THE TRIUMPH OVER TROUBLE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-18-90 8:15 a.m.
Thank you, young people. God love you! We welcome the throngs of you who share this hour on radio. You are now a part of our precious First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Triumph Over Trouble. In our preaching in the Gospel of Mark, we have come to the last verses of chapter 4. We begin reading therefore in Mark chapter 4, verse 35:
And the same day, when the even 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.
There arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it is now full.
He was in the hinder part, in the stern of the ship, asleep on a pillow: they awake Him, and say unto Him, Master, carest Thou not that we perish?
He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, Peace, be still. The wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
And Jesus said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?
But they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?
This concludes a long, wearisome day in Capernaum. And having poured out His soul and His life into the healing of the people, in casting out demons, He was weary at the end of the long day, and asked to be placed in a little ship, a little boat, to cross over to the other side; and was in the stern of that little bark, sound asleep [Mark 4:38].
You have an instance of the weariness of our Lord in John 4:6; it says, “Jesus wearied, Jesus wearied, sat thus, houtos, in this manner, at the well,” when that Samaritan woman came. Jesus was human also, as well as divine; “and sat thus on the well” [John 4:6].
Here, after a long, hard day’s assignment and ministry [Mark 4:1-34], He fell asleep on a pillow as they crossed over from the west to the eastern side [Mark 4:38]. And while He was asleep in the ship, there bore down upon the little bark a violent storm. The topographical reason for that is very simple: right there is Mt. Hermon, nine thousand feet high, right there; and then right here where they are is the Sea, the lake of Galilee, six hundred eighty feet below sea level; and the plateaus and the gorges on either side make a funnel; and down that funnel suddenly will come a most fierce and violent storm of cold wind. And that’s what happened. They entered the little boat, when it was very calm, to go to the other side where Jesus could rest. And then suddenly out of the heights of that Lebanese range of mountains comes this terrific storm [Mark 4:37].
And that is a picture of the tempests of life that inevitably overwhelm us. After the miraculous day comes this awesome storm. While the little bark is on the sea, suddenly it is struck by a fierce fiend, a stormy hurricane. And the pleasant and happy crossing is suddenly twisted and upheaved into an awesome confrontation with death. And that will be true in your life, even though Christ is your Captain. And even though the Lord is in that ship, that storm still pours down. Our finest successes are followed by afflictions.
Simon Peter’s sermon at Pentecost [Acts 2:14-40] is followed by imprisonment [Acts 4:1-22]. The very outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is followed by persecution. The marvelous missionary ministries of the apostle Paul are followed by martyrdom. And you, wherever you are, will have a confrontation with Satan; and the more you draw nigh to the blessed Jesus, the more certain you are to be afflicted by that evil one.
Well, in the midst of the storm, Jesus is asleep [Mark 4:37-38]. Does He not care? Is it no thing to Him that the disciples are facing an agonizing death itself? Does God care? What when God seems asleep? I have been in this journey for many years; been a pastor sixty-four years, and these things that happen to us in life when God seems asleep—“He doesn’t care.” World War I, I was a little boy: into a grocery store, Lloyd McGowan would give me candy. I was such a poor little fellow; it was just like a heavenly visit to me. World War I, called into the service of his country, and came back in a casket. Oh! I remember the mother and the family, and the burial of Lloyd McGowan. That war! Then as if that were not enough, then the Second World War, and the millions and millions that were torn and starved and violated and slain. Where is God? Sound asleep in the midst of a violent hurricane.
And even today I look at those papers, wondering when the dark black headline will announce our nation plunged into another war. Not that I am afraid we’ll lose it, but it just breaks my heart to think of the thousands of men who will lose their lives in it. We’ve just been from one to another: the Vietnam War, the Korean War, now the confrontation in the Gulf of the Middle East; and God seems asleep. Where is He?
But our Lord is there with us. In the midst of the storm and the violence, our Lord is there. He said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” [Hebrews 13:5]. And in the midst of that awesome hour, our Lord is close by. When Jesus put His foot in that boat [Mark 4:36], He knew the storm was coming. And though His head was asleep on the pillow [Mark 4:38], His heart was at rest in the bosom of God. And though in His humanity He fell asleep, yet in His deity He was safe in the arms of our Lord. Thank God that He is near: for it was to Him that the disciples made appeal.
When the storms of life are raging,
Stand by me;
When the hosts of hell assail,
And my strength begins to fail,
Thou who never lost a battle,
Stand by me.
[“Stand By Me,” Charles A. Tindley]
O Jesus, once rocked on the breast of the billow,
Aroused by the cry of despair from the pillow,
Now seated in glory, the poor sinner cherish,
Who cries in his anguish, “Save, Lord, or I perish.”
And oh when the winds of temptation are raging,
When sin in our hearts its wild warfare is waging,
Then send down Thy grace Thy redeemed to cherish
Rebuke the destroyer; “Save, Lord, or we perish.”
[“When Through the Torn Sail,” Reginald Heber]
And those tragedies that come in life, those mighty trials but produce in us mighty intercession and deepest prayer.
It’s easy to go on rejoicing in the Lord when everything is smooth and quiet and peaceful. When the Red Sea miraculously opens as you reach it [Exodus 14:21-31], when the heavens pour down manna when you are hungry [Exodus 16:15], when the solid rock turns into a gushing stream when you are thirsty [Exodus 17:5-6], it’s easy then to rejoice in the Lord. But what do we do in the day of trial, when we don’t see our signs, when the heavens turn to brass and the earth turns to iron? God is teaching us to pray, to ask.
In Emmaus He made as though He would go further, but the disciples would invite Him to remain [Luke 24:28-29]. The bush burned unconsumed [Exodus 3:2]—a far greater miracle than if God had put out the flame. So it is worthwhile to us to go through the storm, that we might know the sweet calm of answered prayer and of His presence. After the wilderness wanderings is Canaan [Exodus 16:35]. And after the trial in the wilderness, the temptation of our Lord, the angels, they ministered to Him [Matthew 4:1-11].
And one other thing: it gave occasion for the marvelous, omnipotent display of our Lord. He arose from His sleep, from the pillow, and quieted the storm [Mark 4:38-39]. And the disciples said, in awe, “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him? And they feared exceedingly” [Mark 4:41]. The same kind of a reaction on the part of John, when he saw the glorious Lord in the Revelation [Revelation 1:9-16] and he fell down at His feet, as one dead [Revelation 1:17]; the awe, the holy awesome sense of being in the presence of God Himself brought a reverential fear into the hearts of the disciples that was indescribable.
And that is our Lord: human, sound asleep; and then rising, and it is deity Himself. What manner of man is this? [Mark 4:41]. Human, our brother, our kinsman; but has the forces of God’s whole creation in His hands [Matthew 28:18].
As a little baby lying on His mother’s breast, what manner of child is this? The crown of the universe is on His brow. As a small infant, lying in a manger [Luke 2:16], yet worshiped and adored by the shepherds [Luke 2:8-16] and the magi [Matthew 2:1-2, 11]. Working with His hands in the carpenter’s shop [Mark 6:3], but the Creator of the whole universe [John 1:3, Colossians 1:16]. What manner of youth is this? Standing at the grave of Lazarus, weeping like a broken-hearted friend [John 11:35]; then in omnipotence, “Lazarus, come forth,” and the dead rise from the grave [John 11:43-44]. What manner of man is this? Crucified and buried [Matthew 27:32-60], but the third day rising triumphant over death [Matthew 28:1-7]; and in heaven, our glorious Brother, and Lord, and Friend, and Kinsman [Acts 1:9-10; Romans 8:29]. Tried in all points like as we are [Hebrews 4:15], numbered with us, our Brother; and at the same time the omnipotent Lord God. It is the most precious and strengthening and consoling of all of the revelations that God could make: He reveals Himself as our brother, our Savior, our comforter, our fellow pilgrim.
I have a moment left. Let me speak now of one other thing. In the story, in the fourth chapter of this Gospel of Mark, he puts a little note in there, in verse 36: “And when they had sent away the multitudes, they took Him even as He was” [Mark 4:36]; didn’t give Him time to rest or to prepare, they just put Him in the little boat and started to the other side. Now look at this little aside: “And there were also with Him other little ships. There were with Him also other little ships” [Mark 4:36]. That is, when the storm came they were caught in it too. And how everlastingly true is that with us in this human life and pilgrimage? As Paul writes, “Even we who have not sinned after the similitude of Adam, we are caught in that terrible judgment of death” [Romans 5:14].
Take again the hatred of Ishmael for Isaac: we look upon it today, after these thousands of years, the hatred of the descendants of Ishmael, the Arabs, for the descendants of Isaac, Israel. Great God how we’re caught up in it! I think of what God says in [2 Kings]: “Because of the sins of Manasseh, God would not forgive the people, and sent them into captivity” [2 Kings 24:3]. As the Book says, we bear the sins of our fathers [Lamentations 5:7]. Great God! Those other little ships, when the blast roared and the hurricane struck, and the waves of the sea upheaved, those other little ships were caught in it also [Mark 4:36]. Then, thank God for the preaching of the gospel of salvation! [Romans 10:13-17]. When the Lord stilled and calmed the fury, they also were blessed [Mark 4:39].
How everlastingly true that is in human life and experience. In the days of Elijah, when it rained, when it rained after three and a half years of drought [James 5:17-18], when it rained, it rained also on Ahab and on Jezebel [1 Kings 18:1, 41-45] and on the sins of the court—the other little ships [Mark 4:36].
In the days of Sennacherib, God says, “For the sake of David, I will spare Jerusalem” [2 Kings 19:34]; and David had been dead for centuries—the other little ships blessed by Him [Mark 4:36].
I think one of the sweetest little asides in the Bible, after the healing ministry, during the healing ministry of Peter, it says that, “They also were healed on whom his shadow fell” [Acts 5:15-16]. The other little ships—they were blessed by the healing in the presence of Simon Peter, just when his shadow fell on them. I think of the fury of the storm in Acts 27, when the ship on which Paul is riding is dashed against the stones: but for Paul’s sake God spared the two hundred seventy-six others who were with Paul in the ship [Acts 27:22-24, 37, 43-44]—the other blessings poured out upon others because of us.
O God, what a comfort and what a blessing!
May I close with a little word from the days of my student pastorate, my first little church? There was a very devout mother; they had one little boy. And the father and the husband was not Christian. So they invited me into the home to talk to the husband, that he might be saved. They sent the little boy to bed. Oh, he was just a little fellow, say nine or ten years old. They sent him off to bed. And then the mother and wife dismissed herself that I might be alone with the husband, talking to him about the Lord, trying to win him to Jesus. Failed: couldn’t begin to reach the heart of that man. Did you know, the next morning, when I preached in my little country church, down the aisle came that little boy? And he said, “I’ve given my heart to Jesus, and I want to make a confession of my faith, and I want to be baptized.” And I said to the lad, “Spencer, you say you’ve been saved, you’ve accepted the Lord. When did you do that?” And the little lad replied, “Pastor, last night when mother and dad sent me to bed, I kept the door open just a little, and I listened to you as you spoke of our blessed Lord dying for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3], and waiting in heaven for us [Acts 3:30-32]. And my dad turned you down; but there in my bed I accepted Jesus as my Savior” [Romans 10:9-10]—the other little ships [Mark 4:36].
You can’t know what a comfort that is to me. These overt efforts that I may pour out for the Lord, seemingly may fall in barren ground; but always there will be somewhere a blessing. There will be a harvest. There will be someone who will be blessed. Oh, that’s why God says, “Be not weary in well doing” [Galatians 6:9]; our labor is not in vain in the Lord. It’s a sweet promise that the Spirit of Jesus works with us, always.
We must sing our hymn of appeal, Fred. And while we sing the song, a family you to come into our dear church; a couple you to accept the Lord as your Savior [Ephesians 2:8]; a one somebody you, “This day, pastor, I am giving my heart and my life to God”; on the first note of the first stanza, come, and welcome, while we stand and while we sing.