Sudden storms can arise in any area of our lives and experience. Storms can enter the Church or perhaps dark clouds seem to loom on the horizon of national life. The challenges, the anxiety and the sufferings can be intense. The Lord Jesus Christ warned us that storms and “tribulation” are inevitable. Yet even in giving this warning, He also promises peace and hope to sustain us through the storms. James Guthrie (1612-1661) faced fierce storms with hope and confidence. Only because he had prepared for them in advance. He gives us invaluable counsel about how to prepare for life’s storms.
Guthrie was the first of the Covenanters called to give their lives at the scaffold. How is it possible that he could be cheerful on the day of his execution? He said: “This the day which the Lord hath made; let us be glad and rejoice in it”. It was because he was prepared to suffer. The words that he said as he ascended the ladder to suffer explain it further. He said: “sin and suffering have been presented to me and I have chosen the suffering part”. “I durst not redeem my life with the loss of my integrity,” he said. “I did judge it better to suffer than to sin.”
He believed that there was something infinitely worse than the storms of life. One day a friend of his was urging him to compromise a little. “Mr Guthrie, we have an old Scots proverb,” he said. ‘Jouk [duck] that the wave may gang oure ye! Will ye nae jouk a wee bit?’ Guthrie replied “There is nae jouking in the Cause of Christ!” That was his preparation. He took his 5-year-old boy on his knee before he died. “Willie,” he said, ” they will tell you, and cast up to you that your father was hanged; but think not shame of it, for it is upon a good cause.”
The following is extracted and updated from his last sermon. Guthrie went into prison the following Thursday. The sermon was on the storm that the Lord Jesus and His disciples faced in Matthew 14:22-24. It breathes his concern, not for himself, but for his land and the Church of Christ. It echoes the concern he expressed. “There is a dark cloud coming on, and the Lord is about to sweep this land with the besom [broom] of destruction”.
Our situation may be far different. As one perceptive recent article notes, the Church in our nation is experiencing “a dead calm”. Yet sometimes, resolute contending for the truth is accompanied by “a necessary storm”. In fact, storms may not be too far away from the spiritual weather patterns affecting our nation.
If it is the case that tempests and storms are likely to blow, then we must prepare carefully for them. There are a few things we would mention to which we must attend in order to prepare ourselves.
1. Unload All Unnecessary Burdens
We must be careful to have our ship as light as possible from all unnecessary burdens. I mean, all things of this present World, all things besides God and our precious soul. We must have as little weight of these things on our spirits as possible; for they will sink our ship in a storm.
2. Make Friends with the Pilot
We must be careful to make friends with Jesus Christ, the blessed Pilot. We must get Him in the ship with us, for we are not able to steer our ship in a storm.
3. Keep a Low Sail
We must be careful to keep a low sail. That is, to have our spirits humble and low before the Lord. The humble soul is most likely to hold out when the wind and storm blows.
4. Know what You Profess
We must be careful to know the cause that we profess. A dark night is bad for sailing in. Especially when the wind blows, and when there are quicksands ahead of us.
5. Keep a Good Ballast
We must be careful to have our ship well-ballasted with the faith and patience of the saints.
Reasons to be Encouraged
We must consider what reasons for comfort we can have. These can strengthen our hearts if we hold fast to the cause of Jesus Christ. They will help us survive any storm that it is God’s will for us to endure. We might mention many. But at this time we will only consider these few.
1. You have a Good Cause
The first reason to be encouraged is, that you have a good cause. I mean the Cause of God and the concerns of Jesus Christ. Undoubtedly, the cause is good. The cause is worth contending for, worth suffering anything that may come for. No matter who may speak against it, no matter who may forsake it, no matter who may reproach and persecute it.
2. You have a Good Captain
Another reason for our comfort is that just as we have a good cause we also have a good Captain. Jesus Christ the Lord, who is the Captain and Prince of Salvation. He was never defeated. He sits at the right-hand of the Father, and will Reign there till He makes all his enemies His footstool.
3. You have Good Company
Another reason for our comfort is that just as we have a good cause and a good captain, we also have good company. All in these three nations who have in their hearts the fear of the Lord. More than this, we have all the saints that have lived since the beginning of the world. The cause they owned and suffered for, is one and the same, though there be various branches of it. We have also the blessed promises of God and the experience of all the saints. We also have our own experiences and many more things of that nature. O that we would recognise our privileges. This will strengthen our hearts to be sincere and steadfast in His work.