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On Your Mark


He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:40,41, NIV)

I’ll never forget the first time I preached from this text.

It was my senior year in seminary, and I had been selected by the faculty to give the last chapel sermon of the year.

I broke this entire storm-at-sea story into three parts:

High winds — the adversities of life that arise quite suddenly.

Desperate voices — the panic we feel in the storm.

An unexpected word — Jesus speaks to the circumstances, “Peace!” and a word of rebuke to the disciples for their lack of faith.

When I finished I was filled with pride. I thought I had preached a masterpiece, and even made a few listeners seasick with my soaring rhetoric about the wind and the waves.

All that ended when Dr. Everett Harrison, my New Testament professor, walked over to me and kindly said, “George, that’s always been a favorite passage of mine. Have you noticed [I hadn’t!] that perhaps the reason Jesus accuses them of ‘no faith’ is that at the beginning He had said, ‘Let us go to the other side.’ In the middle of the storm they forgot His word. When we forget the word of Jesus, we will always be afraid.”

In his gracious way, Dr. Harrison told me that I had preached for 25 minutes and missed the main point. But I’ve never forgotten it since.

You will always be afraid when you forget the promise, the word of Jesus.

At least the disciples might have had some faith — but, they had NO faith. They were not able to transpose Jesus’ past acts into a faith that trusted Him to also deal with this new emergency.

Isn’t that like us though? The Lord brings us through one trial, and then when we hit the next one, we panic all over again. We fail to transfer the lesson that if He did not abandon us in the past, then He won’t leave us now.

The disciples don’t answer Jesus’ question, “Why have you no faith?” Instead they ask a question of their own, “Who is this?”

For the first time, they are afraid of Jesus. More than afraid — terrified!

They didn’t fear Him during the storm — they awakened Him as though He were just a lazy passenger unwilling to help them bail water. His presence wasn’t making a difference in their situation, or so they thought.

In the wake of His miracle, they no longer regard Him as ordinary. But even here we can learn from their example — it is far better to be terrified of Jesus than to treat Him as just another person.

This is the One who has power alone to grant eternal life, to raise the dead, to forgive sins, and to present us to the Majesty on High! He is the One alone who will lift us out of time and space into God’s heaven. Do we have any idea of the magnitude of His power?

Our greatest danger is assuming Jesus has no power to help or save us, but the greatest reality is that He does.

A prayer of response
Teach me, Lord, to fear You — not the fear that cowers as a victim thrashed by a bully; but the fear that comes from a healthy respect for Your power. Help me, Lord, to see You as far more than the cozy Jesus whom I can treat as an equal. You are greater than my mind can ever embrace.

GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

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