Strength for Stormy Days
Dr. Jim Denison
I hate roller coasters. As long as I can remember, I have hated high places. Jesus said, “Lo I am with you always,” and that’s enough for me. So you can imagine what I think of roller coasters.
They used to have simple names. Now those at Six Flags in Arlington are called Mr. Freeze, Flashback, Texas Giant, Runaway Mountain, Shockwave, Judge Roy Scream. The newest monstrosity is suitably named the Titan. Towering 255 feet above the earth, it drops people at 85 mph. People wait in line for an hour to ride for 3.5 minutes. But not me. Our youngest son has already ridden this beast, and thinks its great. I think it’s hell defined. Or at least Purgatory.
You know how a roller coaster feels. Your car gets to the very top, and just comes over it. You can see only the sky above you, but you know that the bottom is about to fall out. And you’re right.
This morning I’d like to show you a prayer for the roller coaster. A prayer for stormy seas, a prayer which brings peace to a world in pieces. It’s the shortest prayer in the Bible, and one of the most urgent. If the prayer of Jabez was special, the prayer of Peter is even more significant. Whatever your theological depth or spiritual knowledge, you can pray this prayer. And you should.
I’d like you to learn to pray it with me today, and every day for the rest of your life.
See Peter’s problem
First let’s join the story where this amazing prayer is found.
It’s late at night, around 3:00 in the morning, and we’re on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus has sent his disciples off in their boat, while he climbs one of the nearby hills to pray.
Suddenly a catastrophic storm attacks them.
These disciples are in a small fishing boat. A few years ago archaeologists discovered a boat they date to AD 40, identical to the one these disciples used. It measures 27 feet by 7½ feet; its sides are just over an inch thick. It’s no help in a storm. I’ve been on the Sea of Galilee during a wind storm in a tour boat, much larger than their fishing vessel, and found it a frightening experience.
Now their boat is “buffeted by the waves” (v. 24). The Greek word means that it was “tortured.” Water is stinging their faces and drenching their bodies. The wind is howling in their ears. They are fighting for their lives.
And Jesus sees their crisis.
He walks on the water three or four miles to them. Matthew records the miracle just that simply (v. 25). By now Matthew has seen Jesus crucified and risen from the grave—walking on water is no big deal to him.
But it was to them, and they are terrified.
So Jesus calls to his frightened disciples: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (v. 27).
Peter takes him at his word. “If it’s you…” is better translated, “Since it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water (v. 28).” Jesus calls, “Come!” So Peter goes. He leaves his boat for Jesus. This man who has spent his life fishing these waters now walks on them. Imagine a pilot flying without his plane, a deep-sea diver without his apparatus, an astronaut without his suit. He walks to Jesus.
Until he sees the wind and the waves. Taking his eyes from his Lord in fear, he begins to sink. He’ll drown. He’s going to die.
Now comes his prayer, one of the greatest and most profound prayers found in all the Bible and all of recorded literature. A prayer filled with the deepest spiritual and theological significance. A prayer we must all learn to pray every day.
Here it is: “Lord, save me!” It’s just that simple. And that profound. And Jesus answers this prayer, then and now.
Trust Peter’s Lord
Do you need Peter’s prayer? Let’s spend some time with each of his three words. First, “Lord.” Master, King, Boss. The Romans insisted that their Emperor be called “Kurios.” Peter calls the Nazarene carpenter Kurios. Lord. Why? Why should we?
Peter knows some things about the Christ born at Christmas. For instance, he knows that Jesus is the creator of the cosmos. Anyone who can calm storms and walk on their waves must be their creator. And he’s right.
Colossians 1:16 teaches, “By Jesus all things were created.” All things. Not coincidence or chance—the creation of the Christ of Christmas.
Dr. Hugh Ross is an astrophysicist who served several years as a post-doctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology. In his book, The Creator and the Cosmos, Dr. Ross documents 33 parameters essential for life to exist on a planet. Things like galaxy type, star location, star age, carbon dioxide level in atmosphere, axis tilt, and so on. He has determined that the probability for occurrence of all 33 is 10 followed by 42 zeroes. This is nearly twice as large a number as the total number of planets in the universe. In other words, we’re not here by chance.
Peter knows that this Creator still rules his creation. He still rules the storms he made.
Dr. Ross cites an example of this fact. The luminosity power of our sun has increased by more than 35% since life was first introduced on our planet. This change has been more than enough to exterminate all life here. But a decrease in the greenhouse effect in our atmosphere has exactly coincided with the increase in the sun’s power, maintaining life on Earth.
The astronomer Robert Jastrow states, “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”