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Storms

September 19, 2017
By Kirk Stephens

Over the last couple of weeks, we have witnessed how destructive hurricanes can be. For the first time ever, Atlanta was under a tropical storm warning. We have seen pictures of the effects of hurricanes Irma and Harvey. It seems that the largest problem caused by Irma's high winds in Atlanta was downed trees, resulting in widespread power outages. Typically, when you see entire trees that have fallen to the ground, you will notice that their root system is pretty shallow. The trees that have stronger root systems are better prepared to weather storms . . . even hurricanes. There is a lesson in this destructive force . . . and it was brought to my attention by my wife.

How strong is your root system -- your foundation? In what or whom do you find your strength in stormy times? What do you cling to when everything seems to be crashing down around you? You see, from the first day a seed is planted, its root system begins to form. For its roots to grow strong, it must be nurtured, cared for, and tended to on a daily basis. It must grow in rich soil to be strong. The stronger the roots, the better chance the plant has to thrive. It is no different for us, and God gives us an amazing lesson in the midst of widespread destruction. For us to weather storms, our root system must be strong and founded in the One who gives us strength, lest we experience a power outage.

Our family has been battling through the storm of stage 4 cancer for the last 10+ months. The winds have blown, the rain has poured, and we have been afraid at times. I know for certain that we could never have endured to this point without the foundation of the rich theology and truth of God's word. His promises have seen us through the worst gusts of this storm to date. In times of fear and trepidation, we have leaned on the truth that we serve a completely sovereign God who loves us more than we can fathom and is in complete control of the storm. We have leaned on the hope offered through the cross of Christ. It is the source of power given to us through the Holy Spirit -- and it is the only source of true hope in a world that seeks to distract us with its temporary satisfaction.

This points me to a story in the Bible with which we are probably all familiar. In Matthew 14, after Jesus feeds the 5,000, he tells his disciples to get in the boat and go before Him to the other side of the sea. As they are traveling on the sea, the waves begin to beat and toss the boat. During the evening Jesus "came to them, walking on the sea" (v.25). When they saw this, they were terrified. Jesus calms them and tells them not to be afraid, because His is with them. Peter then says to Jesus, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water" (v.28). Jesus does so, and Peter begins to walk on the water to Jesus, through the power of Jesus. "But when he [Peter] saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out 'Lord save me''" (v. 30). What happened here? Peter was doing just fine when he was focusing on Jesus. When he took his focus off of Jesus and turned it to the storm, he began to sink.

Peter's roots were growing and being nurtured as Jesus discipled him, but it didn't mean he could weather a storm on his own. Jesus was the soil Peter's roots needed to grow strong. He needed Jesus to save him in the midst of the storm because he was incapable of placing his full focus on Jesus, and Jesus knew it. See, I am guilty of focusing too much on the fact that I have cancer and not focusing solely on Jesus. When my focus is not on Him, I can feel myself sinking into despair, fear, etc. Many times, I have found myself asking Jesus if He was even there. But, He always reaches out His hand to let me know that He is with me in the storm and that He alone has the power to calm the storm. He has never failed to lift me lovingly out of the raging waters of despair.

As we go through our daily lives, are our actions and responses to storms teaching our kids that our foundation is rooted in the person of Jesus and the absolute truth of Scripture? Or, are we teaching them to lean on the things of this world, that only provide temporary solace? These might include our career, our savings account, our homes, our success, our kids' behavior, medicine and doctors (in our case), etc. What is the first thing you run to for comfort in a storm? Are you focused on self-preservation, or do you surrender the storm to the Creator? Is your root system founded in the soil of the perfect person of Jesus Christ? These are scary questions.

Here is the cool part: even when we turn from Jesus, and look for safety in the things of this world, He still reaches His hand out to pull us from the storm. That's where I want my, and my family's, roots to grow -- in the soil of the never-failing Savior!