Triumph Over Trouble
November 18th, 1990 @ 10:50 AM
THE TRIUMPH OVER TROUBLE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-18-90 10:50 a.m.
And welcome to the services of our dear First Baptist Church the throngs of you that share the hour on radio and on television. This is the pastor bringing the message. If you notice, Bill Grubbs, our stewardship chairman, in his prayer he prayed God to bless the exposition of the pastor. And that is exactly what the sermon is. Almost always, the message will be an exposition of the infallible, inspired, inerrant Word of God [2 Timothy 3:16]. And this morning the message is entitled Triumphant Over Trouble. And it is an exposition of the last part of the fourth chapter of Mark, out of which Second Gospel we are now preaching. Beginning at verse 35, Mark 4:35,
And the same day, when the even was come, He saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.
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 was now full.
He was in the stern, in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake Him, and said, Master, carest Thou not that we perish?
He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
He said unto them, our Lord 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?
Our Lord, asleep on a pillow in the stern of the boat, a picture of His humanity; the day at Capernaum had been long and hard and rigorous. And in exhaustion He lay down and fell fast asleep. Do you remember, in John 4:6 it says, “Jesus, wearied, sat,” houtōs, “thus at the well?” He was tired. He was full of the repercussions of a hard day’s labor, and He was sound asleep [Mark 4:38]. Now in the midst of that sleeping they were taking Him to the other side in order to be, for a moment, away from the pressure of the multitudes that surrounded Him. In the midst of their quietness, in the calm of the sea, there arose a great storm, and the waves beat into the ship [Mark 4:37]. The storms of life inevitably come.
There was a great, miraculous day in Capernaum, the multitudes listening to Him preach. If you ever go over there with Fred, you will see that Mount of Beatitudes right there at Capernaum. And in the synagogue He was healing the sick and opening the eyes of the blind and casting out demons [Mark 1:21-28, 2:1]. It was a rigorous, vigorous day. So He was on the way to the other side of the lake in rest. And the ship was very calm on a sea of glass. Then suddenly, out of the blue of the sky that terrible and bitter upheaval of a storm [Mark 4:37].
Fred, when you go over there, what you are going to see is, Mt. Hermon is right there, nine thousand feet high, snow-covered Mt. Hermon. And that sea is six hundred eighty feet below sea level. And the wind in a funnel, coming down in those parted gorges and plateaus, just suddenly, without announcement, just turns that lake into a sea of churning violence and wind.
And that’s what happened. And even though the Lord is in that boat, that storm still beats with its waves against the little ship. That’s life. There is no such thing as the lifeboat, in which you live and move and have being, continues along on a placid sea. The storm is coming. You can be assured of that. It is coming. And you are going to be in it, and caught up by it, and threatened with it. All of life is like that. Our successes are followed by afflictions and disappointments and hurts and tears.
When Pentecost came, the great outpouring of the presence and the Spirit of God [Acts 2:1-4], it was followed by persecution. When Simon Peter preached his great sermon [Acts 2:14-40], it was followed by imprisonment [Acts 4: 1-21]. When the apostle Paul poured out his soul in the preaching of the gospel in his great missionary journeys, it was followed by his martyrdom.
And there is no such thing as a Christian being at ease without being attacked by, and troubled by, Satan himself. It is coming in your life. And most of us already could write chapters of experience in it; the storms of life striking. Now our Lord is asleep; the waves are rising, and the storm is a hurricane, and He is asleep. That’s what the Book says, He is asleep on a pillow [Mark 4:37-38].
Does God care? Where is He? In the midst of the storms of life, Jesus is asleep. Does God care? Dear me. I think of the years of my life—I have been a pastor sixty-four years—I think of the years of my life as a lad, as a boy. I was about, when the United States entered that [First] World War, I was six years old. Where was God? I so poignantly remember Lloyd McGowan. He worked in a little grocery store in the tiny town in which I grew up. When I would go into the store, he would give me a piece of candy. You couldn’t help but love a boy like that. When the war broke out, carried him away, put him in the Army, came back in a casket. Oh, the effect that had on me. And his sweet mother, following the casket, crying, “Dear me, where is God?”
And in the Second World War, the uncounted millions, millions, millions who were torn apart, starved, violated, slain. Where is God? Is He asleep? And in the crises that we know in our present day, not only in the Korean War, not only the Vietnam War, there could be any day a headline, dark and black: “War.” We have got hundreds and thousands of men now in the Gulf, Middle East. Where is God? The tragedies that overwhelm humanity.
And they awaken our Lord, and they say to Him, “Master, carest Thou not that we perish, that we perish?” [Acts 4:38].
If it were a carload, a shipload, a boatload of publicans and sinners, and they went down to the bottom of the sea, fine, let it happen. Let it happen. “But carest Thou not that we perish? Lord, we, Your disciples and believers and ones that trust in Thee, is it nothing to You that we are in the danger of our lives?”
Well, I want you to notice God’s Book says that the same providences that happen to the wicked happen to the righteous [Ecclesiastes 2:14]. That’s said in the second chapter of Ecclesiastes. And as though that were not enough, it is elongated upon, and expatiated upon, in the ninth chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes [Ecclesiastes 9:1-3]. These providences, these tragedies that overwhelm other people overwhelm us, too. We are a part of it.
But the difference lies in Jesus is with us. He makes the difference. And He awakens, and He speaks to the raging waters and the turbulent distressed winds [Mark 4:39]. Our Lord makes the difference. When He stepped into that boat, He knew the storm was coming. The providences of life do not surprise God. He knows all about it, sees the end from the beginning [Isaiah 46:10]. And our Lord’s heart was with God the Father. That’s why His head could sleep on a pillow. Fatigue and weariness may bring distress to His body, but His spirit is at rest in the hands of the Father. That’s the difference.
So they make an appeal to Him [Mark 4:38]. They pray to Him, “Dear Lord, precious Savior, awaken, look! The howling winds and the raging waves, and we are facing death.”
When the storms of life are raging,
Stand by me;
When the world is tossing me
Like a ship upon the sea
Thou who rulest wind and water,
Stand by me.
[“Stand by Me,” by Charles Albert Tindley]
The fierce providences of life have a purpose. This is one: they bring us to God, in prayer. They bow us on our faces and on our knees. Do you know what I think? I am not infallible; I may be mistaken. I think people would forget God were it not for the tears and the sorrows, and the age and the death, and the experiences of despair that we experience in life. If life were always smooth, I don’t think we would remember God. If every time we came to a Red Sea it miraculously opened before us [Exodus 14:21-31], if manna fell from heaven when we were hungry [Exodus 16:14-17], and if the solid rock turned to a gushing stream of water when we were thirsty [Exodus 17:5-6], I don’t think we would ever remember God. But these providences of life that crush us and bow us with our faces in the dust of the ground, they are the experiences that bring us to intercession and to prayer.
You know, God does things to encourage us to ask. I remember reading in Luke; our Savior made as though He would pass by the two on the way to Emmaus and go His way. And they asked Him, they begged Him to come and to spend the evening with them [Luke 24:28-29]. I think things happen whereby God encourages us to pray, to ask. And the result is always sweet. It is after the worldliness wanderings that we enter the rest of Canaan [Exodus 16:35]. And it was after the cruel temptations of our Lord that angels came and ministered unto Him [Matthew 4:1-11].
So it says here that He arose, and rebuked the wind, and there fell a great calm [Mark 4:39]. Well, isn’t that just glorious, and isn’t that just like our Savior? He is our Friend, and He is our salvation [John 3:16]. And God bless, and God be good to these who are left behind. Sweet, precious God in heaven, look down and raise my life to a marvelous filling of the presence of the living God.
So the disciples are in the storm, a like storm of Jesus walking on the waters [Matthew 14:24-27]. And He says, “Peace, be still” [Mark 4:39]. The storm was a great display, an occasion for His marvelous, heavenly power. And the disciples saw it, and they looked upon Him, and they cried, “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the waves obey Him?” [Mark 4:41].
What a marvelous phenomenon is the Lord Christ in our midst, the glory of our incomparable Savior.
- When He was a little boy, born in a manger [Luke 2:6-7, 10-16], the crown of the universe was bestowed upon Him.
- When He was in His mother’s arms, the shepherds came and sang His praises to God [Luke 2:15-16].
- When He was in the carpenter’s shop, a teenager, the presence of the Lord was with Him [Mark 6:2-6].
- When He was baptized by John the Baptist, the Spirit of God lighted upon Him [Matthew 3:16]. When He went out to be a minister to the people, God’s presence was upon Him [Luke 4:19-21].
- When He climbed the Mount of Transfiguration, His face became bright like the glory of the sun itself [Matthew 17:1-2].
- And when He was slain [Matthew 27:32-50] and buried [Matthew 27:57-60], the third day He was raised from the dead [Matthew 28:1-7].
- And in heaven to this day, He is the King of all creation [Colossians 1:15-17] and the comfort of us who are in this pilgrimage here below [2 Thessalonians 2:16-17].
What a precious and beautiful presence is Jesus in our midst.
And the Book says a little note, when all of the storm was raging, and the ship was about to sink, there were also other little ships [Mark 4:36]. There were other little ships, who were also caught in that storm, and who were facing inevitable death by its fury. That’s life for us, over which we have no control, the repercussion of what others do.
I wasn’t there, nor were you, when Adam sinned. But because of his transgression [Genesis 3:1-6] death was visited on the earth [Genesis 3:17-19], and death reaches down to us today [Romans 5:12]. Other little ships, when the storm came, and the wind blew, and the hurricane turned that lake into a veritable judgment of Almighty God, those other little ships were also caught in it [Mark 4:36]. And we’re caught in it. I face death, inevitable death because of Adam’s sin, God’s Book says [Romans 5:12]. The repercussions from what others have done, I read it every day; I see it on every hand. Ishmael hated Isaac [Genesis 21:9], and through the generations the Arabs there, hating the children of Israel.
You look at television too. I looked, as you did, at that interview with Saddam Hussein. In any way that he could—and we are talking about today, after thousands and thousands of years—today, any way that he could to destroy Israel, he would gladly lend himself and his armies to achieve that ungodly purpose.
The other little ships affected by the storm and the wind, all these little things that arise and that happen, the Bible says, and I read it last night again in  Kings; the Bible says because of the iniquity of Manasseh, Israel was sold into captivity [2 Kings 23:26-27]. These sins of others have a repercussion upon us. Those other little ships were also caught in the vigor of the storm and faced inevitable death [Mark 4:36]. But that is the preaching of the gospel. That’s why the Lord has called us and sent us with the good news of hope in Christ Jesus.
The other little ships: when God saved the ship in which the disciples were crossing the sea [Mark 4:39], God also saved those other little ships [Mark 4:36]. They were saved. When Elijah prayed for rain [1 Kings 18:42, 45; James 5:17-18], it rained also on Ahab and Jezebel. They also were blessed, the other little ships.
When the shadow of Simon Peter fell on those that were sick, he was ministering to others, but as he walked his shadow fell on others who were sick [Acts 5:15]; those other little ships, and they were wonderfully healed [Acts 5:16]. Do you remember in the twenty-seventh chapter of the Book of Acts? Dear me, the storm seizes that boat and dashes it against the rocks, but for Paul’s sake two hundred seventy-six others on the ship were saved [Acts 27:22-24,37, 41-44]. The other ones, they because of God’s goodness to Paul; those other little ships, blessed by the intervention of heaven.
I have to close. May I take a leaf out of my long life? In my first pastorate, my little country church, they encouraged me to come to talk to a man who was so hard of heart and indifferent, try to win him to Jesus. Went to the home in the evening, and the mother took the little boy, he was about nine or ten years of age, took the little boy and sent him to his bedroom and put him to bed. And I sat there with the couple, and soon she excused herself so I could just be with him. And I talked to him until way late at night, pled with him to give his heart to the Lord; failed ingloriously. It was like talking to a rock.
The next morning at church, when I was preaching in my little first country church, when I gave invitation at the end of the sermon, down came that little boy, Spencer. And he took my hand and he said, “I have given my heart to the Lord Jesus. I have taken Him as my Savior, and I want to confess Him. And I want to be baptized.” And I said, “Spencer, you say you have given your heart, you have accepted the Lord Jesus. When did you do it?” And he said to me, “Last night, when my mother sent me to my room and put me to bed, I opened the door just a little, so I could hear what you said to my father. And my father turned you down. He rejected your appeal. But there in my bed I opened my heart to the Lord Jesus, and I accepted Him as my Savior.” The other little ships.
Did you know recently I went back to that church? And I found that that boy, Spencer Sharp, has been the leading deacon in that country church for almost fifty years, almost fifty years. Sweet people, what I am saying is, no effort for God ever falls to the ground. God blesses it. And it may not be in the way that you thought for or planned for or prayed for. But God will bless it in ways you don’t know. It is just a wonderful thing to work for God, to give your heart and life to Him, and to let Him be your great friend and guide in the pilgrimage from this earth to heaven.
And to you who have listened to this message, could it be that God would bring a marvelous, wonderful saving grace to you, that you might know the Lord? He died for our sins according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:3]. He was buried and the third day He was raised for our justification, to take us to heaven [1 Corinthians 15:4; Romans 4:25]. If you will give your heart to the Lord Jesus [Romans10:8-13], He will come into your house and home and life, and He will guide you every step of the pilgrim way. And I’ll see you in heaven someday. And in the great throng of people in the sanctuary this morning hour, in the balcony round, down one of these stairways, and in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, I have decided for God, and I’m giving Him my heart and my life” [Romans 10:8-13]. Make the decision now in your heart, and in a moment when we stand to sing, stand up coming. And may angels attend you in the way, while we sing, while we stand, while we make our appeal.