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Sermon #2207[i] Miscellaneous Sermons
Title: “It is I; be not afraid.”
Text: Mark 6:50
Subject: The Savior’s Voice in the Storm
In Mark 6 our Lord had just performed one of his most notable miracles. He had fed five thousand men with five loaves and two fish. Anxious to avoid the popular excitement to which this great display of his divine power gave rise, our Savior “constrained his disciples to get into a ship and go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people” (v. 45). After dismissing the disciples and the crowd, the Lord Jesus “departed into a mountain to pray” (v. 46). Let’s pick up the story at verse 47.
(Mark 6:47-50) “And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land. (48) And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them. (49) But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out: (50) For they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid.”
There you have the title of my message: — “It is I; be not afraid.” Here is our Savior’s voice in every storm through which he sends us. — “It is I; be not afraid.”
There are chapters in every believer’s life corresponding with this incident in the life of our Savior. Our path to glory is a path through deep waters, contrary winds, and stormy billows. The believer’s life is a voyage across tempestuous seas. But this is the path by which our God and Savior, in infinite wisdom, goodness, and love, brings us at last to our desired haven (Psalm 107:25-31).
(Psalms 107:25-31) “For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. (26) They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. (27) They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end. (28) Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. (29) He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. (30) Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. (31) Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!”
It is in often these storms that our blessed Savior comes and manifests himself to us in ways that the world can never know. When we are overwhelmed and full of fear, he comes walking upon the sea and speaks peace to our hearts, saying, “Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid.”
Proposition: This is the sweet, instructive, soul-cheering, heart-comforting voice of our Lord Jesus in the storm. — “Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid.” — It is in the storm the Savior’s voice is heard most clearly.
The Believer’s History
First, I want to show you that every believer’s life is a life marked by storms. The first spiritual storm every child of God has to face is the conviction of sin; and a blessed storm it is! The Holy Spirit like “a mighty rushing wind,” breathes over the soul, and the anxious cry of the Philippian jailer is heard, “What must I do to be saved?” Until now the soul has lived in all the quietness of spiritual insensibility. There has been a great calm about his life, but it was the calm of death; peace, but the peace of the grave. The soul has been dead in trespasses and sins. But now there is a storm, an awakening, a resurrection from death, the death of sin. The law of God has torments the conscience with guilt, its holiness is seen, its condemnation is felt, and the soul cries out, “Lord, save me, I perish!”
Does has this storm of sin’s conviction now come upon you? Has it roused you from your deep, Jonah-like sleep? Has it driven you out of your refuge of lies, your false pleas, and your fatal hope? Have you felt the vessel of your soul sinking amid the dark, surging waves of condemnation yawning to receive you?
Spirit of the living God, come, blow upon these slain in Adam’s fall, that they may live! Alarm the careless, awaken the lost, quicken the dead, and create such a tempest of sin’s conviction, as the voice of Jesus the Son of God alone can still.
With some, the first storm of conviction is not so violent; it is more the soft, gentle breeze, breathing as from the sunny south. With others, it is the north wind that blows powerful and penetrating; but, in both cases it is the same Spirit that quickens, and both operations illustrate the mystery and sovereignty of divine grace.
There are two gates into the great temple of God’s converting grace — the north gate and the south gate (Ezekiel 46:9) Two people entering, the one by the north, and the other by the south gate, will meet together in the temple of God and together unite in the same eternal song…
“Saved by grace alone!
This is all my plea: —
Jesus died for all His own;
And Jesus died for me!”
But the man who enters by the north gate is driven in by harsh, cold winds. While the soul entering in by the south gate is drawn in by the more gentle south winds. But both have entered in by the only Door, Christ Jesus.
· Both are convinced of their sin.
· Both are convinced of the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.
· Both are convinced of judgment finished, justice satisfied by the blood of the Lamb.
Do you know yourself a sinner? Do you know the plague of your heart? Do you despair of all hope of salvation in and of yourself? Do you see that Jesus is the Christ, that he has by himself accomplished eternal redemption for sinners? That is Holy Spirit conviction. — Come to Christ!
(Matthew 11:28-30) Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (29) Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (30) For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
“Other refuge have I none,
Hangs my helpless soul on Thee.”
The Lord Jesus comes to chosen, redeemed sinners in Holy Spirit conviction, saying, “It is I; be not afraid.” It is by the storm of conviction that he sends the comfort of salvation, the comfort of the Spirit (John 16:7-11).
(John 16:7-11) Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. (8) And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: (9) Of sin, because they believe not on me; (10) Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; (11) Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
But those early throws of conviction are only the first storm through which we must pass. The life of faith is a life marked by storms. We must often sail into the tempests of sorrow, affliction, adversity, and grief; but Christ’s presence assures us of safety no matter what the storm may be.
Notice: These disciples were not acting in disobedience. They were constrained by the Master to get into this ship. He sent them across the sea into the storm. Loyalty and obedience to Christ is often the surest course to trouble. The path of faithfulness is always right through the eye of the storm.
Though our storms are many and varied, basically, all our trials and troubles in this world arise from two sources:
· The contrary winds of our circumstances without.
· The waves of sin and unbelief within.
(Romans 7:14-24) “For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. (15) For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. (16) If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. (17) Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. (18) For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. (19) For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. (20) Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. (21) I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. (22) For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: (23) But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. (24) O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”
(Psalms 73:1-3) “Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart. (2) But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. (3) For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”
(Psalms 73:21-28) “Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins. (22) So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee. (23) Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. (24) Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. (25) Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. (26) My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. (27) For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee. (28) But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.”
A Present Savior
Second, I want to remind you that though we are often sent by our God into dark, dark storms, in the midst of your darkest storm, child of God, you are under the ever-watchful eye of your ever-present Savior, the Lord Jesus. He has promised, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee;” and he never will.
(Mark 6:48) And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them.
How I pray that God will teach me and teach you to believe him. Did not our Savior say, “Lo, I am with you alway”?
(Isaiah 41:10) “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”
(Isaiah 43:2) “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”
(Philippians 4:4-7) “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. (5) Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. (6) Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. (7) And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
We ought to cast all our care upon God our Savior. — “Cast all your care upon him; for he careth for you!” In Zechariah 2, we hear the Savior’s promise to his poor, afflicted, troubled, tempest tossed people.
(Zechariah 2:5) For I, saith the LORD, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.
(Zechariah 2:8) For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.
The apple of God’s eye shall not be touched. Until God himself is blinded not one of his people shall perish or even be harmed. Take courage, my brother! Take courage my sister! — “He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of his eye!”
I call all who hear my voice to come to Christ, to believe on the Son of God, with this assurance. — As surely as you come to Christ, trusting him alone as your Savior, the Lord God says, “He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye!” Oh, come then to Christ and find everlasting salvation and sure in him! God help you, now, to trust his dear Son.
Third, children of God, these storms through which the Lord Jesus sends you are all blessed storms, storms of mercy by which our souls are blessed of God.
He has sent the storm. The waters have come into your soul. You may think your frail, trembling vessel is sinking fast beneath the waves and billows. But what blessings have been heaped upon your soul in the storm!
· The character of God has been more blessedly unfolded to you.
· You have a clearer vision of and sweeter knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
· You have proved God’s faithfulness as you could not otherwise have known it.
· The Lord’s countless promises have become more precious.
· The storm has forced you to your knees and taught you to pray.
Faith in Christ does not exempt us from the dark storms of life common to other people. Life is a troubled-sea; and all who cross this sea encounter the storms of adversity which sweep its surface. Affliction, sooner or later, is our portion here. It is a necessary discipline. It is a preparatory process for the appreciation and enjoyment of heaven. Heaven could not have the enjoyment it possesses without these storms, these trials of faith. All the saints in glory, headed by Christ their Leader, came out of great tribulation. And if the Elder Brother — He, the sinless Savior, — He, the blessed Son of the Father — was not exempt from tribulation, shall we ask, shall we desire it?
“Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.” — “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” And when we have entered into that kingdom prepared for us, we will find it more blessed, more glorious than it could otherwise have been because of the stormy sea through which we have been brought by our Lord.
(2 Corinthians 4:17) For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
(1 Peter 1:3-9) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (4) To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, (5) Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (6) Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: (7) That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: (8) Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: (9) Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
Fourth, be assured, child of God, that the Lord Jesus always comes to his chosen, his beloved, his redeemed at the best time, and that is usually in the fourth watch of the night. — “About the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea” (v. 48).
The fourth watch, about three o’clock in the morning, is the darkest period of the night. Their emergency was his gracious opportunity. The height of their fears was the measure of his love. It is thus with his people now. It is dark, and the Savior has not come to us. But it must grow darker still! The “fourth watch” must come. The darker the night the more visible the stars, and more brilliant the heavens. God’s interpositions on our behalf are never so marked and appreciated as when our extremity is the greatest. The Savior’s love never shines so bright, his pity never appears so tender, his grace never so illustrious, as when we are brought to our wit’s end. He waits until the “fourth watch” of our night of tempest and of anxious toil.
Then, when weary and exhausted with rowing against wind and tide, our difficulties only exceeded in their height by the fears they inspire, treading the crest of the billows he walks upon the sea to our deliverance! What marvellous words those are! — “walking upon the sea!” He made it. He set its bounds. He controls it. And now, in all the majesty of his Deity blended with all the sympathy of his humanity, he comes to the help of his disciples. How truly did he now appear the Sovereign of the seas, the Head of creation!
(Psalm 77:16) The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee; they were afraid: the depths also were troubled.
None can tread the broken and dark waves that often dash and foam and surge around us, but God our Savior! What are our troubles, what are our sorrows, what are our needs, what are our difficulties to him? He can as easily control the huge billows which come into our souls, as he walked upon the sea to the rescue of his disciples.
Oh, how we limit the Son of God! What low views we have of Christ, — of his power, — of his grace, — of his love, — of his nearness to us at all times!
Look at the disciples again. As he approached them, walking across the mountainous billows, they were afraid! They were afraid because they didn’t know it was him walking across the sea! In the midst of their storm, when darkness was darkest and fear was greatest, and they were weakest. Their best, most powerful, and ever faithful Friend came walking across the sea to them, but they mistook him for a ghost and were the more afraid!
How much like these fearful souls we are! We are so filled with fear, so desponding and sinking, that, looking at God’s character through his dealings and interpreting his promises by his providences, like the disciples in the storm, appalled and overwhelmed with terror, we cry out for fear! — How groundless our fears are!
(Isaiah 41:10) Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
(Isaiah 43:1-7) But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. (2) When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. (3) For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. (4) Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life. (5) Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; (6) I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; (7) Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.
Fifth, let me show you how the Lord Jesus calmed their storm and removed their fear.
(Mark 6:50) For they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid.
“It is I, be not afraid.” — Such were the thrilling words with which he calmed their excited feelings, soothed and assured their troubled minds. Words of marvellous significance! Of all the many titles which he wore, not one is mentioned now. Nor is this needful.
This one word, this divine personal pronoun, contained and expressed them all: “IT IS I” Such is the voice of our Lord Jesus to us now. It speaks in every storm. Faith hears it in every circumstance of life. Christ’s union with his people involves his personal control of all the events of our history. Indeed, there is not an incident in your life which does not bring the Lord Jesus to your side, riding as in a chariot, be it bright or somber. The checkered events of your daily life are so many comings of Christ to you, and are equally so many errands bidding you go to him. He would have us meet him in all his providential dispensations. If each one contains his heart, as it most assuredly does, he asks the union of our hearts with his.
Listen, then, to the voice of your Savior in the storm. —— “It is I.”
· “It is I” who raised the tempest in your soul, and will control it.
· “It is I” who sent your affliction, and will be with you in it.
· “It is I” who kindled the furnace, and will watch the flames, and bring you through it.
· “It is I” who formed your burden, who carved your cross, and who will strengthen you to bear it.
· “It is I” who mixed your cup of grief, and will enable you to drink it with meek submission to your Father’s will.
· “It is I” who took your worldly substance, took your darling child, the wife of your bosom, of the husband of your youth, and will be infinitely better to you than husband, wife, or child.
· “It is I” who have done it all.
“I make the clouds my chariot, and clothe myself with the tempest as with a garment. The night-hour is my time of coming, and the dark, surging waves are the pavement upon which I walk. Be of good cheer, be not afraid; ‘It is I,’ your Friend, your Brother, your Savior. I am causing all the circumstances of your life to work together for your good. ‘It is I’ who sent the enemy to assail you, the slanderer to blast you, the unkindness to wound you, the need to press you down. Your affliction sprung not out of the ground, but came down from above, a heaven sent blessing, an angel of light clad in a robe of darkness.
I have sent all in love. This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God. This bereavement shall not always bow you to the earth, nor drape your life in changeless gloom forever. ‘It is I’ who ordered, arranged, and control it all! Be of good cheer; be not afraid.”
· It is I” who have done all these things, not against you but for you, not to hurt you but to do you good.
William Cowper’s hymn describes God’s ways so well. We need often to be reminded that, as Cowper put it…
“God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform.
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.”
Deep, in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill,
He treasures up His bright designs,
And works His sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy and will break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace.
Behind the frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour.
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower!”
He who loves you with an everlasting love has sent this storm in love for your soul, not in anger. Be assured, ― “This (sorrow, this trial, this adversity) is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.” ― “Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” (John 11:4, 40) This trial will not be forever. It will not always cast you down. ― “It is I” who ordered, arranged, and control it. In every stormy wind, in every dark night, in every lonely hour, in every rising fear, may God the Holy Spirit give you grace to hear your Savior’s voice, saying to you, “Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid.”
[i] Danville — Sunday Evening — November 17, 2013
Rescue Baptist Church, Rescue, CA — (FRI — 01/31/15)