One thing that I can assure all students as they start or continue their journey is that they will have problems. They may be Aphysical, but all of them will have problems. If so, where should the student turn during these times of trial? They must turn to the Scriptures, and particularly stories of the trials of others.
The passage at the end of Mark 4, the story of a storm in the life of the disciples, is a valuable lesson for modern-day disciples who are engaging in ministry training.
“As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.’ So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind. But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.
Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”
When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!” (March4:35-41 NLT)
Too often in Christianity there is an underlying assumption that all problems go away when one puts faith in Christ. The Bible assures us that this is not true, but that we have a rock upon which we can depend when troubles come.
The first lesson that the disciples needed to learn is that “Storms in our lives are certainly providential.” The reason that the disciples were in the boat and going across the Sea of Galilee was that they were doing what Jesus told them to do. Thus they were in the middle of a storm not because they had disobeyed God Too often in Christianity there is an underlying assumption that all problems go away when one puts faith in Christ. The Bible assures us that this is not true,but particularly because they had obeyed him. We must never think that the only reason that we have problems or storms in our life is because of disobedience. Sometimes it is obeying the Lord that brings those problems to us.
The second lesson that the storms teach us is that “Storms in our lives are seemingly inescapable.” The description of the storm is that of a “great wind.” The waves were threatening to sink the boat in the middle of the sea. The boats used at this time were small wooden boats that were not meant to be out in this kind of weather. When trapped in a storm, those on board were in severe danger. Simply because we are Christians does not mean that we will not be brought to those times when we face real danger, just like the apostles before us.
The third lesson that is learned from this passage is that “Storms in our lives are obviously educational.” Note that the disciples, some of whom were fisherman, turned to a carpenter during times of storm. They find Jesus asleep in the boat (much like Jonah) and call upon him to wake up. An interesting fact is that this is the only story in the Gospels that tells us about Jesus sleeping. Being fully human, Jesus certainly needed sleep like the rest of us, but only in this situation does the Holy Spirit bring it into the text. This may be to remind us that the Lord is not worried; he is in control. Since Jesus can sleep in the midst of a storm, we should be able to as well.
And so the disciples, and the readers of Mark, learn some valuable lessons from this story of the storm. We are reminded of God’s providence, of the reality of evil and of our education through difficult times. I reminded the students of this during Knox’s convocation, and I remind the readers now, that we must go through our lives not denying the presence of evil, but knowing that our Lord controls it all. Sleep well in the midst of a storm.
Dr. Samuel Lamerson is president of Knox Theological Seminary and a professor of New Testament studies. You can reach him at [email protected]