July 1, 2016

When Storms Assail

Typhoon “Louise” struck Okinawa, Japan, on October 9, 1945. Even though World War II had ended on September 2, this island had a large United States military presence, including ships in Buckner Bay and airplanes on land. The typhoon brought torrential rain that lasted for twenty hours, and wind that increased in intensity as the storm moved in. By 4:00 p.m. the wind was steady at 115 mph and gusting above that. Rain, made salty from the ocean, came horizontally.

The anchors of the ships in the bay were torn loose and the bay became a nightmarish scene of drifting boats, collisions, and crafts blown ashore. On land, over sixty airplanes were damaged, Quonset huts were lifted and moved or torn apart, and sheets of galvanized steel flew about. Many of the military men were housed in tent camps, which were flooded or destroyed.

A promise in the storm

My father was one of those military men, and on that particular day he was desperately ill. Five men lived in the tent which housed my dad and his twin brother, and the wind tore it down the middle, so they had just half a tent. My uncle set out to see if he could find shelter for Dad in one of the storage rooms that had a metal roof. Because the wind was so strong, he crawled to that building, but half the roof was already blown off and the other half was going.

He wrapped the loose part of the tent canvas over a rock to secure it. Then he knelt in the mud and prayed.

Once my uncle made his way back to my dad, he covered him with a poncho and tied that to the cot with his shoestrings. He wrapped the loose part of the tent canvas over a rock to secure it. Then he knelt in the mud and prayed. My dad was praying too, and years later, he would say, “That night, above the howl of the storm, I heard something. It wasn’t audible, but I got a promise. The Lord said, ‘I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.’ Bless God for that promise.”

What a treasure to receive a promise from God in a time of need! Although we may not be facing a howling typhoon, everyone faces storms in life. Perhaps you have received reassurance from this same promise. Many of God’s people have.

This promise from Hebrews 13:5 has roots in the Old Testament. God spoke similar words to Joshua, “...as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Joshua 1:5). David reiterated the same thought, saying to his son, Solomon, “Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the Lord God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the Lord” (1 Chronicles 28:20).

In Hebrews the promise is expressed even more emphatically. In the original Greek language, the placement of the multiple negatives adds strength to the promise. Bible scholar Adam Clarke states that a literal translation would be, “No, I will not leave thee; no, neither will I not utterly forsake thee.”

Keeping God the focus of our lives

It is interesting to note that this promise is the basis for the thoughts put forward in the first portion of the verse. The full verse says, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).

The word conversation in this context means “manner of life” or “conduct.” The phrase “without covetousness” is translated from the Greek word aphilargyros which means “without a love of money.” So the Apostle was saying the focus of our lives should be on God and loving Him, not on money or material things. We can purpose to be content with what we have because we know that God has promised to always be with us. The assurance is amplified in the next verse, “ So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:6).

What an assurance to have these promises as our own, and to know that God is always with us!

What an assurance to have these promises as our own, and to know that God is always with us! Making certain that the focus of our lives is on Him and loving Him and being content are worthy goals, but how can we maintain them in our daily living? If He has promised not to leave us, how can we be careful not to distance ourselves from Him? Here are a few actions that can help us.

Practice obedience. Being obedient is a sure way to please God. It is imperative! The Holy Spirit is faithful to prompt us if there is something we should do, such as spending a little more time in prayer or reaching out to someone who is hurting. He is also faithful to check and correct us for our improvement—for example, when we need to apologize for some thoughtless or hasty words, or to extend forgiveness. If we are quick to obey the prompting of the Spirit, we will maintain our closeness to God.

Love the truth. It can be beneficial to ask the Lord to help us love the truth. Many today ignore Biblical values or seek to find their own “truth.” But Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. May we cling to God’s Word and the truth it contains no matter what society around us does.

Keep a thankful heart. Our attitudes will help direct our focus. If we find reasons to be grateful in every circumstance and situation, we will be content. I saw this put into action by my elderly aunt. When the doctor told her that she would need to move into a care facility, her face fell. But within a few moments, she was counting her blessings. It was a habit that she practiced repeatedly and it greatly enhanced her contentment in her last years.

Exercise faith. Since God has promised to always be with us, does that mean we will always feel His presence? Not necessarily. Sometimes the assurance may not be so clear. Job said, “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him” (Job 23:8). When we cannot feel God, we must exercise faith. When we have done our part to stay close, we can rest on His promises despite how we feel. He has said He will be with us, and He keeps His word.

Is a typhoon howling in your life? God has promised never to leave or forsake you. Perhaps there is not a mighty storm, but you are facing the bumps and turns of daily life. God will be with you then, too. He is emphatic, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Take courage!

apostolic faith magazine