Sunday sermon 24 June – Giants and storms

Readings: 1 Samuel 17:1, 4-11, 32-49 and Mark 4:35-41

Giants and Storms

What a choice today!

A story about a giant who had his head chopped off, and the power of a man to calm the wind and the waves in a storm. Not bad for a winter tale sitting at the fireside.

How big is your problem then? How does it match up to these two tales today?

In both incidents people were not alone. They had community and unity. The soldiers had each other, their discipline and their training. They must have had some kind of uniforms – how else would you know who to kill in battle? And they had a king given to them by God.

The disciples were in the Jesus’ bible school – in training, and they had a couple of pretty decent fishermen with them who knew a thing or two about boats and fishing – and storms too.

And they had seen Jesus do stuff! Things that were indicative of power and authority.

In both cases the problem was just too big. In both cases there was fear. In both stories they needed a major injection in faith.

1. Too big a problem

Most of the things that worry us are in fact too big for us to solve or handle alone. In the case of the giant Goliath, it wasn’t just his physical size. It was also the way he taunted them! Much like modern cricket it’s more than expertise that wins the day – it’s also the sledging that goes on!

In our world we also get lots of words of discouragement from people – criticism, and words of doubt that make us question ourselves.

The source of this is Satan – who has various names. The name “Satan” means accuser. He causes us to doubt ourselves and also sidetracks us so that we focus on the wrong things.

The real issue with Goliath was that he opposed the God of Israel! The words of David put it into perspective really:

45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head.”

We shouldn’t get squeamish of course. These were real soldiers and real wars. Admittedly it doesn’t make easy bed time reading for small children.

On Alpha this week we heard this story which puts it into perspective. It’s about Monty – General Montgomery:

A small precocious British boy was walking home from school and Monty picked him up in his jeep. The boy was quite chatty and asked him: “so what do you do?” Montgomery replied “I’m a  Field-Marshall”. “Oh that’s nice” said the boy. “My dad also works in a field. He’s a farmer. What do you do in the fields?”. “Oh”, said Monty, “I kill people.”.

“Can I get out now please?” said the boy.

No one doubts that the 2nd World war was way too big! The German army was way too big, as was their air force. The war in the Pacific was way too big. They were all giant problems. Had people known, they too would have been terrified – it’s just as well that they couldn’t see the world the way we do today with the internet and TV – all that instant stuff.

The storm too was just huge! The boat very small.

We feel quite insignificant at times too. As people. As a church. Even as a nation.

Luther put it well in his hymn:

A SAFE stronghold our God is still,
A trusty shield and weapon;
He’ll help us clear from all the ill
That hath us now o’ertaken.

The hymn also appears in this translation from the German:

A MIGHTY fortress is our God,   

A bulwark never failing;

Our helper he, amid the flood   

Of mortal ills prevailing.

2. Fear

A word about fear. In both passages today fear is predominant. In verse 24 of 1 Samuel 17 we read:  When the Israelites saw the man, they all ran from him in great fear.

Likewise the disciples have the same issues: Mark tells us in verse 38: The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

In both cases it would have been unhelpful to say “well actually there’s no need to fear really”. That’s the kind of things a parent, for example, does not say in the face of danger. The danger is real. The challenge is how to manage the situation. The parent should say – it is scary but I am here, so don’t be afraid!

In David’s case he used his tried and tested skills honed over years to deal with the problem. It helps to have people around who have been through it all and have the wisdom of years and practice.

Sadly because he was younger than his brothers they were not very supportive or enthusiastic. They had issues of course, and probably always would. Families are complicated and the people closest to you are not necessarily on the same page when it comes to believing in you. Or God! David did not listen to his brothers’ doubts. He was God’s man and God used him. And of course he was passionate about the honour of God’s name!

In the case of the storm the dynamics are different.  Going back to verse 38: The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

I’m interested in the next verses really – Jesus’ reaction is fascinating! 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

Jesus acts decisively – and is very direct with the fearful followers.  I wonder what he wants to say to us about our fears?

3. A major injection of faith

I think our real need is a major injection of faith!

Perhaps Jesus’ response is about this – faith means trust. Don’t you trust me?

Maybe you should trust me, people! Maybe he is saying that to his whole church here!

Of course both David and Jesus silenced their critics! The disciples were actually terrified – if the storm made them afraid, then the calming of the storm really spooked them!

41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

It’s a lovely phrase – “and they feared a great fear!” They were terrified by the whole event – and asked the key question: “who is this?”

This is Jesus – without whom nothing was made that has been made (John 1) – Jesus the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He is king of the created order!

Stick around Peter and your mates. You will see greater things yet! For the disciples at that time, this was all new! They did not really know who Jesus was. In Mark’s gospel it is quite a bit later that Peter becomes the first to recognise Jesus as the Christ.

BOOSTING OUR FAITH

I wish there was a simple winter faith booster – like an injection! When things are bad – what is it that will increase our resistance to fear – to all those negative emotions that can overcome us? There are some resources we have though.

Worship, fellowship, prayer, the Bible, and the promises of God are vast and amazing.

And God keeps speaking to us.

Trust me! That’s probably the simplest summary!

Some problems seem so big that we can’t see the wood for the trees. I know that feeling all too well!

And I know that God is still saying to me – trust me.

Sometimes the problems are so big that it makes it simple to solve. In the case of Goliath – the good news was that he was so big that David couldn’t miss! Sometimes radical solutions are needed! David finished the giant off with his sword!

SO WHAT TO DO THEN?

THE STORM remains the best picture for us. When we feel that Jesus appears to be asleep in our boat, then we too tend to get anxious and panicky.

James Brooks, a commentator, put it this way:

Although Jesus may not always appear to be present or to care, he will deliver his people who are in various kinds of trouble.  Therefore his disciples should never doubt”.

SO HOW MUCH BOOSTING DOES YOUR FAITH NEED?

  • Let’s commit ourselves to depend more on the Lord each day!
  • Let’s open our hearts to His amazing love!
  • Let’s believe his promises!
  • Let us pray more

Let us pray now and ask him to take down our giants, and calm our storms.

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About robinpalmer

I am a Presbyterian Pastor living and working in Browns Bay on the North Shore of Auckland in New Zealand. We moved here at the end of March 2011 after spending five years in Wellington the capital city. I am passionate about what I do - about communicating and writing. I also enjoy my counselling work, especially with young people.

Posted on June 23, 2012, in Sunday Morning Sermons. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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