How much patience we show while enduring the trials of life is the marker which uncovers the true depth of our trust in God, a trust that is only developed through real relationship. The speaking of great faith and trust in God is quite different from a life that manifests those traits in patience and restraint. The outward manifestation always shows the reality of the inner condition.
Scripture’s call is for us to be like Jesus. I John 2:6 is clear when it tells us that "whoever says he abides in Him (Jesus) ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” Jesus walked in great faith and trust in God the Father; He walked full of love and compassion, and He walked in tremendous patience and restraint.
As our Savior walked this earth, He was certainly not invited to be a part of the “good ole’ boys club” of the day. Jesus walked outside the circles of influence within the modern and organized religion of His time, relentlessly pursued by the sarcasm and scorn of the Pharisees and Sadducees, the recognized standard bearers of the assault upon Christ. He never lost a verbal confrontation with them, but He still showed great restraint. He could have done much more than turn their tricky questions into teaching opportunities. He could have simply ended their existence upon this earth with only a word.
Christ’s greatest example of restraint would certainly be the time surrounding His crucifixion. Being ridiculed, scourged, and nailed to a tree… He could have ended that little charade of human strength at any moment, but, instead, He chose to endure it to completion. Because of His great love for us, Jesus knew that sin must be dealt with, and He knew that His own body was the instrument of our redemption. His suffering of the trial of the cross was the road that He knew must be traveled, and His death, at the hands of those He came to redeem, must precede the ultimate victory of His resurrection. God’s plan was flawless…but, God’s plan wasn’t easy, not even for His own Son.
This brings me to my point…
Life is hard. We are often set upon a path which leads us to a place where we fully recognize that we have no authority or control. We must understand that these storms are purposed for us. God alone knows the road that we must travel down, a road that leads to His perfect will. Again, God’s plan is flawless, but it’s not always easy, and it’s not always painless.
In our pursuit of God, or quite possibly His pursuit of us, we will experience purposed storms, we will be thoroughly tested, and we will most assuredly leave these interactions with scars. It’s at the point of trial, as those scars are being formed, where our trust in God should lead us to an enduring patience and restraint.
If we really want to find the calm of God within the storms of life, we must show the purposed restraint of Christ. We must trust through adversity, and we must allow that flawless plan of God to unfold before eyes that are focused on His sovereignty and not on our schemes to relieve the pressure of a painful situation through our own means.
What must we endure to be within the will of God? The Bible promises trials. We’ve been warned. We should be prepared.
James 1:2-8 tells us…
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
The ESV uses the word “steadfastness” in this verse. It simply means "dutifully firm and unwavering.” I would add that it implies an aspect of “trusting restraint" in the plan and methods of God to move us from one level of relationship to another level, a level that is deeper and more profound. The plan and methods of God may be painful at times, but they are flawless in every respect. It’s hard to see that truth in the middle of the storm, but a relevant relationship with God should reveal to us His strength, which, in turn, should enable in us an unshakeable trust…even when we’re unsure of what He’s doing or where He’s taking us.
The testing of our faith should be a catalyst for restraint, and, as stated in the verse above, in it’s full effect, that restraint (trusting and waiting on God) will leave us “perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” But, so often, we must go through the storm to harvest these wonderful promises.
When the storms of life present themselves, we should possibly only pray for God to “present” Himself. Instead of getting caught up in asking God to “fix it” our way, maybe we should just pray that we could have a recognition of God’s presence as the waves toss the boat? And, our prayers to God should be from a heart that is doubtless and full of faith, even if it’s God’s will that the storm should continue for a season, as often it is.
God isn’t “blowing our boat” in a random direction. He’s driving it, often with hard winds and mighty waves, directly to a planned destination where we will have a sincere recognition of His will and sovereignty, and where we can see a profound and very clear depiction of His glory. Sometimes we have to wait out the storm, trusting and restrained under the perfect protection of His might hand.
If we really want the calm of God in the middle of adversity, we should plan to exercise a trusting restraint, a manifestation of our real and growing relationship with a God who is willing to lead us far beyond the predetermined walls of our comfort zone, to find the glory of His will…a real glory that may only be found by us in situations where our feet can no longer touch the bottom.
Regardless of the persona we seek to display to those around us, we are a fragile people, ill-equipped to fight almost any battle in our own strength. It doesn’t take much of storm to completely uproot us from all stability, whether it be spiritual, emotional, relational, etc…
The Fragile Children of an All-Powerful God...
Paul tells the church in Corinth: "We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)
Paul is defining for us the true weakness of our flesh, as well as our greatest need, which is God. This is why we discussed examining our ‘real’ relationship with Him in my last blog. If we’re looking for the calm of God, then it starts with real relationship, the foundation on which our exploration of the wonders of God begin. It is only in that real relationship that we will personally uncover the depth of our incredible power, rooted deeply in intimate association with God Himself. This is important because of what is coming…
The Promise of Calm-Shattering Storms...
Paul continues: “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).
We are weak, but the previous verse reveals the great strength of God working in the life of His true child. It is only through our suffering where we truly realize the depth of our need for the strength and presence of God. Possibly, it should give us clearer focus of what Christ suffered for us?
Trouble and hardship have been a natural part of this life since sin entered the equation in the Garden of Eden. Trouble is coming. Expect it. And, know that, even through the most brutal of situations, there can be calm in the life of a genuine and focused child of God.
The Master of the Storms...
We serve a powerful God, One who can call out to the storm, and it must obey. Whether this is a storm of nature, a storm of emotion, a storm of confusion, or a storm of faith…God is the master of all storms, both internal and external.
Psalm 107:29 tells us that Jesus “stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.”
Scared and faith-rattled disciples were anticipating disaster on the boat as the storm violently churned around them. The boat began to fill up with water. It would have been a frantic scene, to say the least. Although Jesus was on this very boat with them, calmly sleeping through the chaos that so frightened the disciples, they still knew where to run for help at the point of their need. They brought their situation directly to Jesus. They sought His face, because they had a growing relationship with Him.
Their simple knowledge of Jesus, and their claim of faith, did not calm them, and it certainly didn’t calm the storm. It was only when they engaged with Him, through their growing relationship with the Savior, that things began to turn around. They knew that religion would not save them. Thinking good thoughts didn’t numb the feeling of the water rising around their ankles. Only Jesus could bring calm, and He did it by harnessing the fury of nature itself. What an awesome God we serve...a God to whom the storms bow! He’s worthy of our trust and attention.
The waters of life will most assuredly not always remain calm, but the child of God, the authentic child, the one who seeks a deep relationship with Him, can always find perfect calm in the midst of even the mightiest of storms. The reason…they know that whatever the storm may be, they need only find God in it.
The strength behind the calm is God. When you have found God, you have found the answer to your distress and fear. Let the storms rage, but find God. He will either calm the waves or calm His child.
Next: When the Storms Continue to Rage: A God of Great Restraint
In the past, I’ve written many blogs about the storms that life so freely offers to its participants. Today is no different, and the expected results probably remain the same for most readers…
We encounter a storm - We seek God - He brings calm and peace to the situation.
That sounds easy, right?
But not everyone finds the genuine calm of God in their storms…often, not even His own children. Today, I want to start this series of posts with no new information, only a reminder about who can really find the genuine calm of God…because, in the absence of change, not everyone can.
Life can be hazardous. Without notice, it can all change. Often that change brings us to a painful and unwelcome reevaluation of the status quo, and we must establish the parameters of a new normal, which is undoubtedly less than what we had initially hoped. Hope for the future can be crushed, and our next step is unclear, clouded by a fear and doubt that is too great to be dismissed. We are not calm; we are distraught and frenzied, possibly inconsolable.
It seems that storms come with a degree of almost predictable consistency. Never welcomed, they always seem to make it through the door, and their visit is disruptive, abusive, and undeniably messy. But, why are often so pitifully unprepared to meet them?
Storms can be so hostile to our life that those who claim no faith in God at all are often compelled to pray to Him for relief. Those who do claim faith in God most certainly pray for relief. But, there’s another category of individual that we should discuss here, and that is the person who holds a deep, intimate, and growing relationship with the Lord. These are people who do far more than simply “claim faith;” these are people who, on a daily basis, broaden and deepen their relationship with the Lord…on purpose and with diligence. These are the people who are prepared to face whatever storms life may offer up.
– Genuine Relationship Always Supersedes Claims of Faith
Their faith is not entirely built on what is taught in church, what is passed down through legacy stories of grandma’s great faith, or the information contained in glossy devotion books. Instead, their faith is primarily built on what is taught directly to them by the Holy Spirit of God, working through their planned and purposed times of personal and intimate engagement with Him, as they seek the true beauty found only in the daily pursuit of close association and interaction with God Almighty.
These are people who diligently search the Scriptures, not for out-of-context promises or specific answers to escape the problems of life, but, instead, these are people who search the Scriptures to find the true face of God Himself. These are people who really want to know God as He is. They want Him full-on at face value. They are not satisfied to limit their understanding of Him to the teachings of other well intentioned, but often flawed, followers of what may only be religion. Instead, they want (in the words of a great worship song) to “sit at His feet, drink from the cup in His Hand, and hear His heart beat.” They have moved their attention from the corporate move of mainstream religion, which may teach literally anything, and focused instead on building a real relationship with God…one on one...as it was intended.
Let me be clear…I’m not saying to bypass church or doubt the teachings of legitimate and devoted men and women of the faith. What I am saying is that, in our walk with God, we should venture away from the consumerism of shiny streamlined religion and become self-feeders. Not only that, we should become voracious self-feeders, relentlessly pursuing the knowledge of God from a level of one-on-one intimacy with Him. This level of intimacy begins and ends daily in a quiet room with an open Bible and a prayerful heart, a heart that is genuinely ready to listen. It is here where our real friendship with God begins. It is here where we are transparent, and it is here where we genuinely talk with God, one-on-one.
Back to this third category of individuals…
They do not open God’s Word to find the way to more material wealth, nor do they open it seek out the easier climb up the ladder of their life. Instead, these are individuals who open God’s Word specifically to find the "road less traveled”…the steep and narrow route…the only way to peace…the only real way home.
While those who claim no faith, and those who do claim faith, are desperately praying for relief from the storm, as that relief (or removal) can become their only marker for answered prayer, those who hold a deep and intimate relationship with God are simply praying to find God within the storm itself. They may certainly be praying for the storm to subside, but they are first and foremost trying to find God within the fury. They are not necessarily trying to find relief through the removal of the storm. They are just trying to find God. They understand that “relief” is not defined as the absence of the storm; “relief” is defined by their recognition of God’s presence, storm or no storm…come what may.
It is the recognition of God’s presence where real calm can begin. This is often a place far beyond the faith of many who claim Christ as Lord, because the foundation of that faith is not measured by their church attendance or their copious transcription of sermon notes once a week; instead, the foundation of their faith can only be measured by the depth and relevance of their genuine daily walk with the Lord.
How can we find the real calm of God? We should start by examining the unadulterated truth about our relationship with Him.
Next... Part 2: The Strength Behind the Calm
Keith Beatty is a Worship, Missions and Media Pastor living in North Alabama. He's excited and very humbled to be a follower of Jesus Christ!