A Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church.Find another day here.
Wednesday June 3, 2020
1 John 4:17-18
By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
It was a dark and stormy night on the Sea of Galilee. Three different gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, all record this event following Jesus and the disciples spending the previous days with huge crowds of people, teaching and healing and doing the work of ministry. Quite frankly, they were all exhausted, so Jesus got in a boat and ordered the disciples to take him to the other side. Now, remember that the Sea of Galilee is actually a lake, in fact it is the lowest freshwater lake on earth at over 700 feet below sea level in some places. Although it is not exceptionally large, at only 8 miles across and 12 miles long at its widest points it is possible to see the entire shoreline all the way around, because of its unique location among the hills and mountains it is subject to sudden and violent storms as weather systems from the eastern mountains drop down onto the sea. At least four of the disciples, two sets of brothers; Peter and Andrew, and James and John, were experienced, professional fishermen, intimately familiar with this particular body of water and its predictably unpredictable weather patterns.
That night, the storm arrived with a vengeance, with the fierce waves crashing over the sides and quickly filling the boat with water. It was an all-hands-on-deck situation, and even the hardened veterans of the sea knew this might be the end. As the disciples furiously went to work in an attempt to save their boat and their lives, they noticed that Jesus was still asleep on the cushion in the back of the boat. Incredulous, they woke Him by asking, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” To offer my own paraphrase: “How are you sleeping! Don’t you realized that if even the professionals are freaking out then maybe you should get up and do something? We’re dying here man!” So Jesus did get up and rebuked the storm of wind and waves with the simple command, “Peace, be still” and there was instantly a great calm on the water. Then he turned to address the storm of fear and anxiety still raging within the hearts of the disciples by saying, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” But the disciples could not comprehend what their eyes had seen, and the object of their fears transferred from the water at the bottom of the boat to the man standing in it, “What kind of man can this be?”
The author of our epistle did not write about this story in his gospel, due to space considerations and the fact that it had already been accurately recorded, but there is no doubt of John’s presence in the boat with Jesus that night. For John, the sure sign of the presence of the love of God within the heart of the believer is how they live in the face of judgement and fear. How we respond in times of adversity and stress reveals, and at time even helps form, our true nature. Christians can have confidence in the midst of whatever situation they find themselves in, not because they live in ignorance to the dark and cruel reality of our fallen world, but because of the knowledge of the truth of who Jesus is and what He has done for them. Just as the wind and the waves were no match for their Creator, the storms of life are no match for the Author of Life.
Christians are nothing more than sinners who have experienced the perfect love and perfect forgiveness of God. Like a fisherman casting a net out into the deep, perfect love casts out sin and fear. The Bible tells us that the moment we are forgiven for our sins, God removes them from us as far as the east is from the west. While we will still have to face the consequences of our actions here, and they will not always be pleasant, we do not have to fear cosmic judgment of sin that has already been given to, and forgiven by, God. He does not demand that we endlessly confess for what we have already repented. In our weakness, at times our situation and circumstances feel overwhelming, and we may be tempted, like the disciples, to cry out to Jesus, “Can’t You see us? Don’t you care that we are perishing?” The good news is that in our brokenness, in our hopelessness, in our despair, and even in our sin, He sees us and He loves us, He does care and He does save. It is so easy to forget, as did the men on the boat, that perfect power and perfect love is already in our midst.
As Paul writes in the book of Romans 8, “if God is for us, who can be against us?” Fear is a product of punishment, judgment, uncertainty, and pain. In Jesus, we know that our punishment and judgment was once and for all put to death on the cross, and as a result we can have certainty that no matter the pain we may endure now, it will all be more than worth it. In the moments where we ask the question, “Where is God in all of this?” remember that God does not promise us that He will take away every storm from our lives, but we can be certain that no matter what, He is with us in the storm. Not only is He beside us in the boat, but for a Christian, He is within us. We don’t have to live in fear, but we can live in faith knowing that with a simple command He can calm even the most tumultuous storms raging in our hearts.
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, we all go through storms in this life, and at times, it appears the storm will never end. Help us to have confidence that You are the Creator of the wind and the waves, the Author of Life. Forgive us for the times that we doubt Your desire and ability to be our ever present help in times of trouble. Help us to get to know You deeper through Your Word and perfect Your love within us. We pray that Your peaceful presence will cast out all of our fear and rule and reign in our hearts today. We ask this in Your Mighty Name. Amen.