We’ve all been there, those moments when faced by the “tyranny of the urgent” (as some call it). Emergencies that pop up, fires that spark, which seem to demand that we spring into action at that moment. If we don’t, then some will think us uncaring or, perhaps worse, unable. So the weight of the urgent weighs heavy, especially for us in leadership positions.
With Jesus we see a different model—someone who remained calm when the world seemed to fall down around him. Such calm was not a lackadaisical response from a cold heart or inept abilities. Rather, he showed the response of a person with perfect trust in the all sovereign Father.
One such example is found in Mark 4. Jesus had gone through various towns healing and teaching as he went. Then he came to a seashore, sat down in a boat, and taught a large crowd through parables. Once evening had come, Jesus gave instructions to his disciples to head across the sea to the far banks. On the way, we read:
A great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:37-40)
Here we have a crisis: a storm so great the professional fishermen struggled to keep water out of the boat. We have a hard working leader who has laid down for rest. We have an accusation that Jesus didn’t care about what was going on. And we have the greatest Leader rebuking the winds and then his frightened disciples.
A few things to note: First, Jesus’ rest was not lazy slothfulness but the result of hard work. So it should be for us. We should not be lazy about our jobs or serving others nor should we turn such into an idol. We must balance relationships, rest, and work, but when we work we are to do our job with a strong work ethic. Jesus labored hard. He healed, he taught, and he interacted with people in all sorts of settings. Jesus also rested. Even as God in the flesh, when Jesus took on our nature he took on our need for rest and sleep that he created us with. Work hard, rest well—and don’t feel guilty about resting.
Second, the crisis those in the boats faced was real. Let’s not miss that several of Jesus’ followers were professional fishermen. They were used to rough seas and storms that seemed to come out of nowhere. It’s part of the job. One of my favorite TV shows is Deadliest Catch. The seasoned veterans of Alaska crab fishing are tough and grizzled. The boat rocks, water comes over the sides, winds howl, and they keep on keeping on. It’s their job, it’s what they do. But then on occasion a massive storm blows in that even catches the seasoned fishermen off guard. Even they get frightened (though experience does help calm some fear), and if the seas are too choppy, they’ll pull their crew off the deck and head for calmer waters until the storm has passed.
For the disciples to be frightened like they were, you know the storm had to be rough. This was not the run of the mill squall cutting through the region. This was a crisis that threatened their very lives. Still…
Third, the greatest response is faith. When the disciples woke Jesus, he responded by calming the storm. Then he looked at them and his reply wasn’t, “Boy, that was close. Good thing you woke me!” No, Jesus said, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
Here we see Jesus’ absolute trust in the Father. When Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28), he was making a radical claim to our hearts. Absolute trust is a hard thing for us, in part because we are fallen creatures in a sin-cursed world and the systems and things that we trust in each day fail us. Also from the fall, our trust in God is marred so we trust more in ourselves and our perceptions over him. We lack the full picture, we can’t see the future, we’re limited and finite, so our faith is often weak.
Yet Jesus tells us to fear nothing but God himself. I’ve heard it said that “fear not” is the most frequent command in the Bible. Whether this stat is true or not, there is no doubt the command occurs often because we are fickle creatures, prone to fear. But faith overcomes fear, because faith realizes that our Father is in control and he is good. Faith also helps us keep crises and the urgent in perspective.
If you’re on a boat with the man who staked claim to being God’s unique Son, the man who had cast out demons and cleansed lepers and caused the lame to walk, then you’re in the safest place you can be, even if the waves are crashing over the bow.
Faith does not produce inaction. Rather faith cuts through the clutter to seek the One who spoke the world and the waters into existence with a word.
This means as church leaders (especially as pastors) we should be seeking to build a culture of faith, proactive before a crisis comes instead of reactive, which is often rooted in fear. And this starts with us.
In difficult times, people look to their leaders. This is why they woke Jesus—he was the one whom they followed. So when people look at us, in calm moments and in crisis, what do they see? In Romans 10, Paul wrote that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” In context this was about salvation, how people in this world might come to follow Jesus. They have to hear the gospel and respond, there is no other path. But we don’t stop there. The word is how we keep growing after coming to Christ.
Peter said we should crave the “pure spiritual milk” of the word like an infant craving milk for his belly. What is spiritual mimics the physical: we feast on God’s word to “grow up into salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). The more we feast on scripture, the more of the wonders and glories and power of God we see, and the more our faith becomes anchored to the solid rock. So Jesus said, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” When the floods, winds, and waves of life come that house stands firm (Matthew 7:24-25).
Being men of scripture, we’re also to be men of prayer. We pray not to inform God about our trials or their severity as if they were something he did not know. No, our Father “knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8). Prayer, then, is our faith in action, showing our dependence on the great Father above.
Men of the word and of prayer, we also need to be men of calm demeanor. Time with the Father produces spiritual fruit in our lives (John 15:7-8), and among the list of the fruit of the Spirit we find “self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). The measured actions of self-control as opposed to reactiveness does a lot to calm situational fears.
In all of this we are to help God’s people under our oversight to also grow in faith. Jesus’ point in Mark 4:40 was to help his disciples see their need for greater dependence on the Father. In addition to helping others grow in the traits above, sometimes this means stepping back as a leader. We are to help others develop an absolute trust in God and part of this is us and them remembering that unlike Jesus, we are not God.
When we see a crisis developing or one has already hit, often we want to run into the heart of the situation and make things instantly better. But that is not a part of biblical leadership. We are to lead people to greater trust in God partially because we can’t always make things better. This is sometimes a hard lesson for us to learn and a hard thing to communicate to others. We want to make things right and we want to avoid the criticism that we have in some way failed.
But even Jesus rested during the crashing of waves.
Jesus is the one true Savior-King. We are not. For us to be reactive to every situation, to be on the front line of every crisis and not let others play their role, and to be attempting to uphold every crumbling support beam, we are acting as a functional savior. In the long run, that will not end well for either us or the people under our leadership.
Part of growing up physically and spiritually is learning to trust God more and learning to see his hands at work in the midst of the storms. We will have to be wise in the things we step away from, but it’s not our place to be the answer to every urgent crisis. This is especially true as often when the urgency fades we find the situation wasn’t as big a deal as we initially thought.
Learn to rest more in the Father and help others do the same. Let our little faith be transformed by the greater God.