T H E S T O R M
“and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house;”
There has not been a house, except recently built, that hasn’t been pummeled by a storm. And spiritually there has not been a house – a christian – who has not been, or soon will be pummeled by a storm. We all pass through times of trouble. Jesus warns there is a storm to be unleashed against both the wise man and the foolish. Storms are a fact of life on planet earth. (Hang on, heaven is just around the corner!) The student of the word must comprehend the purpose of storms, who sends them, and how to deal with them.
This is no small issue. You have a Friend and you have an enemy. Does the enemy send storms to destroy you, or does the Friend send storms to better your character? If it’s the Friend sending the storm you dare not rebuke it. If it’s the enemy how do you deal with him?
There are many christian spokesmen who teach the Lord is the one who creates and directs all or some of the storms every christian encounters – this for the purpose of bringing the believer into maturity and sanctification. You have heard it said: “The Lord has everything under control.” (“Everything” includes storms, right?) And: “God is sovereign.” (Nothing happens unless He allows it.) Many reputable people have expressed those convictions in books and songs. Let’s call their teachings ‘doctrines of affliction’.
DOCTRINES OF AFFLICTION
There are several doctrines of affliction. One teaches it is the Lord who torments as a means of shaping christians into vessels of His choice, much like the potter shapes a lump of clay. Another teaches it is the devil who afflicts, but the Lord may withhold His mercy until He accomplishes His intended result. Another suggests we praise God for, not in spite of, every hurt and loss. God will send (or allow) storms in the form of sickness, accidents, failures, betrayal, assault, poverty, misunderstandings, confusion and loneliness in order to shape our character. At least one author has presented the following logic: God created Lucifer because God knew he would rebel and…. eventually become our enemy and…. now we have someone to combat and…. thus prove our faithfulness to God and…. become strengthened in character and…. become worthy and capable sons and daughters and…. cause our praise unto the King to be pure and pleasing.
Most, it seems, strongly believe in one of the many doctrines of affliction. Complicating the issue is the fact that storms often do have the positive effect of bringing the afflicted into closeness with Christ. Storms of life can cause us to turn to Christ in prayer. Need often precedes humility. A friend was convinced that God authored all problems for the betterment of christians and articulated that opinion several times. After one of his monologues I told him a story – not a true story, one might call it a parable:
There was a happy christian driving in harsh winter conditions with his family. God was looking down at this fellow with passionate love and, because of that love, caused him to have a flat tire. He gets out of the warm car and into the driving wind, opens the trunk, figures out how to use the *#*#*# jack. It’s bitter cold, his gloves are at home, and he’s wearing a light jacket. He jacks the car up, removes the flat tire from the wheel after fighting five very stubborn bolts, takes the spare out of the trunk, and discovers it’s flat! More*#*#*#. The devil sees all this and he doesn’t like it. All this distress might cause that *#*#*# christian to become a better disciple of Christ. Can’t have that. So he sends a tow truck by. Guy gets out, hooks on to the car, and tows him to a garage. Doesn’t charge a cent. Now my friend is looking at me intensely, anticipating a punch line. And I gave it to him: That makes the devil that christian’s deliverer! “Arrogance! Such arrogance!” my very angry friend repeated over and over, frustrated because he could not refute my logic. I was actually nervous he was going to hit me.
Doctrines of affliction diametrically oppose the promises. Faith says when all requirements of a particular promise are accomplished God is bound to keep His word. The doctrines of affliction say, “Not necessarily so”, suggesting God has the prerogative to withhold from His commitment. Faith cannot bear such a condition.
James: Let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man unstable in all his ways.
The christian who is uncertain who sends an affliction is “a double-minded man”, not able to counter the problem with confidence. The “shield of faith” is to “quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one”, not fiery darts of the Lord.
WHO SENT THE STORM?
You know the story: Jesus is asleep in the boat when “a great tempest arose on the sea”, they woke Jesus up, He “rebuked the winds and the sea”, and “there was a great calm”. Now since this chapter is about storms, an obvious question is….
Who sent that storm? Solve that question and we deepen our understanding of who sends the many storms we all encounter periodically. But it’s a complicated issue. The devil does not have free course to just do what he wants, and neither do the ministering angels whose job it is to protect us. I do not know who or what caused the storm that Jesus rebuked. But I know who didn’t.
I know Jesus didn’t send the storm; He was asleep. I know the Father didn’t send the storm; Jesus would never rebuke His Father’s work. (“If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”) Certainly the Holy Spirit did not cause it. Then who sent the storm?
Did satan send the “great tempest”? Does he have such power? he somehow was able to take Jesus “up into the holy city (and) set Him on the pinnacle of the temple”. And he also brought Jesus onto “an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world”. 2 Thes.2:9: The coming of the lawless one is according to the work of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders. But surely if the devil had the power to create storms at will, life on earth would be one ugly, non-stop storm.
Did circumstances create that storm on the “sea of Galilee”? Did certain climatic conditions converge to create a natural havoc? I don’t know.
CHRISTIANS CREATE STORMS
Christians often bring turbulence upon themselves and upon others. An unfaithful spouse destroys a family. A braggart self-inflicts. (“Pride goes before destruction.”) Preachers wrongly dividing the Word cause havoc. A rebellious teen puts herself under a curse by disrespecting her parents. Choosing taste over nutrition will eventually have ill consequences on our earthsuit. Most refuse the guidance of the Holy Spirit and miss God’s blessings. Sheep straying from the Shepherd get themselves into a real mess.
And obedience causes storms. The three-year ministry of Jesus was a three-year confrontation with the pharisees. Paul was martyred because he was faithful. We have all read of believers in communist lands bringing strife to their family by declaring the gospel. The one taking a stand against church injustice will be a marked man. “All who desire to live Godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (will be battered by storms).
Ephesians 6:11-18: Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Yes, we live in a war zone. In war there are calamities and injuries and deaths. Especially for those daring to fight on the front lines. The enemy isn’t paying much attention to the frivolous; they don’t do much harm to the kingdom of darkness. The lukewarm are not concerned with “principalities”, “powers”, “rulers of the darkness”, and “spiritual hosts of wickedness”. Their enemies consist of what they see, and what they see are “flesh and blood” people. People are the enemy.
Disciples of Christ, on the other hand, attract opposition. They preach the Word, and the Word “is the power of God to salvation”. “How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” Darkness wants to shut them up. However, the enemy’s demon-power is limited; they cannot reproduce. One could safely conclude the most effective strategy is to oppose those most passionate to serve their Christ.
CAN WE STILL THE STORMS?
Jesus healed, and so did the disciples (in His name). Jesus cast out demons and so do christians (in His name). Christ’s ministry was accompanied with signs and wonders, and so was Peter’s, etc. So if Jesus stilled the storm, why can’t we? Is there anything an adopted son or daughter can’t do? Let’s check it out:
Ph’p. 4:13: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. All things. All good things that Christ did. Jesus said, “And greater works than these shall he do.” He told the eleven (and thus told us), “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” And Jesus also said, “Ask and you shall receive.” Yes, we can quiet the storms by exercising authority and/or through prayer. But not all….
SOWING AND REAPING
Question: Why is it that God doesn’t answer some prayers? Answer: He can’t.
From Genesis to Revelation a lesson is taught and demonstrated: We reap what we sow. It is more than a natural phenomena, it is a promise of God. The best example is the judgment seat of Christ whereby we will be rewarded for “the things done in the body…. whether good or bad”. For some, perhaps most, it will be a major disappointment and embarrassment. The Lord, though “His mercy endures forever”, will not trespass against His promise by giving rewards we have not earned.
Same on earth. We reap what we sow and that harvest often builds into a major, ugly storm that will upset our lives. We pray, but seemingly to no effect. God is not about to break His promise. That is why He will not answer our prayers (except they be preceded by deep repentance and packed with sufficient faith). So what do we do?
We sow good seeds. (Contrition is a good seed.) The good counteracts the bad. No, good seed doesn’t negate bad seed, but simply helps to neutralize the ill effect. You raise a child. If you plant nothing but good seed the child would be expected to blossom into a dedicated disciple of Christ. If your seed is all bad…. well, you can imagine the result. If you plant both good and bad seed, as most parents do, the resultant adult could be less than favorable. (Also, the child herself is planting seeds into her life, as well as teachers, friends, relatives.)
Jesus: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”
Jesus: “I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy.”
Christians have authority over the powers of darkness. The sad fact the church rarely uses that power does not negate the truth that it really is ours. So who allows the storms (storms we did not create through disobedience)? Again, who is the ‘allower’ and the ‘disallower’?
The word ‘allow’, though often in our speech, is rarely used in the New Testament, and never in the sense of God allowing. It is not that God permits certain storms in our life, but rather He is rendered powerless to prevent them. Because He gave His word. Because of His integrity. Let us reason together:
God cannot determine the fate of man. He is limited by His promises, His holiness, His integrity. God cannot offend God. He cannot contravene His nature. At times His holiness causes Him to react in a manner painful to Himself. The good Father gave His beloved Son as a sacrificial offering because He had no other option. Only the sacrifice of deity would appease deity. Justice and holiness demanded such a price. And so “in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” Father did not ‘allow’ Christ’s suffering, He had no choice (if He was to rescue us). His holiness nailed Jesus to the cross. And it’s that holiness that often prevents Him from coming to our rescue.
God entrusted a certain authority to man, giving him “dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” It is obvious Adam lost that authority when he first sinned against God. Where did this authority go? Into whose hands did it fall?
satan now possessed it, having stolen it from man through deception. That was the purpose of the temptation in Eden, to capture the dominion given to man from God. That’s why he could confidently say to Jesus, in the wilderness, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me.” (Delivered by who?) Jesus did not contest the devil’s claim. If the claim was a pretense it would not be a temptation. satan does have authority and that’s why Paul referred to him as “the god of this world”.
Why didn’t God simply take back that stolen authority from the thief. Again, the answer is God’s holiness. It is not righteous to take what does not belong to Him. The “dominion over…. every living thing” no longer belonged to God. He did not loan it to man, He gave it to man. Obviously the enemy was certain God was not going to take it back, or else he would not have stolen it.
satan, to this day, has the authority God entrusted to Adam. On that memorable trip to Damascus Jesus said to Paul, “I am sending you to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God. (NASB)” Fortunately you and I “are not of this world”. “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.” Also, we have been given “authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy.” “The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.”
Yes, God became a man so that as a man He could conquer the enemy. A man lost authority and a man must regain it. John 3:8: For this purpose was the Son of God manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” He imparted to His church the authority and power to do what He did. The church can arrest the devil’s activities but because of misunderstandings, because of unchecked influence of Negotiators and Compromisers who seriously weaken the church, because of the many “doctrines of demons” (certainly including doctrines of affliction), and because of depraved unbelief and paralyzing fear we do not exercise the authority we have been given.
Christians in heaven no longer have authority down here. Only those here have authority here. And soon we will be there, no longer able to bless mankind. In our community there are cherry orchards which often get pelted by rain just before harvest time – which can cause the cherries to split. After one such rainfall a friend protected his crop by exercising his faith and authority. His was the only orchard in his area that didn’t have split cherries.
Can you see it was the church that disallowed one crop to split, and it was the church that allowed the other crops to be split? (If the church protected one crop could it not protect all crops?) If the church can protect cherries it can obviously protect people – from sickness and demons and accidents. We have the authority. What we lack is the faith and understanding and resolve to exercise that authority.
Contrary to the belief of many, God does not control the war on planet earth. It is His will that none should perish, but many will. The “god of this world” does not control the war. It is his will that all should perish with him, but many won’t. The population of heaven and hell will be decided by…. the church. Us. You and I and all. The redeemed, the set apart ones. We are, now, determining the eternal fate of millions and millions. Scary.
After rebirth comes sanctification. Sanctification is a lifetime process of cleansing, maturing, strengthening. Old habits and mentalities are pruned away, lumps are removed from the clay, a new wineskin is in the making, the babe is in the Master’s hands.
Because God is love He accepts the convert as she is. And because God is love He will never be satisfied until maturity is accomplished. Meticulously, steadfastly, He deals with the ill effects of sin, transforming His child into the person she was originally intended to be. Sanctification is something the Lord does – with the believer’s cooperation. Though we have no power to change ourselves, we determine our rate of growth. We enhance or stifle the process.
Sanctification is accomplished, mostly, through the Word. Our Lord does not require storms, only surrender. When Jesus prayed for “those whom You have given Me” He said, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” He told the twelve, “I am the true vine and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch that bears fruit He prunes that it might bear more fruit.” Okay, so how does the Father prune us so we bear more fruit? The Father prunes us the same way Jesus pruned the twelve: “You are already pruned for greater fruitfulness by the message (word) I have given you. (NLT)”
Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of the water by the word.” Peter wrote, “Desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.”
When some hear or read the word ‘prune’ they conclude everything from canker sores to cancer, from unpaid bills to bankruptcy, from earwigs to earthquakes. Indeed there is a slower, more painful way to get pruned. It is the path of most. The process of typical christian goes something like this: he refuses the governorship of the Holy Spirit who desires to protect his intimacy with Jesus and…. because he distanced himself from His protection, a violent storm eventually overtakes his life and…. after suffering the consequences of his backsliding he finally repents in brokenness and…. he is once more teachable and humble. (Unfortunately he may conclude God sent the tempest to bring him to repentance. That’s how false doctrines are birthed – making deductions from experiences rather than The Book.)
But such – praise the Lord! – is not God’s way. His way is demonstrated, clearly, through the life and ministry of Christ on earth. Jesus preached. Jesus taught. Jesus scolded and rebuked. He used words to accomplish the Father’s will in the hearts of men. That’s how God affects our hearts. He speaks to us. (“My sheep hear My voice.”) As we are saved by hearing the gospel words, we are likewise sanctified by His words.