“Purity of Submission”
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
CEC Foundation Day
June 24, 2018
Job 38: 1-11 /Psalm 107: 2-3; 23-30/
2 Corinthians 5: 14-17/Mark 4: 35-41
Bishop Ricardo Alcaraz
Our God is a God who still speaks to us as His people. We are grateful that we can learn from the Holy Spirit as He teaches us the Word of God today. During our devotions, Bishop Ariel asked, “How many of us never experienced storms in our life?” We have always experienced storms one way or the other. Jesus Christ told us, “In this world, you will have tribulations.” He is not saying this to scare us, but to prepare us. He doesn’t us want us to be caught unaware. He doesn’t want us to be ambushed by any kind of testing or trial. He said, “In this world, you will have tests and trials.”
I have heard of someone who went to a pastor and said, “Can you pray that I will never ever have any more tests and trials in my life?” The pastor said, “Do you want me to pray for you to die?” The man said, “What do you mean?” The pastor answered, “For you to have no more tests and trials, you’ve got to be taken out of the world.”
Jesus Christ said, “In this world, you will have tribulations, but be of good cheer (the comfort that He gives to us) I have overcome the world.” In other words, there is nothing that the world can throw at us that He doesn’t know the answer to. Jesus Christ has the power, the ability, the grace, and He knows what it takes in order to overcome and whatever it is that we are going through in life. He assures us, “You come to Me, and I’ll guide you. I will help navigate your path so that you will get to the other side.”
The principle that I would like to share with you today is: Turn the tables on trials that come your way. How many of you enjoy tests, trials and tribulations? I don’t enjoy it. During some quiet moments, when nothing seems to be happening, I don’t ever entertain the idea of coming to God and saying to Him, “God, can You send a little trial?” I do not like testing or tests. I do not enjoy problems, but I know they come. When they come, the Lord gives us principles from His Holy Word on what kind of attitude we should have especially when testing and trials come our way.
I ask you a question, “How many of you believe trials come from God to strengthen you?” Trials per se were not designed to strengthen you, but if you choose the grace of God and believe God during a test and trial, then yes, it will strengthen you. When you allow God to move in whatever situation you are in, He is able to redeem you.
In the Old Testament, when the brothers of Joseph realized what they did was wrong, they came to Joseph and they apologized. Joseph said, “What you did, you intended for evil.” They never had in their minds the thought that they were going to make Joseph strong, but their intention was to lose him. Their intention was to throw him away, take him out of the picture so that Joseph’s dream, the heavenly visions that he had, would never ever come to past. It was not to strengthen him, not to build character in him, not to make sure his divine potential was fulfilled. According to Scriptures, their intention was evil, but all throughout the suffering and the trials that Joseph went through, he never lost his faith in God. Maybe, Joseph did not understand why he was going through those things, but the one thing that he did right was he always trusted God. When you allow God to work in your situation, He redeems you from it. Joseph said, “You intended it for evil, but God turned it for good.”
St. Paul said, “Where sin abounds, grace much more abounds.” Some people say, “We should do evil so that more grace shall come.” But you don’t it this way because God is so great that whatever tries to do for evil, if you will choose to trust God, He will turn it around for good. Testing and trials come your way, and you don’t enjoy them. I don’t feel good about it, and sometimes, I don’t feel like praising God or fellowshipping with Him, but the Holy Scriptures tells us, “Count it all joy when you fall into various tests and trials.” Count it as an opportunity for God to be able to display His goodness in your life.
I choose to put my faith in God. I choose to praise God even when at that point I feel like grumbling, complaining and murmuring; but I choose to do what God says even when it doesn’t feel like the right thing to do. When you choose to do what God says in a situation that is not to your liking, you are allowing Him to redeem that situation for you.
In our gospel today, there are two principles that you can look into. In Mark 4: 35-38, the principle is: remember who is for you. The second principle in verse 39:41 is: choose to trust God in the middle of your difficulties.
The first principle is: remember who is for you. When you are going through a test or a trial, you have to understand that in a situation, God is not your enemy. God is not the One who is making things difficult for you. God is not the One who is making you feel miserable. Understand what Scripture says: if God is for you, nothing can be against you. When you are going through a problem, always remember that God is your friend. He is the One on your side, rooting for you, and who wants you to overcome your situation. When you are going through a problem, His Holy Spirit leads and teaches you so that you may be able to go through a situation. God is not your enemy or the One who is against you.
“On the same day, evening had come, Jesus said to them, ‘Let us cross over to the other side.’” One of the things that you need to understand about Jesus is that His actions are never random. The decisions that He made are not heads or tails. He says, “The work that I do, these are the things My Father showed Me. The words that I say are not My words, but the words I heard from Him.” Jesus Christ followed a plan. He was working together to fulfill the heart of the Father, so that when He says, “Let us go over to the other side,” this is exactly what He meant. He was saying, “We have a mission there. We are going there. There is something I need to do there.”
They were crossing the sea and Scriptures says, “Now, when they have left, the multitude took Him along in the boat as He was, and the other boats were also with Him.” When He said to go the other side, He did not mean anything else and there is something they need to do there. Continuing the gospel, it says, “A great windstorm arose.” The windstorm means a violent tempest or a whirlwind. It is a violent storm almost like a perfect storm. The word windstorm by itself connotes something that was violent, dangerous and deadly. The Holy Spirit inspired the author to write “a great windstorm.” It is not just a storm at sea that many can survive, and it is not one of those things. It was a violent thing that was dangerous and Jesus says, “Let us go to the other side,” and the storm arose. Looking at this, it was designed to prevent them from reaching the other side. I have read readings to say that maybe God did this to test their faith. The Father and Jesus were working together.
When typhoon Yolanda came to the Philippines, it was so big that it was going to touch land and five areas will be hit simultaneously. One of them was our place, Kalibo Aklan. There was a lot of discussion on how we were going to pray about it. Are we supposed to rebuke the storm? Some said, “Maybe this is the judgment of God because of things.” I don’t exactly know what was going on that time, but for those people who were talking about judgment, I could understand their point of view. After praying about this, I said to our intercessors, “We need to rebuke the storm. I believe this is not something that is going to bring a blessing.” We started praying this way. Yes, the typhoon hit us; but it did not hit us at full strength. It was said in a radio commentary that when the typhoon was about to hit us, it split in the middle. The main strength in the middle was dispersed. It hit us but not that strong because if that typhoon hit us full strength, not one building in Kalibo would be standing – not even our house or our Church.
The typhoon tore a solid stone building like it was paper. One witness said that when the storm was coming, he put his parents in one hotel that had withstood earthquakes and storms. After the storm Yolanda was over, she went back to the hotel, but the hotel was no longer there. We lost some of our roofings, but the Church and our house was still standing.
You have to have a clear idea of who is with you. If God is sending this, how can you rebuke it? How can you trust God if you think He is the One who is causing the problems for you? A minister was ministering to someone with a throat condition. He counsels him, “Brother, I don’t know why God gave you this.” If God gave him that, why are you praying for it to go away? The book of James says that every good and perfect gift comes from the Father, and if that sickness comes from the Father, then it must be good. You are not going to pray for it to go away, so ask for more!
Let us say that one of your family members is going through a dangerous sickness, and it even threatens to take his/her life; and you ask me to pray for you and your family member. How would you like me to pray? Would you like me to pray in two ways: one, “Oh, God, I don’t know why you are doing this to this family, but strengthen their faith that despite this, they will still love You. They will trust You; and Lord, if it means the death of that loved one for them to trust You, then, let it be.” Another way is, “Father, we are grateful You are our friend. We are grateful You are our deliverer. Your Word declares that You deliver the righteous from all their afflictions and I pray for this family. They will be delivered from this affliction.” What prayer would you want me to pray? The first or the second one? You choose the second one! You understand who your friend is. He is not the One doing this for us.
In 1999, when my appendix burst and I was sent to the hospital, I was getting two different signals. One signal says, “We better ask God to heal me,” and there was a minister who said to me, “God is teaching you a lesson.” Later on the week, a guest minister who was a friend of the Church came to my hospital room and said, “God is teaching you a lesson.” I was listening to a lot of seminars. I said, “God, I am reading Your Holy Scriptures. I read the Old Testament twice in a year. I read the New Testament about four to five times in a year, and You can’t teach me from the Holy Scriptures and You have to give me this situation?”
It is hard to believe God is your healer if He is the One who makes you sick! What if scientists discover a cure for a disease that does not exist? How can he profit if the disease is not yet there? He develops a great idea of creating the virus and he will infect people, and the plague will spread. While everybody is trying to cure it, he comes to the scene and presents his cure for it. Is he a hero?
You know that what you are doing is wrong, so why are you getting confused signals when it comes to God? I was getting confused signals when I was in the hospital if it was from God or not. I had a heart condition that the doctor said that I will never get healed from. I had to have surgery because of toxins in my body which my surgeon said would never close, and that I would spend the rest of my life cleaning that wound out. One of the doctor said that I don’t have to live long and that I cannot continue becoming a bishop at that particular time. He says, “You have done a lot of good already. It is time for you to retire and go back to your family.”
I was thinking, “Why God, did I make a mistake? Sometimes I argue with You, Lord, but do You have to knock me down like this?” It is kind of hard to believe God for healing if you don’t know where it is coming from. The only thing that I could was to search Scriptures because you’ve got people whom you trust telling you that this is from God and He is teaching me a lesson. I couldn’t really read the Scriptures then, so I let my wife read it for me. There was this Scripture from the Book of Acts, in Acts 10:38, and as it was being read to me, it brought light to my eyes, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power and He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil for God was with him.” Jesus Christ went about doing good – healing all who were oppressed by the devil. Jesus Christ healed ALL that was oppressed by the devil. We might argue and say, “Not all of His works were written in the Holy Scriptures.”
The gospel of John says that not everything that He did was written down. If everything that He did was written down, then, even the whole world will not be able to contain the books. St. John also says “These are written down that you might have faith in His Name, and that in His Name, you will find salvation.” The word salvation is not just the forgiveness of sins. It means your healing, your preservation, your protection, and your provision. Jesus died for you that we might be free from all of these things.
One might say, “Maybe it was not written down or maybe there was someone who approached Jesus and Jesus wanted to heal that person and He said, “My Father gave this to you, so I can’t do anything about this.” Maybe something like this happened but it was not written down because not all of His works was written down. If this actually happened, don’t you think God will put it there just to give you an idea? The Scriptures was written for your learning.
The storm arose and it was violent. It was not designed to help them go to the other side, but to destroy the boat. It was designed to kill their lives. If this thing happened, then, what Jesus Christ said, “Let us go to the other side,” would not have happened. The storm was not cooperating with them; the storm was trying to stop them.
The gospel continues, “He was in the stern asleep on a pillow, and they awoke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’” Suddenly, doubts created into the minds of the apostles. “Why is He sleeping? Doesn’t He know that we are in danger? Does He not care?” We know Jesus was always moved with compassion. He was starved and He wanted to rest, but the multitudes came to Him and He was moved with compassion. He wanted to help them, and one of the ways He helped them was first to teach the principles of God, then, He healed the sick, and cast out the demons.
Why was Jesus sleeping? According to Psalms 4:8, it says, “I will both lie down in peace and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety.” It could be that Jesus trusted the Father. I can never accuse Jesus of not caring. Jesus probably knew there was a storm, but He was also probably aware that the Father’s overshadowing presence was with them just like His overshadowing presence is with us. He was not someone who was thrown to panic in the storm. The apostles did not have His faith to say, “You know, He is sleeping. Nothing is going to happen to us.”
Think about this: the storm arose while Jesus was in the boat. People will ask, “We are doing things for God, so why are these problems happening to us?” St. Paul says that the enemy tries to hinder you. You are not ignorant of the enemy’s devices. Many Christians are not aware of the enemy’s devices, and as a matter of fact, they don’t even know who the enemy is. If you think God is doing this to you, who is He? Your friend or your foe? Scriptures was very clear to say that He healed every one oppressed by the devil. Jesus was sleeping; He had great faith, but was awakened. Jesus was Someone who is going to help His people.
The second principle is: choose to trust God in the midst of difficulties. “Jesus arose and He rebuked the wind.” The word rebuke is from a Greek word which means to speak sharply to. It is a word that was used when Jesus also rebuked demons in Mark 1:25. It is a tone of voice that was sharp. It was a tone of voice that you would not use when talking to someone that you respect. It is a rebuke, “Peace, be still. Get out of here!” If the storm was from the Father, do you think Jesus will speak to His Father like that? Jesus loved the Father, spoke highly of the Father. When He spoke to the Father, it was with a respectful reverent voice, but then, He spoke to the wind and to the storm with a sharp tone. The same word is used when He was rebuking demons. He was speaking to the force that was against them.
While you are in this world, you are up against the enemy. He tries to distract you. You can’t be exactly clear as to what, when and where, but you have a general idea of who is for you and who is against you. If God is for you, no matter if the enemy is against you, and you put your trust in God, one way or the other, you are going to emerge victorious. You will go to the other side.
“Jesus rebuked the wind and the sea saying, ‘Peace, be still,’ and the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But Jesus said to them, ‘Why are you so fearful? How is it that you do not have faith?’” Jesus did not respond saying, “You saw that I was sleeping, and this should have been a clue to you that things are okay and are under control. But I understand that it is a great storm. It is not just one of the storms. It is a violent one!” Instead, Jesus said, “Where is your faith? We see something that is violent, we see something that is threatening to destroy us, and suddenly you forgot what I said, ‘Let us go to the other side.’”
In a difficult situation, maybe you don’t understand everything, but always choose to trust in God. Always choose to trust in the goodness of God. Whatever the problem is – financial, physical, in the family and others – continue to trust God even if it doesn’t seem to be working. Is your faith in the circumstances or is it in God? Fear is faith in reverse; fear is believing what the trial is threatening to do is going to come to past in our life. Faith is believing that despite the circumstances, God is going to fulfill His promise in your life.
In my life, things became clear to me. When the doctor said I won’t have enough years to live, God said, “With long life You will satisfy me,” and I chose to trust Him. When the surgeon said that my wound would never heal because of the toxins, the Word says, “I will heal you of your wounds,” and I chose to trust Him. The doctor said that my heart was forever damaged, and I will drink maintenance for the rest of my life, and the Word says, “You are the strength of my heart and my portion forever,” and I chose to trust Him. My cardiac doctor said, “You did not get healed. God gave you a new heart.” As for the wound that the doctors said would never close, it did! As for not living long enough, I was 42 then when I was told about it, and I am 61 now. The guy who said it is no longer around. Did God do it because I am a bishop? No! I am just one of many who believe Him, and when you put your faith in His promises, God will fulfill them for you.
Testing and trials may come. They threaten to destroy your life. They threaten to disrupt everything. Put your faith in God. Remember who is always with you. God is always with you at all times. He is never your enemy; He is your friend. He is your partner. He is your deliverer, your healer, your provider. He is everything He said He will be to you. Trust Him even if you don’t understand everything!