The Word of God

(John 3:31-36)

Jesus spoke the words of God and He is the Word of God. What he spoke and taught in His gospel were not the words of man but of God. He did not speak about the things of this earth, but the things of the kingdom of heaven for His words are the words of the spirit, not the words of the flesh.

This is the testimony of the apostle John in these few verses as he testifies to the truth about the Word of God.

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For God So Loved The World

(John 3:16)

How many people have quoted this scripture? It is probably the most recognized scripture in the bible and has been immortalized in poetry, song and verse by many writers and musicians. And with good reason for it encapsulates in a few words the awesome purpose of God for man and the Creation. These few words written by a fisherman two thousand years ago have captured the minds, hearts and spirits of so many that I am humbled even considering adding to the liturgy that already exists. So I will be brief and speak about what see in these words.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

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Reason to Rejoice

(Luke 10:16-20)

After the seventy disciples had returned they were elated. They spoke to Jesus of the things they had done and the work accomplished saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” (Verse 17) But Jesus provides them with a different and better perspective and gives them a better reason to rejoice.

Power of God

The Lord gave the disciples power to be able to do the work he sent them to do. It is no different with anyone who has to do a job of any kind. If you don’t have the power to do the job then you will fail.

So Jesus gave the disciples the spiritual power to carry out the work he sent them to do. They were told to go out and heal the sick, cast out demons and speak the gospel.

Unfortunately it is too easy to get caught up in the elation of seeing this power go to work and lose sight of what is most important. The most important thing the disciples did and had to do, was to spread the gospel. But we see that their elation on returning was more about the miraculous power they were allowed to work in the name of the Lord.

Certainly it was a wonderful thing, but the message is the key. If they did not have or did not preach the truth of the gospel, then they would not have the power. It is the word of truth that really is the power of what they were doing, not the healings and miracles. Those things only testified to the truth of the word.

Authority of God

In order to carry out God’s work they not only had the power to do the job, they also had the authority. Again we know that if you are told to do a job, you may have the power to do it, but without the authority you will fail.

Jesus gave them tremendous authority along with the power so that they could achieve what he sent them to do. He gave them authority over diseases and unclean spirits as well as, “…authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you.” (Verse 19)

But we see also that the most important authority he gave them was not the miracles but the authority to speak on behalf of the Lord. He told them, “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” (Verse 16)

This is where their authority lay: in speaking on behalf of Jesus and speaking the words of the Gospel. The authority was so great that he handed to the disciples that Jesus showed them that when they were speaking it would be as if He were speaking and if they were accepted or rejected it would be no different than if Jesus and the Father were accepted or rejected.

Messengers of the Lord

The disciples were sent as messengers of the Lord to speak. And Jesus stood behind the message they spoke by giving them the power and authority to speak and backed it up with the signs they carried out.

The key to the work they did was to take the message to the people. It is no different today. As we speak to people our first priority is to speak the truth of the gospel and to stand as witness to Jesus Christ. We are now his messengers on this earth to stand apart from the people of the world as the people of God.

Above all other things this is truly a reason to rejoice for the Lord will give us the power and authority to do the work of ministry today when we are true to the word of the gospel. First find the truth so that you can testify to it and the Lord will bless you as he blessed the seventy telling them to rejoice, not because they had power over demons, but because their names were written in heaven.

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Power and Authority

Power and Authority over Demons

(Luke 9:37-43)

The power that Jesus had was not limited. More than that he had the authority to carry out the works he did. Nowhere was both his power and authority more apparent than when dealing with demons.

There were numerous times when the Lord cast out demons from people afflicted in this way. In each case the demons were removed and cowered in the presence of the Lord. They did not fight him for he had the authority to deal with them and they simply had no choice but to obey his command and get out as they were told.

In this particular case the demon that was in this boy was particularly strong. He had overtaken the child causing convulsions, what appears to be epilepsy and foaming at the mouth. When the boy’s father brought the child to the disciples to have the demon cast out, they could not do it. Thus it was evident that this was a particularly nasty and strong demon.

Why could the disciples not cast out this demon? Jesus shows that in his response to them saying, “O faithless and perverse generation…” (Verse 41) Jesus shows that the reason they could not cast out this demon was due to a lack of faith and a perverse attitude.

Faithless is translated from the Greek word “apistos.” It can also be rendered as disbelieving, which gives it a slightly different emphasis. To disbelieve something is a little different to unbelief, which is what is often thought when someone is said to be faithless. Unbelief means they “do not” believe, but disbelief means they “cannot” believe. Something that appears so incredible that it cannot be believed is disbelief. The disciples could not believe that they had the power and authority over demons especially when they came up against a strong devil like this one. Their faith failed them and they fell into disbelief and therefore were unable to exercise the power and authority necessary to cast the demon out. It was as if it were too great a thing for them to do.

As for the word “perverse” which is translated form the Greek word “diastrepho,” this too has an interesting meaning. The word can also be rendered as distort, misinterpret and corrupt. From this I believe the disciples belief was distorted to the point that they could not exercise the power and authority Jesus had given them.

Put these two aspects together and we get a few possible different pictures of why they were unable to cast out the demon. The disciples were either puffed up with their own self-opinion because they had this power and thus had a distorted view of the power that they had and so failed in their attempts to heal the boy. Or they may have been in awe of the power and in disbelief did not believe they could possibly be strong enough to do this work. Their view was thus distorted or corrupt and the lacked the faith to carry through.

There are other scriptures that could back up these possible scenarios. Consider the following which suggests they may have had a high opinion of this power the Lord had given and thus their focus was on the wrong things, which Jesus then rectified.

“17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!”
18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.
19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you.
20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:17-20)

The Lord gave them the power to do these works so that they could release the people from all forms of bondage as they spread the gospel. The power also bore testimony to the truth of the gospel, just as the miracles and healing Jesus did bore witness to the message he gave to the people.

Naturally when the demon came up against Jesus it knew the gig was up. He had a last fling at hurting the boy, but it was fruitless for unlike the disciples who in their weaknes and lack of faith could not deal with the demon, Jesus was the Son of God and all powerful. The demon’s number was up and it knew it.

The Centurions Slave

(Luke 7:1-10)

Have you ever considered the difference between power and authority?

It is possible for a person to have power but no authority, but typically a person who has authority also has power.

We see in this section of scripture a discussion of this matter and the importance of recognising the power AND the authority of God in our lives.

Understanding Power

Here we see a centurion call upon Jesus to heal a slave who was dear to him. The centurion sent some of the elders of the Jews to Jesus to make this request.centurion

It is evident that this centurion was a man of considerable power and authority. He was able to send elders of Israel to Jesus to make his request. In addition he had built the synagogue for the people, and so he was a man of considerable influence as well.

There are many forms of power, and that is a study in its own right. There is power derived from a person’s position, there is referred power when a person has the ear of another more powerful person. There is the power of influence and so on.

From what we can understand here, this centurion certainly had the power that came with his position as a centurion, but he also had the power of influence, for the elders appeared to have willingly gone to Jesus on his behalf.

But sometimes power is not enough to do as you may wish unless you have the authority to carry out your actions.

There are many situations where people may have the power to act but are restrained because they do not have the authority to act. War-time is a good example. A platoon or regiment of soldiers may have the power to unleash tremendous displays of force, but without the authority to proceed they must wait until directed by their superiors.

Recognising the Authority of God

However what we see in this scripture is that this centurion, despite the power that he had was also a humble man. He recognised that Jesus not only had the power of God, but also the authority of God to exercise that power.

This centurion understood the difference between power and authority and he also understood the spiritual nature of the work Jesus was doing.

This is the reason why the centurion did not come to Jesus himself but sent the elders. He knew that it was not necessary for Jesus to come to the slave physically to touch and heal the slave, but that Jesus only had to say the word and the slave would be healed. The centurion understood that God is able to do anything and it was not necessary for Jesus to be present in the flesh to do this work.

In saying these things it is clear he recognised the authority of God in Jesus and thus a miraculous healing from a distance was not out of the question. He believed God could do this if Jesus only said the word.

How does this help us?

God will give us the Holy Spirit if we ask the Lord for it. It is the Holy Spirit that gives us power. This was shown in Acts 1:8 saying, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.”

More importantly, the Holy Spirit does the work of transformation in us so that we can become the children of God. John 1:12 says, “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” And as for the transforming power of the Holy Spirit it is written, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

There are some who would love to have this miracle working power and be able to heal people miraculously. I have heard some people try to “claim” the promises and power of God. But they cannot do this because God has not given them the authority. The key to miracle working power and using the promises of God is not in having the power, it is in having the authority.

I believe, and this is just my opinion, that Jesus has not given these broad miracle working powers AND the authority to people because man cannot be trusted. Jesus said that he would support and confirm the message of the truth with signs and miracles. (Mark 16:15-20) The reason these signs do not operate is because people are seeking them for the wrong reason. It is not the signs that are important, it is the message of the truth. If anyone wants the signs Jesus promised they first must seek the truth. Then Jesus may grant both the power and authority to carry out such miraculous works to confirm the message of the truth.

Jesus had the authority to do the works he did for it was given to him by the Father.

We too have not been left without some power and authority. Authority has been given to the church for the benefit of the people and the church. For example, we have the authority to heal through anointing with oil by the elders of the church as described in James 5:14-15 which says, “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up.” We have the authority to pray and operate various forms of ministry in the church. We have the authority to baptise and lay hands on people to receive the Holy Spirit so that they can enter the kingdom of God.

Finally, it is not important that we do not have the authority to do miraculous works. It is more important that we become the children of God. Jesus showed this saying, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.'” (Matthew 7:22-23) As Jesus taught, our number one priority is to, “…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33)

(Picture sourced from stock.xchng http://www.sxc.hu/ taken by Spanish Browne)

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Jesus Came to Call the Sinners

(Mark 2:13-17)

Jesus came to call the sinners and not the righteous. When he called Levi the tax collector in this section of Mark we see he went to his house and ate with the sinners and tax collectors. The scribes at that time looked down on Jesus for being with these people they thought as second-rate citizens. This showed up their prejudices and bias for Jesus showed no partiality.

Prejudice is part of human nature. It is the cause of a great many inhuman and unjust actions in this world. People consider themselves to be better than others and look down upon them. The basis of this prejudice can be many things: skin colour, religion, race, education, sex and even the sporting teams they follow. This should not be so. In many places Jesus condemns prejudice, bias and partiality, as too did the apostles.

As far as the Lord is concerned all mankind is equal. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God as Paul wrote in Romans 3:23. No man can claim not to have sinned and thus no man can stand in the presence of God in his own right. If this is so, then who can claim to be better or more superior to someone else? Nobody has that right. Jesus alone was the only person to have come to the earth and lived a life without sin.

Now here in Mark we see Jesus say that he came to call the sinners and not the righteous. If he came to spend time only amongst the people of the church, how would the message of the Gospel of truth be spread to the rest of the world? How would the opportunity to be set free from sin ever be proclaimed if only the people of the churches held the message of the Gospel? The message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a message to the whole world, and to achieve his purpose he had to be with those who needed this message. Who needs the message of the Gospel? Every person that ever lived is now living, or will come in the future.

Can anyone stand in the presence of God? As I have said already, it is because of sin that man cannot stand in the presence of God. But in Jesus we have the ability to enter into a place where we are freed from sin and born again as new creations. In Jesus our sins are taken away and we become righteous through faith. And finally in Jesus we do have the ability to stand before God, not as sinners, but as freed men through the death and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

So is there any place for prejudice and bias in this world? None whatsoever. Even when we enter into the death and resurrection of Jesus and are set free from our sins we have no right to think ourselves superior to those who have not done so. For those who are in Jesus, all are equal as he said through Paul in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” And as we progress in Christ we do not rise to a position of superiority but rather we settle to the position of a servant. Jesus showed this saying, “you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matthew 23:8-11)

Do you want to be like Christ? Then aspire to be a servant as he came to serve and not be served. (Luke 22:27) Do not aspire to be the centre of attention, as some preachers in the church today seem to do. Do not aspire to seek the power of this world through Christianity. Aspire rather to serve the Lord and learn the truth of the Gospel in humility and obedience to God. Remember that it is the meek who will inherit the earth, not the mighty and the power we seek is the power to become the children of God as he said, “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)

The Disciples Will Fall Away

(Matthew 26:30-35)

After the last supper Jesus and the disciples went out to the Mount of Olives. In keeping with his desire that there be no surprises, Jesus told the disciples they would all fall away from him that very night. This was to fulfil the prophecy of Zechariah, which said, “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.” (Verse 31, Zechariah 13:7) Peter said in reply that even if all the rest of the disciples fall away, he would never fall away.

Jesus then operated a word of knowledge saying that not only would he fall away, but also Peter would deny him three times that night before the cock crowed. Peter’s bravado and pride came to the surface then when he said, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And all of the rest of the disciples said the same.

Did Jesus gain any reassurance from their statements of bravado? Did he expect that they would do as they swore to do and not fall away or deny him? No. Jesus knew that it was just talk and that they would all flee when the time of testing came.

Often today when we are put to the test we too flee. We sometimes turn away from the Lord when the going gets tough and sometimes deny him as Peter did back then. We do this because we are weak or we lack faith and trust in the ability of the Lord to deliver us from the thing causing us problems at the time. When we do fall away as the disciples did, should we worry and condemn ourselves? Let us look at what Jesus did when he spoke these words to the disciples.

We see this same discussion recounted also in Luke 22:31-34. What is interesting in this section is that the Lord, being aware that Simon Peter would deny him said to him, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32) Jesus knew that Simon Peter would fall, so he was consoling him here with these words. He was telling him that it would not be held against him for he knew Peter’s weaknesses. Instead though he said, “When you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.” That is, when you have repented and returned to the Lord in faith, help your brethren and the other disciples who likewise fled to be consoled. Strengthen them so that they will not suffer condemnation and sorrow over their weakness. So rather than condemn Peter and the rest for their failures, Jesus was saying not to worry about it and move on.

In John 14:1 he shows Peter what he must do when he turns again saying, “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me.” He tells them to have faith. Don’t worry about your failures and weaknesses, even when they denied him on the eve of his death. Instead they were to trust God, lift up their hearts and have faith. This was the message to Peter in particular who was to help the other disciples lift themselves when they fell into condemnation over their failure to be strong with the Lord.

The message is the same today. When we fall through our human frailties and weaknesses, we are to pick ourselves up and have faith in Jesus Christ. We have already been forgiven. When we were baptised we were already set free from sin, past, present and future and we were also set free from the law of sin and death. At baptism this has already occurred and Jesus says there is no condemnation in him. If this then is true, why condemn ourselves for our failures? Instead, let us accept the grace of God, repent and return to the Lord, walking in his truth, and learn from the experience so that we may be stronger next time temptation comes our way. We may fall again many times, but as we claw our way back and hold firm to the faith we have in Jesus Christ, we will eventually have the victory through him.

When we do fall, if we are truly seeking to follow Jesus, we suffer a Godly grief. Paul wrote, “As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting; for you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death.” (2 Corinthians 7:9-10) So when we suffer Godly grief it leads to repentance and then to salvation for our desire is to be cleared of the wrong we had done. On the other hand when we are not looking to the Lord and we suffer grief, there is no one to console and forgive and that leads to death.

The key to this issue of repentance and returning to the Lord as Jesus explained to Peter and the disciples is to have faith. Trust in the Lord, repent and have faith that in Jesus Christ he will cleanse away all our sins and all our misdeeds. We can take comfort over these things as he shows us, “…if we are faithless, he remains faithful–for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13) It is our faith in Jesus that can lift us up and set us free when we repent. It is faith that Jesus told Peter and the disciples to rely on when they repented of their failures to keep their word. And it is faith that will eventually lead us to life.

Ask in Faith and it Will Be Done

(Matthew 21:18-22)

This is an unusual teaching for on the surface it might look like the Lord was being vindictive or cursing. But this is not the case, as we will see. There are several messages here, the main one being to ask in faith and it will be done.

First we see the Lord come to a fig tree in the morning seeking fruit for he was hungry. But there was no fruit on the tree and he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again.” (Verse 19) The tree then withered at once at these words, and the disciples marvelled at this turn of events.

Now there is a lesson to ask in faith and it will be done coming, but there is also an allegory in this message too. Jesus came to this tree expecting to find fruit. It was a healthy tree for it was covered in leaves and we must presume that there should have been fruit on it. Under normal circumstances it takes a fig tree some years to produce fruit. They can produce as early as two years after planting, but 4-5 years is more typical. Thus they need fertilisation, water, food and sunlight to ensure they crop well.

Christians are like these fig trees. We are expected to show some fruit over the course of time. Christians are called to walk with Jesus, which indicates a steady progression forward. As we progress we should mature and like the fig tree in due course we should begin to bear fruit. Jesus does not expect us to bear fruit immediately. There may be many issues in our lives to be dealt with first, but eventually a Christian should begin to bear fruit. This allegory of the fig tree seems to suggest that as the fig tree was expected to have fruit, which may have been a tree of four or five or more years old, so too we should be seeing some fruit in our life after a similar time frame. We should begin to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians 5:22-24.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.
24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

This is the fruit we should be bearing as we mature in Christ, the most important being that we crucify or put to death the passions and desires of our flesh. And we see a warning that if we do not bear fruit as the fig tree bore no fruit, we may be uprooted to wither and die spiritually.

The disciples marvelled at the withering of the fig tree. But Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and never doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (Verses 21-22)

The power of prayer and faith combined is an awesome thing. The promise the Lord gave us here that whatever we ask in prayer, if we ask in faith, we will receive is something to truly marvel at. The withering of the fig tree caused the disciples to marvel, but the promise of the Lord is much more marvellous. When we seek the Lord and look to him, when we put our requests, problems and issues to him, do so in faith and know fully that they will be done. This is Jesus promise to his people. If you believe you can move mountains, and you ask the Lord in faith, know that it will happen.

Naturally there would need to be a good reason to have the mountain moved and it would need to be in the Lord’s will, but you must know that if that is the situation, it will be done if you ask in faith. Jesus does not want us to be frivolous in our prayers, but to commit to him those things that are important to us. He might still say no, but he will do that for a reason. Sometimes we do not know what the future holds and to have the mountain moved might not be what is required. The mountain may be providing us with protection or a barrier from cyclonic winds or trouble on the other side. We may not find this out until later and then see the wisdom of the Lord in saying no to us. But if this is not the case, then the mountain will be moved if we ask the Lord in faith.

Walking on Water with Jesus

(Matthew 14:22-33)

After Jesus fed the five thousand we see the teaching where Peter came walking on water with Jesus. This teaching about walking on water with Jesus holds many good lessons. There are elements of faith, doubt, trust, comfort, power and authority contained in the lesson on walking on water with Jesus.

To begin with we see Jesus send the disciples off in a boat across the sea while he dismissed the crowds and sent them home. After this Jesus went up alone on the mountain to pray. It is important to understand that even Jesus, as the Son of God still needed time alone with God to pray. He still came to the Father for guidance and to put his thoughts and needs before him. He did this alone which aligns with the teaching he gave in Matthew 6:6 saying, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Jesus followed this same principle of praying alone and away from others to the Father.

Then we see Jesus come walking on water to the boat, intending to pass them by, but when they saw him he came to them. The disciples were terrified thinking it was a ghost until Jesus called to them not to be afraid. Peter then said, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” Jesus said, “Come.”

Now here is an interesting situation when Peter came walking on water with Jesus. First we must understand that no man has the power or authority to walk on water. Peter could not do so until he was given permission and authority from the Lord. Once he had permission Pater came walking on water to Jesus. Any miraculous works that are done can only be done under the power and authority of the Lord. You cannot take the power of God and you cannot take or claim the gifts of God either. These things are given as gifts and if the Lord does not give us both the power, which comes through the Holy Spirit, and the authority to exercise that power, we will be able to do nothing.

So Peter received the power and authority to come walking on water with Jesus. When he stepped over the side of the boat, believing it was the Lord; he had put his full trust and faith in Jesus that he would be able to walk on water with Jesus. And that is exactly what happened. Peter walked to Jesus in the middle of the sea on the water. While Peter kept his eyes on Jesus and held to his faith, he could literally walk on water with Jesus, not alone but with Jesus.

But then Peter looked around himself and saw the raging wind and waves and he became afraid and began to sink. He took his eyes off Jesus and basically said to himself that this can’t be happening. How can a man walk on water? And so he began to doubt, and when he began to doubt, he began to sink.

How many times do we find ourselves surrounded by the storms of life? When we look to Jesus the storms do not affect us, but when we focus on the storms we too begin to sink. The analogy here is easy to see and understand. While our focus is on Jesus we too can figuratively walk on water with Jesus. When we are together with Jesus, anything is possible. But when we separate ourselves from Jesus through doubt or setting our minds on the problems and issues that we are surrounded with, we sink. Doubt is a lack of faith.

When Peter came walking on water with Jesus and doubted, he quickly refocussed and called out to Jesus to save him as he was sinking. Jesus reached out his hand and caught him saying, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” Then they got into the boat and we see a further interesting thing occur. After Jesus had assisted Peter, he calmed the wind and sea. In essence he removed the storms and the problems that were causing them to be battered and hard pressed to reach the other shore. Likewise when we call to Jesus for help in our storms, as we ask in faith and trust him, in due course he will calm the storms around us.

This is a wonderful teaching from which we can take heart and hope. There is comfort in knowing that through Jesus anything is possible if we will call to him to help us. He has the power and the authority over all things and there is nothing he cannot do to help us. All we need to do is ask.