Remember the toy sitting on the desk with the swinging balls? It is called Newton’s Cradle. Does your life feel a lot like one of those balls, banged first from one side and then the other?
The apostle Paul knew the feeling, even though it would be sixteen hundred years before Newton explained it in physical terms. He described it as “being tossed to and fro.”[i]
There is a saying, "the Greeks had a word for it.” This definitely fits here. The term Paul used is kludonizomai, from the root meaning to surge, as in a wave. If you have ever sat on a bank overlooking the ocean and watched a stick being tossed back and forth, you get the picture. Will it ever land on the shore?
Life can be like that. It sure seems that way today if you are watching the news. Some would rather be like a stick caught in an eddy with waves surging around it but not able to touch it. However, eddies usually have a vortex sucking downward. Hear that sucking sound? Those who think they can stop the world by ignoring what is going on only find themselves lost in an ocean of chaos or on a shore they never intended to land on.
When the disciples found themselves toss about in a storm, they cried, “Master, Master, we are perishing!”[ii]
This was the correct response because Jesus was in their little boat. He rebuked the storm and it ceased and the waters calmed. He then pointed out that the problem was their faith.
Note this does not mean that if they believed hard enough they could stop the storm. It does not mean that if they had the right hocus pocus they could wave a magic wand and still the sea. The answer was the Person in the boat with them. All they had to do was ask Him and He would still the storm.
James used the imagery to describe a double minded man. He is someone who cries out in the storm but asks doubting or with wrong motives.[iii]
Unanswered prayers are not because God does not hear. Or that He is not in the boat with us. It is not because He does does not want to or cannot still the storm. The problem is our view of God, our circumstances, and who we are. If we are born of God,[iv] then as a child of God, all things work together for good.[v] But we must understand good from His perspective, not ours.
God has not given us the power to will changes in our circumstances. Yes, we may make a choice and see immediate change, but we do not have the ability to determine the outcome of the choices we make. We only think we do. In the end, only what God wills will happen. And His will is good, acceptable, and perfect.[vi]
Back to the apostle Paul. You see, the boat we are in today is being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine. We are being manipulated by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.[vii] If we do not know the truth of God’s Word in the Bible, we are like children,[viii] (nepioi, someone not old enough to articulate speech). We are doubled minded,[ix] unable to decide what is right and wrong. What course of action to take.
The goal is not to become like that iron ball in the center of Newton’s Cradle, able to withstand the forces coming from both directions because all we do is transfer energy from one side to the other, never letting the forces move us.
The goal is to find peace within ourselves knowing that Jesus is in the boat with us. The universe that men manipulate for their own purposes is only life under the sun[x] in a moment of time and will not matter once the moment has passed.
At the moment of time, when Jesus was physically present with that small band of men and time was short, Jesus said:
Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.[xi]
Paul said it this way:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you.[xii]
[i] Eph 4:14.
[ii] Luke 8:24.
[iii] Jas 1:6-8; 4:3.
[iv] Jn 3:16.
[v] Rom 8:28.
[vi] Rom 12:2.
[vii] Eph 4:1-9.
[ix] Jam 1:8.
[x] Eccl 1:3ff.
[xi] Jn 14:27.
[xii] Phil 4:6-9.