08-23-2020 Calming the Storm

Sermon Series (Four Parts): “Where is God in All these Troubles?” ~

Calming the Storm” (Part 3)

Psalm 107:23-32

Summary: How many disasters like COVID-19 have felt like a raging storm? God’s word helps us to understand the storm and understand where He is in the midst of the COVID-19.

I. Introduction.

In 1996, a photographer named Charles O’Rear was driving through the Napa Valley, North of San Francisco when a particular landscape caught his eye. It was a green, hillside sloping down with a few wildflowers, the grass at the bottom of the hill. He was struck by the beauty of the peaceful scene. He pulled over his car and shot the lush green of the hill.

He had no idea of knowing that he’d just taken what would become the most viewed photograph of all time. Because guess what! A few years later, the Microsoft company commissioned bliss and designers to set the picture as the default background for their new operating system. And by the time Microsoft estimated that the picture “Bliss” had been viewed by billions of people around the world. More the most famous painting in history, the Mona Lisa.

II. Psalm 107: The Picture.

The Psalm 107 is like a picture by Photographer Charles O’Rear. The psalmists were experts at creating pictures – except that they didn’t use a paintbrush. They didn’t use cameras either – they use words as an example.

Psalm 107 celebrates the friendship and faithfulness of God. It is the beloved hymn of Thanksgiving for his deliverance in the section from verses 4 through 32 and there we can find pictures or circumstances faced by God’s people along their journey.

A. The Desert.

The first picture is that of a desert as described in vs 4-9. The psalmist provides the painted word picture by saying, “they wandered in the wilderness in a desolate way; They found no city to dwell in, hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them”.

The Bible tells us that life for Christians – and life for all of us who are God’s followers can sometimes be like being in the desert –  – We lose our way – we get into dry wilderness – we get into barren fields – and we don’t understand the meaning of this.

For some of the desert is loneliness – others are lost – and still others become dislocated in the desert. The wanderers struggled through the sand without a home. The psalmist paints the picture of people lost in a desert as a picture of hopelessness and helplessness.

Many people right now – through this whole pandemic – have been through an exaggerated experience in their life.

B. The Prison.

The psalmist paints another picture –the picture of prison. He said sometimes life can be like a prison. It is a group portrait of prisons: Psalm 107:10 says, “Those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death bound in affliction and irons.”

Some of us are trapped by difficulties from which there seems little hope or escape because these prisons might have been constructed by other people’s evil persecution or by matters over which we don’t have any control. We don’t have to be at fault to become hopeless captives.

The psalmist says that sometimes life can be like a desert – the dryness and barrenness of it all. Sometimes it’s like being in prison and you’re caught up in the chains of your own making. These two pictures were easily described – and we can dispense with them. The third picture is meaningful for all of us.

C. The Storm.

Now here is the picture of the storm – a picture causing us to catch our breath because here we’re gazing at the portrait of a furious storm. But the storm described here may not be your storm. How many disasters like COVID-19 have felt like a raging storm? That’s why this Psalm is so meaningful – because when we go through these storms – God’s word helps us to understand the storm and understand where He is in the midst of it.

1. Place of the Storm.

In verse 23 it tells us that “they will go down to the sea in ships.” Do you feel certain that you’re pursuing the will of God for your life – but your faith is tested by the wind and the rain. Have you ever been out as far as you know – where you are out of the will of God? When God asks you to do it – you’re walking in faith. You’ve taken a big step to trust him for something important – and then – all of a sudden – the storms come. We had five church programs just starting to kick off when this pandemic stopped us in our tracks. But we will prevail with God’s help when this “storm” subsides.

The message is simply that great works are done in deep waters. Many of us learned to hang around in the shallow part of the pool – and we do so because we’re afraid of getting out of our comfort zone where we feel fear. But Jesus tells us to launch out into the deep and take risks in the pursuit of excellence and in the knowledge of God. Despite all of your best efforts – if you don’t go where God calls you – you’ll never know what God wants to do unless you get out into the deep.

            No one ever said it would be easy in the deep waters. The place of the storm – in the deep waters – and where the wind blows is where the challenge is. And within every challenge you will feel God’s presence.

2. The Producer of the Storm.

The producer of the storm knows where the storm comes from – it’s very odd – or unusual – it seems in Psalm 107:25 – “For he commands and raises the stormy wind which lifts up the waves of the sea”.

            The pronoun here “HE” is capitalized because We realize that this storm is created and produced by Almighty God himself. As great as the power of the winds and the waves – there is someone who is more powerful in the background behind it all. It is God!

Now listen to me – we’re much more comfortable crediting God with calming storms than raging up storms. Yet we have to take the scripture at its word here in Psalm 107. It teaches us that the Lord is the one who produces this storm; his purposes were at stake.

But let’s take care – before blaming God for every storm. We also have brought our own dark clouds – and we have made mistakes – and why? Simply to let us discover how deeply we need him.

            Did you know that sometimes God puts you in the middle of the storm? He has done that many times for us during these days. If you’re weathering a storm – you can be certain the winds are no random weather front – for They blow for a clear purpose – and as you’re caught up in the tempest – you need to ask God to help you be caught up in its purposes.

The place of the storm is the deep waters. And the producer of the storm is God himself.

3. The Peril of the Storm.

Now we notice the peril of a storm and What an image God paints on the canvas of Scripture in Psalm 107:26-27. “They mount up to the heavens-they go down again to the depths, their soul melts because of trouble they reel to and fro they stagger like a drunken man and are at their wit’s end”

            Those of us who love and trust God through the worst times and those of us who are receptive to what he might be trying to teach us – find that our hearts have been changed by the time stillness has replaced the stormy trials. This is a passage about spinning wildly out of control. Have you ever lost control of an automobile on an icy highway?

These passengers of the rocking ship were frightened. They’ve come to the end of all their ideas and strategies as the tempest mastered their vessel. The passengers couldn’t do anything but watch and pray. They’re at their wit’s end. The place of the storm is in the deep waters where you’ve stepped out by faith – the producer of the storm is often God himself – and the peril of the storm leads you to the very end of your own rational ability. Now notice the prayer.

4. The Prayer in the Storm.

Unfortunately – prayer seems to be our last part in a storm. It should be our first – but the people of this passage turn to God in verse 28. Here it says: “Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble and he brings them out of their distresses.”

            Have you ever noticed the parallel relationship between the depth of a crisis and the length of a prayer? Our prayers should be greater than the storm. This Psalm may have called out the same words. Their circumstances have certain similarities to the characters in the other paintings.

            Let’s look at the first picture again. The desert wanderers hopelessly lost. Here’s what it says about them

“they cried out to the Lord in their trouble and he delivered them out of their distress.”

What about the prisoners in their cell? What are they saying? Here’s their verse: “Then they cried out to

the Lord in their trouble and he saved them out of their distress.”

Just as the characters in the storms – so cried out those in the wilderness and in the captivity. Those with illnesses also desperately seek an escape.

            God certainly hates everything that causes us pain whether it’s imprisonment or illness or storms.

But God knows that lesser pain is necessary to avoid deeper pains. It hurts to pull out a thorn but the pain of leaving it would cause deeper agony and infection. God knows that he has to pull out a few thorns occasionally – and we will cry out in pain and even become angry with God. But it’s all for a purpose God knows even if we don’t. It shows that we are not self-sufficient. He loves to bring us to our knees in fresh dependence on him. But during these days – how can only peacetime prayers be carried through the intensity of the storm?

            Have you ever thought about that? Have you ever had a moment where you’ve cried out to God in an intense prayer – and maybe God has heard you and answered you?

We often don’t pray like that unless we feel trapped – or we feel desperate. We must always try to pray with a higher intensity than our storms. When we’re in the storm – and we pray with intensity – God will hear our prayers.

5. The Peace in the Storm.

Psalm 107:29-30 says, “He calms the storm, so that it’s waves are still. Then they are glad because they are quiet; So, He guides them to their desired haven.”

There will be a calm after the storm. It’s about comfort and relief deep inside us. We realize that no matter the size of the storm – there is also a bigger master of the storm. The psalm was being battered by the storm – they cried out in fear and helplessness. God responded – he calmed the storm and he stilled the waves by speaking to the storm.

A woman was caught in a frightening storm in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. She was aboard a luxury cruise that was carrying a large number of children. The woman saw that everyone was panicking. Obviously, the panic was spreading to the kids. They were running to and fro all through the hallways. So, she gathered all the children together and began telling them Bible stories to keep them calm. The children became quite captivated by the wonderful stories. Soon the ship made it through safe and sound. The captain made his rounds, and he saw the woman laughing and talking with the children. She’d stayed calm through the storm, and he was very puzzled. So, he said, “how did you keep your cool when everyone else was falling in pieces? Have you been through this before?” “It’s simple,” said the woman. “I have two daughters. One of them lives in New York and the other one lives in heaven. I knew I was going to see one or the other tonight. It didn’t make any difference to me which one.”

            You may feel the same way about heaven and the concept of God being in control. Grace through the storm is a function of believing that the creator of the storm is also the deliverer from it. He is also the one who can bring peace and strength when all those around us are falling apart. He is our deliverer – and the fact is gloriously portrayed in living colors in every canvas of the eternal gallery known as Psalm 107.

6. The Purpose of the Storm.

Psalm 107:30 says, “So He guides them to their desired Haven.” The Lord didn’t stop delivering the people from the storm. He took them where they needed to go There’s only one twist: the storm may change our idea of a destination. (Acts 24-28) Christ never leaves us the same way as He finds us.

People always ask these questions: How are we going to be different after the coronavirus is over? How are we going to be different as families? How are we going to be different as churches? Answer: Isaiah 55:8 – “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways.”

Sometimes we don’t know what to do with it – but we will be far more in tune with his desires when the storm has passed. We will know that the one who produced the storm is also the one who delivered us from the storm – and our goals will have moved closer to his.

III. Conclusion: The Praise after the Storm.

We read in Psalm 107:31-32 “Oh that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness and for his wonderful works to the children of men! Let them exalt him also in the Assembly of the people and praise him in the company of the elders.”

We’ve been hopelessly lost in the barren wilderness – and suddenly we find ourselves in a watering place. What do we do? We give thanks back to the first of the Psalm 107:31 – “Oh that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness for his wonderful works to the children of men!” And Psalm 107:9 – “For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry soul with goodness.”

My Beloved Brothers & Sister in Christ – We will get through all this!  – this rough storm. After the desert experience – let us praise God; after this storm desert experience – let us praise God; after being in the hospital – let us praise God; after the social distancing and masking and quarantining experiences – let us praise God.

When you’re in a storm – and you finally come out of the storm – lift up your voices in praise to our God – who is – who lives – and who provides – and always!

Let us pray:Dear God, we need you in our lives. We can’t handle the storm without you. We know, and we believe that Jesus Christ is your son. That he came into this world to pay the penalty for our sins, so that we could be forgiven. So that we could be saved, and we could be born again and come to know Jesus as our own Savior and Lord. So, Lord Jesus come into our hearts and forgive us of our sin and give us the gift of eternal life which you promised to all who will ask you. Help us to live for you from this moment on. Help us to find those who believe in you and grow with them in community and in a church. Lord, we thank you for caring so much about us that you would give your life in our behalf. Amen.