As I am writing this blog this morning, Hurricane Irma is swirling in the Atlantic, skirting past Cuba and heading for south Florida later today. Earlier this week the forecast, still unsure as they always are so far in advance had this deadly storm potentially making landfall near the Georgia coast. In just a few weeks it will be one year since Hurricane Matthew struck our area and caused widespread devastation to coastal Georgia and the Carolinas. Last year my husband and I packed our bags and the cat, booked a hotel room west of here and headed on out well in advance of the storm. So when we were once again facing a devastating storm in our city, I decided to handle things a little different this year. I prayed and I sought God. Now please don’t assume that I didn’t pray last year, or that I take these storms lightly. I don’t! I prayed last year, very earnestly I might add, as I was leaving town and taking shelter inland. But this year I prayed differently! I also want to add here that I am by no means blaming anyone for this storm or suggesting that people brought this disaster on themselves. But I am suggesting that we do have power over the storm, if we have faith to believe it.
I decided to listen to what the Spirit was saying about the situation this time, instead of just begging for help. And what I heard was life changing. I heard Him say to me that I was to ride my bike around the neighborhood and play a particular song. That song is Misty Edwards, Lord of Hosts. Here is the link.
As I was playing this song, I was told to release a Spirit of Peace into my neighborhood and to rebuke the wind and the waves called Irma. Jesus did this in Mark 4:35-41 when He rebuked the storm. I live on a marsh facing East and South and that is where I stood facing as I did this. The next day I spent more time seeking God and asking Him what to do about leaving. Should we stay or should we go? Our governor was telling us that there would be a mandatory evacuation come Saturday morning; it was Thursday. After much agitation, struggling with fear, seeking His face and listening I heard this: It’s an open book test. The answer was in the Bible.
So I went back to the story of Jesus rebuking the storm and studied what happened on that boat that stormy night. Here’s what I saw. He talked to the wind and the sea. He took authority over them. And He told them to shut up and be muzzled. I know that we translate His words as “Peace, be still” but that’s not what He said. The word peace in this passage is not peace as in calm. It is peace as in be silent, to have an involuntary stillness or inability to speak. Modern English translation: shut up! The word “still” means to be muzzled like a dog, to be put to silence or become speechless. And after the wind and the waves stopped roaring, He turned to His disciples and said this: “Why are you so fearful?How is it that you have no faith?” I looked up the word fearful and what I saw caused more fear in me than that storm out in the ocean coming to my town. That word fearful is only used three times in the New Testament. It’s used in Mark 4:35-41, in Matthew 8:26 which talks about either this storm or another one where He asks them the same question, and in Revelation 21:6-8, which says the following:
He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.
Now that was a mouthful. Would I be a coward, would I be faithless and unbelieving if I tucked tail and ran this time? Yes, I believe that that is what God was telling me. I felt that if we left, I would have to repent for my fear and unbelief. The choice that I felt God was calling me to this year was to stay put. He told me to face my fear and replace it with the conviction of His protection; To stand my ground against the enemy. God did not send this hurricane on the earth. The enemy did. And I was being told to stand firm and say to the storm, “Not this time, not here, not now!” So after much discussion, my husband and I made the choice to stay.
But I struggled because it seemed as though I was the only one who was hearing this message. Everyone I knew was making plans to leave. I was being inundated with messages of fear on Facebook, on the media, on the weather channel, from friends. Fear was pounding at my door. I turned it all off and I decided to saturate my Facebook page with songs of hope, messages of faith and personal testimony of what God had done for us last year. I was releasing faith and peace into my atmosphere and I was standing my ground. You can’t win a battle if you run away!
As of this morning, Saturday, the storm is heading west and then north into Florida. Sadly it will cause great devastation to that state. But if we had left as we were being told to do, we would have headed West and would have driven straight into the path of the storm. We are in fact, safer here at home.
As I ponder on these events and what I was hearing from God, I realized just how important it is to seek the Lord when we are facing a battle. In the Old Testament there are countless stories of Israel going into battle, sometimes they won sometimes they lost. But almost without fail if they inquired of God, took the time to listen to what He was telling them to do, they would have the victory. As a matter of fact in 2 Samuel 5:22 David receives extremely detailed instructions of what to do during a battle with the Philistines. We need to learn to inquire of the Lord and ask for direction.
So what I would like to impart to you this morning is this: Take the time to listen to His voice. Take the time to seek and wait for His guidance. Sometimes what the Spirit is telling you will be very different from what the world is saying. It is easier to become overwhelmed with the voices of fear. They are loud, sometimes so loud they will drown out everything else. We must choose to silence them and listen to only His voice. Often that takes time and it takes faith to trust that you are hearing Him. But in the end, listening for and to His voice can make all the difference in the world. Be at peace my friends and be safe.