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Thoughts and insights from Jubilee Church Wirral

Storms

By Jonathan Kent, guest blogger, Jubilee Church Wirral

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.’ James 1:2-4

I think it is safe to say that over the last 18 months we have lived through an unprecedented time both as a nation and indeed as a world! Living in the west we are used to a somewhat comfortable life with provision, comforts and a sense a freedom. Many other countries live in perpetual crisis, yet we are not used to harsh conditions or having our freedoms curtailed. The people of God have through the ages thrived in trial and adversity (Ex 1:12) and in some of those countries that face the toughest persecution the church is vibrant and growing exponentially.

But what about us in our own personal lives? Many have during this season encountered heart-breaking loss in the face of a pandemic that recognised no boundaries. Maybe you are struggling financial or employment set-back, family challenges or unexpected illness. As Christians we are not immune to the challenges of life, yet we have a solid hope in the face of tribulation. Hebrews 6;19 informs us that we do indeed have an ‘anchor for the soul that is steadfast and sure.’

In comparison to the conditions of the persecuted church we live calmer, safer lives but our faith can still be stretched in the reality of unforeseen storms. The scripture from James describes trials as, ‘tests! Tests seem to come our way through a variety of situations, but real ‘Faith is to trust Him despite the circumstances (Dan 3:17-18)

The dictionary defines a storm as ‘a disturbance of the normal condition of the atmosphere manifesting itself by winds of unusual force or direction.’ In Romans 8:28 Paul encourages us to know, ‘that [God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.’ Yes! That even includes the disturbance of our ‘normal’ conditions. Real FAITH is staying on track and trusting the LORD even when we can’t see the next step.

Sometimes we make a wrong decision, and we lose our way. This can happen when circumstances rail against us or when we decide to do our own thing.  When we find ourselves in the wilderness God in His grace will intervene when we repent (change the way we think) and submit to His ways.

I am reminded of three significant storms in the Word of God:

Jonah – The test of ‘obedience’ Jonah 1 – 4

The first involves a preacher who has been called to take God’s word to a particularly hostile nation. That people group had a reputation for extreme violence and degradation. Jonah decided that the assignment was not for him and took a boat in the very opposite direction!

The LORD seemed to allow this and didn’t intervene when he bought the ticket or when he boarded the ship. It was instead in the middle of the voyage when the weather turned nasty. Jonah as ‘sound asleep’ as the storm raged about him. The crew woke him up only then to cast ’lots’ to discover who was responsible for such circumstances. The lot fell to Jonah! This eventually resulted in Jonah being thrown overboard only to be swallowed by a great fish. From the belly of the fish, he cried out to the LORD in repentance, ‘Salvation is of the LORD.

Jonah was deliberately going the wrong way, but in His sovereignty and grace the LORD allowed a storm to come upon Jonah (and others!) to get his attention and re-orientate him. This resulted not only in the crew saved (Jonah 1:16) but Nineveh that wicked city experienced a spiritual awakening!

For consideration: “Am I living in obedience to God’s will in all things?” Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments…” John 14:15

Disciples – The test of ‘trust’ Luke 8:22

Jesus and the disciples were going across to the other side of the sea of Galilee and Luke’s account opens with Jesus saying to them, “Let us cross over to the other side of the lake…” Jesus makes it clear that they are going to make it but whilst on the water a huge storm blows up. These remember were season fishermen! I can just imagine the atmosphere on that boat, worship time finished 15 minutes ago! Now they were arguing amongst themselves and no doubt blaming each other as water began pouring into the boat. Jesus, meanwhile, is asleep! He is the master of the universe and is in total peace. We recall Jonah being asleep, but he was certainly not at peace inside or in any kind of control of those circumstances.

They wake Jesus and Mark’s account tells us they said, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He rebukes the wind and the waves and there was a great calm. Has God spoken to you and given you a clear direction only for your progress to be hampered by adverse circumstance? Do not be anxious, stay in faith and recall those promises.

For consideration: “Am I trusting the LORD in spite of current circumstance?”  Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. LET NOT your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  John 14:27

Paul – The test of ‘Courage’ Acts 27:13-44

This is the story of Paul journey to Rome to face trial before Caesar. He had been arrested some time before by the Jewish authorities who wanted him dead. This mighty apostle who had formerly been a destroyer of God’s church was dramatically converted (Acts 9). If you read his account, you will see that the Lord Jesus told him he would stand before Gentile kings. If you track his story Paul suffered much for Jesus. Courageous faith in challenging times is what is required in these days! Paul finds himself on a ship and despite his advice they head into a horrendous storm. In Acts 27 All-natural hope was gone but Paul exhorted everyone to, ‘Take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even thought the ship will go down. For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, stood beside me and he said, “Don’t be afraid Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar. What’s more, God in His goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you”’ (22-26 NLT)

For consideration: Am I in a place of courage regarding the promises over my life? “So, TAKE COURAGE! For I believe God. It will be just as He said.” Acts 27:25 (NLT)

Remember – you were built for storms!

Andrew Greenhalgh and Julie Greenhalgh Upton Life Group leaders Jubilee Church Wirral

Jonathan Kent, Jubilee Church Wirral

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