“One day Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side of the lake.’ So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.
The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Master, Master, we’re going to drown!’
He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. ‘Where is your faith?’ he asked his disciples.
In fear and amazement they asked one another, ‘Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.’ (Luke 8: 22-25)
The other side of fear is faith. You either operate in the one or in the other. The disciples showed Jesus their fear and he responded “Where is your faith?”
Luke tells the story of three miracles, one after another. This is the first, then follows the healing of the demoniac (8:26-38) and then the raising of Jairus’s daughter, interrupted by the healing of the woman with the issue of blood. All of these precede the sending out of the disciples, to do the very things the Lord has done here. And on one level, this is the point towards which the preceding stories tend: “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” (Luke 9:1-2).
But our “power and authority” derive totally from his, so another element in this sequence of stories is the declaration of the power and authority of Jesus, and his identification as Israel’s Messiah.
But how do we operate as believers within such astonishing parameters? The answer is faith. Not fear but faith. And the two central threads which run through this sequence of miracle stories are “fear” and “faith.”
That’s the point to ponder.
The Gospel writers remember the crisis moment slightly differently!
“Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” (Matthew 8:25)
“Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” (Luke 8:24)
“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38)
Matthew seems to record a cry for help. Luke seems to give us a statement of doom. Mark records the rebuke of one or more of the disciples for our Lord’s seeming aloofness. And speaking to one another they pondered not only what had just happened, but also who is was who was with them in the boat: “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him” (Luke 8:25).
It would seem that their fear at what Jesus has just done differs both in kind and in intensity from that which they had as a result of the storm. What Jesus has just done was even more startling than the life-threatening storm itself.
The disciples were afraid, and their words and actions toward Jesus were less than what was expected of them. Jesus spoke to them only about the faith which they should have had. Why is that?
Because faith is important!
Faith is the key issue. It’s fundamental to the life of the disciple. The story of the stilling of the storm is the account of our Lord’s looking for faith in His disciples and not finding it and all other details are pared back to make this point stand out.
Faith is fundamental for those who would be followers of Christ. It is that for which our Lord seeks (cf. Luke 18:8), that in which He delights, and the lack of which causes Him displeasure. It is by faith that we are saved from our sins (Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 3:22). We are to live by faith (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11). Whatever is not of faith is sin (Rom. 14:23). And without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).
So what is it? What is the Nature of Faith?
(1) Faith involves a decision for which we are responsible. Our Lord’s rebuke of His disciples, regardless of how gentle it may have been, indicates that the disciples were expected to have faith, and were held accountable for failing to have it. While faith is, in one sense, a gift of God, it is also a gift which may be accepted or refused. Faith involves our choice.
(2) Faith acts, sometimes by waiting, and sometimes by working. Sometimes faith is a decision which requires us to take action. For example, Abraham’s faith in God required him, on one occasion to circumcise his son. On other, he was required to send away Ishmael. On yet another, he was instructed to “sacrifice his only son.” We might call this the “obedience of faith.” It is doing that which God has commanded, trusting in God to fulfill His purposes and promises as we act in obedience to His command, even though such obedience seems to be foolish, even destructive.
At other times, a decision of faith requires us to be passive. Faith sometimes must passively wait, at a time when we would be tempted to act on our own to bring about a certain result. God promised Abraham a son. By faith, he should have patiently waited. Instead, Abraham produced a son through his wife’s handmaid. This was an act of unbelief, which continues to have its adverse consequences. Faith acts, sometimes by waiting, and other times by working.
(3) Faith is tested and proven by adversity and trials. The disciples’ lack of faith is exposed in this crisis . Apart from this storm, the disciples would have continued to appear and to feel as though they had control of the situation. Their panic on the lake showed otherwise.
So it is for us as well. It is the crises of life which reveal our faith. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:2-3).
The tests and the trials of life—life’s crises—simply expose the cracks in our faith which have long been there, but which are only revealed under stress and pressure. If possessing faith is important, then we can be grateful for the tests which reveal our weaknesses.
(4) Faith is the opposite of fear. Jesus cited the disciples’ fear as evidence of their lack of faith. When you stop to think about it, fear (that is, the kind of frantic, panic, fear that the disciples displayed in the storm) and faith are mutually exclusive. Where you find fear, faith is absent. When you find faith, fear is gone. Fear maximizes the problem and minimizes God’s provisions and presence.
(5) Faith is trusting God. The disciples did not just lack faith, they lacked faith in Christ, the One who was in the boat with them. The words of the disciples, after the stilling of the storm, reveal their utter failure to grasp the greatness of the One who was with them and thus they lacked faith in His power, in His presence, in His goodness.
Here is the bedrock basis for our faith. He is good. He is powerful. His purposes will stand. And even when we fail in faith, He will not fail in faithfulness.
For God calls us to go over to the other side, to move out from fear and into faith. It requires a confident, gutsy assurance that Christ will do all that is necessary.
As James Hudson Taylor famously said: “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.”