Sleepytime Jesus

sleeping-1717576_1920I love sleep. I find it interesting to hear all of the different things people do in order to sleep. I prefer to have it pitch black. My wife wears earplugs so that no noise bothers her (like my snoring, I suppose). I’ve talked to people who need white noise. Some leave the tv on all night long. All of it comes down to our preferred method for achieving peace.

Peace is the natural state for sleep. We also talk about the unnatural sleep and say it was “fitful.” You’ll hear people say, “I didn’t sleep well at all,” meaning that there wasn’t the normal peace and rest that we all KNOW IS supposed to accompany sleep.

There’s a story about Jesus sleeping when normal people wouldn’t be. It goes like this:

The same evening, Jesus suggested they cross over to the other side of the lake. With Jesus already in the boat, they left the crowd behind and set sail along with a few other boats that followed. As they sailed, a storm formed. The winds whipped up huge waves that broke over the bow, filling the boat with so much water that even the experienced sailors among them were sure they were going to sink. Jesus was back in the stern of the boat, sound asleep on a cushion, when the disciples shook Him awake.

Disciples (shouting over the storm): Jesus, Master, don’t You care that we’re going to die? He got up, shouted words into the wind, and commanded the waves.

Jesus: That’s enough! Be still!

And immediately the wind died down to nothing, the waves stopped.

Jesus: How can you be so afraid? After all you’ve seen, where is your faith?

The disciples were still afraid, slowly coming to grips with what they had seen.

Disciples (to one another): Who is this Jesus? How can it be that He has power over even the wind and the waves?

Pretty cool. It’s almost like something out of an X-Men movie. There is such power in nature. Storms can be intensely scary and downright dangerous, as parts of the world have just experienced recently with hurricanes. So it’s perfectly normal for the sailors to be in panic mode. And there is their leader – their rabbi – sleeping in the boat! And so they call him out. “Don’t you care about us? Why aren’t you helping us?!?” And Jesus responds in a way no one else could. He exorcises the storm.

beach-768587_1280That is to say, Jesus addresses the storm the same way he addresses unclean (evil) spirits in other encounters. And every time it’s a power encounter – a battle to see who has superior power and strength. When the evil spirits say, “What do you have to do with us? We know who you are!” Jesus responds, “Silence! Be gone.” The spirits leave. Now before the powerful storm, Jesus comes back with, “Enough! Be still!”

He is powerful. He is decisive. There is no power that is a match for Jesus. The same God who spoke mother nature into place by the power of his Word (Genesis 1) now silences mother nature by that same power.

Nothing is too great for God.

So here are some things to keep in mind – some things that this story reminds us about:

First – Storms are going to come. It’s always amazing to me to find non-Christians who think we follow Christ to have the easy way out, as though Jesus is the golden ticket for escaping the problems and storms of life. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Christianity doesn’t promise escape from trouble. In fact, Jesus PROMISED that there would be trouble in this life!

We’re not promised escape, just that God would be with us through it. The world-famous 23rd Psalm states:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for you are with me….

God isn’t pulling us from the valley – He’s walking beside us through it.

Second – Jesus sleeping isn’t him abandoning his guys, but it shows his complete trust in God. When we go through storms we often react like the sailors in the story: GOD, WHERE HAVE YOU GONE?!? DON’T YOU CARE ABOUT WHAT’S HAPPENING TO ME?!? I’M DYING HERE! Just because Jesus is at peace and resting doesn’t mean he’s abandoned the ship. Remember, sleep is ultimately about peace. Jesus is at peace even in the middle of chaos. He knows who has control. He knows who has the real power. He isn’t disturbed by a mere storm.

Even though you may be going through a tumultuous time and cannot see Jesus working in the boat with you doesn’t mean you’re alone. It doesn’t mean God has abandoned you. Perhaps Jesus is at peace in your storm because He knows the real power at work – the winning power – isn’t the storm and chaos; it’s God.

Finally, Our faith in Jesus should bring us peace in the midst of chaos and stormsThe Bible talks about “peace that passes understanding.” That means that we cannot comprehend it. We cannot understand it. It shouldn’t be there. Can’t you see the storm raging? Yet there is peace. I’m not saying it’s easy. I am saying that our peace reveals our faith. If we believe that WE have to be in control, that WE have to figure things out, that WE have the power to get through things, then there’s no faith. We’re ignoring the Power that created the cosmos and putting ourselves in its place. Genuine faith says, “I may not understand what’s going on, but I know God holds me and I know He holds tomorrow. The storms may rage on, but Jesus is in the boat with me, and we’re chill.”

Whatever storm you’re going through, or whatever storms lie ahead of you, it is possible to have peace in the middle of chaos.

Remember who is in the boat with you.

Finding an Inner Peace that Can’t Be Shaken

meditate-1851165_1920Peace seems to be one of the best ideals people can think of in this world. If you Google the word peace you will get over one billion results. The top 10 results include the Wikipedia article defining peace, the website for the Peace Corps, and the website for the Nobel Peace Prize. Personal peace is so highly sought after that pharmaceutical companies have flooded the market with dozens of anti-anxiety medications like hydroxyzine, lorazepam, clonidine, clonazepam, atenolol, and diazepam.

It is conservatively estimated that some 39 million Americans suffer from some kind of anxiety disorder. But where does all this anxiety and lack of peace come from? I believe that the root cause of the lack of peace in our lives is the perceived lack of control. Please do not misunderstand – there are some legitimate needs for being on anxiety-related medications, and I thank God for health care professionals. Still, we ought to realize that much of the anxiety and stress we face is not due to genuine psychological and physiological trauma but our own feeling of being out of control.

Think about it – when are you most at peace? When you have everything under control. Anxiety hits us when we feel out of control. Everyone wants peace; peace in marriages, peace in the workplace, peace in family relationships and friendships, peace in our personal lives.

The Bible talks about peace. In the Old Testament, the word for peace is Shalom. In the New Testament, the word is eirene (where we get the name Irene). Peace as Shalom is multi-faceted, but basically comes down to relating to war, human relationships, and tranquility in the midst of hardship. And while a preacher could spend weeks preaching a series about Shalom, today we’re just focusing on tranquility in the midst of hardship and difficulty. When it comes to hardship and difficulty, there is very little that we actually can control. Things happen to us all the time, but at any moment something unforeseen can happen. If we focus on how little we actually control our lives, we can feel overwhelmed! But confidence in God’s power and ability results in an inner peace that cannot be shaken.

The Bible tells us a story about three guys named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They were three men who loved God. They were Jews, God’s people, who had been part of a group captured from Israel and transported to Babylon. But they were such good guys (trustworthy, dependable, etc.) that the king made them governors to manage a region in Babylon. In the meantime, the king gets this great idea that he is going to unify the kingdom and insist that everyone take a loyalty oath, a test to make sure that all of the people would recognize the king as the big dog. This was not uncommon in the ancient world. So he builds this monument 90 feet high and nine feet wide. It probably looked something like this.monument-1493054_1920

And everyone was told, “When you hear the sounds of the horns, the flutes, the bagpipes, the guitars, the drums, the tambourines, the tubas, the kazoos…(well, you get the idea) – when you hear all of these instruments playing, then take a knee and make your loyalty oath to the king and the gods he serves. So when the horns, the flute, the bagpipes, the guitar, the drums, the tambourines, the tubas, the kazoos…(again, you get the idea) sounded, everyone in the province pledged loyalty to the king and the gods he served. Everyone except for these three guys, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

Even today we go through all sorts of loyalty tests. People and things vie for our loyalty almost daily. Will we show allegiance and loyalty to this or that? Will we show loyalty to this person or that person? But everything else and everyone else is merely temporary – the only permanent One who deserves our loyalty is God and God alone. Our loyalty is founded on what we know about God’s character and on the hope we have in Him! His character proves true time and time again. God does not fail. When He decides to do something, you can guarantee that it will happen. His timing might not fit our timing, but God does not fail – ever! People will pull at you, demanding your loyalty. Things in life will pull at you, demanding your loyalty. To whom and to what will you be loyal? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego know that they can only be loyal to God – nothing else.

But the king, Nebuchadnezzar, is not pleased with this, so he calls in the three and says, “Fellas! What’s goin’ on?!? Didn’t you get the message about the monument and the instruments and the loyalty thing? Is it true that you won’t take a knee before the monument and publicly proclaim your loyalty to me and my gods? If you don’t do it, you’re gonna be tossed into a furnace of blazing fire – and who is the god who can rescue you from my power?

These three God-fearing men were not anxious at all. They tell the king, “Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. 17 If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. 18 But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the monument you set up.” You see, confidence in God’s power and ability results in an inner peace that cannot be shaken. They knew the character of their God. They knew the power and ability of their God. Their confidence resulted in unshakable peace.

Even if God’s power did not save them from the fire, they still had confidence that God could, and because they knew that God has everything under control, they did not have to be anxious about it. I think this is where we sometimes drop the ball. We believe that God has everything under control but then expect Him to swoop in at the last minute and deliver us. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego realized that God is in control even if He doesn’t swoop in and save the day – the big picture is still God’s to direct. Oh, that we could have that kind of confidence. That is the confidence that leads to unshakable peace.

But their answer really ticked off the king, and he put those three into a blazing furnace. He commanded his soldiers to heat the furnace as hot as it could go, and ancient kilns could be heated over 1700 degrees Fahrenheit! It was so hot that the soldiers putting the men into the furnace died. But the king looked again and couldn’t believe his eyes. He asked his advisers, “Didn’t we throw in three men?” His advisers said, “Yes, of course, your majesty.” And the king says, “Look, I see four men walking around unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” So King Nebuchadnezzar gets as close as he can to the furnace and yells, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – come out of the fire!” And they come out untouched by the flames. The king then turned the tables and said, “Anyone who says anything offensive about their God will be torn apart and their houses turned into garbage dumps, for no other god can do what their God can do.” Who has the power, and who can save you? God has the power, and He can save.

In his letter to the church in Philippi, the Apostle Paul, who wrote about 31% of the New Testament, says: “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Notice that Paul does not say, “Tell God about your problems and He will take care of everything.” He says, “Tell God and let God’s peace, a peace that the human mind cannot understand, wash over you.”

There’s an old hymn from 1752 called “Be Still My Soul”

Be still my soul the Lord is on thy side
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain
Leave to thy God to order and provide
In every change He faithful will remain
Be still my soul thy best – thy heavenly Friend
Thro’ thorny ways leads to a joyful end

Thorny ways are going to come. Tough times are going to happen. We are not promised rescue – we are promised peace in the midst of troubled times. Some of you are in desperate need of peace. Anxiety has you tied up in knots, and your worries lay heavy on your mind. Surrender your worries to the God of the Universe.

Confidence in God’s power and ability results in an inner peace that cannot be shaken.