Pastor Vernon Giesbrecht
For twelve years, my wife, Jayne, and I were responsible for the N. A. office of the mission organization, Double Harvest. While the mission had investment in various African countries, our responsibilities primarily focused on the work in the Caribbean country of Haiti. During those years we made frequent trips to connect with the Haitian leadership of the farm, school, medical clinic, and the church that meets on the property. We also took a number of mission teams to serve the organization in various ways.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and the airport in Port-au-Prince reflected the economic situation. While it had a runway to handle commercial jets, the building and accompanying resources reflected third-world standards. On one flight into the country we sensed that we were continually circling the airport. Finally, the captain came on the intercom and announced that they were having trouble getting the wing flaps down for landing. When extended down, flaps give more lift on takeoff and give more drag on landing, allowing the aircraft to fly at slower speeds without stalling. Flaps (down) also allow for shorter runway lengths on both takeoff and landing.
The captain continued, “We’ve been circling to use up fuel and have decided that, instead of returning to Miami (90 minutes plus), we will land here with the flaps up. We will be coming in fast and we ask that everyone take the crash position! Safety vehicles will be ready for us!” A collective gasp went up in the aircraft. Needless to say, after the initial feelings of fear (Will the landing gear take the impact? Will the runway be long enough?) we looked at each other and said in so many words, “If this is how the Lord wants to take us, our trust is in His timing.”
Well, a few years later I’m still here and writing these devotional thoughts. We came in fast but landed safely with the aircraft using most of the runway. Circling back to the airport, we noticed one 1980s firetruck and one ambulance. So much for “safety vehicles”!
Fear or faith. We don’t take credit for our courage and peace in the face of the immanent danger; it was as if God gave us increased faith in His sovereign plan. In the New Testament, the disciples also needed increased faith when faced with a sudden ferocious storm on the Sea of Galilee. The account is recorded in Matthew 8, Mark 4, and Luke 8.
My devotional reading has been in Mark. The disciples had already witnessed Jesus’ numerous healings and heard His authoritative teaching to the crowds. It was evening and Jesus, no doubt tired, asked that they sail to the other side of the lake. Storms on the Sea of Galilee can suddenly appear given its location and elevation. This storm, however, was even too much for these seasoned fishermen with the waves filling the boat. They feared for their lives and called out to Jesus; He was asleep in the stern – didn’t He care that their lives were in danger?.
“And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (4:39-41 ESV)
Why did they call out to Jesus? I suppose, He being their rabbi and teacher/leader, they were incredulous that He would be asleep in the storm. Or, with all they had witnessed, they recognized He was a special, unique person sent from God. But, why was He seemingly undisturbed by the waves crashing in on them?
Why would Jesus question their normal response to the immanent danger? Surely their fear was justified? Their response after Jesus calmed the storm with one command holds the answer. They were still unconvinced of Who Jesus was. Only God, the Creator, could command the wind and waves. Yes, His teaching had the ring of truth and His healings affirmed His compassion. But His power over the elements of creation itself revealed His ultimate sovereignty over all things. It had not yet dawned on the disciples that Jesus was indeed the Son of God, full of divinity and power to control the intricacies of the universe. Their fear eclipsed their faith.
What a lesson for each one of us! With this Jesus in our “boat of life” we have nothing to fear in the “storms of life”. Whether it is an impending crash, a dreaded health diagnosis, the loss of a job and the endless search for a new one, the effects of a pandemic, a long and trusted relationship severed, or a loved one taken…too early. Fear says, “This situation in my life is too much for me to handle.” Faith says, “God is in control. He will handle this for me.” Fear says, “I’m not sure if God is strong enough to handle this.” Faith says, “Nothing is more powerful than God.” Fear says, “I’m not sure if I can trust God.” Faith says, “God only wants what’s best for me.”
Our faith in Jesus, the Son of God, should calm our fears. Only as our understanding of who Jesus is increases, will our faith in Him increase. Just as He with one word said, “Peace! Be still!”, so with our faith in the Creator of the universe, peace and stillness will envelope our hearts even in the midst of our fearful circumstances.
“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.” (Proverbs 18:10 ESV)
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NASB)