Weather Proof: Navigating the storms of life and ministry

blog Aug 11, 2022


By Greg Davis

It was the happiest moment of our lives. After eight years of struggling with infertility, my wife Nancy and I welcomed our first child, Colton. Finally, it seemed our lives were perfect. And that perfection lasted for about two hours. When I went to the newborn nursery to bring Colton back to the room, he was not there! As I frantically pecked on the window to get the nurse’s attention, she informed me that Colton had been rushed to ICU.

That moment launched a decades-long season of storms in which my son endured six open-heart surgeries and many other heart procedures, my wife almost died of an auto-immune disease that took years to overcome, my newly adopted infant daughter Anna Grace was diagnosed with brain cancer less than 30 days after we brought her home from China and I faced a near-fatal heart attack and a diagnosis of two brain aneurysms.

Almost all these attacks occurred over the past 24 years as I have pastored a growing church. So, the above list does not include the typical challenges of leading change in a church. Everyone faces seasons of adversity. Some people are ruined by their storms while others are refined by them. One of the most prominent biblical “storm stories” is when Jesus walked on the water in Matthew 14:22-33. There are several principles in this passage that can equip us to thrive in our most difficult days.

Monitor your mindset. After feeding the five thousand, Jesus instructed His disciples to “get into the boat and cross over to the other side” (Matthew 14:22). To the disciples, this must have seemed like a simple instruction. But in the original language, the words “other side” come from a root word that means “to pierce through” and “go farther.” “Pierce through” indicates that there is a barrier that must be breached and “go farther” reminds us that we are not destined to sit and stagnate.

God consistently calls His people on a journey. That journey is always about growing and becoming the person God destined us to be. To do that, we must take an honest look at ourselves and identify the barriers that are hindering our journey forward. One common problem in times of trouble is our perception of our circumstances.

Near the center of the lake, the disciples were engulfed in an intense storm. In those moments, they likely experienced confusion because obedience to the Lord put them in that position. I understand that struggle. During months of seeking God about expanding our family after Nancy’s illness; the Lord led us to adopt a baby girl from China. The process was repeatedly delayed and each time we prayed about it; God confirmed that he was leading us to the specific baby ordained to be our daughter. We took great comfort in that knowledge as we joyfully received our baby girl. But we also struggled greatly with that knowledge when she was diagnosed with brain cancer. We had been sent into the storm—again.

Some storms in life are of our own “brewing.” We have all experienced times of trouble caused by our own poor choices. We understand it when we suffer because of bad decisions, but when we suffer because of obedience to the Lord’s instruction, it is very confusing. We must maintain a proper mindset. We can never forget that, as leaders in the Kingdom of God, experiencing spiritual warfare is normal. Soldiers in a war zone are not astonished when they come under attack. They live in readiness for it. But if we as leaders live with an expectation of comfort and smooth sailing, we are setting ourselves up for emotional distress when trials come our way.

Commit to never quit. Far from the comfort of the shoreline, the disciples’ boat was being hammered by the wind and the waves. Our human nature loves smooth sailing and problem-free living. But we often forget that God uses adversity to build our strength. In life, as in the gym, repeatedly overcoming resistance makes us stronger. We may daydream about a life without resistance, but we would not appreciate the results of that existence.

When I was a kid, my dad broke his arm and was in a cast for six weeks. When he came in the door after his cast was removed, I laughed out loud because it looked like the doctor had transplanted some skinny guy’s arm onto my dad’s shoulder. Why was his left arm so much smaller than his right arm? Because for six weeks, it had experienced zero resistance, and the muscles got smaller and weaker. For us to build strength, resistance is a requirement.

When Jesus approached the disciples, their greatest threat was the possibility of the boat sinking in the violent waves. When Jesus came to them, he was walking on their greatest threat. We must remember in our times of crisis, when the winds and waves are against us, everything that threatens us is under His feet.

As we maintain a proper perspective, the Lord empowers us to stand strong and persevere. Boats don’t sink unless water gets inside. It doesn’t matter how many waves of adversity crash against our lives. We will only sink when we let too much get inside. What happens inside us matters more than what happens to us.

Seek God’s purpose. Just like the disciples in this story, we often struggle to recognize the Lord in our storm. At first, they thought He was a ghost. The purpose of this whole event came into focus as the Lord spoke to them. As always, the Lord encouraged faith and discouraged fear. But there is more under the surface of His words. The words translated “It is I” come from Greek words that literally mean “I am.” Jesus knew that upon hearing those words, His disciples would recall the story of Moses at the burning bush when God said, “I am who I am.” The Lord’s purpose in this storm was to build the faith of his disciples by demonstrating his dominance over the laws of physics as he stood on the water and declared to them, “I am.”

Another principle we glean from this story is the fact that faith and obedience put the storm under our feet. As Jesus told Peter to “come,” that one word was powerful enough to buoy Peter up on top of the water. When Peter obeyed the Word, he accessed the miracle. Every time a storm struck our family, we sought the Lord for a word to walk on. And God was faithful to speak into our lives and empower us to stand strong.

“Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:29-30). We must always choose to focus on faith and not fear. When Peter gave in to distraction, he lost his traction. Distraction is one of the main tactics the enemy uses against us because he knows that if we give in to distraction we will lose our traction on the path that is taking us toward Christ.

When Peter started sinking, Jesus “immediately” reached out and caught him. Peter was literally one step from victory. How many times do we lose our focus and start to sink when victory is one step away? The best way to avoid this mistake is to never give up. Matthew 14:32 says that when they climbed into the boat the wind died down. This reveals that they both walked back to the boat. Yes, Peter did lose his focus, but in the sport of “water walking” he still holds the silver medal, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Why did the wind die down at the exact moment they stepped back into the boat? Because it was no longer needed. The purpose of this event was to build the faith of the disciples to a whole new level. Matthew 14:33 is the first time that Matthew records the disciples worshipping Jesus and declaring his divinity. When the Lord brings you through a situation that seems impossible, your faith will soar to higher levels. Our family has experienced this many times through the years.

As exciting as the feeding of the five thousand was, it could not compare with what happened on the other side of their storm. Multitudes of people received far more than just a free meal. Every person that encountered Jesus was healed of their sickness and disease. Greater things are in store for us all on the other side of the storm, if we keep our focus on the Lord and not on our crisis. Jesus has power over every storm that threatens us. So, we should trust and obey the Lord, even when we don’t understand our circumstances. God is calling every one of us to pierce through our barriers and go further than ever before.



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