We read the stories of two men, who shared no common bonds except a name beginning with the letter J. John was heading home on a ship, disgraced and depressed because of his failed mission. He was heartbroken, seasick and scared out of his wits. Job after losing everything was sitting on an ash heap, scrapping his itching, boil covered skin with a broken piece of pottery.
Both men were enveloped in vicious squalls, looking for answers and ultimately looking for any sign of hope from the God they loved and served.
It was the savage grip of the storm which provided the first clue that John’s life would taking a noticeable turn for the better. While on deck holding desperately to anything solid, John noticed several families near the stern serenely singing hymns. He couldn’t believe it! How could they conduct worship and sing in the midst of such a terrible storm? Why weren’t they more frightened? John marveled at their faith and vowed to learn more.
Job cried out to God in the midst of his predicament and was visited by the Lord from a whirlwind. “Brace yourself because I have questions for you: Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Who defined the boundaries of the sea? Have you ever commanded the morning to appear? Where does the light come from? Can you hold back the movements of the stars?” (Parts of Job 38)
Instead of answering Job’s questions, God asks a few penetrating questions of his own. How can this possibly help Job or John deal with tragedy?
Yet in the midst of the conversation, Job seems to comprehend who God really is. Job says, “I know that you can do anything and I was talking about things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me. I take back everything I said.” (42:2-3) What did Job understand? How will this help John?
Weeks after arriving home, John continued contemplating his own mess of a life contrasted to the family contentedly singing in the midst of the storm. One night he heard someone reading a commentary on the book of Romans in the Bible and began to understand what he was missing: “Since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God.”
As John heard these words describing God’s amazing grace, John would later write: “he felt his heart strangely warmed.”
What warmed John’s heart was the realization faith was not earned by hard work or intellectual research. Both are helpful but real faith comes from the heart and from committing to an ongoing relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We think religious satisfaction only comes from doing. John learned that real faith comes not from doing something but from being something. Wow!
If God never directly answered Job’s questions on why we suffer, why was Job satisfied? Is it because there really are no sufficient answers to explain suffering? Maybe Job was searching for something more important than mere answers. Job was looking for a relationship with a God who would bring faith in the midst of life’s worst storms. “I heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. I take back everything I said and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” (Job 42:5-6)
Job learned that real faith comes not from mere answers but from God’s presence. Wow!
John soon began preaching again but this time his passion was evident as he spoke of faith through God’s amazing grace. Local preachers feeling uncomfortable with John’s newfound enthusiasm refused to invite him back. But it no longer mattered, for John was soon preaching throughout the countryside. In fact, John preached so often that groups or societies formed around the country. Other churches and leaders tried to stop the movement but the more they tried to stop him the stronger and more popular he became.
Near the end of his life, no one in all of England — including the King – was more recognizable than John: John Wesley. He rode between sixty and seventy miles a day by horseback. He would get up at four in the morning, preach at five and by six he was in the saddle and on the road. He did this well into his eighties.
John Wesley delivered more than 42,000 sermons in fifty years which is an average of over fifteen sermons per week. More than a preacher however, John Wesley was also an organizer. His societies eventually became the United Methodist Church which became one of the largest Christian movements in the world today and the church I proudly serve.
Two men with nothing in common but names beginning the letter J. Both found their true relationship with God in the midst of a storm.