“On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, ‘Let us cross over to the other side.’ Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’ Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, ‘Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?’ And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, ‘Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!’”
Today’s Scripture passage describes what happened when Jesus and His disciples came upon a storm while crossing the Sea of Galilee in a boat. As a great windstorm arose in the sea and giant waves came crashing down into the boat, it was getting swamped. Frightened, the disciples shook the Lord and woke Him up from His sleep, saying, “Lord, do you not care that we are facing a grave danger?” The Lord then smiled at them and rebuked the wind, saying to the sea, “Peace, be still!” The wind then suddenly died off and the sea became calm, as though the storm had never happened. And when the sea became still, the Lord turned to the disciples and rebuked them, saying, “How is it that you have no faith?” It is written here in today’s Scripture passage, that even the wind and the sea obeyed the Lord when He rebuked them.
Spiritually speaking, the boat here symbolizes God’s Church. It reminds us that just as the boat Jesus was on came upon a storm, God’s Church is also visited by hardship from time to time. We have to overcome such hardship by faith. The disciples in the boat had to have the belief that Jesus would calm the storm in time. Likewise, even when God’s Church faces difficulties, we must overcome them by our faith in God.
While carrying on with our lives in this world, various difficulties are inevitable not just for God’s Church, but we are also bound to face them in our everyday lives. But no matter what kind of hardship befalls us, if we entrust ourselves to the Lord and believe in Him just as Jesus’ disciples woke Him up and prayed in the storm, the Lord will be with us always and take care of all our difficulties. When we trust the Lord and ask Him for His help, He will take care of all our problems and skillfully solve away even the most intractable difficulties to our complete satisfaction.
Although all of us here are trying to live out our faith diligently, as we carry on with our lives, we are all bound to face hardship for various reasons. This is true even though we are living in a prosperous age, and so you can imagine just how much more hardship the Church must have faced in the past. We don’t even have to go back that far into the past to see this; just a decade ago, the Church was facing numerous difficulties constantly. But every time the Church faced these trials, we prayed to the Lord with absolute trust, and the Lord took care of all such difficulties for us.
This Church Building Is a Testimony to God’s Help
A while ago, we had to relocate our church building to another place as the lease expired, but we didn’t have any place to go to. We couldn’t find any solution no matter how hard we looked for it. There was no other choice but to hang onto the Lord. So we prayed to the Lord. Day and night we prayed to Him earnestly and desperately. The Lord then answered us. It’s also thanks to the Lord’s blessing that we could find a suitable place for the office of our publishing team.
It’s not just the Church that faced trials; I also went through many difficulties. But every time I faced hardship, I entrusted myself to the Lord, praying to Him and calling on His name earnestly. When I thus relied on the Lord and trusted Him, the Lord took care of my difficulties one by one. As we carry on with our lives, it’s inevitable for all of us to face countless difficulties in every imaginable way throughout our entire lifetime. But if we put our trust in the Lord and ask Him for His help, He will surely solve away all our problems no matter how difficult they may be. Therefore, the more we struggle with our hardship, the more we must trust in the Lord and rely on Him.
The storm that Jesus and His disciples faced in today’s Scripture passage shows that we are also bound to face such difficulties as we carry on with our lives in this world. And it also teaches us that whenever we face such trials, if we trust in the Lord and pray to Him, He will take care of all our difficulties just as He had saved the disciples by rebuking the wind and subduing the sea. Such faith and resolve are absolutely indispensable to us. The Lord rebuked the disciples for their faithlessness, asking why they had no faith. We must realize here just how grave a sin it is to have no faith, and just how wicked it is to live by relying on our own means and ways rather than God. You and I are both bound to face countless difficulties while living in this world, and every time we face them, we must rely on the Lord and trust Him through our prayer and faith. We must grasp here that the Lord will deliver us only when we have such faith.
Many people from all walks of life are gathered here, from teenagers to young adults, grown-ups, and even ministers. What all of us must realize regardless of age is that we all have both fleshly thoughts and spiritual thoughts in our minds. Because we have flesh, we have fleshly thoughts, and because we have the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we also have spiritual thoughts. Since we have both the flesh and the Holy Spirit, we may be stirred up by both fleshly and spiritual thoughts. But even though we have weak flesh, we can be delivered by trusting in the Lord and relying on Him. So long as we listen to the Word of God in our lives and resolve ourselves to follow it, all the difficult problems that we face in our lives will be resolved in time and we will all prosper.
We Must Be Wary of Following Just the Greed of the Flesh
Because you and I have flesh, we can’t help but have carnal thoughts. We must be wary of this as we will perish if we follow just the thoughts of the flesh. The Lord said, “To be carnally minded is death” (Romans 8:6). The Lord is warning us with this passage not to follow just the thoughts of the flesh.
Even if you have been born again by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, once you fall into your own carnal thoughts, you will end up standing against the Church. Just as the Bible says that to be carnally minded is death, if you stand against the Church and go astray, you will ultimately destroy yourself. If your faith is still young, it’s understandable that you may waver back and forth. But if you side with the flesh completely and follow your own carnal thoughts far from breaking them down, then you will not only drift away from the Church, but even worse, you will become like Judas Iscariot in the end. In other words, you will end up turning yourself into God’s enemy. That is why it is so dangerous to follow just the thoughts of the flesh. Those who turn themselves into God’s enemies by just following their fleshly thoughts will inevitably perish in both body and spirit, even though this is not what they want.
I know very well that both our saints and ministers have a weak side to them that makes them vulnerable to following the thoughts of the flesh. I am also well aware that even though we don’t take death too seriously in ordinary times, when we actually stand before death, we would all tremble in fear and do everything possible to avoid it. So to this day, I have tried very hard to ensure that my sermons can help you to cast aside such foolishness, so that you would not follow just after the thoughts of the flesh only to end up facing death. But if you have already made your mind up to follow your fleshly thoughts and refuse to budge, thinking that what you are doing is right, I then cannot help you no matter how hard I try. You would be choosing your own death. You would turn yourself into God’s enemy only to destroy yourself in agonizing pain.
I do not want the foolish people who follow the thoughts of the flesh to perish. When such people find it hard to continue to serve the Lord, they leave the Lord temporarily, but when they face hardship in the world, they try to return to their faith as though nothing had happened. They live in a way that’s convenient to them, and yet at the same time they want spiritual prosperity also. However, the Word of God says in Hebrews 6:4-6: “It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance.” As this passage says, those whose faith is so unsteady that they constantly waver back and forth between the Lord and the world cannot be renewed again to repentance. Therefore, you and I must live a consistent life of faith and strengthen our faith like a fortress. That’s because those whose faith is not steadfast and follow the thoughts of the flesh and vacillate constantly will perish in the end.
Take a look at some of our past ministers who ended up leaving the Church to follow their own carnal thoughts. Such people who just follow the thoughts of the flesh will perish in both body and spirit. Of course, this does not mean that the Church itself demands retribution from them or tries to ruin their lives. Rather, those whose faith is so weak that they only follow the thoughts of the flesh end up destroying themselves. It would be fortunate if some of them, even after going astray, could realize their mistake and return to lead a more consistent life of faith. But there have been many people in the Church who followed their own carnal thoughts until the very end. I am sure you know who I am talking about even if I don’t mention them by name. We have had such people among the laypeople, and we’ve also had them even amongst the ministers.
All of us must realize that by nature, we are vulnerable to follow the thoughts of the flesh, and we must ask God for His mercy. If we love our own souls and we want to make sure that we do not destroy ourselves, then we must listen carefully to the Word of God and follow it faithfully. Even if we find it too hard to follow the Lord’s Word continuously like this, we must still follow it by trusting the Lord.
When one perishes, he does not perish just by himself. He tries to drag others around him to death as well. But we should never allow ourselves to be dragged to death by such people who follow the thoughts of the flesh alone until they perish. These people, who have turned into God’s enemies to perish, cannot be revived even if we perish along with them. When one drags those around him to death, he will be cursed even more, for the Devil is delighted and his evil power is made even stronger. We must therefore defend our salvation from such people by faith. No matter who is perishing, even if it’s our own family member, we must defend our faith resiliently to stand upright even if it is all by ourselves, rather than being swept along with such people.
While living in this world, trials can come to both the Church and our individual lives, and whenever we face such hardship, we must pray to the Lord faithfully. The more we struggle and the harder the trials get, we must rely on God and trust Him even more. Our difficulties are not resolved when we look for our own means and ways to overcome them, but it’s when we put our trust in the Lord and pray to Him, and try to live according to God’s pleasure, that these difficulties are resolved.
Let me give you an example here. Long ago, when I was first saved, I had decided to live my life according to the will of God and serve the Lord, but I did not have any place to house God’s Church. I did not even have enough money to rent a place. But when I came across a suitable building, I prayed to God with all my heart, saying, “Lord, please give me that building so that I can use it for you. I’m asking you with all my heart. I need that building to gather souls together, hold worship services, and save them with Your Word. I believe that you will give it to me.” There was no private desire in my prayer. I prayed to the Lord ceaselessly, putting all my trust in Him and relying on Him. And I was absolutely sure that God would answer my prayer. My faith and prayer were eventually rewarded. God answered my prayer. This is not the only instance when God came to my help, for whatever I asked and prayed for by faith, God answered it without any exception to the minutest detail, and He took care of all my problems.
God gives us everything we ask and seek from Him if it’s in accordance with His will. Unlike most people, I don’t see any need for my own house. Its’ not as though I would live in this world for a thousand years, but I am here only for a short while, and so what’s the point of buying an expensive house only to pay heavy taxes and put up with constant repairs, when I can just rent one? If I really need a house, God will give it to me. God will give everything to me even without asking if it’s something that’s absolutely needed. How about you? Have you not been tightening the belt and saving like a penny pincher to buy a house? I am sure that many of you have done this. But it’s all useless greed. What about our Church then? Has anyone told you that our Church has been saving money to purchase a building? We have never done that. But even though we never earmarked any money for purchasing any building, God still blessed us and gave us this building for our use. Indeed this too is what God has done for us according to His will.
The Bible says in 1 John that if our conscience is clear and bold in God’s presence, we will receive from God whatever we pray to Him. God will hear our prayer and give us what we ask from Him in time. Our God is the living God. God is alive forever. If we truthfully believe in Him, rely on Him, put our trust in Him, and then ask Him, God will answer us for sure. If our will and what we seek are in accordance with God’s will, then sooner or later, He will answer us without fail. All that the Lord wants from us is for our faith to grow, waiting for us to make up our minds.
It Is Important to Resolve Yourself to Live According to the Will of God
This is absolutely imperative. Unless you make up your mind to live according to the will of God, you will be tempted to go your way when the circumstances change, even if you have not done so yet. If your heart is not set on God, it will be swept away by your circumstances like a boat tossed about in the waves. Only when your heart is resolved and set in one place will God be pleased with you. If your heart is otherwise unsettled and wavers back and forth, then far from abiding in God, you will end up departing from His blessings.
Therefore, the first thing you must do is to lead a proper life of faith by making up your mind. If you want your prayer to be answered, this also requires you to set your heart on God. Put differently, you must resolve yourself to live according to God’s will. God knows the center of your heart and sees whether you are just praying to Him without even deciding to follow Him. And if you try to lead your life of faith without setting your heart on God, your own conscience will accuse you of having a misplaced heart. Therefore, we must first set our hearts on God before anything else. And secondly, we must learn to rely on God and indeed do so in our everyday lives. Relying on God means, putting our faith in God. Faith is all about relying on God and asking Him for His help. Only when we have such faith can we lead an upright life of faith until the day the Lord returns.
My fellow believers, you must realize here that even if we go astray individually, God’s Church will continue to preach the gospel of the water and the Spirit. The only thing that concerns me deeply is that even though you have met the Lord and are now abiding in His blessings, once you follow the thoughts of the flesh and turn yourself into God’s enemy, it’s next to impossible to return back into the Lord’s arms. Such people who become God’s enemies would be lucky if they could return to the Lord at their deathbed. That’s how difficult it is to return to God once you go astray.
If a toddler strolls off too far from his home, he will get lost and will not be able to find his way home. Likewise, it’s nearly impossible for us to return back to the Lord if we drift away from Him too far. Even when we know clearly that we must return to the Lord, we would find it incredibly hard to do so. Why do you suppose this is the case? It’s because the farther we drift away from the Lord, the more we would be ruled by the Devil.
More important thing than anything else is to make up your mind to live according to the will of God. Once I met the Lord, I also resolved myself time after time to live according to God’s will. Yet even as I am living with my heart set on God with my carnal thoughts broken down, trials continue to come my way every day and I still have many shortcomings. However, if you make up your mind and plant your heart firmly in the Word of God, then whenever your heart is shaken, you can put a stop to it right away.
In contrast, if you do not set your heart on God, then whenever your heart is shaken, it will reel and drift far away from God in the end. That’s because unless you make up your mind to follow God, you cannot overcome your carnal thoughts. If you just follow after the thoughts of the flesh, you will perish in both body and spirit. That’s why it’s so important for you to set your heart on God and plant it deep in His Word.
All of us must lead our lives of faith with our hearts firmly resolved to follow the Lord. What’s important is not how strong your will is. More important is that you set your heart to live according to the will of God. When you thus make up your mind to live according to God’s pleasure, God will hold your heart steadfast, lead you and use you as His instrument, bless you, and work in your life. But if you do not set your heart and instead try stubbornly to resist your carnal thoughts with your own willpower and strength, then sooner or later you will end up surrendering yourself to them. You will not be able to withstand when Satan shakes your heart. There is a hymn in our hymnbook titled, “Set Your Heart on God,” and just like this hymn, all of us must resolve ourselves to live according to God’s will. This is very important. Only when you first make up your mind does God work in your life. The Lord will be with you when you thus make up your mind, hang onto God, rely on Jesus Christ, and rest your heart on the will of God by trusting in the Lord.
Unless you resolve yourself to live according to the will of God, Satan will continue to try to undermine you. Your heart will then eventually give in and will fall into the Devil’s hands. That is how Satan tries to make you drift far away from God’s will. And that is why you must set your mind to live according to the will of God. We have some adolescents here with us, and it is very difficult for them to abide in the Church and serve the Lord at their age. The same is true for young adults here. It also applies to the grown-ups, brothers and sisters alike. In some ways, adhering to the framework of the Church can be frustrating and difficult.
So you must resolve yourself to living according to the will of God first, or otherwise it will be very difficult for you to adhere to the Church’s framework. Just as I have set my heart on God, I ask you to also set your heart on God. Once you resolve yourself like this, your heart will find that nothing is more peaceful and joyful than abiding in the Lord. But if you otherwise do not make up your mind, you will be intolerably frustrated.
As usual, I spent today correcting my draft sermon, and I am now preaching the Word this evening to serve the Lord. But if I had not decided to live according to God’s will, then I would not have been able to work in unity with the Church. Man’s heart changes so easily. And it can easily go astray as well. It’s very easy for us to forget all about each other if we are apart even for a short while. Because human beings are such weak creatures, the Devil tries to make you quarrel with each other and accuse you to ultimately shake your heart. Indeed, I have seen this happen even to our ministers—when I see them after a long period of absence, I discover that some of them have changed rather unpleasantly. So I take every opportunity I have to get together with our ministers on a regular basis. Our brothers and sisters should also see me as frequently as possible. Whether it’s at the hour of worship or while working, we must get together as often as possible. Only then can you keep your heart’s resolve to live according to the will of God. If you otherwise go out into this world and forget all about the gospel, then it will hard for you to keep your resolve. Whatever you do in the Church, whether you work or play, it’s when you do everything together with your fellow saints that you can defend your heart. You are strong in faith when you are united with your fellow saints. Even if you have decided to follow God, it’s not a good idea for you to be distant from your fellow saints, as it will then be very difficult for you to keep your resolve.
That is what today Scripture passage teaches us. When Jesus and His disciples were crossing the sea, they came upon a storm and the boat got swamped and it nearly sunk, but the Lord was asleep through all of this. So His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
There is something to point out here before moving on. Here the Lord’s disciples called Him just “Teacher.” Though they are our great predecessors of faith, they deserve some criticism here. After all, should they not have called Jesus their “Lord” instead of just a “teacher”? The Lord is our Master. He is the Creator, the Christ, and the Son of the living God. The Lord is the Creator who made the universe and us. He is our Shepherd, our Savior and our everlasting Master. So since it is Jesus who watches over us, it is only proper for us to call Him our Lord. When the disciples asked Him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” the Lord rebuked them for their faithlessness, saying, “How is it that you have no faith?”
It Is a Grave Sin Not to Believe in God’s Righteousness
Sister Miae Choi went to see her doctor recently as she has not been feeling well. Would she not be anxious and afraid if the doctor could not find out what’s ailing her? But even if such trials befall us, we must rely on the Lord. When we entrust our difficulties to the Lord and rely on Him, He will take care of these difficulties. He will heal us from all our illnesses. Even if some of us were born with genetically transmitted conditions, the Lord will cure them also and restore us to health. So I ask you all to never fall into despair no matter what hardship visits you, for the Lord will take care of all your difficulties and bless you.
Do not take your life of faith too lightly, as though it’s something that you can give up midway. To think that it’s okay to step off your life of faith is utterly carnal. If you get tired and weary, listen to the Word of God to rest and renew your strength. That is how you can live out your faith until the end, by finding strength from God, not from yourself. Do not think that you can choose another way on your own.
We have quite a few adolescents here with us, and Brother Dongwook is the oldest amongst them. He is at a very difficult age, making the transition from a child to a man. But even at his relatively young age, Dongwook can be ambitious enough to embrace the entire world and accomplish a great deal. At sixteen, we may very well say that he has already matured and grown up. His body may not have developed fully yet, but his mind is already mature. Although his physical development and social norms still define him as an adolescent, he has the full faculty of the mind. So even teenagers like Dongwook must resolve in their hearts to live out their faith according to the will of the Lord.
All of us gathered here, young and old, and man and woman alike, must resolve in ourselves to live by faith. Of course, our ministers should be the first to do so and set an example for everyone else. It’s a blessing to live by relying on the Lord, and when we do so, He will protect us and give us peace. And our God will work in our lives and bless us all.