Must (not might).
“Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.” (v22)
In Luke 8, Jesus leads his disciples -- not into temptation, but directly into trouble. Through four stories, Luke shows Jesus teaching his closest disciples not to avoid trouble, but to actively engage it head-on. Jesus is the one who has His crew sail right into the storm. It is Jesus who chooses to land at a graveyard where the demon-possessed man cries out in bone-chilling agony. Jesus leads his friends smack into the awkward and embarrassing social situation of being touched by a woman who is “untouchable” and “unclean.” And it is Jesus who closes His disciples in a room with the lifeless corpse of a little girl. The followers of Jesus didn’t stumble into trouble -- they were led directly into it by God himself!
Direct engagement with trouble is not optional for a disciple -- it is a “must,” not a “might.” We know that Paul faced greater storms than the one in today’s passage -- and God did not miraculously bring calm (Acts 27, 2 Corinthians 7.25). We read in the New Testament that Paul, Timothy, and Trophimus each dealt with ongoing, apparently chronic, illnesses, and they were not miraculously healed (2 Corinthians 12.7-10, 1 Timothy 5.23, 2 Timothy 4.20). And let’s no forget that the twelve apostles all died -- and they are still dead!
Trouble it is not a rare side-effect of following Jesus -- it is part of the plan. Moreover, it seems that trouble actually is the plan. Confronting darkness with the light, love, and peace of God is the core of our mission. The scriptures tell us we’re soldiers -- not fighting against other human beings, as some mistakenly think, but against spiritual powers; the darkness of sin, unrighteousness, and injustice. We do not attack people, but we are always on the offensive against the evil that people perpetrate. We do not rely on faltering human force or resort to virulent human violence -- rather, we wage war on our knees, interceding for the lost that they might be redeemed.
We are playing offense, not defense. We have a playbook that requires direct confrontation with an enemy who prowls like a roaring lion (1 Peter 5.8). It is our duty to wear his team down with the gospel of truth and love. The devil is playing defense, and will use every trick play he’s got to strip the ball from your hands. He wants you to forget that he’s there, to forget that you have the ball. He wants you to let down your guard -- to distract you so that he can score yet another touchdown while you whittle your thumbs.
Wake up, O Christian! The battle is on! Take your position on the gridiron and push your opponent back. Whatever weapon the devil has formed against you -- or whatever weapon you have formed against yourself -- whether it be greed, gluttony, sloth, or any other -- it will not prosper. Raise your shield of faith, stand firm, drench your mind in the blood of Jesus that conquers all shame, and drive the darkness back to defeat.
Confronting the tempest is part of the master’s plan. So is His miraculous intervention -- although it may not be the miracle you want. The cross of Christ where the Son of God died is the real miracle. The powerful blood of God’s own Son is our brilliant beacon of hope and the only miracle we’ve ever needed. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, we have victory at the end, but we are also assured of victory today. He has already won the spiritual super bowl. Now, all we need to do it to stay focused and press on as the clock runs down to the final horn.
“We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14.22)
Faith (not freakout).
“Master, Master, we are perishing!” (v24)
In today’s Scripture, Jesus is modeling living faith for his disciples: He is unafraid in the tempest. He is unafraid of the dark graveyard where the madman lurks with a legion of demons. The Lord is unafraid of the social stigma of being touched by the bleeding woman, and He is unafraid in the company of a dead girl.
Contrast that with the reactions of the twelve. Unlike Jesus, they forget who they are, lose faith, and are pulled into the black hole of their own fear. Instead of having faith that God can handle this, they freak out. They cry out to God as if He didn’t know or care: “Master, Master, we are perishing!”
Have you ever cried out to God like that? Perhaps you say that when you open your mail and see the credit card bill. Or it could be that you say that each day as your body ages and the pain is getting harder and harder to bear. Maybe you say that when your alarm clock goes off every morning!
It is human to embrace fear; it is Christian to abandon fear. We who love God have an edge when storms come out of nowhere and threaten to shipwreck us. Because we have faith, we have no use for fear. We know that there is ultimately nothing life can throw at us that can steal our joy. Because we have faith, we know that we are loved by God even when we are hated by men -- therefore we do not fear. Because we have faith, we know that these bodies are just loaners anyway -- therefore we do not fear, though we groan in expectation for the day when our bodies will be raised up and made new at the resurrection.
Do you know that God loves you? Do you know that in Jesus He has called you His own? Do you know that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it? Do you know that He has already won every war you are ever going to fight? There is no reason -- never any reason -- to freak out. Live in faith, not fear.
“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” (Psalm 34.19)
Victor (not victim).
“Where is your faith?” (v25)
It is devilishly attractive to play the victim when trouble comes our way. It is always easier to blame someone else than to take responsibility for the cards in your hand -- even when you dealt them yourself. The real victors in life are those who refuse to be mastered by their circumstances, and choose to live for God no matter what Jesus promises no escape from your trouble. He promises His presence through it. Therefore we have the ultimate victory in spite of any circumstance that seems to dictate otherwise. We are not victims; quite the contrary -- we are victorious in Christ.
He is not always going to take trouble away from you, Sometimes He will drive you right to it so that you will see firsthand His mighty power over storms, over evil, over social stigmas -- and over death itself. He is not going to lead you around the outside edge of darkness, but straight into the heart of it so that you can watch Him light it up as you walk in obedience to to Him.
What is your storm? Maybe it’s physical, like the sea tempest. Maybe your trouble is spiritual and mental, like the madman inexplicably drawn to dwell among the the tombs. Maybe your trouble is social, like the woman who suffered so much needless shame. Or maybe your problem is facing death itself -- you see yourself in that dead child -- and you wonder if there is anything for you beyond the grave. My friend, in Jesus, you need not play victim in any of life’s troubles. You can sleep soundly through the storm, victorious by His grace, firm in your faith, and tranquil in the tempest.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1.3-4)