“I can’t do it!” I yelled down to my dad. “Yes you can. Trust me!”
His words of encouragement didn’t do much for my courage. I was only about 20 feet in the air, but I might as well have been two miles up. The high dive hadn’t looked nearly so high from the ground, but
once I was up there, it felt like I was in the clouds. My dad looked like an ant swimming in the
deep end down below. I was six years old that summer, and Dad had assured me again and again
that I was old enough now to jump off the high dive. And I had believed him… until I got to the
edge and looked down.
The board wobbled under my wet feet. The pool below me slowly began to spin, and my
palms felt suddenly cold and sweaty. Every ounce of my confidence was gone and the last thing
in the world I wanted to do was jump off that diving board. My dad’s voice came again, “You
can do it! I’m right down here to help you!” I knew I had two choices: the stairway behind me or
the thin air in front of me. I froze at the end of the diving board. Every eye at the swimming pool
was on me and I had a decision to make.
Man, I can still feel exactly what that felt like. I had hoped that when I became an adult
I’d no longer get that queasy high-dive feeling. Actually, high dives are now a thing of the past at
most swimming pools, but I’ve found lots of other things to shake my confidence. Like you,
perhaps, I’ve found these seminary years to be difficult, uncertain times. Has anyone else been so
under the pile that you’re not sure if you’re going to make it? I’ve been right there the past two
weeks. Anybody else experienced months where you don’t know where the money will come
from to pay the bills? (The only question around here is whether that’s the exception or the norm,
right?) Have you, like me, had even a little bit of concern about what you’ll do when you get out
of here? I mean, what’s the church really going to look like in the next 20 years, and how will we
fit into that? (And are we even sure we want to?) Yes, these can be difficult, uncertain days…
days that make the high dive seem like a piece of cake.
Looking To The Book Of Mark
So the question is, how do we really trust God during difficult times? I mean, we say we
trust Him, but we stress a lot. We worry a lot. We tend to have very little joy on a daily basis.
Everything feels fine when we’re in the swimming pool, but then a crisis hits that puts us back
up on that high dive, and our knees start to wobble and our palms start to sweat. Wouldn’t you
rather really trust Him? Wouldn’t you rather rest instead of worry? Wouldn’t you rather set aside
fear and enjoy the ride a little more? I know I would. So today let’s talk about how to fully trust
God during difficult times.
There’s a story in Mark chapter 4 that illustrates this so well. In this passage we’ll get to
see two very different responses to a frightening situation. As we work through this story we’ll
focus on three things: What it looks like to fully trust God; Why we struggle to fully trust Him;
and How we can begin to fully trust Him. What it looks like to fully trust God; Why we struggle
to fully trust Him; and How we can begin to fully trust Him. Open your Bibles to Mark 4,
beginning in verse 35. Mark 4:35.
35. As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.”
36. So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats
37. But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it
began to fill with water.
38. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke
him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”
39. When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!”
Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm.
40. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41. The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even
the wind and waves obey him!”
First, what does it look like to fully trust God? We get a perfect example of this in this
passage. Who’s the example? Jesus, of course. When we completely trust God, it looks like Jesus
resting in the back of the boat while the storm is raging. It looks like Jesus sleeping through a
massive storm. How did He do this? The text tells us it was a really bad storm, and this was no
ocean cruiser they were sailing in. Some have wondered whether Jesus purposefully stayed
asleep to test the disciples. That’s possible, but I also think he was just exhausted. The context of
this passage indicates that Jesus had just completed a long day of teaching, and he was finally
free from the crowds. He had worked hard at the work God had called him to do and now he was
tired. It was the sleep of a man whose conscience was clear and whose work was well-done.
I love watching my little girls sleep. This past Saturday morning Elysa started crying
earlier than usual, so I got her out of her crib and we sat in my chair and I laid her against my
chest. She sighed and closed her eyes again and was out. She was so trusting, so peaceful… it
was beautiful. I think there’s a sense of that going on here with Jesus. He was resting in the care
of His Father.
We get a very different picture with the disciples. What a terrific contrast there in the text
– Jesus is sleeping and at the very same time his disciples are panicking. I think the disciples
illustrate very well the way we tend to respond to trials. When our lives get difficult, we tend to
have two responses. Our first response – our default response – is to work harder. Our first
thought is, “I can handle this,” so we push ourselves a little more. I’ve got to imagine this is what
the disciples did at first. These were experienced fishermen who were well-acquainted with the
volatile weather conditions on the Sea of Galilee. They must have tried every trick in the book to
weather the storm, but at some point the water started coming over the sides of the boat. Even
then, I’m sure they were scooping water like crazy. And that’s what happens to us. We work
harder and harder to try to manage the crisis in our own efforts, and many times it seems to
work. But sometimes God allows the storm to be bigger than us. And when that kind of storm
hits, we experience the second response of the disciples: panic. It’s clear from the passage that
these skilled, experienced fishermen were literally scared for their lives. And so they look back
there and see Jesus… and he’s sleeping… just illustrating what it looks like to fully trust God.
So that’s what it looks like to fully trust God during difficult times: Jesus resting during
the storm. But that’s Jesus right? Jesus can do a lot of stuff that I can’t do. Why is it so hard for
us? Why do we struggle so much to fully trust Him? We struggle to fully trust Him because we
don’t apply our theology to our circumstances. We don’t apply our theology to our
circumstances. Let’s look at the disciples first, and then you and me.
The disciples were at a disadvantage compared to us because at the point of this story
they didn’t know all the things about Jesus that we know. Their theology about Jesus wasn’t
fully formed. Most importantly, at this point they hadn’t yet grasped the depth of his power and
the depth of his love. They didn’t fully understand his power or his love. We know they didn’t
understand his power because of their reaction when he rebuked the wind and calmed the waves.
Look at verse 41. “[They] were absolutely terrified. ‘Who is this man?’ they asked each other.
‘Even the wind and waves obey him!’” The obvious answer to their question was… God. Jesus
was God. The irony of the whole situation was that the Creator of the wind and waves was lying
right there with them in their boat all along. But they didn’t get that yet. That had seen Him cast
out demons and heal diseases, but this was on a whole new level. They didn’t fully understand
They also didn’t fully understand His love. We learn this in verse 38. When the storm was
so bad that their best efforts weren’t keeping the boat from sinking, they finally woke Jesus up
and were kind of ticked at him. It says, “The disciples woke him up, shouting, ‘Teacher, don’t
you care that we’re going to drown?!’” “Don’t you care?” “Don’t you care?” “Jesus, don’t you
love us enough to help? If you can’t do anything else, at least help us bail this water out of the
boat. Don’t you care?” Don’t you care? I wonder how this made Jesus feel… knowing how
much he did love them… knowing what he would endure for them later. No wonder he was a
little bit frustrated. But the disciples hadn’t yet grasped the extent of Jesus’ love for them. Like
His power, they didn’t fully understand His love. The bottom line for the disciples is that they
didn’t get the fact that this man with them in the boat was the all-powerful ruler of the universe
who loved them beyond measure.
Here’s the thing… we know a lot more than those disciples did, and yet often we don’t
trust Him in the storm any more than they did. We’ve got the theology down, but it doesn’t really
seem to make much difference, does it? In some ways, our lack of trust is worse than theirs:
we’ve got the answers, but we don’t apply them to our lives. In calm waters, we’re confident of
God’s power and love, but big crises in our lives confront us with a theological dilemma. Either
He’s not strong enough to intervene, or He doesn’t really love us enough to do so. “God, if
you’re strong enough to calm the storm, why don’t you? I’m sinking, God, and you’re sleeping
in the back while I’m paddling for my life?” We know the love that Christ demonstrated for us
on the cross, but in the hard moments, don’t we find ourselves asking, “Don’t you care? Don’t
you care? Don’t you care?” Ultimately, we don’t trust God because when difficult times come,
we doubt either his power or his love for us. We know what’s supposed to be true about God, but
the hardships make us wonder. We fail to apply our theology to our circumstances.
We’ve seen what it looks like to fully trust through Jesus’ example of resting during the
storm. And we’ve discussed why we struggle to trust Him – because we fail to apply our
theology to our circumstances, specifically our beliefs that God is all-powerful and all-loving. So
let’s now turn to how we can learn to fully trust Him. Here it is: When the trials come, worship
When The Trials come, Worship More.
Worship causes us to trust God. This hit me two days ago at church. I was feeling
overloaded with a ton of work (this sermon being part of that), and I’ll even admit I briefly
considered missing church to try and catch up. I’m glad I didn’t. I was thinking about this idea of
how we learn to apply our theology to our circumstances and I found myself singing these lyrics
along with the congregation: “He’s got the whole world in His hands… and I fear no evil, for
You are with me, strong to deliver, mighty to save.” And in singing that line it occurred to me
that worship is an intentional remembrance of what is true about God – namely, that He is
powerful and He is loving. And the very act of singing those words that day brought those truths
to bear upon my present condition. Let me explain: I couldn’t sing them and mean them if they
didn’t apply to my stress at that very moment. In those lyrics I was proclaiming that God is
indeed strong and loving. In re-affirming those two truths in a very tangible way my perspective
shifted. God was bigger and closer than the minute before, and my circumstances were less
daunting. Neither the amount of work nor the time I had to complete it had changed, and yet
something fundamentally more important had changed. Remembering and proclaiming truth
about God was helping me trust Him more fully.
This is what happens when we worship. I’m talking about engaging in sincere worship,
not just going through the motions. When we truly worship, our theology begins to govern our
circumstances rather than the other way around. And when you honestly believe, deep down to
the core of your soul, that God is all-powerful and His love for you is immeasurable, what will
So when he pressures of seminary come, worship more. When finances are tight, worship
more to proclaim that God is strong and loving enough to provide for you. When your work-load
is overwhelming, worship more to proclaim that God is strong and loving enough to sustain you.
When the future is unclear, worship more to proclaim that God is strong and loving enough to
Fully trusting God is the ability to rest in the Father’s care in the middle of the storm. The
only way we will do that is by applying our theology to every circumstance by worshipping more
when the trials come. By the way, I did jump off the high dive that day. I decided that I could
trust my dad’s words of encouragement, and of course he was right. That jump was an
exhilarating experience of trust for me. Our heavenly Father desires the same for us. He is strong
and He is loving. When trials come, worship Him more.