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A hardened old sea captain who was very vocal about his atheism was suddenly washed overboard one night during a radical storm. Surprisingly, his men could hear him actually crying out to God for help. Upon rescuing the captain, his crew asked him, “Didn’t you say that you don’t believe in God?”
The captain replied, “Well, if there isn’t a God, there ought to be in times like this.”
We should never think of prayer as a last resort, but should instead make it our first one. Obviously, if you are ill, by all means, go to a doctor. If you find yourself facing an emergency, of course call 911. But we also need to pray – immediately. It may simply be matter of saying, “Lord, help!” Or, “Lord, intervene!” Or, “Lord, show me what to do!” Or, “Lord, give me wisdom!”
Yet sometimes people will do everything they can do fix their situation, and when nothing has worked out, they say, “Well, all we can do now is (gulp) … just pray.” All we can do now? We are calling on Almighty God, creator of the heavens and Earth.
As Thomas Watson said, “When God lays men on their backs, then they look up to heaven.”
Matthew’s gospel records the story of a woman who had spent all of her money on doctors, yet nothing had worked. So she reasoned that if she could just touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, she could be healed. Standing in the crowd as Jesus passed by, she reached out, and with as much faith as she could muster, she touched the hem of his garment. And miraculously, she was healed instantly (see Matthew 9:20–22).
Like this woman, we need to look to God, recognizing that through our hardships, he can accomplish great things. God knows all things – past, present and future. God is uniquely qualified to know when to ordain or to permit evil and suffering and when not to. Therefore, if God allows something in your life or even brings it into your life, he has a plan in mind for it.
We love the idea of following God when things are going the way we want them to go. But then, when we hit a rough patch, we say, “Wait … whoa! I don’t want to go through that.”
I was with my grandchildren the other day – all girls – and I said, “Let’s play this. …” They were so excited and were jumping up and down. We got out the toy and started playing, and then we moved from one toy to another to another. After a while, it looked like a whirlwind had ripped through the room.
So I told them, “Now it is time to clean up.” All of the sudden, they weren’t so happy anymore.
“I always have to clean up,” declared one.
“Yeah, I do too,” said the other.
“We took these out to play with them,” I said. “Let’s put them away.” And no one was happy.
The same can be true of us when we don’t like where God is leading.
Psalm 23, one of the greatest passages in the Bible, begins, “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.”
But then it continues:
“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. … (NLT)”
We love those green meadows and peaceful streams. But we are not that excited about a valley – especially when it is a really dark one. But he is with us in those as well. That is what it is to follow the Lord.
The disciples followed Jesus right into a traumatic situation. They got into a boat with him and started across the lake when a fierce storm arose. Meanwhile, Jesus had settled in for a nap after a long day of ministry and was fast asleep. So what did the disciples do? They “went and woke him up, shouting, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!'” (Matthew 8:25) So Jesus went up on deck and stopped the storm in its tracks.
When we call out to God, he is moved by that, and he is ready to intervene.
So don’t feel bad about calling on the Lord. Cry out to him. If you are sick, ask God for his healing touch. Regardless of what the doctors have said, regardless of the odds of survival, you are talking to God. And you can reach out to him.
So cry out to God. Call out to him. Trust in him. And remember this: Whatever your situation may be, God is still in the miracle business.