Peace Be Still by John McIlvenna

by John McIlvenna


Mark 4:39

The Lord Jesus subdued the angry waves (Mark 4:35 to 41)
The disciples of Christ left everything to follow Him. “Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee.” Matt 19:27. Christ became the whole of their daily occupation. They saw His face, watched His miracles, heard His teaching and obeyed His commandments. He was the good shepherd Who giveth His life for the sheep (John 10:11), and they were the sheep. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” John 10:27.

The Lord commanded them, “Let us pass over unto the other side.” They immediately sent the multitudes away, entered into a ship and set out for the other side in obedience to their Lord.

During their purpose of heart in obeying their Shepherd, they encountered a great storm, while He was fast asleep on a pillow in the hinder part of the ship. The disciples did not feel their need of Him at the first. Many of them were experienced mariners and knew how to handle a storm at sea. However, they had never encountered such a fierce storm before and fought a losing battle to keep the water out. Not until they exhausted their strength and saw that the ship was full of water, did they feel their need of the Saviour. The disciples awoke Him and said, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” They did not know that their wonderful leader upheld the whole universe by the word of His power although He was asleep. (Heb 1:3)

He arose from off his pillow and stood up to take command of the ship. The Great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ stood on the deck of that ship and His word completely subdued the angry waves. He rebuked the wind and said unto the waves, Peace, be still.” Three words from His lips accomplished far more than the labour of all the disciples put together.

He said to His disciples, “Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?” The disciples feared exceedingly, and said one to another, “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” Their knowledge of the Lord Jesus increased that day as they witnessed the mighty response from the wind and the waves to the words of His mouth.

The sleeping Saviour awakened by the disciples

At the start of the journey, the disciples thought it sufficient to have the Lord Jesus on board as a passenger. They took Him even as He was in the ship.” The disciples were in command at the helm, to guide the ship with their own wisdom, and powered the ship with their own strength at the oars (compare John 6:19), and their ship was soon on its way. They were far better off than the other little ships that did not have their heavenly passenger aboard!

Everyone in the vessel knew that the Lord Jesus was in the ship, but no-one felt their need of Him, until their strength was spent in vain and the ship full of water. They awoke Him with a note of disappointment that He had not given a helping hand before the danger developed, and insinuated that He did not care if they all perished (compare Jonah 1:6).

Up until this point of time, the disciples guided the ship without the help of the Lord, but now the Lord takes command of the ship without the helping hands of His disciples. From that moment onwards, He was in complete control of the ship, the wind and the waves.

The grand object lesson for all saints to learn is that while the Lord was asleep as a passenger, He did not help them although He journeyed with them.

The Lord delivered them after they felt their need of Him, woke Him up, completely surrendered to His will, and gave Him His rightful place as captain of the ship.

Illustration reversed

Since His resurrection, the Lord Jesus never goes to sleep. He remains on duty at the throne of grace twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. He is able to hear and answer the prayers of His children, all over the world, who cry to Him for help in every time of trouble. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Heb. 4:16.

The lesson of the sleeping Saviour is reversed for believers today, ie. He is always awake, but often His people are asleep and need to hear His voice calling them to wake up and obey His Word!

The Lord Jesus has promised to accompany individual believers“Lo I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” Matt. 28:20; and all assemblies of his saints gathered in his name, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them,” Matt. 18:20.

If the Lord’s people do not give Him His rightful place as Lord and Master (John 13:14), both individually and collectively, His presence is with them only as a passenger and not commander in chief as it was in the ship when He was asleep on a pillow.

Many saints are asleep and ignorant to the great truth that Christ is, “The captain of their salvation” Heb. 2:10, and “Head” of the local assembly of His saints. (1 Cor. 11:3)

Sleeping saints in assembly fellowship, battle against great difficulty and distress in their own strength, and fight a losing battle against sin and disobedience. Their cries for divine help seem to go unheeded. They do not realise the infinite powers of Christ that are readily available for divine deliverance in every time of trouble if only they would wake up, trust in the living God with all their heart and obey the commandments of the Lord Jesus. (1 Tim. 4:10; 1 Pet.1:14)

Sleeping disciples awakened by the Saviour

Many saints are asleep in their spiritual understanding because they do not bother to keep the commandments of the Lord unless it suits them. They do not “dig deep” into the Word of God, nor search the Scriptures daily to see whether these things are so. (John 14:15; Luke 6:48; Acts 17:11)

They follow the counsel of the ungodly, stand in the way of sinners, sit in the seat of the scornful and do not meditate upon the Word of God night and day (Psalm 1:1,2). They enter a condition of spiritual slothfulness. “Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep.” Prov.19:15.

Throughout the Old Testament, God calls upon Israel to wake up, stop sinning and seek Him with their whole heart. “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.” Isa 60:1. Isaiah gives further instructions how the Lord’s people must seek Him. “Seek ye the LORD while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” Isa 55:7.

Throughout the New Testament, the Lord Jesus calls upon sleeping believers to wake up, trust in Him and obey his Word. Paul quoted exactly the same Scripture to the Ephesian saints to wake them up from their dead, sleepy condition (Eph.5:14), as Isaiah quoted to sleeping Israel. (Isaiah 60:1)

He will bestow divine help and power to deliver His awakened saints in every time of need. “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened… that ye may know… what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power. Which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at his own right hand in the heavenly places. Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church. Which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all inall.” Eph 1:18 to 23.

Sleeping Corinthian saints

Awake to righteousness, and sin not: for some have not the knowledge of God”. 1 Cor. 15:34. The saints at Corinth were deceived to think that they could enjoy their walk with God, and allow sin in their company at the same time. They did not understand the high standard of God’s holiness, “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holywhich temple ye are.” 1Co 3:17
All of these evil things threatened the destruction of the assembly.

  •   The assembly was divided instead of being of one mind (1 Cor. 1:11)
  •   Fornication continued in the assembly (1Cor. 5:1)
  •   They took one another to the law courts (1Cor. 6:6)
  •   Some partook in idolatrous feasts (1Cor. 10:20)
  •   The breaking of bread meeting for many became a feast of drunken revelry (1Cor. 11:21)
  •   Some denied the resurrection (1Cor. 15:12)
  •   False teachers preached another Christ, another gospel and another spirit, and turned theirhearts away from Paul and his holy ministry (2Cor. 11)
  •   Some had, “sinned already, and have not repented of their uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.” 2Cor. 12:21
  • Paul warns them, “Be not deceived, evil communications corrupt good manners.” 1Cor.15:33 The Corinthians were ignorant of the Lord’s presence amongst them and treated Him as a “passenger”and not their“captain”! “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” 1 Cor. 3:16. “For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” 2 Cor. 6:16 The Corinthian saints needed to wake up and make these necessary adjustments.
  •   “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened.” 1 Cor. 5:7
  •   “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness;but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Ch 5:8
  •   “Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” 1 Cor 5:13
  •   “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness withunrighteousness?” 2 Cor. 6:14
  •   “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the uncleanthing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters,saith the Lord Almighty
  •   Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the fleshand spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” 2 Cor. 6:17,18; 7:1
  • When they humble themselves and give the Lord his rightful place as Head and Lord of the assembly they will obey His voice in each of the above commandments, and will enjoy heavenly peace in the assembly. “Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace.”They will enjoy the promise, “And the God of love and peace shall be with you.” 2 Cor 13:11. The Lord would hear their prayers and give them divine power to overcome the evil things that made them sleepy and blind, as the disciples experienced when they let their Lord take command of the ship.
  • Sleeping Galatian saints
  • O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you (mesmerised to sleep), that ye should not obey the truth?” Gal. 3:1. False brethren deceived the Galatian saints to believe that if they were circumcised (ch 6:12), they could fulfil fleshly lusts, disobey truth (ch 5:7), escape persecution (ch 6:13) and still walk with God! They counted Paul as their enemy because they did not like the truth of God that he taught. “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” Gal. 4:16
  • False teachers advised that they could walk after the flesh and still reap heavenly blessings in this life. Paul admonishes them, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” Ch. 6:7, 8They were weary and faint from following Christ and were mesmerised to sleep. “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Ch 6:9
  • They needed to turn away from the works of the flesh, which are these, “Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like.” Ch 5:19 to 21
  • If they walk in the Spirit and not fulfil the lusts of the flesh, the fruit of the Spirit would therefore be manifested in their lives. “Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance.” Ch 5:22,23. Paul warns them against the desire for fleshly lust. “Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.”

“And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.” Ch. 6:16. By so doing, they will wake up to the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ is their heavenly captain. Therefore, when they obey His orders, they will experience the peace of God that passeth all understanding as the disciples enjoyed the calm after the storm on the sea.

Sleeping Ephesian saints

Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil. Wherefore, be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” Eph. 5:14-17

The saints at Ephesus were deceived to think that they could continue in their former manner of life before conversion to God, and enjoy their walk with the Lord at the same time! “That ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind.” Eph. 4:17

Paul admonishes them, “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” Ch. 4:22 to 24

They needed to put away, lying, anger, stealing, corrupted words, everything that was unholy and grieving to the Holy Spirit of God, bitterness, wrath, clamour, evil speaking with all malice. (Ch 4:25 to 31) They also had to beware of fornication, uncleanness, covetousness, have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness and not even to talk about evil things. He endeavours to wake them up, “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.”

They must put on, kindness, tenderheartedness and forgiveness of one another. “Be ye therefore followers of God as dear children, and walk in love as Christ also hath loved us and given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour.” Ch. 5:1,2

“Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” Eph 5:17. By loving righteousness and turning away from iniquity, they will be, “Strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” Eph 6:10. When they put their faith in their Great Captain, He will command love, grace and peace in the assembly.

“Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.” Ch 6:23,24

They will have the almighty power of Christ in deliverance from sin and iniquity, and enjoy heavenly peace as the disciples experienced in that night on the ship after they awoke their Lord.

Sleeping Roman saints

That now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.” Rom. 13:11 to 14

The saints at Rome were deceived to think that they could serve sin, and enjoy God’s gifts at the same time! “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” Rom. 6:1, 2. “For the wages of sin is death”. Ch. 6:23. They needed to wake up to themselves as believers and stop sinning. “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” Ch. 8:13

Paul lists some of the evil things that put the Roman saints off to sleep in their spiritual life.

  •   Rioting
  •   Drunkenness
  •   Chambering
  •   Wantonness
  •   Strife
  •   Envying All of these evil things go beyond the normal things of life that the Lord has purposed for the welfare of human beings, and God forbids his people to indulge in them. “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof … but yield yourselves unto God,… and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” Rom. 6:12,13

The Roman saints needed to wake up and stop doing these evil things that were putting them off to spiritual sleep and to make no provision for their fulfilment (Rom. 13:14)

“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.” ch 14:17,18. By serving the Lord in righteousness, the ears of Christ will be opened to their cries for help in time of need (1 Peter 3:12), like the disciples who awoke their Lord on the ship.

Sleepy Thessalonian saints

“Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.”

Paul admonishes the Thessalonian saints not to go off the sleep but to watch and be sober as they wait for their Lord. Instead of going off to sleep in their life and testimony for God, they need to wake up and become actively engaged in the following exercises of faith;

  •   “Be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.
  •   Comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
  •   Know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteemthem very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.
  •   Warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
  •   See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both amongyourselves, and to all men.
  •   Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God inChrist Jesus concerning you.
  •   Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
  •   Abstain from all appearance of evil.” 1 Thess 5:6 to 22When they obey the voice of the Lord in these things, they will enjoy the precious promises of love, joy and peace that their heavenly captain is able to bestow upon them.“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He that calleth you, Who also will do it.” 1Thess 5:23,24
  • Brethren and sisters, have we been deceived by, “That old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world”? Rev. 12:9
  • Paul warned the Corinthians. “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” 2Co 11:3
  • While Adam and Eve obeyed the commandments of God, they continued to enjoy the beautiful, simple, peaceful life that God had designed for them. Afterwards, they lost it all! Similarly, if we give heed to Satan’s doctrine, we will lose the heavenly simplicity that God has purposed for us to enjoy in this life (2 Cor. 1:12). We will suffer under the heavy, chastening hand of God in misery and sorrow and cease to be faithful servants of Christ. (Gal. 1:10)
  • The serpent lied when he taught Eve that she would be better off after she sinned than she was before. He stated, For God doth know,” inferring that God already knew the benefits of the forbidden tree but was withholding them from her. He was not honest when He said, Thou shalt not eat of it” making life more difficult for them, therefore He could not be trusted. This distrust then cancelled out the commandment of God Thou shalt surely die.” Eve then felt free to make her own decision guided by her sight, taste and understanding. She felt no need of God because the serpent proved Him to be unreliable and His Word of none effect. (John 8:44)
  • Satan’s ministers still propagate his doctrine and seduce the Lord’s people to commit iniquity that God hates (Heb. 1:9), and His Word clearly condemns (Titus 2:11 to 14). A popular method of seduction is to expand some difficult verse or clause of the Word of God that is hard to be understood and explain it in favour of iniquity. This interpretation cancels out the plain, easy to be understood commandments of God and of Christ and the doctrine which is according to godliness. Saints then feel free to disobey the commandments of the Lord, and make their own decisions based upon human reasoning and popular opinion. Wake up beloved saints!!
  • The captain of that ship, who previously slept as a passenger, has a special word for all of His disciples, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:13. There are no changes to His commandments for our modern, permissive society. “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” Heb 13:8. “Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity.” Heb. 1:8,9“If ye love me, keep My commandments.” John 14:15. “Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” John 15:14

The commandments of the Lord (1 Cor. 14:37) cover everything in life from fundamental doctrines and practises to the minute detail of our thoughts. There are commandments for individual believers, families of the Lord’s people and for assemblies of His saints gathered in His name. None of His commandments are grievous (1 John 5:3). All of His commandments are faithful (2 Thess. 3:3). They are in perfect conformity to the eternal purpose of God (Eph. 3:11) and consistent with the holy standard of the throne of God in heaven (Matt. 6:10). They are the exact opposite to the ways and fashions of this world whose father and god is the devil. (Eph. 2:2,3)

If we wake up and obey the commands that have proceeded out of the mouth of our heavenly captain, deliverance and joy will be our portion like it was in that ship after the disciples woke their Lord. We will then, “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.” Phil 4:4“Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.” Phil. 1:11

If we disobey the commandments of Christ and follow Satan’s alternatives, our heavenly peace and joy will be gone like the disaster in the Garden of Eden. We will lose our pilgrim character and be ashamed before Christ when He comes back again. (1 John 2:28)

One of the disciples who battled the storm while his master slept on a pillow, has a special word of exhortation for all who seek to follow Christ. (1 Peter 5:8,9)

Be sober, be vigilant (wide awake and watching); because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” “The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” 1 Pet 3:12,13.

“Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.” 2 Pwter 3:17,18.
May we follow Peter’s advice and learn from his experience on that eventful night on the ship!

“Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that Great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ; to Whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Heb 13:20,21

“And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.” 1John 3:22

Hark ‘tis the watchman’s cry, Wake, brethren, wake!

Jesus our Lord is nigh; Wake brethren wake!

Sleep is for sons of night,
Ye are children of the light,

Yours is the glory bright Wake brethren wake!

Call to each waking band, Watch, brethren, watch!

Clear is our Lord’s command, Watch, brethren, watch!

Be ye as men that wait,
Always at their master’s gate,

E’en though the hour seems late, Watch brethren watch!

Hear we the shepherd’s voice? Pray, brethren, pray!

Would ye His heart rejoice? Pray, brethren, pray.

Sin calls for constant fear, Weakness needs the strong

One near
Long as ye struggle here,

Pray, brethren, pray! Redemption Songs No 459

J. McIlvenna. E-mail:

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