Into the Storm
From the series You Were Made for More
Are you running from God? Have you ever stopped to consider that the difficulties and adversities you’re facing right now might have something to do with it? In this message, we’ll pick up in our series “You Were Made for More”. Guest teacher Ryan Ingram continues studying the book of Jonah, and shares where the most difficult storms in our lives come from, and how we can learn to weather ‘em.
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About this series
You Were Made for More
Facing the "Jonah" in All of Us
What do you know about the story of Jonah? Maybe you remember something about a big fish, a violent storm, and an evil city called Nineveh. Well, in this 10-part series, Chip has teamed up with his son Ryan Ingram to teach through the book of Jonah… and share there’s actually a lot more to this familiar Bible adventure for us to learn. They’ll unpack what Jonah’s life reveals about handling adversity, God’s love for all people, and how we can experience the more we were created for.More from this series
We left off Jonah running away from his calling, running away. God calls him to Nineveh, he heads the opposite direction, heads down south to a port city called Joppa. And in Joppa, he pays a fare, hops on a ship towards Tarshish, which is just basically the farthest away from he can get from Nineveh. And this is where we pick up the story.
And the title of the sermon today is Into the Storm. Would you say that to your neighbor? Into the Storm. Jonah is running away from, that was good over there, by the way, running away from God, and he runs directly into a storm.
And we often think the storms of life are actually knocking us off course, don’t we? It’s just kind of like, hey, that’s actually knocked me off course from the more that I am made for. And I want you to just maybe think about this. What if, what if God actually wants to use the storm in your life to redirect the course of your life?
What if the storm isn’t so much to knock you off course, but God, in His sovereignty wants to allow a storm perhaps in your life to redirect the course of your life? We certainly find that here in the story of Jonah.
If you’ve got it, would you open your Bibles to Jonah chapter 1? We pick it up in verse 4. It says, “Then the Lord sent,” or literally, “…hurled a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to their own god. And they threw cargo,” literally the world hurled, “…cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.”
Jonah is headed in the wrong direction and God sends a storm to redirect him. And you know what’s interesting is the storm hits and what do the sailors do? They cry out each to their own god. Why? Because when you have smooth sailing, you’re not so much crying out or focused on God. Isn’t it true? That’s just our human condition. But all of a sudden a storm hits and they’re like, “Okay, we’ve got to do whatever it takes to survive and we are going to each cry out to our own god.”
Now, everyone is doing their part to survive the storm, everyone is focused on: How do we just get through this? Except one person. Jonah. It says, the text says, “But Jonah had gone below deck,” can you imagine this moment? Think about if you’re the sailors how you would feel. Everyone is crying out in desperation, it’s a life-threatening moment. The ship is being beaten and battered on every side. The wind is blowing; you cannot hold course. But Jonah went below deck like he’s on a cruise, chilling.
“But he went below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep.” Because when you’re running from God, you begin to go on a downward spiral and you start to only care about yourself.
“The captain went to him and said, ‘How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god!’” We are all doing our part, Jonah. “Maybe he will take notice of us and we will not perish.” Notice “we” – the captain is going, hey, it’s not just about you, it’s all of us. And Jonah doesn’t want to call on his God. He’s running from his God. He’s trying to flee from the presence of his God. And he is faced in a moment where even people who don’t believe in his God are asking him to call on his God.
At some point, you’ve just got wonder, at what point does it take for God to get a hold of your attention? Like, how much needs to come into your life? What storm, what outside voice, what circumstance that you finally go, Okay, God, I think I’m paying attention and noticing what You’re doing here. Now, it’s so amazing.
The sailors notice and see that, man, we need God in some way to respond. And Jonah, and this is what happens, it’s what happens to us. His heart is hard. Jonah didn’t care so much about his own life. And what’s even worse is he didn’t even care about the sailor’s life. And he just went below deck. Sleep it off. Hard hearted.
See, I think there are some that perhaps over the season and your relationship with God and maybe you have been running from Him or drifted from Him and you have allowed your heart to get hard. And what happens is we stop caring for people around us.
We become isolated, we just care about ourselves, we just begin to focus on me. I don’t want to call out to my God. I’m just going to go below deck and sleep it off.
You know, I had a mentor once, he was kind of explaining to me, “Ryan, I notice that in my heart when I care deeply about things I shouldn’t care about, that there’s something going on in my heart that’s not right. If I really, really care that somebody cut me off in traffic, when I overreact to something, especially things, events, sporting events. When I get so consumed by that, there should be a light going off that something is not right in here.”
And then he said this, “When I don’t care deeply about things I should care about -” when I don’t care deeply about my relationship with God, when I don’t care deeply about other people and how they are doing, when I don’t care deeply about the major things of life, and for some, maybe walking in this morning, you didn’t have this realization until this moment that maybe there are some things in your heart and what you’re going through and what God brought you here is just to have that heart check moment. Oh. I’m headed down below deck and I don’t want to go there. I have been saying I’m sleeping it off, but I’m actually running from God and I didn’t realize it. The text goes on and says, “Then the sailors said to each other, ‘Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.’”
Now, in the ancient day, everything natural was connected to the supernatural. Everything physical was connected or had a spiritual cause. And so, when they saw this great storm, they attribute it to some deity that needs to be appeased. And the way they would discern kind of how or who was responsible for it, they would just cast lots and let the gods decide. It was a common way of deciding. And so, they cast these lots, “And the lot fell on Jonah.
So they asked him, ‘Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?’” And all these questions are designed to get around: Who is Jonah’s God that has power over the sea? “And he answered them, ‘I am a Hebrew; I worship the Lord,’” or Yahweh, His covenant name, God, Elohim, the Creator, “‘…the Maker of the sea and the dry land.’ Now, this terrified the sailors. They asked, ‘What have you done?’ For they knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them.”
“Wait a second, your God created the sea and so you decided to take a cruise?
It doesn’t make sense to us, you’re running from Him, and now we are in the middle of the sea,” which by the way, in the ancient day, the sea was the place of deep and utter fear, uncontrollable chaos. And so, there’s this already built-in sense of fear that surrounding the uncontrollable waves and wind of the sea, and he’s going, “Yeah, my God, He created the land, He created the sea, He created all of that.”
And they are going, “What in the world have you done?”
“The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, ‘What should we do to you to make the sea calm down?’”
“‘Hurl me into the sea,’ he replied, ‘and it will become calm. I know that it’s my fault that this great storm has come upon you.’”
And he doesn’t even care that he’s put these sailors at great harm. How lame. I mean, think about it. He could have said, option maybe number one, “How do we calm this? Turn back towards Joppa. Let’s turn the ship around.” I’m pretty confident, a heart that is repentant, turn around, headed back in the right direction, I think God would have calmed the storm that way. He so didn’t want to go that way. Option one wasn’t an option.
Option two, this would have been actually, I guess, a much kinder option. “I’ll hurl myself off the boat.” Can you imagine that he put the weight of his life in the sailors’ hands? They’re like, “Wait a second, we don’t want to be responsible for you.” He was so cowardly in this moment. He’s like, “If you hurl me, then this will happen. But, you know, good luck for you.”
And notice the sailors showed compassion for Jonah where he had none for them. They hear this and they didn’t go, “Okay.” I think here’s how I would have been, let’s be honest. “Okay, so, you serve the God of the sea and the land. You are running from Him, you put us all in harm’s way, you went below deck and you slept it off, yeah, throwing you overboard sounds like a good idea. Throwing you overboard sounds exactly like the right idea. I don’t even care. You brought it onto your own head.” And notice the compassion. “Instead the men did their best to row back to land.”
Like, they showed him compassion that he didn’t even show them. “But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. Then they cried out to the Lord, ‘Please, Lord, don’t let us die for taking this man’s life.’” Now they are no longer even concerned about the storm, but the consequences of what they are going to have to do to Jonah.
“Then they took Jonah and hurled him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the Lord Yahweh, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to Him.”
Isn’t it amazing how God works? You have these sailors that are caught in someone else’s storm in the middle of it, they are not God-fearing, they are not walking with the Yahweh, and yet, through this storm, through Jonah’s disobedience, in His sovereignty, revival breaks out on the ship. And the sailors come to know the one true God and how He orchestrates and how He works, even in the midst of disasters in other people’s mistakes.
And so, it says, “Now, the Lord provided a huge fish,” and this is where we most famously know Jonah and the whale, “to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.” The Lord provided. The Lord sent.
Sometimes I think we can easily dismiss the book of Jonah as like, “Well, could somebody really survive that?” And certainly, there have been historical times where people have survived being swallowed by a fish or a whale type deal. You can go look that up.
But even more than that, if all the miracles, and especially if Jesus rose from the dead, him surviving three days in the belly of a fish is not that big of a deal. But what I think is interesting about this, like, who would have thought that would be God’s provision? You know?
One, I think it’s pretty funny of God, kind of hilarious. “Well, you’re not going to head the right direction, you’re not even going to ask the ship to go the other way? Well, I’m going to get you inside a big ol’ fish and he’s going to swim you in the right direction.” Huh.
But here’s what is incredible. Think about this. God’s provision wasn’t what Jonah expected. And I wonder for many of us, how God’s provision and how He is showing up in your life and how He is working isn’t what you expected. It isn’t necessarily what you wanted. It definitely is what you needed. But because He didn’t show up in the way you wanted, you feel disillusioned by God. You feel like, God, I prayed for this and You showed up here, but I can’t even get my eyes on this because I’m so focused on You showing up in the way that I want You to.
So, how do we shift to the more we are made for? Well, especially in the midst of the storm. God uses storms in our life to shift us back to the more we are made for. God uses storms. Now, it doesn’t mean that He causes storms. Certainly, we are going to talk about that, because He hurled a storm onto Jonah and He did cause that. So, we are going to wrestle with that. But He uses storms to shift us back to the more we are made for.
See, God is not often the source of our storm or our pain, and yet, God will not waste your pain. In His sovereignty, He will say, “In the midst of a broken, fallen, tragic world, still I can turn and use that painful moment and bring about good results.
And so, it says, “Now, the Lord provided a huge fish,” and this is where we most famously know Jonah and the whale, “to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.” The Lord provided. The Lord sent.
But what I think is interesting about this, like, who would have thought that would be God’s provision?
“Well, you’re not going to head the right direction, you’re not even going to ask the ship to go the other way? Well, I’m going to get you inside a big ol’ fish and he’s going to swim you in the right direction.”
God’s provision wasn’t what Jonah expected. And I wonder for many of us, how God’s provision and how He is showing up in your life and how He is working isn’t what you expected. It isn’t necessarily what you wanted. It definitely is what you needed. But because He didn’t show up in the way you wanted, you feel disillusioned by God. You feel like, God, I prayed for this and You showed up here, but I can’t even get my eyes on this because I’m so focused on You showing up in the way that I want You to.
God uses storms in our life to shift us back to the more we are made for. God uses storms. Now, it doesn’t mean that He causes storms. And yet, God will not waste your pain. In His sovereignty, He will say, “In the midst of a broken, fallen, tragic world, still I can turn and use that painful moment and bring about good results.
Not that that moment was good, not that that act against you was good, not that that evil thing, that trial, that storm that sickness, not that in any way that is good, but you have such a good God, He can take that evil and that harm and He says, over the course, “I will work it for good. I will take ashes and turn it into beauty, because I’m that kind of God.”
Romans 8 ends this way, “If God is for us, who can be against us? For I am convinced that neither life nor death, nor angels nor principalities, height, depth, nothing in all [creation] will ever separate us from the love of God,” that nothing that comes into your life can separate you from the love of God. See, God uses storms in our life to shift us back to the more we are made for. The question I want to wrestle with for a little bit is, okay, where do the storms of our life come from? Are they all hurled by God? I mean, He hurled this one. And I think it’s incredibly important that we are able to discern, okay, where are the storms? Where are these coming from?
This is really a theology of suffering. There are four primary areas where we experience storms or suffering in our life. The first is the storm of a fallen world – Genesis 3.
Genesis 1 and 2, God created the world and everything in it. And you know what He said at the end of each creative act? “And it was,” help me out anybody, “good.” It was good, because He is good.
And then in Genesis 3, humanity decides to do our own thing, rebel against Him, sin entered the world, it’s like cancer. Not only of our soul and of humanity, but of the entire world, created fractures that have just so brought about a world that is not His heart or desire or His intent. Much the way, kind of, rust is to metal or rot to a tree, sin has created this devastation on God’s creation.
And we live in a fallen, broken world where we experience natural disasters, where we have evil rulers, where we see all over things that happen. And first and foremost, go, “This is not His design and His original intent.”
The second area where we see and experience storm is the storm of spiritual opposition. 1 Peter 5:8 through 9 says, “But be alert, your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
Now, in the ancient day, like I said, everyone, they immediately, every physical reality had a spiritual cause. Every natural action had a supernatural cause behind it. In our day, we completely disconnect it altogether. So, we have gone the other way. There is no spiritual or supernatural anything and we dismiss it completely.
And, yet, there is a spiritual realm just as real as our earthly realm, or physical or visible realm. And Scripture tells us, as followers of Jesus, we have an enemy that is prowling around like a roaring lion. He wants to devour you. He wants to take you out. He wants you to be ineffective. He does not want you to live into the more you were made for.
You ever notice that when you finally decided to get really serious about your faith that, like, everything started to fall apart? Right? You’re like, “Why did work ramp up so intense? What happened here?” All of a sudden, you’re starting to make, you know what? “I really want to honor God in my relationships,” and then that sin has been besetting you, it rises up so quickly and you’re like, “Oh my gosh.”
Or you have this attitude, heart thing that is going on. You’re like, “Where did that come from?” Maybe in your marriage you’re really going, like, “Man, I want to really work and have a godly marriage,” and then all of a sudden you are finding you’re in disagreement and argument and you’re like, “Wait a second! All we were going to do is start praying together.”
The storm of spiritual opposition. And often, we don’t identify it until we look back and see, “Oh, there was more there.” Whether there’s disagreement or disunity, the enemy wants to provide distraction.
I think one of the ways the enemy keeps us blinded is busyness. He just keeps us too busy. That’s why, you ever heard this? “If the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.” It’s an old saying. Or derail you in some sin. The storm of a fallen world. The storm of spiritual opposition.
Then the storm of bad decisions. Galatians 6 tells us that we reap what we sow. “The one who sows to please the flesh reaps destruction, the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit reaps life.”
So often we blame God. “God, how could You?” And, yet, it was our own bad decision. You were speeding and that’s why you got a ticket. Right? You are eating terrible and that’s why – okay, I won’t go down too many… But we just make bad decisions. And we suffer the consequences. And because it’s a fallen world, we suffer the consequences of other people’s bad decisions. It was the sailors’ experience. And for many, you have either experienced the consequences of your bad decisions of a broken relationship, of a broken friendship. Or the consequences of someone else’s bad decisions. And God says, “I will not waste your pain. I want to bring healing and wholeness in you back to Myself.”
And then the final and the, I think the hardest to discern is the storm of God’s discipline.
When my kids were little, if they were running out into the street, I would discipline them to cause momentary pain here to keep them from long-term, devastating pain and destruction. And you have a perfect heavenly Father that when you are headed in the wrong direction, when you’re making some of those bad decisions, He certainly will allow those consequences to come into your life to be a wake-up call so that you will turn to Him and experience life, because He loves you. In fact, it’s the most loving thing He could do. See, God uses the storms in our life.
In many of the cases, He doesn’t cause them, but He works in them and through them to shift us back to the more we are made for. I think sometimes we are looking at the storm you’re walking through and you go, “Well, which one is it? Fallen world, spiritual opposition? Can it be a combination?” Certainly. Certainly, there are times where almost all of these are at play or a few of them. How important is it to know exactly which one?
Well, I think the question that the sailors asked is so important that we should ask it of God. You remember what they asked? “What should we do? What should we do?”
God, I’m in the middle of a storm, I’m not really sure why or what is going on, but I’m confident that You will not waste this storm, that You are using it, and it’s not going to shipwreck me and it’s not going to take me off course, but You actually want to shift me and on course to what You are doing, so what should I do?
And you just begin to lean into Him and He will show you. God will use every painful event in our life. He does not cause every painful event, and yet, He will use it for us to become more and more like His Son.
I think the question, is where is God in the middle of the storm? I don’t know what you’re walking through, what you’re wrestling with, and how deep the pain and the heartache. But I think that’s what we really wrestle with is, “God, where are You?”
In the gospels, there’s an account of Jesus in the middle of the storm. And it’s fascinating the parallels. In Mark chapter 4, it begins this way, and we discover the God in the middle of the storm. It says, “That day, when evening came, He said to His disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side.’” Hey, we are headed, we are going to go to the other side. “Leaving the crowd behind, they took Him along, just as He was,” He had spent a very long, exhausting day of ministry in the boat. “There were also other boats with Him. A furious squall came up.”
It wasn’t hurled, but there was a furious squall on the Sea of Galilee. “And waves broke over the boat so that it was nearly swamped.” Now, here are some of the parallels. “Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on the cushion. And the disciples woke Him up and said to Him, ‘Teacher, don’t You care if we drown?’” And isn’t that the question? In the middle of the storms of life, in the middle of the pain, in the middle of the heartache, in the middle of the diagnosis, “Teacher, Jesus, don’t You care?”
Like, how can You sleep in the middle of this? The storm is raging. Jesus was asleep for a different reason. It wasn’t apathy. See, Jonah worshipped the God who made the land and the sea. Jesus is God who made the land and the sea. Jonah needed to be hurled into the ocean to calm the sea. Jesus just speaks and it’s stilled.
He gets up, and He speaks, and He says, “Peace!” And immediately it’s calm. And the disciples’ response was the same, even as the sailors, “And they were terrified, going, ‘Who is this? That even the wind and the waves obey Him?’” See, Jesus’ sleep wasn’t a sleep of apathy but was ultimate peace. Why? Because He fundamentally has all authority. And He told His disciples on the front end, “We are going to go to the other side,” and so, He didn’t say, “There’s not going to be storms along the way.” But what He did say, “We are going to the other side.”
“And as long as I’m in the boat, with you, regardless of the weather outside you, regardless of how big the waves get, regardless of how strong the wind blows, you are good, because My presence is enough in the boat. I’m with you.” See, it was a sleep of peace, not apathy, because He was in full control, even though the outside felt uncontrollable.
And what would it be if we began to take our cues from Jesus instead of the storm? If we began to look to Him and how He is responding, realizing He can just utter a word and it stills. God, if You’re at peace, if You’re not shaken, in the wind and the waves, I can be at peace and unshaken.
Where is God in the middle of the storm? He’s with you. He’s in the boat. He’s not indifferent, He cares, He’s just not shook. He said, “We are going to the other side. I’m going to bring you through this.” “Nothing in all created things, nothing that comes into your life – physical or spiritual – will ever separate you from My love.” And that’s all that matters. And that’s enough. No, it’s more than enough in any storm of life.
God, I just pray for my friends. As the storms knock and rage around us, God, I pray for those that are just walking through just such painful, life altering storms, that the trajectory of their life is going to look different, that You are with them. Would You meet them? That You’re not shook by it. Would You walk closely with them? Would You encourage them? That You are with them and nothing will separate them from Your love.
God, I pray for those that are walking the storms of their own making. This moment would be a moment of repentance, a moment of saying, “God, I am sorry. I’m turning to You. I’m stopping that.” Just that wake-up call. “I’ve been blaming You, but it’s really my fault.”
And, God, right now I just pray for those that have been doubting, those that felt like if they even spoke, that they might fall completely away from You. Would You, right now, reveal Yourself, speak to them, surround them, meet them so personally? Thank You that You do not waste, but You work in the midst of our pain. Now, we are confident that You will take all things and turn them into good for those who are called according to Your purpose. In Jesus’ name, amen.