Faith to Launch in 2011
Topic: Faith Passage: Luke 8:22–8:25
August 10, 1628 was to be a great day for the Swedish city of Stockholm. The mighty warship The Vasa was ready to set sail at last. The Vasa was over 180 feet long, carried over 400 men and had been commissioned by King Adolphus II to accomplish great things – to sail powerful seas and win mighty conquests for the glory of their king. At 4:00pm on August 10, crowds lined the docks and cheered and the Swedish fleets fired a gun salute as the Vasa weighed anchor and slid gracefully away.
However, while it was still in the bay, and the crowds were still cheering, a squall suddenly blew into the bay and the winds began to list the boat seriously to portside. Before the crew could redistribute the weight of the guns, the boat began to take in water through the gun ports of the lowest deck, and just a few minutes after setting sail on its maiden voyage, the Vasa sank below the sea while a shocked crowd watched in silence.
Here we are on the day after Christmas and next week when we meet it will be 2011 and in a strange way, the coming of a new year reminds me of the ill-fated Vasa. Every year millions of optimists (like me) line up to launch another new year with high hopes of what adventures we’ll find and what accomplishments we’ll achieve and what good intentions we’ll keep, and we christen the good ship new year by making new year resolutions and watching the ball drop on Times Square, and we think, “boy, I’m gonna do things differently this time”. And then squalls hit and before you know it, we’re watching all our resolutions and high hopes for the new year sink and we’re paddling around in a life raft drinking sea water and just hoping we can survive the rest of the year. And it’s only January 3rd!
Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but you get the picture. We tend to launch New Year’s with a lot of high hopes only to see those hopes sink pretty quickly most of the time. And here we are again, just a few days away from the launching of another year, and I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling pretty optimistic about this year! But I believe the Lord wants to fill our hearts with something better and stronger than optimism as we enter the New Year. I believe the Lord wants to stir up in our hearts what the Lord is always looking for in His people: faith. So this morning I want us to turn to a passage where we are going to find another boat, another squall and another crew that were convinced they were going to sink, and through the lessons they learn about faith, it’s my hope that the Lord will stir up fresh faith in our hearts as we enter 2011.
Title: Faith to Launch in 2011
I. Our faith is anchored in the love of Christ
One day Jesus got into a boat and said to his disciples, let’s go to the other side of the lake. The lake here is the Sea of Galilee which is 8 miles wide and 13 miles long and is 680 feet below sea level. It is surrounded by hills with deep ravines and strong winds are drawn through these ravines, making sudden and violent storms commonplace.
And while Jesus and the disciples are crossing the lake, a violent squall suddenly kicks up. We know it was a really dangerous storm because these men were hardened sailors who were accustomed to being on the water in all sorts of elements and they were afraid for their lives. In fact the Bible says that the boat was filling with water and that they were in danger.
What’s amazing is that while the wind is whipping, the waves are raging, and the boat is taking on water and in danger of swamping, Jesus is sound asleep! The disciples have to wake him up if we take all three gospel accounts of what happened, the disciples wake Jesus up saying something like, Master, save us, don’t you care that we are perishing? We’re about to die, Jesus, don’t you care?
Storms can have an eroding effect on our faith especially when they get bad or last a long time. When a storm or a trial goes on and on and there doesn’t seem to be an answer, after a while our hearts can be tempted to think that somehow God has forgotten us. Why isn’t He answering my prayers? Doesn’t He care? I have had times in my life when a storm went on longer than I wanted and I’ve wondered, is God listening? Does He care?
Those times come and that’s why it’s important that our faith is anchored in the love of Christ. Faith isn’t just a matter of believing Christ has the power to save us from perishing, it’s believing that He not only cares to save us from perishing, he came to save us from perishing.
The gospel of Luke’s primary theme is that Jesus is the Savior of the world and the verse that is key to the book is verse19:10: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." Luke 19:10 (ESV)
He came to seek and save the lost. The perishing. That was once every one of us. Worse than perishing at sea, we were drowning in our sin and destined to face God’s wrath and perish eternally. Jesus came to save us from perishing in our sin and on the cross Jesus took our punishment upon himself. It was the love of Christ that compelled him to come– it was the love of Christ that held him to the cross. Jesus not only cares that we perish; he came to save us from perishing.
Maybe someone here today has never asked Jesus to be your Savior. Maybe sometimes you wonder, does God care? Does He care what I am going through? I want to say, He not only cares, he came to save you. Jesus died on the cross to save all who believe in him from their sins and from hell. The Bible says, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. Please don’t leave here this morning without asking Jesus to save you from your sin and restore you to God. (pray)
II. Our faith is powered by the Lordship of Christ
Before we look at Jesus response, let’s consider the storm a minute. Many commentators believe that this storm was demonic in its origin. Jesus rebukes the storm with the same words he rebukes demons, and he is crossing the lake to go to the Gerasenes where he will encounter the guy who is possessed with a legion of demons, so this story seems to have the confrontation between Jesus and powers of Satan woven into it. Can demons even whip up storms? Do they have that power? We know from the book of Job that Satan killed Job’s sons and daughters by a strong wind that collapsed the house. The Bible tells us that that was the initiative of Satan.
Was this storm the result of natural causes or was it whipped up by demonic forces? The bottom line is we don’t know. And we don’t always know where the storms that hit our lives come from or why. I’m not talking meteorological storms, but the storms of life we all encounter in life and are sure at some point to encounter in 2011. And storm clouds can enter our lives in so many shapes: difficulties, challenges, stresses, disappointments, adversity, opposition, failure, sickness, betrayal, fear, temptation. Storms come, and they come in many shapes, but why do they come and what do they mean?
Sometimes storms can indicate we’ve gotten out of God’s will. God does bring discipline on His children, and I’ve seen cases where people have clearly sinned against God and suffered serious consequences. Sometimes when our lives are being battered by storm after storm we need to ask, have I disobeyed or displeased God in some way? God won’t hide it from us; if we are ready to listen He will be faithful to convict us. In that case, repenting for where we have sinned and returning to God’s will is the only way to come out of the storm.
But other times storms come when we are right in the middle of God’s will. The disciples were. It was Jesus who suggested they cross the lake, they were following the Lord and it put them right smack dab in the middle of this terrible storm. Sometimes God guides us right into storms in order to reveal His power in our lives and strengthen our faith in Him.
Jesus stood up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves and they ceased. The wind heard Jesus and it obeyed him. The waves heard Jesus and they obeyed him. If they were stirred up by demonic powers, they now heard a far greater power and they humbly obeyed. This storm was ultimately to display to the disciples that Jesus Christ is Lord and Sovereign over all of nature. The storm wasn’t there to destroy them, it was there to display the power and glory of Christ. We can have strong faith in God that storms that enter our lives are not there to destroy us but to display Christ’s power and Lordship.
As we stand on the shore of 2011 we don’t know what it will hold. Optimism hopes that with the right resolutions, the right plans, the right determination, the blank calendar we can accomplish great things. And resolutions and plans and calendars aren’t wrong, but faith looks to Christ and trusts in His power not just to see us through every storm, but to turn even those storms into testimonies of His glory and power.
See here’s what I don’t want this message to convey: hold on and somehow you’ll make it through 2011 okay. The Lord wants us to believe Him for greater things from the New Year than just surviving it. He wants to display His power and glory through our lives and storms can be one way He does that as we trust His power.
When I was about 14 years old my dad and I lived on a sailboat, and one summer when we were sailing around Long Island, we got this 13 foot dinghy that actually had a mast and a sail. And I couldn’t wait to take it out so one day when we anchored in Montauk Lake I got it all set up and went out in it. One problem: there was no wind. Sailboats don’t work too well without wind. But I launched the dinghy and hoisted the sail and waited.
I wasn’t out there 10 minutes when a breeze began to pick up, and in just a few minutes I was buzzing all around, the wind so strong that I had to lean back hard to keep the boat from tipping over. The side of the boat was right to the edge of the water. My dad was watching and laughing from the main boat. It was a great time!
My point? Sometimes we need to launch out by faith in what God’s leading us before we feel the power. We need to hoist the sails by faith before the power of Christ will fill them. As we face a New Year, there will be temptations to stay in the safety of the harbor when following Jesus calls us out where we risk hitting high seas, but we also have the opportunity to see the power of Christ.
• Might mean launching out in some new business venture.
• Might mean launching out in some new ministry opportunity
• Might mean launching out in some new area of personal growth
• Might mean launching out in some new level of Christian fellowship
• Might mean launching out in some new area of trusting God
We don’t want to launch out foolishly or presumptuously, but at the command of Jesus. After praying and listening and reading God’s word and seeking counsel, we want to be ready to obey Jesus and take some risks. If we never leave the harbor in some venture of eternal worth, we are probably not listening to the Lord. That brings me to my last point.
III. Our faith is guided by the mission of Christ
So where were they going anyway? Jesus didn’t say, let’s go into the middle of the lake and drown – he said let’s go to the other side. What was on the other side? Let’s read just a few verses further:
Luke 8:26-28, 38-39
His mission took him there. The theme of the gospel of Luke is that Jesus is the Savior of the world and the key verse is 19:10:
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." Luke 19:10 (ESV)
Jesus went to the other side to set a captive free, to save a soul tormented by demons. This poor soul went from a demon-possessed fear and hatred of Jesus to a loving desire to be with him and never depart. Jesus’ power stills storms and tormented souls.
As we enter 2011, let’s not forget that Jesus’ mission is our mission. To bear witness of the saving power of Christ. To preach the gospel. To love the lost and serve them in the name of Jesus. That was Jesus’ mission and it is our mission. The Vasa was built and commissioned by the king to accomplish great things – sail powerful seas and win mighty conquests, but it never even got out of the harbor! We have also been commissioned by the King. Unlike the Vasa, He is able to complete the good work He began in us. And we have His promise that as we abide in him we will bear much fruit to the glory of the Father.
Let’s launch out with fresh faith and confidence in our Lord and His purposes being served through our lives and our church. It’s gonna be a great year! I’m optimistic! More than that, I’m filled with faith. And I pray you are too.