Can anyone tell me what some of these disciples were prior to following Jesus?  They were fisherman…so this would mean that they could handle the boat.  They have literally spent their entire lives using boats out on the water.  So these guys knew what they were doing.  So Jesus intentionally places them in their element of expertise (a boat on a lake) and then intentionally sends them into a storm that they can’t handle.  Let’s really sit in that for a moment.  Jesus is sleeping in the back of the boat and this storm hits.  Do you think there first instinct was to go get Jesus to save the ship?  I doubt it, I think there first instinct was to do what they were trained to do, navigate this boat through the storm.  But the waves were too strong, the storm was bigger than their abilities and the boat was in trouble…it was more trouble than they could handle on their own, and at some point they realize something really important.  They needed Jesus.  So Jesus gets up and calms the storm and he turns to the disciples and asks the question that we need to sit in today…

25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.

What a fantastic question.  I can look back on the stormy moments of my own life, like sitting in the woods bawling my eyes out on empty, and hearing God say “Your right where I want you to be.”  Or just hurting, and tired of all that ministry can be and just knowing deep within my soul that God was with me, and I can very clearly see now looking back that God was gently asking me the same thing;  “Sam, I love you.  I have this under control.  Where’s your faith?”  I think in this moment the disciples have been hit with a lot.  First of all they did everything Jesus asked them to do and they almost died.  Second was working in their own strength…I’ve done this…put my faith in my own strength just like these fisherman and that doesn’t work out too very well does it? I can hear the logic of this,  “I am the fisherman, why would we go get Jesus, I mean He was a carpenter for crying out loud…I don’t need to wake him to help me the professional fisherman…I should handle this moment.”  Paul addresses something similar to this so well here as he talks about the affliction that God has on him, the adversity he sees as so deliberately placed on Him, and he talks about where his strength is found…

2 Corinthians 12:7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. NIV

So Jesus asks his disciples, and I think at some point all of us a very valid question.  Where is your faith?  I have always said this…it is so easy to be classy when you win, it sure is harder to be classy when you lose.  It’s the same with life right?  I mean when things are moving along well, the kids are healthy, the bills are paid, and everything is going well…it’s easy to grasp God and His love…but I think it’s also easy to forget him when things are singing like a song too.  We can assume that we have things under control in the good moments.  I think it is much harder to know and hold onto your faith in God in the difficult moments that come our way…but it is interesting just how much those moments can draw us closer to Him.  It’s like somehow storms help us remember…that we actually have Jesus is in the boat with us!  We are more God focused in tough times, because it’s in our pain that we seem to remember our deep need of God.  We truly are stronger in our weakness.  Sometimes it takes a storm to realize our deep, deep need of Jesus.  Even when we are in our element as these disciples were in a boat on the water.

It’s really funny that in some of the worst moments, in some of my biggest lows of my life where I have found myself really struggling…questioning everything, this one verse keeps coming up.

James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. NIV

I think that is hard to receive when you are IN the storms of life.  I know for me personally,  when my life is falling apart and I can’t see my way out, and I’m questioning everything…I don’t need to hear that I will be better for the adversity or pain that I’m walking in, even if it is true.  Well, a lot of people stop reading there…but look what happens if we keep reading and get through the next two verses…

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. NIV

Well that is interesting imagery that James uses there isn’t it?  It is funny how quickly we can lose sight of something really important as the waves crash in around us, and the storm grows out of control.

Remember who saves.  Jesus saves us, we don’t save us.  We aren’t in control.  Even these expert boat people couldn’t save that ship…that was Jesus’ job.  I believe this is where all those moments of doubt really come from.  They come from us losing focus on the Gospel truth that Jesus saves!  We don’t save us, that God’s job.  It’s funny how quickly we lose sight of this truth, I mean it’s the most important part of our belief system.  You don’t save you.  God through his son Jesus does that for you.  You can’t do it.  You can’t earn it.  Jesus had to calm the storm and often times for me I try and try and try…and I can’t do it.  Ironically the harder I try, the worse it often gets.  I don’t know about you but when things aren’t going well the first thing I do is try to fix it…which I know is what the disciples were up to here, they are trying to use their fishing expertise to navigate the storm…but the waves got higher…and the wind blew harder and eventually they got it…we need Jesus.  You know, in my own life I keep telling you that it often takes me walking with weight that I can’t bare for a while before I’m ready to give it all to Jesus.  Jesus saves…not you and not me!  This is what Paul was really trying to help us see…we need God to do what we can’t do!  His affliction helps him stay focused and he knows it.  I think this is where those doubts and questions on what we believe come from…we forget the cross…we forget that Jesus saves!

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Responding to the storms.  So storms will come, and when the storms of life hit you where do you turn?  How will you respond?  This is a very important question…I think it is one we all must look at from time to time.  If we don’t understand the truth of the Gospel that we are in desperate need of Jesus things will get very messy, very quickly.  So where do you turn when the storms of life hit?

For many of us we turn to things of this world to find some peace or relief from the pain, at least for a little while.  We turn to things like alcohol, or vacations, or we get really busy and ignore it…we escape and try to find ways to blow off steam and none of it works.  Don’t get me wrong it may give you a moment of release, but that pain, that storm isn’t going away without help.  We must got to God and maybe whether we want to hear it or not, that is why difficult moments NEED to hit…so that we remember just how desperately we need Him our my lives.

Isaiah 40:28  The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. NIV

So when you think about how you respond to the storms in your life where you run to vacation, or alcohol, or your golf game, or hunting or whatever that thing is do you come back with a renewed strength?  An increased power?  Do you come back soaring on the wings of eagles?  No!  You escaped for a little while but now you’re hung over, sun burned and still dealing with the same problem you were before you left!  I have learned through my life that I have an incredible ability to try to wear weight on my shoulders that Jesus would love to take from me.  I have learned that when the trials of life hit me I can do my best to work to fix things that I just can’t fix and it doesn’t take me long to find myself in very desperate, very dark place in my own life with God whispering to me the same question Jesus asked the disciples after he calmed the storm that night.  “Where is your faith?”  Jesus is saying, I’m right here with you all the time and I can do what you can’t do!  You are owning things that you need to bring to me.  You are wearing weight that you just can’t wear…but I your loving God can take that from you.  God says he will give strength to the weary.  So how do we refocus in the tough times…we remember the most important thing…Jesus saves.

Hebrews 12:1 Do you see what this means — all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running — and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. 2 Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed — that exhilarating finish in and with God — he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. 3 When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! (MSG)

We go over the story again and again.  This is what brings us back, this is what shoots adrenaline into our souls.  The fact that Jesus saves us!  It’s the Gospel truth…and it’s the first thing we forget when the storms of life hit.  Does this mean as a Christian you are to be happy all the time, and never feel hurt?  No, you will still hurt.  Does this mean that you can move forward…absolutely!  You can move forward when you give this all over to Jesus.  When you stop trying to do his job for you and when you place things on his shoulders and not yours.  Listen I’m not saying the storm will go by quickly, it may take time.  And while it’s the last thing you may want to hear, it is important to know…that God is working through the storms of our lives.  With every storm we grow and we learn.  The reality is that these storms force action…and let’s face it they force us to focus on Jesus again in a world that pulls that focus away all the time.  So while that scripture in James is tough to receive it is so true, these trials do produce things in our lives that we would not pick up any other way.

Jesus took these boys right into a storm, and it was a big time lesson.  Following Jesus doesn’t mean life will be all lollipops and gum drops because up to this point I think it kind of was for them.  They also learned just how much they need Him.  They now understand the core truth of Christianity, Jesus saves us…we can’t save us.

So the question he asked his followers is a very important one, and as we walk through life with the knowledge that there will be storms the question is the same for us all today.  Where is your faith?  How will you respond when the storms of life hit.  If you think about it, those storms will force action.  They can drive you closer to God if we can focus on the truth that we need Jesus or they can drive us to greater pain if we try to muscle up and try to go it alone.  Either way, storms will come.  And we love you too much here at MRC not to say it.  There will be tough moments in life, and in those storms as you are getting bounced around wondering if you can get through it…Jesus is in it with you.  Please give that all to Him.  He can take our burden, and only he can walk you through what you are walking through…only Jesus can save you which we will be celebrating next week and really every week here at MRC.  Jesus saves.

So I leave you today with the question that Jesus asked…when the storms of life hit.

Where is your faith?