This message was given at the 8:15 AM Wesley and 9:30 Traditional Services.
June 29, 2014
“I Will Praise You in This Storm”
I’d like to start off by saying good morning on this beautiful Sunday and also that I am extremely nervous. My knees are knocking so hard I’m thinking about answering them. With that said, I have always wanted to give the sermon on Sunday morning. When given the opportunity I jumped up in, only five seconds later to be riddled with fear and nerves wondering why in the world did I do that? But my wise cousin Katie reminded me “once you get past the idea of difficulty you realize that talking about God is an easy thing” And it’s true, I’ll be just talking about my best friend today. And like most instances when I feel like God is asking something of me I try and step up to the plate, as best I can. So here it goes.
I don’t know about you but often when I am driving in the car I like to listen to WGTS 91.9, the Christian radio station. Sometimes it’s the words I need to hear most for comfort, while other days, it’s the words I need most to light a fire under me, to move and make the right decision, or choose the better choice. More often than not like most radio stations, they play many of the same songs over and over again. This is not me complaining because I really enjoy them all but one in particular seems to catch my ear often. It was released on August 30th 2005 by popular Christian Band called Casting Crowns titled “Praise You in This Storm.” This song was written by the band’s creator and lead vocalist Mark Hall and it was based on an experience with a little girl named Erin Browning.
The band had planned to meet Erin after she had performed a dance to one of their popular songs at her public school, as well as preforming for her family before Valentine’s Day in 2004 prior to attending the Casting Crowns Concert. Right around the time Mark and his band connected with Erin, she was diagnosed with cancer.
There it is, the “C” word. Part of the reason I felt led to speak today is due to the weather we have been having lately. When I reference weather I don’t mean the blue skies and the scorching heat. Although important I am talking about the storms of life in their emotional capacity. Fear, debt, war, broken relationships, cancer, death.
Erin passed away in November of that year and Mark stated “Watching Erin’s mother walk through a real storm showed me that my worship was extremely situational.” He got honest about praising God, and how easy it is when life is going good.
But what about when life isn’t? What about when you are angry at God and you don’t understand? You want to know “WHY”? Often when we are caught up in the good things that life has to offer, we thank God for blessing us so greatly, some of us might even forget to thank him, you know you have probably been guilty of this at least once. Life happens and when it’s going good you often just continue to enjoy the ride. This song, these lyrics, Casting Crowns gets brutally honest. It’s almost like we are a witness to Mark Halls “God moment” where he questions his own faith. Would he be so grateful to God if these tragedies were happening to him? Would he be in constant praise if he was angry at God? I want to take a moment to read them to you.
“I Will Praise You in This Storm by Casting Crowns Lyrics”
As hard as the lyrics to this song are I feel less alone every time I hear them. I am reminded that so many of us have stormy skies at times. I can’t tell you how many times I have felt “my strength is gone, how can I carry on, if I can’t find you”? I can’t count how many nights I have cried myself to sleep in the past three years. Or how many times I have battled the word “WHY” and come up empty handed. I often have felt abandoned by the world. Alone...it’s an awful feeling, awful too knowing it’s completely untrue. I used Matthew 14:22-33 as our passage today because it is an incredible account of history and to this day it is also one of the Biggest GOD moments I’ve ever had. It is one that has strengthened my faith in a time where it was being tested.
My son and I like to read books before bed. A tradition my mom passed on to me and I to him and hopefully someday he will do the same with his children. A little over three years ago I was sitting on my son’s floor for reading time, he had one of the fisher price chairs he’d like to sit in while I read and I’d just sit right next to him. That night we picked one of our favorite books, “Dear God”. We have many versions of Dear God, all of which are bible stories put into words a three year old can understand. This particular one we had read probably over twenty times previous to this night, “Dear God: Will you always rescue me?” (You may recall it from the children’s moment) Like I said it was written for a three year old to understand so you wouldn’t think I’d have such a come to Jesus moment with it but all the same I opened the book that night and have never been the same since. The book proceeds to tell you the story of Jesus walking on the water and calling to Peter to join him. Peter then getting scared and begins to sink into the sea. As I turned the page to read the next line it hit me like a ton of bricks… “Peter…why didn’t you keep looking at me instead of the storm”. .. I sat there for a moment. Silent, my three year probably looked at me funny but here I was, God talking directly too little ole Desirae. “Why didn’t you keep looking at me instead of the storm?”
See, earlier that year my mommy was diagnosed with Cancer. In other words, I was in the storm of my life when I read to Noah that night. I was sinking into that sea. My entire world, my entire life up to that point had been my mom. Just me and her. My strength and my faith were being tested. My. Life. Was. A. Mess! I questioned where was God in all of this? My mom was the most Godly woman I had ever known. Horrific event after horrific event had plagued her life and through every storm, she still Loved the Lord. Still praised him daily. Why her? Why her? She didn’t deserve this. How was this MESS of our lives to be A MESSAGE of Gods? I was angry but really I was just devastated.
I believe this passage; this message was left for us from God because God knew that there would come a time when fear and doubt would take a hold of our hearts. God knew we would need reassurance that HE was in control. That HE had a plan. I heard God say speak to me that night, he said “Desirae, why do you keep focusing on the cancer, the loss, the anger??? Why aren’t you focusing on my peace, my Loving arms, my promises to you” My friends it is in time like these, it is in the worst weather of life that we need not focus on FEAR but on FAITH. We need to trust God to do what he does best, BLESS us. Because he does, daily.
I have been told by many people in my life, many times, that I should read the book called “The Shack” by Wm. Paul Young. So finally picked it up and began. Well first off, please do yourself a favor and go read the book “The Shack” by Wm. Paul Young. When getting this sermon together I was inspired greatly by many parts of The Shack. Like the main Character Mack when faced with storms so many of us often feel furthest away from God, like me they feel alone, angry, hurt, ABANDONED. I am reminded of a passage where God and MacK were having a heart to heart about Jesus’ death. God said.
“Don't ever think that what my Son chose to do didn't cost us dearly. Love always leaves a significant mark," she stated softly and gently. "We were there together."
Mack was surprised. "At the cross? Now wait. I thought you left him - you know - 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?'" It was a Scripture that had often haunted Mack in The Great Sadness.
"You misunderstand the mystery there. Regardless of what he felt at that moment, I never left him."
"How can you say that? You abandoned him just like you abandoned me!"
"Mackenzie, I never left him, and I have never left you."
"That makes no sense to me," he snapped.
"I know it doesn't, at least not yet. Will you at least consider this: when all you can see is your pain, perhaps then you lose sight of me?””
“Perhaps then you lose sight of me?...I had never thought of it like that before. Perhaps that IS what we do, amidst the struggle we forget that we are NOT alone because we are so focused on the pain, we are overwhelmed by it, drowning in it. That is why it feels so lonely. We forget, we stop looking to God. We forget to reach out and grab ahold of Jesus we just keep looking at the big waves.
Later on in the book MacK speaks to Jesus and he says…
“Jesus?" he whispered as his voice choked "I feel so lost"
A hand reached out and squeezed his, and didn't let go. "I know Mack. But it's not true. I am with you and I'm not lost. I'm sorry it feels that way, but hear me clearly. You are not lost.” … God said
“I suppose that since most of your hurts come through relationships so will your healing, and I know that grace rarely makes sense for those looking in from the outside.”
He states it as such a simple concept. Like “why wouldn’t I have thought of that myself”. We focus so intently on the pain that we lose sight of him; we neglect our relationship with God. When the answer is THAT RELATIONSHIP.
A relationship with God…that is the key to weathering a storm.
We must take our focus off the pain, the stress, the loss and turn our focus to him. What’s that quote “keep your eye on the prize?” Keep your eyes on the Lord, praise him in this storm.
And if you’re thinking it’s “easier said than done Des” trust me, I know. Here’s when we need to pull out our bibles and read, trusting what is says over and over again. God is LOVE that God has a plan and a good plan, for us to be happy.
It’s hard to get perspective when you are in the moment. It’s hard to see how the grace will happen or when. We might not fully even understand Grace, and we definitely don’t always understand Gods plan. But out of everything I’ve shared this morning here’s what I hope you take away with you, if anything. Next time the skies start to get cloudy, when you ask why and come up empty handed, when you are angry, when you are confused, or stressed and pushed to your limits. We need to know that One. We have just lost sight of the creator and his plans and his promises, somehow we shifted focus. And 2. That through a RELATIONSHIP with him we will have the strength need to weather any storm. We will know we have not been abandoned, we will know he is the anchor that keeps ours ships afloat.
Often when I lead a sermon I have a lot of testimonial aspects. I am not sure how many feel about it but this for me, getting vulnerable with all of you is how GOD makes the mess a MESSAGE. I’m trusting that. I have to believe something good can come from all the storms. Today is me trying to trust God and my relationship with him. Sterling United Methodist, as church we have weathered many a storm, we are now, and the weight we carry is often overwhelming. But when you ask where God is in this storm, please remember that he is right there. That Grace has its own timing. That all God asks of you is when you start to sink, let him rescue you.