“Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.” Mark 4:39
Recently, I was privileged to be able to attend a youth event called Challenge Youth Conference (CYC) in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. This is an annual event that grows in number every year. This year, there were about 12,500 Christians gathered together, with almost 500 congregations represented. To say that it was uplifting, encouraging, and just plain awesome would be an understatement.
This year’s theme was simply entitled “Storms”. The lessons presented focused on storms of doubt, what to do after a storm, weathering storms together as Christians, responding to storms, the reign of darkness, and after the storm the Son rose. I would like to share with you a few things that stood out to me from each lesson.
Storms of Doubt. This lesson was given by Kyle Butt, and he focused on the fact that not having the proper view of suffering and trials can affect our faith. Atheists will claim that pain, sickness, and death forces us to question our belief in God. But does it, really? So often, we imagine ourselves as God’s “pets”. We think we need to be comfortable and taken care of, given plenty of food, clothes, and a nice house to live in. But if even one thing goes amiss, we lash out and think God has broken some “deal” we had. NEWSFLASH: We are not on earth to be comfortable! Paul says in Philippians 1:20-21, “ …but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” If Jesus can be glorified through the trials I am going through, then bring it on! Our end goal is something much bigger than anything on earth. 1 Peter 4:12-19 tells us that it is a blessing for Christians to suffer, and a reason to glorify God! The skeptic wants to take away the value of suffering for a Christian. We are being like Jesus when we suffer for righteousness! You see, it is not about the suffering we go through, but rather how we let that suffering affect our relationship with God.
“But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:13
After a storm, what then? This lesson was given by Brian Staron, and he encouraged us to think about what should happen after we go through a storm. Jesus tells us in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation [storms]; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” We can have peace, joy, and hope after braving a storm in our life because Jesus has got this! He’s already overcome Satan and the sin you’re fighting against. Sometimes we may be tempted to ask, “Why, God?” But we must evaluate why we are asking why. Isaiah 55:8-9 teaches us that God sees the big picture! We must have faith that HE IS IN CONTROL. Have you ever thought that someone else may be going through the same storm you just came out of? Share your experience with others, and how you could see God working through your storm to bring something good out of it (Romans 8:28). Your storm will not been in vain, because your eternal reward is waiting for you in heaven! The difference for a Christian is not that he doesn’t encounter pain, but that God will be right beside him when he does.
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” James 1:2-3
Storms are not meant to be weathered alone. Ben Hayes presented this lesson, and he made the point that God works through other people as He helps us in our storms. He gave us the church, a unified body of fellow travelers. We bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). God gave us a GPS: His Word. Have you ever been encouraged by a verse of Scripture? Share it! It could be that someone else will benefit from it, too. Romans 15:1-4 tells us to build each other up with the Word. God has also given us examples to live by, “trailblazers”, if you will. We see many of these in Hebrews 11. Reading how they conquered spiritually can invigorate us in our Christian walk (verses 32-40)! The ultimate Example we are given is Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-3; 1 Peter 2:21). Fix your eyes on Him! Finally, God has given us Himself, as protection and security. Jesus the Messiah was to be called “Immanuel”, which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). When we feel week and defeated by the storms around us, God tells us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
Storms from the world – How do I respond? David Shannon posed the question, “Will we do what God wants us to do in the midst of a storm?” Our life can be summed up by not only what happens to us, but also how we respond. Contrary to popular thought, we are not defined by our storms! God gives us the ability to “press pause” and ask, “What would God want me to do in this situation?” Victor Frankl once said, “In our response lies our growth and freedom.” Paul is a wonderful example of this, because when faced with trials and literal storms, he didn’t succumb to them (Acts 27). When faced with a decision, storms can actually clarify our priorities, and help us realize what’s really important. Storms also hide navigational points. They can make the path messy and confuse our sense of direction. But that’s where faith comes in. In the middle of a raging tempest, Paul was able to say, “I believe God that it will be just as it was told me.” (Acts 27:25) We must know that in order to stand the storm, we have to go through it with God. Why? Because HE IS FAITHFUL. (1 Corinthians 10:13; Romans 8:28; Psalm 23)
“This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your promise gives me life.” Psalm 119:50
Dark reign. Lonnie Jones focused on Jesus’ crucifixion – the ultimate reign of darkness. Darkness reigned when people could stand by and watch an innocent Man die (Matthew 27:35-36). There are several things that contribute to this dark reign. First, looking at the power of God and ignoring it (John 11:45-50). We are surrounded by the power of God in nature and in the way He works; yet so often we just ignore it. Second, doing just enough to please the crowd (John 19:1-12). When crucifying Jesus, Pilate intended to do the right thing, but darkness told him not to follow through (John 19:4,6). Over and over in Scripture, we see that God is disgusted with “half-measures” (Revelation 3:15-16). Third, selfishly claiming God’s love for your gain (Matthew 26:14-16). Do we make going to church a popularity contest? We go to church to worship God, not to impress others. In fact, God is not even impressed by us. Rather, He sees our weak, sinful state and loves us anyway. When sin reigns, we see the wrath of God (e.g. Sodom and Gomorrah, the Flood, the Crucifixion). God cannot stand sin! But between us and God’s wrath is Christ on the cross. Are we yelling, “Crucify Him!” or “Crucify me!”? (Galatians 2:20).
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18
After the storm the Son rose. On Sunday morning, Lonnie Jones brought a follow-up lesson on the reign of darkness. After the storm of the crucifixion was the Son-rise! Jesus forever changes our perspective on life’s storms. In 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:5, we see three perspectives: the external, the internal, and the eternal. Because Jesus rose, we can think outside of this world. Here on earth, we know that everything that lives, eventually dies. Paul says in verse 4 that in eternity, “mortality is swallowed up by life“. In other words, everything that dies, lives! The good news of the resurrection is that we can deal with storms because they are only temporary! We have something far better coming (Romans 8:18). Picture with me a rope. This rope is about 450 feet long, but the tip is covered in tape about an inch up. The inch represents our life on earth, and the rest of the rope represents eternity. Compared to the 450 feet, the inch looks like nothing! Of course, our minds cannot fully grasp the idea of eternity — an infinite space that is not limited by time — so perhaps try to visualize the rope being so long that it could wrap the distance around the globe 100 times. From that perspective, you can barely see the tiny tip of the rope covered in tape! Does that give you an idea of eternity? As you can see, the MAJORITY of our lives consists of eternity. This is in no way making light of a person’s storms and trials, but let us make our decisions based on eternity and not get caught up in the “inch”!
“You are my hiding place; You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” Psalm 32:7
In conclusion, here are some of the lyrics to one of my favorite songs, called “Still”:
When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with you above the storm
Father, You are King over the flood
I will be still and know You are God.