When The Winds Blow
When the Winds Blow
Living the Christian life has its bumps and bruises But then, all of God’s great servants faced trials and even Jesus Christ himself had to calm the tempests around him. How can we draw on God’s teaching and examples to make the best of life’s stormy conditions?
[Mark Regoord]: Brethren, on August 24th of this year, an almost meaningless weather condition existed in the middle Atlantic. But over the next several days, and with more than 1,000 miles to feed its thirst, Hurricane Dorian developed into a Category 5 hurricane. It’s the worst of the worst. It’s the worst class that we track, and it had winds at one point over 185 miles an hour.
Now, many of us have been in windy conditions. We’ve been in significant storms. Maybe for perspective, how many people have been in one of those storms, or hurricane, or a cyclone, or something? I expected that our people had. Especially here on the seaboard here, that many people had experienced such a thing.
Now, as it traveled its way westward, it affected many of the landmasses through the Caribbean and it ground mercilessly over The Bahamas for about 24 hours. It doesn’t usually do that, but the devastation there was incredible. And so, I certainly want to remind all of us to remember those... certainly our members, but mankind in general when they face the difficulties of life like that.
Well, as the storm finally moved off The Bahamas and headed toward the Eastern seaboard of the United States, in preparation, the governors of... make sure I get my geography right here... Florida and Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia all declared states of emergency in their state. And many of the coastal counties were actually under mandatory evacuation. Mandatory evacuation. And in the days that would follow, its impact would be felt as far north as Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland. An incredibly powerful storm that only happened about six weeks ago.
Now in the face of those mandatory evacuation orders, there was another group that drew some attention that was a cause for concern. And people were even more concerned when it was decided that this group would not be evacuated.
As the storm approached, just like so many had in the past, CNN offered an article entitled “The Trick to Surviving Hurricanes,” and the opening statements of the article had this to say. “A bunch of majestic horses that spend their day frolicking on the beach in North Carolina’s Outer Banks will not be evacuated. With Hurricane Dorian quickly approaching, the colonial Spanish mustangs will huddle together and ride out the storm using a trick that horses have used for centuries.”
Brethren, I’ve entitled... for those of you that like titles, I’ve entitled my message today “When The Winds Blow.” And I don’t want to be a downer, but we know that happens. Don’t we?
By show of hands, we have survived. We have endured storms in life, and they happen emotionally, they happen economically, spiritually certainly. And so, what I would like us to do today is to review this short but interesting article, because why is it that these four-legged creatures were capable of riding out the storm when human beings were warned to run for their lives?
And then after we look at the article, I’d like to ask ourselves the question, “Might there be lessons that we should learn from how they prepare for and ride out the rough patches in life?”
For sake of time, I won’t read the full article, and I gave you some of the opening statements, but there were some interesting points, as I mentioned. Again, the article is entitled “The Trick to Surviving Hurricanes,” and it was written by Faith Karimi of CNN and it was posted on September 5th. So, as I mentioned, just about five weeks ago.
I gave you the opening sentences and I’ll read, again, excerpts from it. It says, “They will move to higher ground and gather under sturdy oak trees to shelter from the storm.” Statements here made by the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, which manages the herd and prepares for such storms as like this. And they always send out these reminders because people are perpetually concerned about these animals.” And that’s a beautiful thing, right? To have people concerned about others and even the wildlife that shares this globe with us.
It says, “They’ll ride out the winds and rains as their ancestors did before them in huddles with their backsides to the wind.” And it goes on to say, “And unlike human beings living in the Outer Banks, the wild horses are better equipped to handle a hurricane. They’re already sensing a change in the air pressure and are grouping together. ‘Remember, they’ve been doing this for the past 500 years,’ the spokesperson said.”
Brethren, I would like us to consider four lessons from this article. You may have already called them out as I read through, but four lessons that will help us to stand stronger in the face of challenges that come in the way of life.
Point number one. Point number one, I said, God doesn’t evacuate us in advance of life’s storms. Point number one, God doesn’t evacuate us in advance of life’s storms.
We all know the statement in John 17, where Jesus Christ was praying to His father before His crucifixion. And He specifically said... and this should give us some strength and confidence because it was an intentional decision. We aren’t an afterthought that has been left here to manage on our own. It was an intentional decision where He said, “I do not pray that You take them out of this world.”
And just a chapter earlier, Christ was describing to His disciples that they would face pressure. They would face trouble in this world. The life of a Christian is not a promise of comfort and prosperity. God says the growth happens when the pressure is on.
We all know Michael Jordan. He said, “I have failed so many times because I was at the forefront, because I wanted the ball, because I wanted the chance to win and succeed.”
And so, we know in that way, we face life and we face our Christian walk with the need to succeed and to press forward. So, we are training and preparing for greatness in God’s service and we have to recognize that’s going to come with some heat. That’s going to come with some pressure.
Another gospel account tells us that we should prepare for such challenges in life by planning ahead and making sure that we have the very best foundation possible. Turn with me to Matthew 7. Very often we’ll quote just individual scriptures and we’ll read them quickly. And I know some of you are very good at keeping up, but we’ll read verses 24 through 27 here. So, I’ll invite you to turn with me.
In Matthew 7:24 Matthew 7:24Therefore whoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, which built his house on a rock:
American King James Version×, it says, “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them...” We know that if we were to turn over to James 1 that it says we are to be not just hearers of the word but doers. So, we know that we put line upon line, precept upon precept, and so we see these cross-references that remind us over and over again how it is we’re supposed to live and prepare and train and study and be ready and be lights to this world.
“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” And why does that matter? The answer comes in verse 25. “Because the rain fell and the floods came and the winds blew and slammed against that house.” I forget which translation I’ve chosen here, but that gives you an idea. When the winds are 185 miles an hour, it’s slamming against that house, isn’t it? “And yet it did not fall for it had been founded on the rock.”
We’re told that there’s a flip side to every coin, though. Verse 26, “But everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish individual who built his house on the sand.” And again, why does that matter? “Because that same rain falls, the floods come, the winds blow and slam against that house, and it fell, and great was its fall.” We can look at the pictures of The Bahamas and great was the damage that was done there.
Christ was warning His entourage and, by extension, He was warning everyone who would ever read that passage. That includes us here today, brethren, and everybody else that will study this going forward. That the rains of life would come, that the winds would blow. He was using the analogy of stormy conditions to recognize that the stuff that life is made of, our jobs, our school, our relationships, the dreams, and plans that we make would run into rough patches from time to time.
That passage is the story of people and their choices and it’s the story of us and placing God’s truth at the core of who we are and how we operate and how we think, the filter through which we live our lives. God’s telling us that these situations will make us better and stronger, more compassionate, more understanding, more like Him. And so, when those winds blow, they blow for a reason.
And so, I don’t want to be a downer in this message, but I would encourage all of those that, you know what, we’re going to have to lean into the wind now and then, and that’s for a reason. Again, it’s intentional.
As we spend more hours studying, we come to see that God’s word is full of examples of His servants, great and small, who have faced those challenges, who have leaned into the wind through the years of their life. Even Christ endured tempests and temptations and now sits at the right hand of His Father and ours waiting for the final stages of Their plan to play out.
It’s been said, brethren, that the safest place for a ship is a harbor, but ships aren’t designed to live in calm waters. You don’t become a successful captain or sailor by resting in calm waters. The best become that way by taking on the fiercest of what the sea can throw at them. And although we don’t recommend that we start in the roughest of waters, we gain our stripes by facing those winds, by besting the challenges that come, and by enduring them and overcoming them. We don’t become champions by resting on the couch.
And like the article said, these stallions aren’t the first to face such a storm. That’s why I asked for the show of hands, because just like the children of God, they have been doing this for generations. It’s not their first rodeo and neither is it ours. So, we have to stand strong because God does not evacuate us in front of the challenges of life.
Point number two, the article said that they have a sense of approaching danger. And as I said, when we review this, we want to ask these same questions of ourselves. Now God gave the animals this special gift, the ability to recognize this changing weather. And maybe you have a trick knee or a bad hip that helps you to know when it’s going to rain, but other than that, not so much for mankind. But God has indeed given us an early warning system. He has given us the opportunity to dig into the clues and the characters of this life. And if we take time to do that, we will be prepared. We will sense that danger in those situations that it would be wise to sidestep.
We all know the passage from Proverbs 22 and it’s repeated for us in Proverbs 27. Proverbs has been quoted many times already this feast, where it says that the prudent or wise foresee trouble and take cover. That hurricane’s coming, we board up our homes, right? That’s just smart.
The Book of Proverbs is full of wisdom and discretion. And if we were to read the rest of those two verses I just mentioned, it tells us that the foolish though, the unprepared or the untrained, the uneducated, if you will, as to wisdom, walk headlong into the problems of life, but we shouldn’t.
In Luke 21, Christ warns His followers not to be surprised by important conditions that would occur before His coming. He gives them valuable advice on how to be prepared for the storms of life and the challenges ahead.
Luke 21:36 Luke 21:36Watch you therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
American King James Version×, I’ll read it quickly for time. Our Feast coordinator reminds each one of us what our timeframe is today, so I want to make sure I don’t encroach on someone else’s. Luke 21:36 Luke 21:36Watch you therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
American King James Version×, it says, “Watch therefore and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass and to stand before the son of man.” Now we know that that scripture portrays a particular event and a time, and yet the opening statement there is so effective for all of us. That we watch, that we are those wise and prudent people that just pay attention to the challenges of life that press in on us.
Just a moment earlier in verse 34, Christ told them that the worries of this life could distract them and it would prevent them from being observant and prepared.
As I mentioned earlier, there’s an unending supply of wisdom in God’s word for us to pay attention to and use in our everyday life. If we study the early life of Joseph, we can learn that it’s not good to be proud and boastful, right? It didn’t go over very well with his brothers.
If we pore over the details of the Book of Esther, we can realize that those that harbor grudges can be consumed by them and it can lead to a bad ending. Follow up on the details of Haman’s life. Scripture tells us that there is a time and a place for everything under the sun, and the handbook that God gave His kids has an answer for every single one of them, because we can learn by those that came before us. Sometimes succeeding and sometimes not, but learn, we should.
Point number three, brethren. Point number three, they know... according to the article, it says, “They know to move to higher ground and to seek shelter.” Let’s dwell on that for just a moment. When you face winds, you go someplace secure, right? They know to do that. Maybe a little pop quiz here. Where do you go to find that high ground and shelter?
Anybody recognize this? Now I expected... I’m going to invite you, because that’s what my notes tell me to do, that I’m gonna invite you to turn with me to page number 35, but then I realized in the days looking around that very few people have these in their laps. So, technology just, you know, kind of blew me sideways, but that’s okay. I can handle that storm.
So, I think our guys were going to help. Look at that. Isn’t that something? Thank you very much to the tech team back there. Because page number 35, it’s the first line, fourth stanza. It says, “He...” This is the high ground that we go to. “He is my refuge and my high tower of strength.” The reference in the hymnal below that is Psalms 62:2 Psalms 62:2He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved.
American King James Version×that says, “He alone is my rock and my salvation. He is my fortress and I will never be shaken or moved.”
So many of these Psalms have become the hymns that we sing at services in each sabbath. As Mr. Martin said, our opportunity to participate in each service.
I’ll pop into a couple of other Psalms here. Psalms 144:2 Psalms 144:2My goodness, and my fortress; my high tower, and my deliverer; my shield, and he in whom I trust; who subdues my people under me.
American King James Version×, “He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and in whom I take refuge.” When do we need refuge, brethren? When do we need a fortress? When we’re under attack, right? When the world is pressing in on us, we need something a little stronger, something a little more secure than we are, and therefore we turn to God.
My third and final reference to the Psalms here, Hymn 138 is drawn from Psalm 150, and it describes God as sheltering us under His wings. What a beautiful and meaningful picture for us when we face the rough patches of life. God’s saying, “I got ya. Hold on, yes, but don’t worry. I got ya.”
There’s an old saying that music soothes the savage beast. We’re referencing the hymnal here for a moment, and in the Book of 1 Samuel, we read that David played the harp for King Saul when his heart was heavy and he was refreshed by that. So, brethren, might I recommend, or in fact, I’m going to do exactly that, that when you need that emotional lift, that you take the power of God’s word and the power of music and use those for that emotional lift. How many times do you come out of services and the last hymn that we sing sticks in your mind all day long?
I remember my dad was a painting contractor, and so I used to be able to work with him on weekends and during summers. And I wasn’t worth much other than pushing a broom at first, but as I graduated, I got to the point where he would let me paint the closets, and people don’t see much of those. The acoustics were amazing. So, as a 12- or 14-year-old kid, I would sing the hymns. And I remember just being able to stand there, you know, brushing away. I hope that you will have the opportunity when the winds blow in life that you can reach for that same emotional lift. Where do we find our fortress? Where do we find our high ground?
The apostle Paul told us that he stayed focused as well on higher things, on loftier goals. Philippians 3:14 Philippians 3:14I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
American King James Version×. You don’t need to turn there. It’s a memory verse for most of us. “I press toward the mark for the high prize of...” What? All right. Excuse me, read that again. Getting ahead of myself. “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God and Jesus Christ.” So, as we stay focused on that, as we look toward that and stay there and go there, we will find the higher ground and seek shelter from it.
Brethren, we need to struggle against the negative impacts around us. God provides us a lot of beauty, a lot of wonderful things in this life, but there will be challenges. The winds will blow. The challenges in life have the potential to wear us down and to weigh us down and to hold us back, but we need to press on.
Last year in my sermon at the feast in Anchorage, I used the passage that said that Christ challenged all of us, threw that gauntlet down to each one of us, that we’re to take up our cross and follow Him even when that path is uphill and into the wind,
Point number four, brethren, the article says that they gather in huddles. At least that’s the term that they use. Point number four is they gather in huddles as their trick to survive the hurricane. We all know the saying strength in numbers, circle the wagons. That’s what the settlers did when they faced an enemy. They put all their valuables in and everybody inside and they created a barrier. They created a fortress effectively in that moment. God’s word teaches us those same concepts as well.
Ecclesiastes 4, if you would turn with me there, we’ll cover a few verses that tell us that the fellowship of this body, the support of your brothers and sisters, is important to you, and it’s just as important that we play that role to others as well.
Ecclesiastes 4:9 Ecclesiastes 4:9Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor.
American King James Version×, it says, “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their labor.” Teamwork is always a positive and more productive thing.
Verse 10, “For if they fall and one will lift up his fellow, but woe to him who is alone when he falls for he does not have the help of another. Again, if two lie together, they can have warmth, but how can one be warm alone? And if one overthrows him,” if we face that challenge or that attack, that abuse, two will withstand him. “And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
Brethen, let me ask you, who’s in your huddle? Do you have a huddle? Often when we attend a business conference, somewhere along the lines, you’ll hear someone refer to the term takeaway. What is your takeaway? If you were to forget everything else that gets said at this gathering... Now I know that doesn’t happen at Feast. You’re going to go home with pages and pages of notes to pay attention to. But from this message, if I would put my weight on one factor, I would ask this to be your takeaway, your thing of value that you walk away and make sure that you do, brethren, I would ask you to commit to being part of somebody’s huddle. Fellowship and support of our spiritual brothers and sisters is important for us.
Are you here in Panama City with a dear friend? Can you strengthen that? Can you make sure they have your new cell phone number so that when the winds blow in their lives, they can contact you? Or have you yet met somebody or might still meet somebody that is going through a challenge in their lives right now? Can you let them know that they can reach out to you when the world gets a little heavy in the weeks or months ahead?
Because, brethren, sometimes you’re going to be the one that’s in a position to do the fireman’s carry. You’re gonna be able to lift somebody out of that tight spot that they’re in. But as I said earlier, there’s two sides to every coin and there will be a cell phone number that you want to be able to call when you need that supportive shoulder, when you need that listening ear.
Brethren, we gather here at God’s Feast of Tabernacles to dream a little, don’t we? God says in our greatest capacity as human beings, we can only begin to understand what He has prepared for us, what that future holds, and the promises that He has made. Spiritually speaking, we gaze to that future, to that horizon, and strain our eyes for that, and we pray, “God, Thy kingdom come and thy will be done.” But we look forward, we press on. But between here and there, the winds will blow. I guarantee it.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem entitled “A Rainy Day.” And the last verse says this. “Be still, sad heart, and cease repining.” For those of us that don’t use the word repining, it means to stop complaining. It says, “Be still, sad heart and cease repining. Behind the clouds is the sun still shining. Thy fate is the common fate of all, into each life, some rain must fall.” And that is so true of us, physically, emotionally, spiritually, that we will face some challenges and we’re supposed to come out stronger for it, brethren.
To our young people, you may have your hearts broken a time or two. It happens. It is one of the things of life. It is one of the experiences that will make you stronger, and God likely has something better waiting for you. There’s that country song that, you know, I asked God... I think it’s Garth Brooks. I asked God to give me this one. I want to marry this one. And then life goes about its way, marry someone else, come back and go, ‘Whew, dodged a bullet there.”
We may underperform at school. We all have down days, right? We aren’t machines. Now the parents all out there want me to say, “But don’t let it become a habit.” But we have down days, brethren. The winds blow. The storms come. We don’t sleep well the night before a major exam. Things happen. You’ll endure it, you’ll survive it, you’ll come out stronger on the other side.
We may not get the promotion we want at work or even deserve. We will lose a loved one or two. We watched the line of people that comes to the anointing room that even here in this time that portrays beauty and perfection and protection, we still feel the aches and the pains and the headaches.
Maybe you had a trial getting here to the Feast or being here and you’re worried about what will happen when you get home.
There will be spiritual trials as well. We may arrive at Passover next spring... It shouldn’t happen, but we may arrive at Passover next spring, frustrated by the fact that we’re still working on the same weaknesses that have plagued us for too long. Those are the winds that blow in our spiritual life as well.
My hope, brethren, is each of us won’t feel or play the victim when these things happen. That we won’t slump our shoulders, we won’t grumble, we won’t go sit on the couch, but instead that we will be courageous. God’s word says, “Be of good courage.” That we’re courageous and see those winds as winds of change and opportunity, that we will embrace them, that we will learn from them, that we will spread our sails and our wings.
A couple of weeks ago, I came back from a moose hunt and it reminded me as you’re flying in, in this little two-seat Super Cub, that airplanes take off and land into the wind because managing and controlling that wind as you’re facing it gives you the greatest control and capacity to climb and descend. And so, we live our lives the same way.
Now, I know it’s easy for me to stand up here and say all these nice things and positive things. And I gotta be honest with you, ask any one of my family members, when life is raining down the back of my neck, I’m not all positive statements and smiles. I mean, we are human. That happens. But we have a job to do, brethren. We have a role to play. We are God’s first wave, we are God’s firstfruits, and we are instructed and we are expected to be a shining example as we do it, to be lights to this world.
Imagine a person at work or your neighbors that sees you and says, “How can you be going through that and still have your head held high and have a positive attitude?” That seed was just planted.
So again, we are lights to this world. God gave us tremendous promises to those who endure life’s trials in His name. You can write down Revelation 21:7 Revelation 21:7He that overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
American King James Version×. It’s something that we all look forward to and hold as one of our promises. Revelation 21:7 Revelation 21:7He that overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
American King James Version×, it says “He who overcomes shall inherit all things. And I will be His God and He shall be My son.”
Brethren, when life forces us to turn up our collars and to tighten down our hat, let’s lean into the wind. Let’s remember this article from CNN that says there is a trick to surviving hurricanes. I think it provided us some meaningful lessons that we can put into practice and thereby stand stronger when the winds blow.