Publication:Pastoral Letter,October 2017
Dear Friend in Christ:
I am writing this letter during the heart of Hurricane Season. The United States and the Caribbean Region have just suffered a series of devastating storms. And, the hurricane season is not yet over. I have many friends in the regions affected by these hurricanes, and have been closely and prayerfully following each storm. My heart goes out to those affected. At the end of this letter, I will provide information on how you can help people in places such as Texas and Florida.
The people affected by this devastating storm, and those who have come to help, have shown character, courage, compassion and sacrifice. These are lessons for all of us, not only in storms, but daily life. Adversity introduces us to ourselves and what really matters.
I have been through many hurricanes that occur here on the Gulf Coast and I know how important the response and help of others can be. Storms bring anxiety and devastation, but out of all of that, the Lord can bring salvation and testimonies of His mercy. There are a variety of other “storms” in life that are not weather related: economic, relational, political, physical illness, or other major disruptions that endanger our lives. My purpose here is not to explain why storms come, but to discuss why some sleep amid storms; it is almost unthinkable.
There is a weariness that comes from ministry and giving out our life. Jesus said at age 12, “I must be about my Father’s business.” His business was giving life (see Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 7:22; John 10:10). Jesus was constantly on the move, teaching and preaching the kingdom of God, healing the sick, casting out evil spirits, and performing miracles.
My father-in-law, who was both a physician and speaker, said that a 45-minute sermon was equivalent to an 8-hour day of labor. When we give life, it can leave us exhausted. I cannot imagine Jesus’ ministry to thousands, sometimes all day long or all night on some occasions (see Mark 1:29-39). The physical toll on Jesus was unimaginable.
It is no wonder that Jesus was often exhausted from ministry. Try to imagine those thousands who came for healing or His compassion that fueled His desire to minister to them! Sometimes after ministering, He would get into a boat with His disciples to go to “the other side” of the Sea of Galilee. So on one occasion when Jesus got into the boat exhausted, He went into a deep sleep (see Mark 4:35-41).
Storms arise quickly on waters such as the Sea of Galilee and they did not have the Weather Channel. This was a serious storm that frightened the disciples who were experienced sailors. The waves were crashing over the sides of the boat filling it with water, yet Jesus was asleep. It was time to wake up Jesus! But they did so the wrong way, “Don’t you care that we are perishing?” Jesus did wake up and did something that they could not have imagined: He rebuked the wind and the sea. “Peace! Be still!” The winds and sea obeyed and got calm.
Then He turned to the disciples and rebuked them: “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” Was He implying that after seeing all the miracles that they could have rebuked the winds and waves? Suddenly the fear of the storm was replaced by the fear of God. “Who is this?” they asked each other. They got a new perspective on Jesus. Storms can do that.
As soon as they got to the other side, a new ministry opportunity presented itself. Opportunities to minister never end. Some sleep due to exhaustion from ministry, giving life, or even to rest for physical preparation for the next opportunity. They deserve it! But others sleep due to different reasons; let’s look at Jonah.
Jonah is an interesting character, a Hebrew prophet, a God-fearing man, yet running from His call. The Lord spoke to him to go to Nineveh, an ancient, idolatrous and dangerous city, the capital of Assyria, and enemy of Israel. Nineveh was a very large city and judgment was coming to it. Jonah was called to tell them to repent; a hard message! Jonah may have been happy with Nineveh’s destruction. So, instead of obeying God, he ran away. He ran to a seaport on the Mediterranean, boarded a ship headed for Tarshish, which was located in Spain, as far away as he could get. By the time he boarded the ship, he was exhausted; finding a comfortable place, he went into a deep sleep.
Running from God can be exhausting; many of us have found that to be true. God is omnipresent and there is no place to hide. Soon a storm arose; it was fierce, and the experienced sailors were in panic. They threw cargo overboard to lighten the load and began calling on their “gods”. Yet Jonah was sound asleep and his sleep in such a moment caused consternation among the crew. “What do you mean, you sleeper! Get up and call upon your God.” That is another thing storms can do.
The crew decided to look for the person who was responsible for this storm; they cast lots and decided that it was Jonah. He already knew. He instructed them to throw him overboard but they were reluctant. Finally as the storm intensified, they threw him overboard and the sea became calm. The crew prayed for forgiveness. Of course, that is not the end of the story. God had prepared a “great fish” which swallowed Jonah and took him on a three day trip back to where he began—what a ride!
Finally, sick of Jonah, the fish vomited him up on the shore where he began his journey to Nineveh. Nineveh did repent as Jonah feared it would, and was spared, but not to Jonah’s liking. He argued with God and sulked. It did not seem to matter to God that Jonah was unhappy. God’s purpose wasn’t to make Jonah happy. His purpose was to save a wicked city and Jonah was his instrument.
So both Jonah and Jesus slept in storms, but for very different reasons. Jesus slept from ministry exhaustion; Jonah slept for ministry avoidance. Jesus went for ministry; Jonah went away from ministry. Jesus loved the pagans; Jonah loathed them. Finally, they did have one thing in common: they both preached repentance. Ironically, Nineveh repented; Israel as a nation did not.
- The question is not so much why the storms come, but what is God telling us to do? It is about action.
- Some storms are just bad weather, but some are occasions for the glory of God.
- There is a vast difference between being exhausted from ministry and exhaustion from ministry avoidance.
- Regardless of the reason for the storm, God has power over it and can bring us through it.
- Sometimes non-believers see the situation more clearly than we do.
- The Lord is sending us to some people we may not like—even dangerous ones.
- We may be surprised at who listens and who does not.
- Never try to “wake up God” with the words “Don’t you care?” We are the ones who need to wake up and care.
- Fear in a storm can bring us back to the fear of God. I pray so!
- Trying to hide out in the “church of Tarshish” is not a solution; personal obedience is our deliverance in the storm.
We all have to deal with storms of one kind or another. We all get weary from one issue or another. We may not know why the storm came but we can know what the Lord wants us to do if we are willing. God has the ability to make His will clear to a willing and seeking heart. The issue is to seek God, not merely react to the storm.
Are we in a storm? I think so. Arguing politics will not calm the sea, nor will philosophical discussion, or the opinions of pundits. Too many of us are merely analyzing the storms and not enough are seeking God. Thank God for those who are seeking Him and taking action!
It is time to “Display strength and take action” (see Daniel 11:32). Procrastination will become the dreamer’s nightmare. While we sleep, the enemy sows (see Matthew 13:25). We may not like our mission, but hiding or avoiding is not a solution. That will only result in a journey in some fish’s belly.
If you are worn out from ministry, get some rest; that is necessary. If you are tired from running away from your purpose … that is not okay. Wake up and get going to your “Nineveh”.
I believe that the United States and other nations are facing many major “storms”—spiritual, political, and even military. We can talk about why, but we must respond in the areas where the storm exists, in the spiritual and natural realms. We must be awake, prepare, and seek God for His mercy upon those in the storms. Some have been struck by these hurricanes, and others are facing major life storms. The United States itself is in a spiritual war. May the Lord help us not to run away, but to face our challenges and stand together in the power of the Holy Spirit. If we do, we will see the glory of God.
What Can We Do?
At CSM, our mission is to “embrace truth with our lives”. We live in challenging and confusing days when truth is a rare and precious commodity. We are called to speak the truth in love, regardless of opposition or cost, and to equip believers to extend the kingdom of God, one person at a time. Your support is vital to us in continuing in this mission.
Please keep us in your prayers and in your budget this month. Enclosed with this letter is a card that can be used for making a contribution, purchasing valuable ministry resources, or even simply sending us a prayer request so that we can stand with you. Also, you can visit us online at csmpublishing.org, and check out our Facebook page, Charles Simpson Ministries. You can even follow us on Twitter @CSMinPublishing. We want to stay in touch!
Our most sincere gratitude and prayers are with you. We deeply appreciate you being such a vital part of this ministry outreach, which is touching nations all over the world, even places where we cannot physically travel. May the Lord bless and keep you, on sunny days and in the storms.
To assist victims of Hurricane Harvey: please contact Pastor Dennis Jamison at Christ Covenant Church, 17000 Longenbaugh Drive, Houston, Texas
77095. Pastor Dennis is working with other area pastors who have opened their facilities to those who need food, water, clothing, shelter, and ongoing support.
To assist victims of Hurricane Irma: please contact Ronald Gray Ministries, P.O. Box 1873, Daphne, AL 36526 or visit online at ronaldgrayministries.org. Brother Ronald has a strong network of church relationships throughout Florida and regions affected by Irma.
Scripture references: ISAIAH 61:1-3, LUKE 7:22; JOHN 10:10, MARK 1:29-39, MARK 4:35-41, MATTHEW 13:25, DANIEL 11:32