Staying Afloat in the Storms of Life Part 1
Storms Happen
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
November 9, 2003

 

Main Passage: Psalm 46:1-11 (NLT)

 

In the early morning hours of September 29, the storm hit. Hurricane Juan made landfall in Nova Scotia as a category 2 hurricane with sustained wind speeds of 158 km/h and gusts up to 185 km/h. About three hours later, the storm hit PEI. By then it had weakened to a category 1 hurricane, and was reduced even further to a tropical storm as it crossed the Island. But still, the 95 km/h winds that hit Charlottetown and the gusts up to 139 km/h were able to uproot trees, down power lines, tear off roofs, sink boats and leave a path of destruction in its wake. I donít think any of us will forget the images anytime soon.

Shera and I actually got off pretty easy. We had a BBQ knocked over, and we had to chase our waste bin across the yard. Plus we had to go without power for most of the day. But thatís about it. Some of you were hit a lot harder. Looking across this room, though, Iím not aware of anyone who was completely devastated by this hurricane. But some people were. People from across Nova Scotia and PEI lost their sources of income, lost their homes, lost their cars, and a couple people even lost their lives.

For many, this physical storm created a personal storm in their lives. Linda Needler is one of thousands of people who had to go without power for over a week. This is how she summed up her ordeal:

"It just wears you down. It has reached a point where it's not fun any more. We want to get on with our lives, which we are definitely ready for, but we can't."
~ Linda Needler, Dartmouth, entering second week without power

Yes, she is talking specifically about the effects of Hurricane Juan. But how often do each of us experience personal storms of one kind or another that leave us worn down, depressed, trapped, and frustrated? We want to get on with our lives, but we canít. The truth is, storms happen. We all experience them. There is no one who does not go through some kind of upheaval in their lives from time to time.

It doesnít matter if youíre old or young, educated or uneducated, rich or poor, married or single, employed or unemployed, spiritual or secular, male or female. Every butcher, baker and candlestick-maker experiences storms. Some of our own making, some that are completely out of our control.

What are some examples of things that can cause a personal storm?

PARTICIPATION
(death, loss of job, health problems, stress, relational problems, etc.)

Yeah, we all experience storms. The Bible says;

Matthew 5:45 (NLT)
For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and on the unjust, too.

We all enjoy some of the blessings of God, and we all have to endure some of the storms of life. We all have our ups and downs. So this morning what I want to do is this: I want to give you 5 keys to surviving the storms that come your way.

 

Five Keys to Surviving the Storm:

 

1. Be Prepared

This is the single most important thing you can doÖ Be prepared. (Sounds like a promo for the Boy Scouts.) Be prepared, because the storms are going to come. And you donít want to be caught off-guard.

[Read Ė The Ant and the Cricket]

The cricket knew that winter would come, but she did not take the steps necessary to be prepared. The ants, on the other hand, did take the necessary steps. Both faced the same winter, but the ants were ready for it. They had prepared in advance for it.

In the Old Testament book of Genesis, God took a young Hebrew boy named Joseph and through a series of events positioned him as the second in command in all of Egypt. You can read all about him in Genesis 37-50. One of the things that Joseph did was build silos and storage barns and granaries. And over the course of seven years, Joseph took a portion of all the crops in Egypt and filled them. Until finally, after that seven year period, another seven year period of famine struck the land. But because Joseph had taken all the steps necessary to be prepared, long before the famine hit, the people of Egypt were able to survive without starving.

Any boat-builder would tell you that the most important part of a boat is where? Itís the part below the waterline. If the proper attention is given below the waterline when the boat is being built, then even in a strong storm the boat will be able to right itself and will not be sunk. But if this area is neglected, or if the builder decides to skimp on the area below the waterline because itís out of sight and he could save a few bucks, then even a gentle breeze could prove to be catastrophic.

Last weekend in our financial seminar on Making the Most of Your Money, Pete Benson encouraged us to build an emergency fund for when those storms come and he suggested for us to aim to have 3 months income in that emergency fund. Because you never know when youíre going to be out of a job or when some health problems will emerge or when some other emergency may arise, and if you wait until that happens, itís going to be too late. Be prepared.

Spiritually speaking, this means that you need to develop your relationship with God now. Because a strong faith in God can sustain you. But donít wait until things happen in your life that cause you to cry out to God for help. Build that relationship now. Talk with Him, read about Him, live for Him, apply the lessons of His Word to your life today, and when the storms arise you will not fall. Jesus said;

Matthew 7:24-27 (NLT)
"Anyone who listens to my teaching and obeys me is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won't collapse, because it is built on rock. But anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will fall with a mighty crash."

The time to build your foundation is not when the winds start to pick up and the waves begin to swell. By then itís too late. The time to build is now. Be prepared. Develop your faith in the good times so it can sustain you in the bad times.

 

2. Choose Your Response

When storms come your way, how do you respond? Do you curse, do you panic, do you get angry, do you get bitter, do you lose control? Do you just give in to your impulses? You need to take control and choose your response, because the truth is that the storms of life will either make you bitter or they will make you better.

"The storms of life will either make you bitter or they will make you better."

The Apostle Paul, in the New Testament, went through a lot of storms. He was mocked, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, thrown into prison, struck blindÖ In fact I read one place that there are over 200 times recorded in the Bible that Paul faced some kind of hardship or personal pressure. He had a lot of opportunity to become a bitter person. But he didnít.

One of the letters that he wrote that is included in our Bible today is the letter to the church in the city of Philippi, which we know as Philippians. When he wrote this letter, he was sitting in prison. Weíre not exactly sure what kind of prison it wasÖ some people say that he was under house arrest at this time, so his home was his prison. Others speculate that this could have been one of the times he was in a Roman prison which basically would have been a dungeon, often doubling as a sewer. So he was at least arrested and was possibly sitting in a sewer. Either way, not an ideal situation. How did he respond? Well, let me read a section from that letter:

Philippians 4:4-8 (NLT)
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again--rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.
Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, let me say one more thing as I close this letter. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.


Interesting. The man is sitting in some kind of prison, but he chooses to rejoice. He looks at the positive, not the negative. He chooses to control his situation, and not be controlled by it.

When you face a storm, you can respond in one of four waysÖ

Options for Responding to Storms:

A. Curse your storm

You could get angry and bitter and curse your circumstances.

B. Nurse your storm

You could wallow in self-pity, feeling sorry for yourself. You could use it as an excuse to give up on life.

C. Rehearse your storm

You could enjoy the attention you get from others because of what youíre going through. So you could practice it and draw attention to it and make it out to be worse than it actually is.

D. Reverse your storm

And thatís what Paul did. He took his less-than-desirable situation sitting in a prison and he reversed it. He could have cursed it, or nursed it, or rehearsed it, but he chose instead to reverse it, and declared: ďAlways be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again--rejoice!Ē

When you encounter a storm in your life, you need to choose your response. Will you simply give in to your impulses and curse, nurse or rehearse it? Or will you choose to take the high road and reverse your storm by making the most of it and rejoicing in spite of it?

ďWe all have times of troubleóbe it a troubled mind, financial burdens, work pressures or relationship issuesÖ As Christians, our challenge is to stand strong and remain consistent in spite of the circumstances.Ē
~ Brian Houston, Pastor of Hills Christian Life Centre

Donít let the storm control you. Donít let it dictate your response. Instead, choose to focus on the positive and rejoice in the Lord in spite of the storm.

 

3. Lean on others

Itís okay to have a need in your life. Itís okay to acknowledge it and ask for help. I knowÖ weíre independent people and like to handle our problems ourselves. I fit in that category, too. Letting others in is a difficult thing to do. But one of the great benefits of being part of the church of God is the fact that weíre not alone. We can support each other, encourage each other, pray with each other, help each otherÖ we can be there for each other. And thatís the way it should be.

Shera and I have always been fans of the show 8 Simple Rules for Dating my Teenage Daughter. Most if not all of you are familiar with that show, especially now that the star of the show John Ritter has died. When that happened, the makers of the show decided that they would deal with the death as part of the script and they would go on with the show. And this past week they aired the first show without John.

And they really did a pretty good job with it. John had played a husband and father of three, and this past week they had an hour-long special episode in which his character had died and the rest of the family had to cope with the loss. And for a while they were all trying to handle things on their own, but eventually they had to come to the point where they supported each other and they had to accept the help of friends and family.

The Word of God instructs us this way;

Romans 12:15-16 (NLT)
When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad, share their sorrow. Live in harmony with each other.

We really need to learn to lean on each other. We need to learn to accept help when we need it.

 

4. Trust in God

It seems like everyone has a favourite Psalm from the book of Psalms. Mine is #46. Lynn read it for us earlier. But let me read the first few verses again.

Psalm 46:1-3 (NLT)
God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not fear, even if earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.
Let the oceans roar and foam.
Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!


Whatever storms come your way, you can trust in God. Because He will not let you fall. Things may be happening all around you and your world may be in upheaval, but you can find peace and rest and safety with God. He is your refuge and strength, and Heís always ready to help in times of trouble.

 

5. Learn from the storm

"As you go through it, grow through it."

Storms can happen for a variety of reasons, but regardless of what causes the storm God can use it to teach you and help you grow.

James 1:2-5 (NLT)
Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.
If you need wisdom--if you want to know what God wants you to do--ask him, and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking.


As I look back over my life, the times I have grown the most have been the times when Iíve gone through a storm. Things havenít gone my way, Iíve felt betrayed, plans have fallen through, Iíve been disappointed, Iíve experienced lossÖ Itís at those times that Iíve found myself at my most vulnerable and at my greatest need of God and He has always come through. God has the incredible ability to take the lowest moment of our lives and help us rise above it.

Ecclesiastes 7:3 (NLT)
Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us.

Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us--they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

 

Would you close your eyes for a minute? Let me ask you, are you going through a storm in your life right now? Is there some issue or crisis that youíre facing that seems to be insurmountable? Then I want to pray for you this morning. I wonít mention any names, but if thatís where youíre at then just slip up your hand so I can see it and can pray for Godís grace, wisdom and strength to be evident in your life.

Now, before I pray, take a few moments to reflect and pray silently. Ask God if thereís anything Heís trying to teach you. And listen for His response.
 


 

 

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