I AM – The Self-Existent One

sneaker wave.JPG

 

There’s an oft-said truth in the coastal towns of the Pacific Northwest – never turn your back on the ocean. The waves may appear to be calm and predictable, but you never know when a sneaker wave will come out of nowhere and threaten to engulf you and carry you out to sea. Sometimes logs and driftwood get caught up in the sneaker waves, bashing and bruising you as you scramble to fight the flow of the current.

Ever had a sneaker wave kind of week?

The kind when grief comes out of the deep recesses of your soul and overwhelms you, threatening to carry you to places you don’t want to go. Whatever loss prompted your grief – death, divorce, some other devastating circumstance – some of the numbness begins to wear off, then it sneaks up on you again. It’s unexpected and unexplainable, knocking you over with a wave of emotion that can bash and bruise you and cause you to respond more deeply to “normal” everyday challenges and disappointments.

Sneaker squalls and storms

The Sea of Galilee is subject to sudden “sneaker” squalls. These unexpected wind storms are formed as a result of its geography slightly below sea level and the altitude of the mountains surrounding it. Warm air meets cool air and strong winds descend upon the lake, creating furious squalls. The gospel of Mark describes one such event, saying “A great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.” (Mark 4:37, ESV).

Jesus watched one such windstorm hit the disciples as he went up on a mountainside to pray. He watched the wind sweep across the lake and saw his disciples struggling in their boat as they attempted to cross to the other side, rowing against the storm. Having personally stood on a mountainside surrounding the Sea of Galilee, the boat would have been a tiny speck on this great sea. Unbeknownst to them, His presence was supernaturally with them in the boat, seeing their struggles. He decided to be physically present with them and walked out on the water to meet them, but they didn’t recognize him and cried out in fear. He responded by saying in Matthew 14:27 (NASB),

“Take courage; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

“It is I” literally means “I AM.” By this declaration the disciples knew Jesus was claiming to be God. When God sent Moses to the Egyptian Pharaoh to demand the release of his people, Moses asked God, “What if I tell the Israelites ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you’ and they ask ‘What is his name? What shall I tell them?’” God’s response was, “Tell them, I AM WHO I AM…I AM has sent me to you.” (See Exodus 3:13-15).

I AM – the self-existent One

I exist, I am present, I am here

Back to the storm on the Sea of Galilee. Peter literally responds to Jesus’ challenge to “take courage” and, at Jesus’ command, steps out into the water, walking toward Jesus. Then, he experiences his own sneaker wave of unbelief. He took his eyes off of Jesus and looked at the wind and raging sea, and he was afraid and began to sink. He cries out “Lord, save me!” and immediately Jesus reached out his hand and took hold of him.

I exist, I am present, I am here

The obvious lesson here is to keep our eyes on Jesus. The moment we take our eyes off of him and look at our difficult circumstances, doubt takes hold and we begin to sink in unbelief. But go a little further and think about how easy it was for unbelief to sneak up on Peter. He had seen Jesus perform many miracles, including the healing of his own mother-in-law and the raising of a dead girl to life. He had every intent of courageously following his Lord into that raging sea. But doubt and unbelief sneak up on us when we least expect it.

So what can we do when the sneaker waves hit?

  • Expect seasons of difficulty. Peter, the one who began to sink in unbelief, later wrote, “Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” (I Peter 4:12, ESV). Expecting trials makes us more prepared to face them instead of sinking in despair.

 

  • Know that the waves will eventually recede. They may come again, but they don’t last forever.

 

  • Trust God’s presence with you in the midst of the storm. Believe God’s promise that he will never leave you or forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6). Believe Jesus’ promise that “In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, ESV). Whatever difficulty you are facing, he has already overcome it. The outcome may be different than what you wanted or expected, but it’s not about us overcoming our circumstances, it’s about Jesus overcoming us in the midst of them (adapted from one of pastor Wayne Barber’s famous sayings).

 

  • Never turn your back on the enemy of your soul. I Peter 5:8 says “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (ESV). Understand the spiritual battle that rages to distract you from believing and receiving God’s promises, and be prepared with spiritual weapons so you can stand against the devil’s schemes (See Ephesians 6:10-18).

 

  • Never turn your back on the keeper of your soul. This is the choice we all struggle with when facing difficulties – to turn away from God because of our circumstances, instead of running to him for help in the midst of them. We want him to fix our situations instead of fixing our eyes on him and allowing him to change us and heal our hearts and give us strength to trust him even when our situations don’t change.

 

  • Finally, devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful (Colossians 4:2).

I exist, I am present, I am here

In what situation this week do you need to trust God for the outcome and focus on experiencing his presence in the midst of it?

 

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