Publication:Pastoral Letter, September 2018
Dear Friend in Christ:
I pray you had a wonderful Summer! Thank you so much for your friendship, support, and prayer for this ministry. This month, I want to share something with you that I pray will encourage you during these tumultuous times. Is it possible to see adversity turned into triumph? Yes! I believe, in Christ, it is!
Growing up here on the Gulf Coast, water has always fascinated me. When I was a kid, we had a small boat, and I was out with my Dad often. One time, we went out on Mobile Bay and suddenly, a storm came up. I could sense that Dad and the other men with us on the boat were concerned. The waves became high and very wild; then, there was a waterspout! Thank the Lord, we returned safely to port.
In 1969, deadly Category 5 Hurricane Camille smashed into our area and devastated the nearby Mississippi Coast. My parents went to Biloxi, Mississippi, shortly afterwards and described how a 30 foot storm surge had destroyed virtually everything. Can you imagine what 30 feet of surging, snarling water would look like? Dad and Mom said the scene was heartbreaking.
After going through a few hurricanes and tornadoes, I’ve become a weather nerd; I suppose anyone who has lived in our area is, to some degree. We’ve seen what waves can do. I’m always checking the Weather Channel this time of year at the peak of Hurricane Season to see what’s happening in the Caribbean Sea or the far-off Cape Verde Islands in the Atlantic. We know that if we see Jim Cantore doing a live report from our town, then it’s probably time to seek shelter!
THE POWER OF WAVES
What about the vessels which travel on the seas? Having spent a fair amount of time on boats of all sizes, I love reading and studying sea stories. Today, brave folks aboard fishing vessels across the globe work in very dangerous conditions to bring delicious seafood to our tables. Container ships traverse the oceans, supplying the world and making global economies function.
Sebastian Junger’s best-selling book The Perfect Storm describes the massive 50-foot waves that stalk the North Atlantic Ocean. Even the largest ships in the world are in danger when monster waves arise. As scientists and researchers discover more about rogue waves, they believe that scores of ships annually are suddenly sunk by these mammoth waves.
And yet, there are special places in the world with names like Pe’ahi (“Jaws”), Teahupo’o, Cortes Bank, Waimea Bay, Nazare’, and Mavericks where people don’t run away from massive waves, but they swim towards them. These spots are where expert master surfers called “watermen” gather to ride the giants. These 50-foot or even HIGHER waves thunder toward the shore like aquatic skyscrapers.
What would make someone want to get into that? How is it that something so dangerous with so much potential for destruction can also be a thing of powerful and thrilling beauty? In fact, the same force that has the power to rip the bow off of a supertanker can also provide an amazing ride for one person with daring, skill, passion, and vision.
Waves are a fact of life and nature, and so is adversity. Our view of adversity can determine whether we are destroyed by it or transported by it
Jesus was sent to earth by the Father to reveal the Father to us. In relating with Jesus, and believing in Him, we discover the heart and purpose of the Father for our lives and for the world. In John 16:33, Jesus gave His followers a wonderfully comforting word concerning His own teaching: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
Jesus doesn’t tell us to fear adversity or to live in denial of it. Instead, He tells us how to face it … with good cheer in the knowledge of His victory and our victory in Him. I love His words that open John 14: “Let not your heart be troubled….” Jesus didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about adversity. Instead, like a great surfer, He knew how to ride it into even greater glory. There is something special in the DNA of those who have been born again through faith in Jesus Christ. As children of God, we have a different perspective on adversity.
A sea captain or a homeowner may look at a 50-foot wave with alarm, but an experienced waterman looks at it as an opportunity! Look at what John says to us:
“Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
(1 John 5:1-5).
Faith is not just believing in God, but it is believing God. When He speaks, we receive His Word, and we follow His directives. In so doing, we overcome and we are saved; not just our eternal salvation, but salvation that causes us to overcome from day-to-day.
There is life, strength, and wisdom in keeping His commands. It’s not drudgery or a chore; it’s a blessing that releases power! Romans 14 tells us that doubt brings judgement and whatever is not of faith is sin. Faith is pleasing to God; faith is relational; faith overcomes (see Hebrews 11)!
One of my favorite surf-themed movies is the 2012 film Chasing Mavericks starring Gerard Butler. Based on a true story, it features incredible footage of giant waves; it’s also a great story about fatherhood and mentoring. A young, fatherless teen named Jay Moriarity asks an older, established surfer to teach him how to surf giant waves. Jay is a very skilled surfer on the local beach, but he wants to go up the California Coast to a secret spot called Mavericks where the waves can build as high as 60 feet.
The mentor, named Richard “Frosty” Hesson, agrees to coach Jay, but tells Jay he’s got to listen and follow instructions completely, with no argument. It’s absolutely a matter of life and death. Jay is young and over-confident; he tells Frosty he’s ready for Mavericks. Frosty tells Jay that he is good, but not that good yet:
“Surfing normal waves is all about how you handle it when everything goes right. Surfing giant waves is all about how you handle it when everything goes wrong.” – Frosty Hesson
What a powerful life lesson! Frosty puts Jay through all kinds of tests to teach him how to ride the giants: physical tests, mental tests, emotional tests, and even spiritual tests. Of course, Jay doesn’t always understand what Frosty is trying to teach him or why it’s important. But when the day comes that Jay goes down the face of a 50-foot monster wave, wipes out, and is pinned underwater, he finally gets it!
When life knocks you down, and adversity has you pinned down, it’s too late to prepare for that moment; you’re in it. But if we have established our faith in Jesus, His Word, and His ways, we can not only overcome adversity, but we can be transformed and transported by it. Adversity does not have to be something that crushes us; in Christ, it can transport us from glory to glory.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
That’s a different perspective on life! The waterman studies the currents and the contours of the seabed under the waves. He knows of far away weather which will affect the wave patterns for thousands of miles. He sees something that is unseeable to the untrained eye.
In the Holy Spirit, we can be like the waterman, and see the unseeable. We can hope in something, even though it be far off, beyond the horizon. We can even know how to rise when we get knocked down. We understand that training is necessary, that mentors and surfing buddies are essential, and that even temporary failure can be a great teacher.
By His great grace, God gives us His strength in our times of weakness (see 2 Corinthians 12). The greatest heroes become mighty in battle. We can be like that … we are not of those who draw back, but those who press onward (see Hebrews 10-11). We are not of those who run away when the big waves come, but we grab our boards and paddle out to meet them.
Like waves, adversity is a fact of life. We need to acknowledge our need for God … His presence and His Word. That is a matter of life and death. It’s not if storms are coming, but when. We need mentors and buddies. Each of us needs a “Paul” to coach and care for us; we need a “Silas” to encourage and run alongside of us as a peer; and we need a “Timothy” into whom we can invest our lives and learning.
We need to pay attention and pray that the Holy Spirit would give us discernment and understanding of the times. I’ve heard it said that observation plus dedication equals edification. Even trained watermen can have difficulties when tides suddenly shift. We live in a day when the tides of our society are suddenly shifting. But a trained waterman understands that change is a reality, and he knows how to respond to change … even unexpected change. Frosty told Jay: “Fear can sometimes focus us, but panic paralyzes.”
There are many crises in our world today that concern me. May our concerns lead us to prayer and obedience, believing that God is Sovereign and that our hope is in Him. May adversity also propel us into deeper relationships with one another, for encouragement and strength. Where believers dwell together in unity, the Lord commands a blessing of life forever (see Psalm 133).
Please continue to remember CSM in your prayers and in your budget this month. We deeply appreciate your support! If you’d like to receive a LIVE, expanded audio of this Pastoral Letter, please visit online at CSM. Finally, make sure to mark your calendar now for GATLINBURG 2019: “SPIRIT & TRUTH”, our annual CSM Leadership Conference, happening May 14-16, in the beautiful mountains of East Tennessee. May the Lord bless and encourage you this month, and always!
Scripture references: JOHN 16:33; JOHN 14; 1 JOHN 5:1-5; ROMANS 14; HEBREWS 11; 2 CORINTHIANS 4:16-18; 2 CORINTHIANS 12; HEBREWS 10-11; PSALM 133
STEPHEN SIMPSON is the Editor of One-to-One Magazine and the Director of CSM Publishing. In addition to publishing ministry, Stephen has served in leadership for churches and ministries in Costa Rica, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, and Michigan, as well as being the Senior Pastor of Covenant Church of Mobile (2004-2013). He continues to travel in ministry across North America and in other nations.