"God, Don't You Care?" #79-42
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on June 24, 2012
By Rev. Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour
(Q&A Topic:Blaming Christianity for the World's Problems)
Copyright 2013 Lutheran Hour Ministries
Text: Mark 4:35-41
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed. In Bethlehem's manger, on Calvary's cross, at the borrowed and empty resurrection tomb we have seen the commitment of our loving Lord. Today on the Sea of Galilee we stand with the fearful disciples and will find no matter the storm which comes upon us, we are saved by the Christ. By the Holy Spirit's power may we believe our Redeemer is in control. Amen.
The slim, sad, sorrowful man sat the bar. Shoulders slumped, eyes downcast, he sat alone. Around him there were people, folks who were laughing, and talking, and singing, and shouting. Still, for all the attention he gave them they might as well not have been there. Not surprisingly the party-goers returned the favor by giving the fellow a wide berth. None of them wanted to run the risk of having gloomy-gus rob them of their festive spirit.
The scene might have stayed that way indefinitely if curiosity hadn't gotten the best of one of the revelers. Mr. Curiosity asked, "Pal, you look down in the dumps. Anything you'd care to talk about?" There was a long pause, I mean a long pause. Finally, the reply came, "Might as well, talking can't hurt anything now." Slowly he began. "I woke up this morning and drove to work. Had a flat tire on the way in. By the time I got going, I was late to work. The boss called me in and told me that while I had been in the running for a promotion... the first I would have had in twelve years, they had given it to the boss's nephew. He said my lateness had been the final factor in the decision.
"Early afternoon I got back to do the finishing touches on a project which I've been working on for three months. I sat down at my desk, moved my mouse and my computer showed me the blue screen of death.
"On the way home a truck threw up a stone and broke my windshield, I started to run a temperature, and found a note from my wife when I got home. The note said she was bored with me, had left me for my best friend, cleaned out our bank account, and taken my dog. I checked the mail and found the IRS thinks I owe them about $70,000 from the last three years, and the telephone message machine said my wife had maxed out our credit cards and I needed to cough up another $9,000.00. All-in-all it's been a disastrous day in a life which has been filled with disasters. I decided to end it all, but found out the bottle I thought was poison turned out to be ipecac and I spent the last few hours losing the last of my lunch." The man stopped, sighed, looked to heaven and rhetorically asked, "Lord, tell me, what's going on? What have I done to deserve this?" He was surprised when He heard a bass voice from above reply, 'Frankly, Bob, I just don't like you.'"
It occurs to me that many of us, maybe most or even all of us, have had times in our lives when we felt like Bob... when we were pretty sure that the Lord just didn't like us that much. Even people who refuse to believe in God have moments which are so bad they're sure such hard times can't be the result of kismet or happenstance. At such times we knew that if we flipped a coin and called 'heads', it would turn up tails. More than that, we were pretty sure if we flipped that coin 100 times it would, against all the laws of averages, come up tails 100 times. Does what I'm describing sound at all familiar? It does, doesn't it? Now I don't know what your particular pain or problem, disaster or difficulty might be, but you do. Right now, or in the past, or sometime in the future you will find yourself in the midst of some overwhelming personal storm, a storm which may have you wondering if God cares about you at all.
Understand, I'm not talking about a storm which can be tracked like a hurricane or have the sirens give warning as happens with a tornado. It's probably not the kind of storm which shows up on TV in the evening news or is told to our closest friends. Even so, practicality and human experience tells us we shall see a storm, a storm so intense our dreams, our hopes, our plans, our tomorrows, our lives will be turned topsy-turvy and the things which once seemed unshakable will crumble and lie shattered at our feet.
Our storm may come in the form of an illness or an accident, a betrayal, a disappointment, a failure, or a tragedy of unexpected and monumental proportions. That's because a world filled with sin comes with a guarantee that a tempest of devastation, destruction, and death, yes, unavoidable death, our own death or that of a loved one will someday sweep down upon us. And although many will try to tell you how to avoid such a moment, Christianity prefers to answer the question: "What will you do and to whom will you turn on that day?"
There is a story in Scripture which pretty much tells you what not to do on the day of your storm. That story begins with Jesus having put in a long day in speaking from a boat to a large crowd of eager listeners gathered along the hillside and seashore of the Sea of Galilee. After He had finished, He told His closest friends that He needed to recharge His batteries. He boarded a boat and His disciples, many of whom were experienced sailors, set a course which would take them to the other side of the lake. The trip was a short one, at most a few land-miles long. Jesus left the sailing to His friends and He settled down for a nap in the back of the boat.
While they were on the lake, a storm, the Bible calls it a "furious squall" descended upon the small vessel. Quickly the storm reached an intensity where even the experienced fishermen were afraid they might go down. Using every skill, every trick a lifetime of seamanship had taught them, the disciples fought against that storm. The winds were wild; the waves were high, and the swells kept breaking over the low gunnels of the boats. It didn't take too long before the disciples recognized that they, in spite of their knowledge and skill, were in a nasty situation and it was possible their dreams, their futures, their lives might soon come to an abrupt and unexpected end.
The situation was made doubly irksome by the fact that while they were bailing, while they were sinking, Jesus kept on sleeping. Misery loves company and to the disciples' way of thinking Jesus should have been just as miserable as they were. With exasperation they would have looked toward the back of the ship and then exchanged glances with each other, glances which silently said, "This isn't right. How can He keep sleeping when we're so busy sinking?" But Jesus did keep on sleeping. Jesus had kept on sleeping when the storm had arisen; Jesus kept on sleeping as they strained at the oars. He kept on sleeping when they lowered the sail. He kept on sleeping as they bailed water out of the ship even as more poured in. His calm in their catastrophe was annoying, even maddening.
A mixture of fear and frustration finally drove the disciples to Jesus' side where they awakened Him with the words, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" At the beginning of this story I said this story is a fine example of what not to do when the storms of life sweep over you. Well, this was the second mistake the disciples had made. Their first error had been made believing they could handle the storm on their own. At the very start of this squall they should have come to and called upon the Lord for help. It makes no difference if the storm is a typhoon or tempest in a teapot, the Savior's people should cast their cares upon Him because He cares for them.
So, that was mistake number one. Mistake number two is the way they came to Him. When they woke Jesus, they didn't say, "Savior, can you help us?" No, they didn't say that at all. They didn't call Him "Lord"; they didn't even call Him, "Master." They didn't come to Him with a passionate plea for help; they didn't ask for Him to intercede with His omnipotent power. The best they can do is whine out a challenge, a rather disrespectful challenge: "Teacher, don't You care?"
"Jesus, don't you care?" Do the words sound familiar? They probably do if you have ever found yourself in a spiritual storm. "Jesus, don't You care?" If you have ever asked, "How can God do something like this?" or "How can a gracious God allow this to happen?" or "If there is a gracious God, He would never turn His back on me this way"; if you have ever asked any of those questions; if you have ever felt this was true; you should know God does care. Jesus came so that He might reach out to the social outcast; so He might heal those who were hurting in body, mind, and soul. He cared about little things like the embarrassment of a bride and groom who were running out of wine at their wedding and He cared about big things like ten lepers whose illness had banished them from house and home, family and future.
It was caring which had Him raise a young man from the dead and return him to his mother; which had Him call a young girl back to life so she could be restored to her family. Because He cared Jesus' entire life was an obedient walk to the cross rather than a running from it. Because He cared Jesus willingly accepted your sin, my sins, humanity's sins when He prayed for strength in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was caring which allowed Him to accept a friend's betrayal and the disciples' desertion. It was caring which kept Him silent before lying accusers, illegal trials, and unjust judges. It was caring which put Him on a cross for you and caring which kept Him there. It was caring which had Him sacrifice Himself to win our salvation; it was caring which opened heaven's gates for all who believe on Him as Savior. It was His caring which saw Jesus rise from the dead and show to the world that no storm, not even death, can defeat those who acknowledge Him as their Redeemer.
Jesus don't You care? It was and remains the most unjust of charges which can be leveled against the Christ. Scripture bears witness that Jesus cared for people back then even as He continues to care for us today. Jesus cares, and because He cares, this day, every day, He reaches out with nail-pierced hands to all who are suffering, to anyone who finds himself being swamped by a life's storm. Speak to the Christians of the Communist countries of the Far East. Because their governments fear the Savior and all He has done, they have put Christian leaders into solitary confinement. Ask these imprisoned souls about Jesus and they will tell you that a caring Christ has walked past the guards, past the locks and bars so He might minister to and strengthen these modern martyrs.
Visit with the Christians of the Islamic nations of the mid-East and they will tell you Islam knows no other way to combat the caring Christ than to place the death sentence upon anyone who is converted to the Savior's cause of salvation. Talk to the Christians of Nigeria. This past Easter, an Islamic radical's car bomb murdered 38 souls. The survivors will tell you how they have been comforted in their loss and strengthened in the face of persecution by a caring Christ.
Come with me to hospital and hospice. Come with me to the bedside of my mother. It wasn't so long ago the doctor told her she had pancreatic cancer... cancer so advanced there was no hope of recovery. She was sent home with a caring physician's assurance that modern medicine would make her comfortable in the short time which was before her. It was a wonderful gift the medical community gave her that day... but it was a gift extended out of helplessness. There was nothing on the pharmacist's shelves or in the surgeon's hands which could permanently still the storm.
Scripture says (2 Corinthians 12:9) God's strength is made perfect in our weakness. The truth of those words was played out in the final months of my mother's life... during those months when Jesus came and showed He cared. Jesus came through the ministrations of my Christian brother and sister. They gave of themselves, reflecting the love they had received from her, their Christian mother, when they were growing up. They were there, and in the Name of the Savior and out of love for His most personal representative to them, they ministered. In large ways and small, they and their families did all that needed to be done, all that could be done. When the last moments came for her, they were there with her.
And me? For 38 years I have been a pastor, but during those two months, I was her pastor. Every Sunday morning, on WGN, she listened to this broadcast. She tuned in, not to hear her son, but to see her Savior. For eight Sundays The Lutheran Hour told her that she had a Redeemer Who had given His life so she might be forgiven and be granted eternal life. For two months she was told that death is not the end and no storm can stand before the caring Christ. She heard and she believed. As the days approached when she would leave us, she shared her stories with her grandchildren; she gladly distributed those possessions which had a personal meaning, and she spoke about the reunion which was coming, the everlasting reunion with loved ones who had gone on before; the reunion which was possible because she had a Savior who cared.
And when she breathed her last, and her children put together a funeral service, we agreed that worship time would be one of joy and victory. With tears of gratitude to our Savior we sang, "I know that my Redeemer lives; What comfort this sweet sentence gives! He lives, He lives, who once was dead; He lives, my ever-living Head. He lives, my kind, wise, heavenly Friend, He lives and loves me to the end; He lives, and while He lives, I'll sing; He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King. He lives and grants me daily breath; He lives, and I shall conquer death: He lives my mansion to prepare; He lives to bring me safely there."
Jesus not care? Today you may feel that way. I can understand. But you should know your thinking is the response of a sinful human heart when confronted with almost any level of adversity. When you're on vacation and it starts to rain, you ask, "God don't you care?" Sickness - "God, don't you care?" Family problems, "God, don't you care?" Any storm of life, any tragedy, any hardship, any hurt, Satan and sin slip in the thought: 'Jesus doesn't care.' Well, I am here to tell you that as surely as catastrophe is going to come, so also will a caring Christ to conquer that catastrophe.
If you doubt me, then turn to Scripture and see what happened when the doubting Disciples came to Jesus in the midst of their storm, when they challenged, "Jesus, don't You care?" Before the wind had carried their words away, Jesus was on His feet and commanded that storm to stop. Jesus commanded and the storm was silenced. That day, on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus showed He cared and put a storm in its place.
Now, I would love to tell you that there were no more storms in the lives of Jesus' friends. I would love to tell you that this was a turning point in their lives and from that moment on, their hearts never harbored any doubts. I would love to tell you that, but it wouldn't be true. The disciples encountered other storms... they had moments of weakness, moments of fear. Still, by the Holy Spirit's power, they learned and they believed that no matter the strength of the storm, the caring Savior could help them emerge as conquerors, no more than conquerors.
If this message accomplishes nothing else, I pray that this seed of faith, this picture of a caring Christ, will be placed within your heart. Storms, my friends, are inevitable. There are clouds on tomorrow's horizon. Which is why I pray that before they arrive your faith may become one of trust and confidence in the Christ, that you will believe Jesus can put a muzzle on those storms that you will know there is no storm so strong that it can stand before the Savior.
Some years ago I visited with some elderly quilters in my congregation. I loved those ladies; their life experiences have taught me more than any seminary professor. At any rate, during the course of our visit I talked to them about Jesus stilling the storm for the disciples. I concluded, "Isn't that a wonderful thing that Scripture promises He can do the same thing for us." It took but a second for one of those ladies to correct, "Pastor, that is not just a promise of God, it is a fact which comes from the caring Christ. And it is. Which is why, I extend this invitation: if you've heard this broadcast and want to know more about this Savior Who gave His life so we might have life, we encourage you to call us at The Lutheran Hour. Amen.