My first and only sailing trip abruptly ended by capsizing on White Rock Lake in Dallas. When my uncle decided to take up sailing, I was the trusting preteen who was suckered into a ride. That particular day, the lake should have been called “White Cap Lake,” and we capsized almost immediately after we launched! Had I been hydrophobic at all, it would have been a traumatic experience. On the contrary, I thought it was an awesome adventure!
The original disciples had a similar, yet less “awesome” experience on the Sea of Galilee (John 6:16-21). This “sea” is actually a freshwater lake fed by the Jordan River, which is 6-7 miles wide and 13 miles long. It sits at 600 feet below sea level and is surrounded by mountains that are as high as 2000 feet. This contrast in elevation and subsequent temperature variation creates ideal conditions for sudden, violent storms. Of course, half of them were professional fishermen, so these squalls were not unexpected. Their sailing experience was also helpful in knowing that this was no ordinary storm – thus they were legitimately afraid.
Pastors are hardly surprised by life’s storms because, unfortunately, they are a normal part of life. We help others through fearful storms all of the time, so what happens when we are the ones who are afraid? Jesus was helping a literal boat-load of preachers face their fears in this storm. I want to encourage pastors, staff and other church leaders to face their greatest fears in life and ministry with these biblical tools.
God’s Love Drives out Fear
There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18).
Fear is normal, but I think normal is overrated, don’t you? Christians can override fear with faith. Why? Because through the cross, God replaced guilt with grace and He replaced death with life. Jesus took away any possibility for His children to be separated from Him. God’s unconditional love gives us freedom to serve in our ministries without the fear of failure and rejection.
If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom 8:31).
Why is it so hard sometimes to believe that God wants us to succeed in our lives and ministry? Nobody is more committed to your good and His glory than Jesus Christ.
Consistent Prayer Drives out Fear
Why is daily prayer so difficult for so many pastors? Our spirit is willing, but our excuses are weak. For that matter, our days are short and our calendars are full. Storms have a way of pushing prayer up our priority lists, don’t they? Storms make us desperate for God. The Disciples were literally in the middle of the lake (Mark 6), which was halfway to the western side. They had 3.5 miles to go, rowing directly into the wind…in the dark (3:00 am).
Sometimes ministry feels that way to me – scary. I feel like I am rowing against the wind and in the darkness. Grrrrr!
Cast your burden on the LORD, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken (Psalm 55:22).
Encouragement Drives out Fear
Matthew and Mark both recorded some of the Disciples’ reactions to Jesus’ appearance in the middle of the lake, “It’s a ghost!” Fear is contagious, but so is faith. Courage is the antithesis of fear and usually comes from other people whom God sends to encourage us.
Who encourages you the most, pastor? Does your faith need to be refreshed by someone else? (If you even hesitated to say “yes” to that question, go look into a mirror and roll your eyes). A supportive pastor group, staff or regular small group can help to drive out fear in your life even as you share storm stories together.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11);
Encourage each other daily, while it is still called today (Hebrews 3:13).
Expect there to be spiritual storms in your life and ministry:
Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you (1 Peter 11).
Sometimes ministry challenges bring us into harm’s way and we are legitimately afraid. Once the Disciples “were willing to take Him on board” – fear was thrown overboard and they reached their destination (John 6:21).