Have you been caught at sea in a storm before?
Hesham Shehab: Only Jesus Can Take you to the Safe Shore
Sermon text preached by Rev. Hesham Shehab
Sunday, June 20, 2021
Zion Lutheran Church, Hinsdale, Iii.
Text: Luke 8:23
“On the way across he lay down for a nap, and while he was sleeping the wind began to rise. A fierce storm developed that threatened to swamp them, and they were in real danger (Living Bible).
Invocation: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Illustration from life #1:
Have you been caught at sea in a storm before?
Before immigrating to the USA, I lived 44 years of my life 10-minute walk from the Mediterranean Sea in Beirut, Lebanon, and had a lifetime of experiences with the ocean.
My grandfather and my father were fishermen.
My great uncle, who was a fisherman too, drowned before I was born. He insisted to go fishing on his wedding day in order to feed his guests fresh fish, but was caught in a sea squall, his fishing skiff capsized, and he drowned.
Illustration from life #2:
In 1989, I also almost drowned on my wedding day. It is not a tradition in the family to go fishing on your wedding day, and it was a foolish thing to do, as foolish as what my great uncle did, but God was not through with me, yet!
The sea was a little bit rough that day, but I thought that it was something I could handle. After all, I was confident in my swimming ability having taught swimming in college.
After I dived in and laid the fish trap, I came back to the shore and sat for an hour, or so. The sea became choppy, and the waves rose higher and higher. I decided to retrieve the fish trap from the sea bed which was almost 30 feet deep. As soon as I dived in, an undertow caught me carrying me away from the shore. I tried to swim back to shore, but struggled in vain. After long minutes fighting the current, I realized that it was futile. I let the undertow carry me out to sea and when the current weakened, I swam to shore landing on another part of the beach. The tactic worked, and the proof is that I am here today.
The “unsinkable” Titanic was lost to the sea on its maiden voyage in 1912. Prince Fares Shehab, a distant cousin of mine was one of those Lebanese who drowned on the Titanic. His family had converted to the Catholic faith more than a century before his death by drowning.
Survivors’ accounts told how Prince Shehab was calm as the ship was sinking and kept playing his ‘oud, an Arabic musical instrument similar to a lute, until he drowned.*
Maybe his trust in Jesus helped him maintain his fortitude while the other Lebanese immigrants sobbed and wailed.
Jesus Calms the Storm
The story of Jesus calming the storm is told in the three Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The text tells us that not long after they sailed, Jesus fell asleep and a storm arose (Luke 8:23).
Here are two important points that reveal the true humanity of Christ: He needed rest and time away from crowds, and He was so exhausted that even the battering of the boat did not awaken Him (Matthew 8:24). These truths should help us realize that Jesus was genuinely human with the same basic needs we all have. Christ’s humanity is part of what qualifies Him to be our merciful intercessor between us and God the Father (Hebrews 2:17) and to be our First Brother.
Although the text doesn’t say which apostles were with Christ on the boat, it’s probable that seasoned fishermen were aboard. But even these professional fishermen were frightened by this storm, to the point of fearing they would die (Luke 8:24).
Jesus’ sleep was deep and sound, even through the storm, which was “already filling” the boat. So, when He was awakened, he rebuked the disciples with the question “Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:40).
Have you still no faith?
The apostles’ lack of faith reminds us that even those who lived and walked with Jesus, saw His miracles, and heard His message still found it difficult to be 100 percent faith-filled all the time. In that way, the disciples were a lot like us. However, their lack of faith was rebuked—and, by extension, so is ours. If Jesus was able to rescue the apostles from the storm, He is also able to rescue us from the storms of everyday life: sickness, job loss, marriage problems, and even the sting of death (1 Corinthians 15:55).
When Jesus “gave orders to go over to the other side” (Matthew 8:18), He knew the storm was coming. He is omniscient (John 2:25); even with a storm brewing, He decided to launch out to sea. The Lord never promised we will never see a storm in life (as a matter of fact, He has told us to expect trouble, John 16:33). Rather, He has promised that He will be with us in the storm. He will never leave His children alone in the midst of trouble.
This passage does not only reveal Jesus’ true humanity, but also Jesus’ deity because only God can make the “winds and water obey” (Luke 8:25). With one quick word from Christ, the storm abated and the sea became calm (Mark 4:39).
This can be immensely comforting to the Christian in a storm. Faith in Christ is never misplaced. If He can calm the storms of the sea with one word, He can calm the storms of life as well.
Many times, the “storms” of life are worse than water turbulence. I had my share of those, but would mention one that is relevant to my Christian mission.
Illustration from life #3:
In 2004, I resigned from two jobs in Beirut, Lebanon, and boarded a plane to the USA. Some thought it was a step of faith, others called it a step of foolishness. Sir Walther Scott said in his novel, The Talisman: “A saint is either a lunatic, or a very wise man.”
Lutherans claim that Christians are saints and sinners at the same time. If that is true, I have no problem with either of the descriptions in Sir either Walther Scott’s statement.
So, in 2004, I landed in Detroit Michigan. It was a crash landing. I did not have a written agreement with the Church and had serious conflicts with the Lutheran organization that was supposed to sponsor me. With no work permit and no student visa to go to seminary then. So, I was in a fix, with a wife and four children, with no steady income and an unsure future.
After two years, the organization told me to move to Chicagoland. I did not even have gas money to drive to Chicago. I had not paid the rent, the bills, and the tuition fees for my youngest son that month. I did not know what to do!
It was a Sunday afternoon that day, and I remembered, amid all those mind-boggling issues that a church invited me to speak to its youth group in a suburb of Detroit. I was not sure if I ought to go or not. I had half a tank of gas in my van, and if I drove it there, to that church, I would not have gas for an emergency. Amid that “storm” in my mind, I went down to the damp and dark unfinished basement in that house we rented out, and prayed for guidance. Then, I decided to go and give that presentation to that church in that Detroit suburb.
I gave a presentation to the youth group, and the youth pastor surprised me by taking a love offering that was not planned.
I was answering the questions of the young people, when I saw the pastor standing at his office door agitated and waving at me, asking me to come inside his office. I sat across from his desk as he lent forward with his eyes rolling with excitement, looking at me and the offering basket, as he asked me: “Hesham! Do you know how much the kids put in this basket?”
“$75 dollars,” I replied. “Make a wild guess,” he retorted.
“$150,” I said. “$1167. This is a miracle,” he shouted with excitement.
I went home, and told my wife: “God threw on my head a basket full of money [which is a Lebanese expression], and told me: ‘Go to Chicago.”
Five years ago, the ministry was in the red. The head of the board called me, and said that after paying me that month, we would have only $ 75 in the bank account and that we should shut down. I refused.
After two weeks, someone I do not know in Toledo, Ohio, bequeathed money to Salam. Then, more donations came, and they became like a snow ball. We have not lacked anything since that time.
What’s interesting to me, is that as church people, we are kind of good at hiding storms. Aren’t we, some of us are pretty good at hiding the storms of our lives. Just look at you, everything looks good today.
You put on good clothes. You showed up on time. You said, hello to the same people. Like you say, every week, everything’s perfect. Right. Looks good on the outside. But maybe today you’re in the middle of a storm that not anybody else knows about.
In fact, I’ve seen it where people are jealous, right. People go, man, I wish I had her life…or I wish I had your life, buddy: You got the house, you got the car. And the other guy’s going: Yeah… You don’t know. I’m four payments behind and I’m about to lose it.
All of us go through storms, very privately. Some of us right now, today might be in the middle of one of those storms.
The truth of the matter is that all of us can relate to this. All of us have felt that pressure… all of us have had those times where unexpectedly the storm struck. We need to trust Jesus all the time.
Jesus rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith. I believe He meant lack of trust in Him. You have to trust Jesus when the going gets rough. He walks with you, and if needed will carry you the rest of the way.
Because Jesus is God, He is in control, and if we trust Him, he would see us through this difficult life and has already prepared for us a place in heaven with Him. Amen
Read more from Hesham Shehab… https://xpian.news/?s=hesham&submit=Search…
Adjunct Faculty at College of DuPage, Formerly Adjunct Faculty at American University of Beirut and Pastor at Peace Lutheran Church Lombard, IL Name pronounciation: HI-shahm SHI-hab Hebrews 12: 4 & Philippians 1: 29