Sunday 13th September

Service Transcript & Video

A few years back, I tried to confront one of my big fears.

 That’s my fear of water. You see, I can’t swim.

 When I was a kid, and we went for swimming lessons, I was the one left in the little pool going up and down the pool holding a float with bright yellow armbands, while the rest of my peers moved into the big pool without any floating devices! They just got it, and I didn’t.

I tried a few times over the years but never was successful.

 So, a couple of years back, I decided to confront my fear, and I signed up for some swimming lessons. Before the lessons started, I watched videos on Youtube, teaching you how to swim and tried to memorise what I needed to do. I felt confident as I watched those videos. I knew from watching them that it was possible for anyone to float and to swim, and I also learned that it was really important that you could put your face in the water as you swam.

And so I bought these goggles, filled my kitchen sink and started practising submerging my face in the water. I was so proud of myself because I now knew how to put my head in the water and blow bubbles.

All this preparation give me confidence as I went for my first swimming lesson. Sure enough, lesson number one, I had to put my face in the water and float to the top while holding on to the side. It felt great. I felt that I had done it.

In fact, I imagined this opportunity of sharing with you, where I would share my story of overcoming my fear of the water. I really felt that this was my moment.

I lasted 6 lessons, I tried really hard, I went to the pool in-between lessons, but my problem was, I just couldn’t let go of the side of the pool. I just couldn’t let go of my fear and trust the water and my body to work in sync together.

No matter how much I said that I believed the water would hold me up, no matter how many other people were floating and swimming along, I just didn’t trust that the water would do for me what it did for them.

On my final lesson, I was a bit depressed because I really was no further on than I had been on my first day and as I was leaving, I was chatting to my instructor, and I told her that I was disappointed that I hadn’t been able to do it. She asked if I liked to be in control, and I wasn’t sure what she meant. She said that I wasn’t able to trust my body and trust the water because I wouldn’t let go of feeling like I was in control.

I really felt that fear had won. My fear meant that I couldn’t let go and trust.

Fear does that to all of us. We miss out on opportunities, on relationships, on joy, on peace, because of the fear that sweeps up around us.

No doubt, you have your own stories. Stories where you have held onto a fear so that you didn’t have to risk anything; stories where you feel as though your fears kept you safe; you have stories where you know that your fears stopped you from enjoying relationships and living life to the full.

I’m sure if I did a survey in this room right now, or asked you listening at home, what are you afraid of right now, your answers would vary. For some of you, Covid19 is one of the biggies that keep you fearful. Some of you have very real financial fears, fears of redundancy, fear of a recession, fears about feeding your family and keeping a roof over your head. Some of you have fears about getting sick, fears about doctors appointments, fears about getting old, fears about dying. Some of you may be afraid of losing someone or something that is really important to you, fear of being alone, fear of not being the best, fear of failure… so many fears.

And what does clinging to these fears bring us? Happiness? Peace? Contentment? Joy? Harmony? No! Fears and being afraid brings a sense of failure, hopelessness, sadness, despair. Fears ruin relationships, and when we allow our fears to go unchecked, they make our reactions harsh and unkind to those around us.

Fears imprison us and can make our worlds very small and very dark.

So if fear is so bad, so destructive, then why are we so afraid?

Why are you so afraid?

You know, it’s a question Jesus asked of his followers, and I think its a question that we need to think about too.

There must be something more for us than living lives that are full of fear.

Surely God didn’t design us to live this way… fearful, anxious, full of uncertainty and dread.

We’re going to read a story, a true story, of Jesus followers, who ended up in a situation where they felt out of control, hopeless, fearful and Jesus asks them this question, “why are you so afraid?”

Turn to Mark 4:35-41.

Here we have the disciples, Jesus followers, and they’ve been listening to him teach. They’ve seen him do miracles, heal people, they’ve seen peoples lives changed as they’ve been in contact with him. And after a busy day, Jesus hops into a boat and says ‘let’s go!”

His followers get in that boat with him, knowing that being with him is going to be good.

But what happens? This boat ride with the guy they have given up everything to follow, well, this boat ride doesn’t go like they expected it to. It wasn’t like sitting out on the deck of a yacht drinking something cool and chilling out. If that’s what they expected in this moment with Jesus, it’s certainly not what they got.

Out of nowhere, a storm comes. It comes suddenly. Not just any storm, but a massive, seismic, furious storm! It is so fierce that the waves are coming up over the sides of the boat, and water is coming into the boat.

Talk about frightening! Talk about being afraid.

Some of these disciples were experienced fishermen, they were used being out at sea, they were used to storms, but this storm, this one was big, it was scary, and they thought that this was it for them. They thought that they were going to drown.

This was a situation that was completely out of their control.

They couldn’t do anything about it.

Scary storms in our lives are like that, aren’t they? Situations that feel out of our control.

Situations that we can’t do anything about. A storm where you feel that your life is on the line.

Job loss. Death of a loved one. A cancerous lump. Friends who betray us…

Out of your control. Scary. That feeling like you are going to drown and you are panicking, and you just can’t cope.

You’ve been there. Maybe some of you feel that way now?

But in the middle of this storm that we are reading about, the disciples are so afraid, they think that they are about to die, and they remember Jesus… ‘yes Jesus is with us… yes, He was the one who brought us on this boat. Yes, we have Jesus! But where is he? Why is he not out here helping?’

They look, and they find him in the stern… tucked up with his head on a cushion… fast asleep… sleeping like a baby… what?! This storm has the boat tossing all over the place, water is gushing over the sides of the boat – and Jesus sleeps through it all.

You can imagine the scene – the disciples rouse him, “wake up, Jesus?”

They cry out to him from their fears, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

‘Jesus, have you any idea whats going on here, we’re scared to death, we’re going to die here, and you don’t even seem to care. We have left everything to follow you, we’ve listened to you teach all day, we got in this boat when you asked us to… and now, when we really need you, where are you? Sleeping? Why don’t you care?’

It’s a question, not unfamiliar to us if we are honest. There have been times when our world is shaken when our lives are rocked, times when we feel like we are drowning, and we look up to God and say, don’t you care? Do you see what’s happening here? I’ve given my all to follow you, but here I am, and life is not good. I thought it would be different – don’t you care God?

Isn’t it interesting that the disciples first reaction in this storm was to doubt that Jesus even cared about them. But that’s the thing about storms in our lives – storms are noisy, dark, scary and intimidating. Storms heighten our fears and then give way to our doubts about God. Does He really love us if this is happening? Does he really care? Does he have the power to do anything at all? Perhaps, we think that he is sleeping or turning a blind eye to the storms and troubles in our lives.

Even David in the Psalms felt this struggle –

Psalm 44:23-26NLT “Wake up, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Get up! Do not reject us forever. Why do you look the other way? Why do you ignore our suffering and oppression? We collapse in the dust, lying face down in the dirt. Rise up! Help us! Ransom us because of your unfailing love.”

In times of trouble, just like those first disciples, our fears raise doubts in us about God’s love and care for us. Our fears overwhelm us, and we start to question if God really is good, if he really can do anything, if following Him is really worth it. Our fears become so consuming, so huge in our lives, our minds, that we tend to forget all that God has done in the past and what he has promised to do in the future.

Fears make us forget what is actually true and what we can hold onto.

Fear loves chaos and hates peace. When we hold onto fear, we will not experience peace.

But Jesus wasn’t afraid. He was experiencing peace and rest. He was in the same storm as the disciples were, but he wasn’t worried or terrified. He was completely at peace. So, when he was wakened up, Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and spoke to the waves,

“Quiet! Be still!”

And so it was.

The wind died down, and it was completely calm. Just like that.

Jesus speaks to the storm. He speaks, and everything changes.

All that was out of control is completely under Jesus control. Incredible!

Jesus then turns to his disciples and says to them, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

Why are you so afraid?

‘Really, Jesus? Are you serious? Why are we afraid??!’

I find this question so strange, don’t you? We’ve just been told that there’s a furious storm that has nearly taken their lives and Jesus asks why they were so afraid.

Those moments when your heart is pounding, your pulse racing, your mouth dry, your thoughts everywhere, and Jesus asks you, why are you so afraid?

What have you got to be afraid about? ‘I am with you. I’m here. Don’t you trust me? Haven’t you seen some of the things that I can do? I told you to come follow me, it’s going to be an adventure, it’s not always going to be easy, but I’m with you.’

Isn’t he saying the same thing to you and to me right now?

Why are you so afraid?

I’m here. Trust me. Remember what I’ve done in the past and what I’ve promised to do in the future. I’m right here with you in this storm that you are facing, and I’m not going anywhere. So, when I’m with you, you have nothing to be afraid about.

You see, when Jesus is in the boat with us, we have absolutely nothing to be afraid of. Storms will come, and storms will go, but He is present. He is with us.

We will all face storms in our lives. We will all go through horrendous things that we never imagined that we would have to face. We will be in situations where we feel that we are drowning – that is life – Jesus himself said in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In the world, on this earth, you will have trouble, you will have many trials and sorrow – it’s not you may have, you might have, no, you will have troubles – but take heart, have courage, for I have overcome the world.”

Followers of Jesus still go through tough things. When you become a follower of Jesus, it doesn’t mean that you never face any difficult times, no, you will still face tough times, but Jesus is in the boat with you as you go through the storm.

Is Jesus in your boat? If you are listening to this, and you are facing trials and struggles and difficulties on your own, it is a scary place to be, but Jesus wants to be with you in it.

He wants you to put your faith in Him. To trust that he is with you, that one word from Him can silence the noise and the chaos of the storm going on in your world. One word from Him brings peace to your situation. It will still be hard, but the difference is, you are not in it on your own.

You need to know that hanging on to fears is like being in prison, but faith that Jesus is with us brings freedom from that prison.

Fear will paralyse us and dishearten us, it will prevent us from moving forward, but faith encourages and empowers us to keep pressing on, keep holding on, to keep looking to Jesus no matter what storm we are facing.

As Max Lucado says in his book “Fearless”, ‘Fear may fill your world, but it doesn’t have to fill your heart. It will always knock on the door. Just don’t invite it in for dinner, and for heavens sake, don’t offer it a bed for the night.”

Don’t let fear have the final say in your life.

Over and over, Jesus speaks to our storms, to our fears and says, ‘do not be afraid, take courage, don’t doubt, why are you afraid? Do not fear.”

We need to take these words of Jesus in our minds, our hearts so that when fear arises, we don’t entertain it for a moment, because we know that we have the One who calmed the sea and quietened the storm, and took control of the chaos on our side. And that same God is saying to us, “Don’t be afraid? I’m here. Be at peace.”

He is with you. He can bring calm and peace to whatever storm you are going through. He is mighty. He is powerful. He knows no limits. His love is never-ending. He is like no other. He is holy and awesome. He is your refuge and your strength. There is none like Him.

In our storms, in the chaos and darkness and noise – fear will want to take first place, fear will want to be heard. But Jesus speaks peace and calm into those storms. He says, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”

Finally, we have a trampoline in our garden, and as you know, trampolines can take flight during a stormy day or night – we’ve seen other peoples trampolines blown right over fences and I even saw a picture of one that ended up on the motorway. Do you know what we did when we got our trampoline –  we bought one of those kits that you can peg your trampoline down, just like you would with a tent. Most days we don’t need that trampoline pegged down, most days are calm, but we are prepared for the storm because we don’t want that trampoline flying anywhere. What I am saying, is get yourself prepared now, don’t wait for a storm to hit, before being prepared. Trust Jesus in the calm, when life is easy, find your peace in Him now, dig in deep to his promises, speak his truth, rest in his love and security now, so that no matter what, you will not be tossed about by fear, but you will be anchored, secure, safe, because you know who is on your side.

I want to finish with a video. It’s part of a spoken word called ‘Speak to the Storm’.

Let us pray:

 

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