Scripture: Mark 4:35-41; 2 Timothy 1:7; 1 John 4:16-18
I started writing this sermon back in February and never finished it. I guess there was a reason for this delay. When I started writing this message I had just gotten back to my hotel from having dinner with a co-worker. As I drove to dinner I was listening to the song “Peace Be Still” by the late Rev. James Cleveland. This song brought to my mind many memories of my time as a teenager singing in the Columbia Mass choir, a community choir that I was a part of in my home town. We often sung the latest songs that were made popular by Rev. Cleveland. As I listened to this song, my mind went to a place of thankfulness as I thought about all of the things that had been happening in my life. My mind went to a place of testimonial as I reflected on what God had brought me through and what He was currently doing in my life. You see, you don’t know what God has done for me as I know it. You may have witnessed some of it, but you do not really know what He has done for me.
On the night that I started this sermon, I was in my hotel room in Wichita with that song in my mind. The forecast called for snow that night and all of the next day. The total forecast was for 8-10 inches and if it came I would possibly be stuck in Wichita for a few extra days. As the thought of the snow raced through my mind, I reflected on the words, “peace be still”. This morning, I want to share with you those three words that Jesus spoke, “Peace Be Still”. Turn with me to Mark, chapter four and we will begin reading at verse thirty-five.
I. Jesus Calms The Wind and The Sea
“And the same day, when the evening was come, He saith unto them, ‘Let us pass over unto the other side.’ And when they had sent away the multitude, they took Him even as He was in the ship. And there were also with Him other little ships. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And He was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake Him, and say unto Him, ‘Master, carest thou not that we perish?’ And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, ‘Peace, be still.’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And He said unto them, ‘Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?’ And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, ‘What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” (Mark 4:35-41)
Jesus and His disciples after spending most of the day teaching a large crowd by the sea got into a boat to cross to the other side. As they headed out, Jesus went into the stern of the boat and went to sleep. The stern area has always been the location of the steering apparatus (rudder, tiller, ship's wheel, etc), and by extension became the domain of the ship's captain and other officers. In particular, the stern was the location of the officers' quarters. While He was sleeping a fierce storm rose up. It was this storm that caused the disciples to fear. One point of clarity here, this was not your average storm as several of the disciples were experienced fishermen who had been through storms before. But this storm was such that the disciples feared for their lives. Their fear caused their faith to be shaken. Have you ever been fearful to the point where you forgot about what God had already brought you through? Have you ever been so afraid that when you though about the situation you could see no way out? Let me tell you something about fear – it works against your faith.
There is a difference between a healthy fear and an unhealthy fear. Let me explain. A healthy fear is one that will keep you out of trouble. For example, you know that a fire will burn you so when you are around one you are cautious because you “fear” getting burned. It is this fear of getting burned that actually protects you. This is the healthy fear (respect) that you read about in the bible when it talks of “fearing” God. The unhealthy fear is the one that causes us problem. The unhealthy fear is the one that makes us think about the negative things that happen despite the reality that God has already provided for us. The unhealthy fear tells us it is all bad even though we see evidence of good. The unhealthy fear makes us walk differently from those who are walking in their faith because our focus is on what is causing us to be afraid versus Who has given us a reason to have faith. When we focus on the One who has given us the reason to have faith then we are able walk in the faith thus driving out the fear. Consider this Scripture from 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity (fear), but of power and love and discipline (sound mind).”
We often quote this Scripture from the Kings James bible where it uses the word “fear” instead of timidity. This is why it is a good practice to go back and examine how a word is used in the Old and New Testament because it will give you the actual meaning of the word as it is used. Remember, most words have several meanings and as it relates to Scripture, the only way to completely understand what is being said is to understand how the word is being used. In the Greek, the word Paul uses here is “deilia” which denotes cowardice, unmanliness and/or timidity. Paul was counseling Timothy concerning what he was dealing with as a young Pastor. Timothy was getting spiritually and emotionally “beat up” by some of his members and Paul was encouraging him. This fear is unhealthy for a Christian who has a leadership role and must take a stance against something and this is the same fear the disciples experienced on that day in the boat. When the waves were crashing against the ship and actually overflowing it and the disciples thought they would die, they became paralyzed with fear and lost their faith. The fear temporarily drove their faith right out of them. The Greek word that Jesus used was “deilos” which means fearful and/or faithless which is very similar to the word that Paul used in his effort to help Timothy. There is also another Greek word for fear called “phobos” that I want to explore briefly.
Phobos which denotes terror and being exceedingly afraid is different from deilia or deilos. It first had the meaning of “flight” which is caused by being scared; then “that which may cause flight” i.e. fear, dread, or terror. This is the fear that the disciples probably had that led to their loss of faith. Remember Jesus asked them why were they so afraid and without faith. First came the fear and second came the loss of their faith. They had faith when they stepped into the boat, but the wind and the waves blew it right out of them. When the storm rose and they feared for their lives, they immediately went to Jesus and woke Him up. When Jesus was awake they asked Him if He cared that they were about to perish. With this question they demonstrated that in some way they knew if anyone could save them it would be Jesus. When Jesus got up He did two things. First He spoke the words “Peace, be still” to the wind and the waves and everything went silent. The wind stopped blowing and the waves stopped crashing against the boat. Once everything was settled, the second thing Jesus did was look at His disciples and ask them why they were so fearful and faithless. Their fear cancelled out their faith. Their fear rightly caused them to run to Jesus, but in Jesus’ response it leads to what He would have expected His disciples to do. When He asked them why they were so afraid and why they had no faith it was almost as if He was asking them “Why did you wake me up when you could have handled this yourself!”
Thinking about His statement reminds me of a scene from the original movie “Walking Tall” that came out in the 70s. In the movie the new sheriff has hired a black deputy. The town being somewhat like many small southern towns, the black deputy was hesitant about exercising his authority. One day he was at a bar to arrest someone and he called the sheriff and asked him to come down and make the arrest because the criminal was white. The sheriff told him that it was his job to do it. When he reminded the sheriff that the man was white, the sheriff told the deputy it did not matter and that he needed to go in and do his job. After hanging up the phone, the sheriff thought about the situation and decided to go help his black deputy. When he pulled into the parking lot the deputy was backing out of the bar with his prisoner and his gun pointing at the other men following him. The deputy’s clothes were torn and dirty and you knew he had been in a fight in order to arrest this man. This is what I think Jesus might have been thinking as He considered why His disciples woke Him instead of handling the problem themselves or at worst, just riding the storm out because they knew God had something for them to do and they would not die in the storm. Regardless, when Jesus had calmed everything He asked His disciples about their fear and their faith. As I’ve stated before, fear works against our faith. Let me read you some verses from 1 John the 4th chapter.
“We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” (1 John 4:16-18)
The Greek word for fear in this verse is phobos (terror, exceedingly afraid). Before I explain this verse, I want to first share a few references from the New Testament that uses this same word for fear so that you will fully understand what I am going to tell you from this verse in 1 John 4:18. This word phobos is used in these verses to describe fear:
- Luke chapter 1: When Zacharias was visited by the angel Gabriel the twelfth verse said that he was gripped with fear (phobos – terror, exceeding afraid), the same word used in 1 John 4:18.
- Luke 21:25-36: When Jesus describes His second coming, verse twenty-six states that men would be fainting from fear – again the same word use in 1 John 4:18.
- John 20:19: When Jesus appeared to His disciples after His resurrection He found them shut up in a room because of their fear of the Jews – again the same word used in 1 John 4:18.
- Paul’s Writings: In Paul writings he uses this word consistently to describe our fear of the Lord and our coming out of the fear of bondage because of our relationship with Christ (i.e. Romans 8:15)
These are just a few references to how this word is used throughout the New Testament. Now let’s go back to 1 John the fourth chapter. In this chapter John describes our relationship with God, how God loves us. It is the love of God that changes our perspective on life. John states that God is love and those that abides in love abides in God. God’s love is perfected within us and because of this we will not fear the day of judgment. Remember, those who do not have a relationship with God will have a very good reason to be in terror or to be exceedingly afraid of the day of judgment. But because we have been perfected in love, we do not have a reason to fear this end time event. The last part of verse seventeen of chapter four is important. It reads “….because as He is, so also are we in this world.” As who is? As God is! Because of God’s love flowing within us, as He is, we are, even in this world. Therefore, being perfected in the love of God and our relationship with Him, we do not have to walk in fear. Now we get to verse eighteen. It reads “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment (torment), and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18)
How many of you have ever been dreadfully afraid? Do you remember what you felt? Maybe it was the fear of losing someone close to you because of them being sick? Maybe it was the fear of a bad situation getting worse. Maybe it is the fear of dogs, cats or other animals that roam this earth. Whatever your fear was, it has one thing in common with everyone else’s fear – it had an element of torment. Fear torments us and that is its reason for existence. If we can be tormented beyond our faith, then our faith can be shaken to the point of being lost. But those who are walking in the perfect love of God understand something – they understand that God’s complete love drives out fear. When we allow ourselves to be engulfed in God’s love, it takes up so much space that there is no room for this kind of fear. I am not saying that we will not have moments when we are afraid, but what I am saying is that because of the love that we are walking in with God through Jesus Christ, when those moments happen, we will quickly be reminded of the source of our strength and our minds will be taken back to a place of peace. This is what I believe Jesus was expecting of His disciples. Instead what He found was His disciples walking in fear to the point that they had temporarily lost their faith.
When the disciples saw the winds blowing and the waves crashing against and overflowing the ship, they forgot about everything that Jesus had done for them. They forgot about the people that He had already healed. They forgot about some of the teachings they had already received under Him. They forgot about the leper that was healed of his leprosy or the centurion’s daughter who was healed by Jesus just speaking the words. Everything they had experienced with Jesus left their minds when this storm arose and they entered into fear. When this fear came rushing in, their faith went rushing out. When they came to their senses and went to Jesus, Jesus woke up and spoke three words. First He looked at the clouds and felt the wind blowing against Him and He said “Peace”. The clouds separated and the skies became clear and the wind stopped blowing. Then Jesus looked at the waves and said “Be still!” Immediately the waves stopped crashing against the boat and all was calm. Jesus said three words “Peace, be still” and the fear of the disciples rushed out of them. They were no longer afraid because their situation had changed. When everything was calm Jesus asked them why were they ever afraid and where was their faith. He was telling them that this situation should have been handled by them. They did not need to wake Him up; they should have stood there in their faith.
As I close this message I want to leave you with a couple of thoughts.
- First and foremost we must remember that we can only occupy one space at a time, physically and more importantly spiritually. We cannot walk in faith and fear at the same time unless. We cannot be terrorized by fear and walk in the faith at the same time. One will always drive the other out. If we are perfected in God’s love and walk in the assurance of it, we will be able to put up a road block against the fear as it comes driving towards us. We take a firm stand and remember Jesus word “peace”. Just as faith drives out fear, peace drives out torment. We cannot exist in both at the same time.
- Second, sometimes we must step away from a situation to see what is truly happening around us. Instead of being a participant in the situation we must become an observer. When the disciples were on the boat, they were participants and all they could see were the storms. All they could feel was the boat rocking. All they could see were the argument of the world’s physical elements. When Jesus got up, He was an observer. Although He was on the same boat, He did not act as a participant. He observed what was happening with the weather and He observed His disciples. When He looked at His disciples He focused on their faith. He was not worried about the winds or the rocking of the boat. He was not worried about the argument that was going forth between the world’s elements. As a matter of fact, He did just what we do when our kids are in a heated argument or fight. When our kids argue or fight, we step in between them and hold up a hand and say “shut up, sit down” and there is peace and quietness back in the house. This is what Jesus did; He told the world’s elements to shut up, be quiet and sit down and all became quiet. In some of our situation we must approach them as an observer even though we are truly participants in the midst of the situation. By viewing the situation as an observer Jesus observed what was happening and acted. Once He acted, He talked to His disciples who saw themselves as being participants. The difference between Jesus’ response and those of His disciples was confidence. Jesus had complete and utter confidence in His relationship with God and as you would expect, it took the disciples a while to get to that point.
As I close this message I want you to reflect on where you are this morning. Are you walking in faith or are you walking in fear? You cannot be walking in both at the same time. If you are walking in fear for any reason I encourage you to take a stand. Stand on your relationship with Christ. Stand on your knowledge that God loves you and will take care of you even during the worst things that life can bring you. When you make this decision you can confidently say, “Peace, be still” in any situation where fear tries to crash in and push out your faith.
I want to let those of you reading this message that I will be taking the next three weeks off from the pulpit. I will be back again on the 5th Sunday. “Until then may the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)
Posted on March 27, 2013