Jesus went into the boat and his disciples followed him. That's the way it works. Disciples follow their Lord. So it is when you were baptized, when you began to believe in Christ Jesus you followed him into the boat. The boat is the holy Christian Church. Christians are safe when they are in the holy Christian Church, because they are with Jesus.
But if anyone ever tells you that being a Christian is easy or that their troubles went away when they became a Christian don't believe them. Not long after the disciples pushed off onto the peaceful waters of Galilee with Jesus in tow a great storm arose on the sea and the waves pummeled over its deck and threatened to swamp the ship. And so it is for you Christians, safe within the boat of the Christian Church. The devil sends his attacks. Temptation! That spiritual warfare that tosses about your soul like a little boat in a hurricane. Temptation to doubt God's love; to doubt the benefits of his word; to doubt his presence. Temptation to sin, because it would be so much easier than doing what's right. Temptation to sin, because it's what you want to do. And if anyone tells you, "Don't worry, Satan can only launch spiritual attacks. He can't hurt your body." Think again. He'll use mounting debt, a lost job, sickness, injury, the death of a loved one, anything he can get his hands on (he's an innovator, that devil) to tempt you into sin and unbelief.
And Satan has powerful allies, the world and your own sinful flesh. And these three attack the Christian Church like a boat on the sea; hailing down persecution from powerful governments and cruel extremists and swamping her hull with scandals and false teaching. And Satan attacks the Christian too. He attacks you. He'll use your own wants and desires to make you believe that they make up your whole world. He'll use national politics, the economy, and your job to cause you to lose sight of who's really in control. But all the wind and rain, thunder and lightning, even the waves rushing over the edge of the ship are just distractions to deter you from seeing who's really in charge.
Jesus lay sleeping. The disciples cry to him, "Save us, Lord!" So Jesus rises and rebukes the winds and the sea and there was a great calm. The disciples marveled, saying, "What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?" What sort of man is this? Well, he's the Lord God of heaven, the creator of the sea and dry land. Who else can command the winds and sea and they obey him? The disciples see Jesus sleeping. He appears to be just a man. Jesus is a man. But he is not just a man. He is God. And so, he is always in control.
Jesus never loses control of the situation. Even as waves poured into the boat and no amount of man power could steer the ship straight, Jesus was in control. Even as he trudged up that hill with splinters of wood from his cross rubbing against his already raw back, Jesus was in control. As Roman soldiers drove nails into his hands and feet; as he was lifted up high for all his haters to see; even as he gave up his last breath; Jesus never lost control of the situation.
Hell itself ranted and raved for the souls of the damned. The Law of God required justice for the sins of the world. Lots were cast to see on whose account this storm raged. Yet the lot didn't fall on you or me, as it should have. The lot fell on Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God. So like Jonah, Jesus was cast into torrents of hell and was swallowed up by death. Yet even then Jesus steered the situation. Our Lord willingly lay down his life, so that he could defeat hell and death by rising from the dead on the third day.
And Jesus is in control now. That doesn't mean your life will be peachy? Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24). You, Christian, must bear your cross. Yes, Christians must suffer more than all people. Satan will not let you pass through this life with ease. He'll try to capsize your boat. He'll make you long to be an unbeliever, who doesn't have to be concerned about the teachings of the Church, who doesn't have to worry about repentance and forgiveness, about heaven and hell. He'll even let your life be comfortable, so that you care more about your nice car, your retirement fund or your next vacation than God's Word.
Being a Christian takes courage. Satan won't just let pastors preach the pure Law with its full force to lead sinners to repentance and guide Christians in what is right. Nor will he let them preach the Gospel to comfort and save the lost without temptations to compromise to keep the peace. He doesn't want parents to teach their children about Jesus or bring them to church. He wants them to think the task of reading Bible stories and saying prayers is too laborious and not worth the time. He wants parents to give up on bringing their little ones to Jesus thinking, "There's no way they're getting anything out of church anyway." He'll make you feel stupid for being a Christian. He'll make you choose between worshiping your God and making money or doing what you love. He'll make you think that you're in control or that there is no order in the universe, anything if it will knock you out of that boat and get you away from Jesus.
And this is how the disciples were, exhausted from trying to row to shore and bailing out the boat, drenched to the bone and preparing to drown. So they cry, "Save us, Lord! We are perishing!" Jesus, in complete control of the situation, before he orders the seas to be still, first rebukes his disciples, "Why are you cowards, O you of little faith?"
"Why are you cowards? Can't you see that I am God? I am in control." Jesus calls his disciples, "O you of little faith." At first this seems like an insult or a harsh rebuke. But Jesus only calls his disciples, "you of little faith." If you read the New Testament you'll see Jesus use this phrase several times, but never when talking to an unbeliever; only when talking to his disciples.
We learned last week about the centurion of whom Jesus said, "Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith." Oh, how we'd love to have the courage to say, "At your word, O Lord," even as sickness and death pummel us! And truly, we should constantly pray for a stronger faith. Yet, when it comes to your eternal salvation the "greatness" of your faith isn't what matters. Faith isn't some great work that earns your salvation. Faith is only as useful as its object, that is, faith is only as good as the one to whom it clings. The disciples, these men of little faith, clung on to Jesus with their little faith.
Oh, that we all could have such a little faith! Oh, that each of us here would have the faith to cry to Christ for help when the waves of this life rush over us! God promises in Psalm 50:15, "Call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver you and you will glorify me." Faith grasps this promise, it believes it, it takes refuge in it. Often times the reason why Christ, who is always in control, permits trials and temptations to accost us in this life is so that we will come crying to him for help, so our faith will become stronger while we still have it.
Faith clings to Jesus and his promise. It believes that when Jesus says, "Your sins are forgiven," that God truly is at peace with you. Faith knows to whom you should pray. Faith keeps you from being drowned by the attacks of the devil, because faith clings to Christ alone, who died, so that you might live, who was raised from the dead to give you new life, who bore the pains of the cross, so that you can endure the suffering of this life.
Now the entire Christian life on earth is not doom and gloom. God sends days of gladness to the Christian; children, family and friends, even prosperity. But these are not what makes a Christian truly happy. A Christian can rejoice, because after the great storm is a great calm. The Christian knows that the suffering of this present age is not even worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to us in Christ Jesus.
Having faith does not put you in control. Rather, it attaches you to the one who is in control. And even a little faith that trusts in Christ will join you to the only one who can save you. May God, by the preaching of his Word and the power of the Sacrament strengthen all of you in this faith, so that you may always remain in the safety of this boat, the Christian Church, which carries us to eternal life with Christ.