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 "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine"   2 Timothy 4:2

In The Midst Of The Storm

By S.J. Black

The Lord has been showing me something the last few days in reflecting on the last week or so in my life. Seems to be something really awesome that He is showing me though I admit that I am still somewhat trying to figure it all out.

Exactly one week ago tomorrow evening I had to spend all night in the car driving sixteen hours to flee from Hurricane Rita. Funny thing about a long road trip, it gives you a lot of time to think and especially a road trip that starts around six o'clock in the evening and does not end until almost ten o'clock the next morning.

Through the whole experience with this hurricane God seemed to be quietly speaking to me about some important questions such as: "Do you really trust Me? Really trust Me when it is all on the line and the chips are down? Do you trust Me to provide even if you were to lose everything? Do you trust Me to protect you?"

Around three in the morning last Thursday I was driving down a dark lonely highway listening to the latest news about the strength and projected path of the storm. At that time the report was that the hurricane was projected to make land fall as a strong category four or even a category five storm. Worse was at that time it was projected to come into shore at a spot that would have put folks in the area I live in on the worst side or the "dirty side" of the storm. It dawned on me as I drove along listening to these dire reports that we just might have little or nothing to return home to.

We live far enough inland that most storms would not seriously affect us but with this storm they were predicting that there would be 130 mile per hour winds even as far inland as we live. The report on the radio had also made mention of the devastation Katrina had just caused many miles inland when she struck. But what worried me more than the actual storm itself was the fact we would have been on the "dirty side" of the storm where the potential for tornadoes is great. Needless to say a tornado landing in your front yard or in your living room is likely to cause some serious damage to your house assuming your house is not outright destroyed.

However, even in the face of these dire reports a peace came over me because I had a sudden realization that regardless of what transpired at my home everything was going to be fine in the long run and that God would see us through whatever came our way. This peace really was in a sense an awesome sort of feeling but I am amazed because I don't think my trust in and faith in the Lord is that strong to be perfectly honest.

As I drove I began to ponder all this and to ponder how my life has changed as my faith has grown. I began to think that not too many years ago something such as my home being destroyed would have had a seriously adverse affect on my faith and my relationship with the Lord.

At this point of driving down a dark highway at three in the morning I began to think about a section of scripture from Matthew chapter 13 where Jesus tells and then explains the parable of the sower.

In short this is the parable Jesus told about seed being sown and how some seed faired well to produce as much as a hundredfold because it fell on good ground and other seed fell to places that were stony or among the weeds. When the apostles asked Jesus to explain the parable Jesus explained that the seed being sown in the parable was in reference to how various people hear the word of the kingdom and react to hearing the word.

As I drove along the dark highway I began to give some serious thought to two of the types of seeds mentioned in Jesus' parable, namely the seed that fell on stony places and the seed that fell among the thorns. Specifically, I began some self-reflection because these are two types of seed that I do not ever want to be useful in describing the condition of my heart in relation to how I respond when God calls on me.

Jesus' explanation of the parable to the disciples is found in Matthew chapter thirteen verses eighteen to twenty three. The first of our two types of seed that Jesus explained is the seed that fell on stony places:

"But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles." (Matthew 13:20-21)

Given my situation on that dark highway that night fleeing a potentially serious storm this was sure a good reminder from Scripture for me to sit and kick around mentally. How often do we let something such as our house getting flooded seriously test or even in some cases shatter our faith?

I have known some people that were let down in some way by a preacher, teacher or person of similar authority that they thought of as a hero and had their faith severely affected by the experience. I know that I personally spent years in the wilderness, separated from a close relationship with God because of the failure of a few that I looked up to years ago. In the process of God restoring my walk with Him I had to learn some hard lessons about keeping my faith in God and not having a misguided faith in my heroes. Heroes are fallen just like the rest of us and will let us down sooner or later. God is perfect and will never fail us. The lesson I learned the hard way is that all are fallen and there is no such thing as a super-saint so it is best to keep your faith focused on God alone.

Persecution is another good one. How often do we shy away from sharing the truth with someone? I don't care to admit it but I know I shy away on occasion. What are we honestly afraid of? Being called a name? My prayer is that I would be more "afraid" of God than I am being called a name. This is one area God has really been working on me in the last few years. My witness is getting bolder as time goes by but it is certainly a process and not a quick fix sort of deal.

The next type of seed Jesus explained is also another area that will really challenge you if you are like me; it is the explanation of the seed that fell among the thorns:

"Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful."(Matthew 13:22)

How many of us does this type of seed describe at times? I know for certain I fall victim to this one from time to time.

It is one of Satan's favorite tactics with me to keep me "busy" with a million different things instead of being busy at what I am called to be doing. Lately I have been really busy with a ton of different things and as a result I am ashamed to say that I have been slacking off in some areas.

Satan rarely gets me distracted with just one "big" thing but he doesn't have to. Often a lot of little minor distractions can end up wasting an entire evening if you let them.

Often we get so wrapped up in our own business that we forget to take time out for God and the work He has or is calling us to be about doing.

I have seen too many people start out strong until their faith starts putting their pocket book at risk. Some are so busy trying to climb the corporate ladder or whatever that they forget they should be storing up treasure in Heaven instead of spending time worshiping their mammon that is only here for a little while and has no eternal significance what so ever.

Others are so busy with their social groups, golf game, hockey, fishing or whatever it might be that they forget to take time out to spend with God.

Ever known God was telling you to do something and your reply was, "But I am too busy living my life to go minister to that person?" I know I have.

Please understand, I am not bringing up these questions to cast stones at others. Believe me when Paul called himself the "chief among sinners" I thought he can't have that title because it already belongs to me.

However, in my times of reflection these are the types of hard questions the Lord challenges me with for some self-examination. It is my hope and prayer that each of us would take a fearless look at these questions with regards to themselves.

As I drove along wondering about these lessons that the Lord was bringing to mind, it dawned on me that what it really comes down to is, "whom do you really trust and have your faith placed in?"

Scripture makes it pretty clear to me that we all mess up and we are saved by Grace but generally speaking we are still in one camp or the other. We are either in God's camp having a heart to seek Him first or we are in Satan's camp seeking what this world has to offer.

"You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord's table and of the table of demons." (1 Corinthians 10:21)

Do you know any today who are of an attitude such as, "yes I know the Lord is calling me to do this but what about my bills?" Or "Yes I know that is what God's word says but I have to earn a living?" Or even how about, "Yes I know that is what I should be doing but my friends will think of me as a lunatic!"

What it comes down to when you throw out all the rationalizations and excuses we try to make ourselves feel better with is whom do you really trust? Lots of folks say they trust God but often actions speak a lot louder than words:

"Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ' These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'" (Matthew 15: 7-9)

I am saddened to admit that those verses from Matthew chapter fifteen describe me pretty well from time to time when I know what I should do but then fail to live out my faith. I would imagine we all relate at some point or on some issue in our daily walk with the Lord. Sadly these verses describe to a T a lot of "the church" in this day and age.

So I guess the question is, can we trust the Lord? Does He take care of us and protect us? If you step out in faith when the Lord leads will He provide for your needs?

Yes, He does protect and provide for us!

There are a number of ways in which the Lord protected my family and moved us out of the way during our ordeal with this storm. Several times I honestly did not even realize until looking back in hindsight that the Lord was moving us out of the way. For example, I do not believe in "fate" and when you go from making plans to be on one side of the big state of Texas to being on the other side of the state some 475 miles away then I believe it likely that God moved you out of harms way. Often God moves us just by arranging the circumstances where it was our only choice to not be in harms way. In our case, we couldn't get a hotel reservation for enough nights in the town we first intended to go to. Lucky for us because when the storm moved off the projected path if we had done as we originally planned we would have been right in the thick of the storm. Actually, at our first planned destination we would have been in worse shape than we would have been had we stayed home.

I just praise the Lord that He moved us out of the way and kept us safe. However, the Lord showed me one other important lesson through my experiences in the last week. The lesson was actually really more of a question. How often when the Lord provides for us, protects us, heals us and so forth do we forget to praise Him even if our situation is still not ideal?

There were several times during our ordeal with this hurricane that it would have been very easy to get disgruntled about various things.

For example, I personally don't drive all night and would really have much preferred to be sleeping around three a.m. when instead I was driving down a dark highway appraising all of this. After we arrived at our destination it dawned on me it is not fun to be in a hotel room with two pre-school kids that are completely off of their schedule and out of their routine. The hotel we stayed at claimed to have free high speed Internet but we could not get it to work in spite of having three laptops with us on the trip. This meant that I could not communicate with a number of people that I have no phone number for who were worried about us.

When we got home the power went off numerous times for the first several days we were back home. This meant getting out the generator to do simple things such as my children's asthma treatments. It also meant we spent several days getting even further behind at work, further behind on laundry and just further behind on life in general.

However, I was careful not to complain on the trip or when we returned home because it dawned on me how the Lord had provided for us and that our home was in one piece. God had brought a story from Scripture to mind that also helped to keep me from making any complaints:

"Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" So when He saw them, He said to them, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, "Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?" And He said to him, "Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well." (Luke 17:12-19)

To say the least I did not want to be one of the nine men who had been healed then failed to return and give praise to the Lord. So in spite of the heat and not having an air conditioner when the power was off, I made my best effort to not grumble and to maintain a spirit of thanksgiving that we had a home that was not flooded and was still in one piece.

It has amazed me that the Lord can show so many lessons from one storm such as this. But isn't that often the case?

We learn the most and grow the most when the circumstances of life leave us no choice but to look up to and rely on the Lord.



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