Christ Will Never Leave, Nor Forsake Us
Matthew 8:23-27 - 4th Sunday after Epiphany - February 2, 2014

We know the story, although we should always consider that it is also our story. For we too experience the quote “storms of life”, don’t we?, even on a daily basis? “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” So we can relate to this story.

A great storm arises. It comes out of nowhere. Their ship is filling with water. In the Gospel of Mark we learn that it was full.

What did the disciples have to hold onto? What could they cling to? The boat? The oars? Each other? But all those things can perish in the blink of an eye, in a great storm.

And it’s not like the shore was a few feet away. “No problem, I’ll just get out and walk and be on my way.” If that was the case, they surely would have done that.

“Lord save us, we perish.” They had nothing else to cling to. Everything else was stripped away, including their own strength, their own abilities. Even as experienced as they were on water, they were no match for a violent storm.

Their situation had changed drastically. Yet, the promise of God remained the same, “I’ll never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

We’ve all had that feeling of a total lack of control. Maybe we’ve seen a funnel cloud nearby, or even a tornado, and thought, “Am I going to die?” Or maybe, we’ve lost control of our vehicle, on an icy road, and thought, “This ain’t gonna end well for me.” How easily, and how quickly, life can slip away, in the blink of an eye.

That’s where faith comes into the picture, God-given faith. True faith not only believes that God is in control, but that He will always control all things in our best interest. No matter how hard the storm blows, He’ll be there, and He will make it all work out for our ultimate good.

And so, if that is true (and it is), then why should we ever be afraid? Why should we ever doubt? God rules all things in our best interest.

Jesus lived for us, died for us, rose again for us, but then He also ascended to the right hand of the Father. That’s a place of authority. It’s not some distant God who couldn’t care less, who rules all things. The God who died for us, the God who bled for us, the God who bore our griefs, and carried our sorrows - He rules all things in our best interest.

There isn’t a single thing that He wouldn’t provide for us in our need. He promises to always be with us, to always help us, to always provide. He always has. He always will. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want”, meaning, I will not lack anything that is for my ultimate good. And of course, we must confess, that, above all, the ultimate good for us is the salvation of our soul. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” And therefore, having faith in what saves our soul, is the ultimate good. Not faith in me. Not faith in my abilities. Not faith in my earthly things. Faith in Christ.

At the very beginning of our service today, what was it that we asked for? The very first line, of our very first hymn, we asked God for faith. “We now implore (beg) God the Holy Ghost, for the true faith, which we need the most…Shine in our hearts, O most precious Light, that we Jesus Christ may know aright, Clinging to our Savior, whose blood hath bought us.” (The Lutheran Hymnal, hymn 231)

That’s what faith does. It clings to the Savior. Because in His arms we are safe and secure. How could the “boat” ever go down with Christ on board? How could we ever perish, when Christ Himself lives in our heart and soul? He promises, no man shall pluck you out of My hand.

That’s the foundation upon which to build. Jesus Christ and Him alone. There is no other. Nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

And as long as we have the Savior, in our heart, in our soul, what more do we need? That’s what faith says, “If I just have Christ with me, there’s nothing more that I will need. Everything will be ok, and everything will work out, if I just have Christ in my heart and soul.”

Yet, it is still so easy to doubt. Even the disciples, who had Christ Himself in their boat, still doubted. Did they think the storm was stronger than the Son of God, the Creator of all things? Yet, that is exactly the way it looked. Jesus did not look like God. And it did not look like He was going to help them. He was sleeping. By all appearances, the storm would overtake them.

Even though everything appeared to be going wrong, He was still with them, and His promise was still the same: “be not afraid… I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

We have the same dilema today. When the storms of life come crashing upon us, it seems like God has left us. He promises to be with us, but we cannot see Him. Sometimes, all we can see is the storm. Sometimes all we can feel is the hurt and the pain. Sometimes it seems like God couldn’t care less.

Yet, God’s Word says otherwise. In it we have overflowing strength and comfort. His Spirit works through His Word to bring to us the peace of sins forgiven, and the comfort of everlasting life. Christ rose and promises we will too.

So Jesus says, "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." They carry with them the Almighty power of God who created the world just by speaking them. And His Word is still powerful to create true faith where there is none, and strengthen it where it is weak. He calms our fears, and erases our doubts. Jesus is risen from the dead to never die again, and promises that we too will rise.

On the bulletin picture, I don’t know whether the artist intended for us to see the shape of the cross in his picture, but whether he did or not, it is there. The arms of Christ are stretched out, and His body is in the shape of a cross, as He calms the storm. But isn’t that really what Christ did on the cross? He calmed the storm of sin and death and the devil. Everything that stood in between us and God, He took away. He said, it is finished, and it was, and it is. Faith believes it is so. Jesus said it. That settles it.

There’s just something so effective and comforting about the words of Christ. They bring peace and comfort where nothing else can.

“Then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of Man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him!” Jesus will still our storms too. He never promised that we wouldn’t have them, but He does promise to always get us through them.

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.”

“The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.”

May Christ then continue to comfort and strengthen us by His Word, by His Spirit working through the Word, in our heart, and in our soul. He will continue to be with us no matter how hard the storms of life blow. In Jesus’ name. Amen.