One of the things that attracts many people to the coast is the the sight and sound of waves breaking on the shore, particularly after a period of bad weather. Ocean waves represent energy that has been transferred from air moving across the air/sea interface as wind blows. The longer and stronger the wind blows, the greater the energy transfer and the greater the size of the waves. Beginning as small wind waves, the waves grow and transform into swell that can travel thousands of nautical miles across ocean basins. On reaching the shallow water of a coastline the energy moving through the water transforms into steeper breaking waves that release this energy as they break on the shore. Having worked on ships, I have always found the formation processes and the way that waves move interesting. They obey physical laws. Their height and period and velocity can be predicted, based on the speed and duration of the wind. They can steal energy from nearby waves. They can change direction and bend around headlands. Waves, like people, can build and can destroy.
THE CREATOR IS IN CONTROL
The Gospel of Matthew describes an encounter that Jesus and His disciples had with waves in a small fishing boat that is well known by most Christians.
And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”
In this case, the men in the boat, some of which were experienced fishermen, were justified in their concern. They knew their boat’s capabilities and would have held a healthy respect for the inland sea they were transiting. What they had not factored in was that Jesus was with them and that He would respond to their cry for help. The storm narrative shows us something about the sovereignty of God. Jesus calmed the waves. The waves disappeared and the sea became calm at His command. The reason for this is His sovereignty. An important aspect of God’s sovereignty is His ability to exercise power over His creation. The opening passage in the Gospel of John tells us that Jesus was involved in the act of creation.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
Jesus, created physical laws, so it should not be surprising that He has control over the physics of waves. The book of Job and the Psalms also describe the control that the Creator has over His creation.
who alone stretched out the heavens
and trampled the waves of the sea;
You rule the raging of the sea;
when its waves rise, you still them.
It is easy for some people to disregard Jesus’ calming of the sea as it appears to contradict physical laws as we understand them. However, in the context of Jesus having created the physical laws He was controlling, this event should give us confidence in the sovereignty of our creator and His plan for anyone who acknowledges and follows Him.
RESPONDING TO CHALLENGES
Although God is sovereign, He has allowed us to freely make our own choices. As a result, we are free to exercise choice and make real decisions regarding both the good and bad events that affect our lives. This freedom allows us to make choices that can build our society and relationships or choices that can erode them like waves eroding a beach. When we make free choices that are pleasing to God, we reflect His character and bring Him glory. This includes how we choose to respond to external factors.
There are circumstances and actions that it is wise for us to avoid. Sometimes a surfer or recreational sailor recognises that waves are too big and dangerous and will avoid the situation until conditions become safer. It is always better to be ashore than wish you were ashore! Seafarers, who cannot always avoid waves are trained to adjust the heading and speed of a vessel when the vessel is adversely affected by waves and develops dangerous interactions such as excessive rolling and pitching motions that if not controlled, can result in cargo shifting, loss of watertight integrity and foundering. Like seafarers, who cannot avoid the challenges, we may have to implement strategies that will help us to confront challenges. To do this we require wisdom.
When we make sound decisions, the negative effect of factors that we cannot directly control can often avoided or be mitigated. When we are unsure and need guidance, we are invited to call out in prayer to someone who does have control. Wisdom is a gift that is available to followers of Jesus.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.
James’ comparison to a wave being driven and tossed by the elements is an image that most people can relate to and have sometimes experienced. Our desire to be free from the perceived restraint of the teaching of scripture can lead to poor choices and to sinful behaviours. Paul, writing to the church in Ephesus compares new Christians being deceived by false teaching as being tossed to and fro by waves.
so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
In this case, the cause was people developing and spreading false doctrine amongst Christians who were not sure how to respond to this situation. This is something that Jude warned his audience of when he compared people pushing false doctrine to the foam generated by waves. He refers to them as:
wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame;
This is an interesting comparison. Foam is short lived and scripture will always prevail.
When the relentlessness nature of life gets us down, it can seem like we are sometimes being hit by wave after wave of challenges. As followers of Jesus, we have access to basic principles that can help us to navigate our way through them in a way that should build rather than erode and destroy.
Zechariah reminds us that God is sovereign and that He is with us even when we think things are so bad that we feel that He has abandoned us.
He shall pass through the sea of troubles
and strike down the waves of the sea,
God’s encouraging words to His afflicted people serve as a reminder that we have a loving Father who cares for us so much that He sent Jesus who willingly accepted the penalty for our sin and poor reactions so that we can be with Him forever. This enables us to become like waves that deposit and build as we show the transforming love of Christ to our communities.
Your Executive pastor,
Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.
The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible, by Dr. Andrew Corbett, Hardcopy$44.95
A GRIEF REVEALED: Stories of Finding and Navigating Your Way Through Loss, by Karen A. Mace$29.95
The Last Week – Part 10 – Ascending To Glory, Premium Audio
The Last Week – Part 9 – For Women To Be Weak, Premium Audio