Monday, March 12, 2018

Living for God while trapped in a storm

It's a stormy afternoon. The clouds are dark as night and the rain heavier than anything Seattle has experienced. The boat is being hammered by the waves, the rudder is tied up and the sail has been taken down. There is no more questions of, "Where are going?" Everyone knows the wind is taking the boat any direction it pleases. Please who have never prayed are suddenly crying out to God. Laughter has ceased and fear set in days ago.

This is the situation we find Paul in the middle of Acts 27. Paul boarded the ship in Caesarea as a prisoner but quickly took the place of captain of the ship in the middle of the sea. He rose up as a godly leader in a dire situation. Luke describes three ways that Paul teaches us how to live for God while trapped in a storm.

A call to courage

First, Paul called the men to be courageous (Acts 27:21-26). It feels a little like Paul sneaks a cheap shot in the beginning of his address. But it’s good for him to start it out this way to remind the men it’s time to listen. A messenger from the Lord came and spoke to Paul. He confirmed that he must appear in Rome. Paul’s confidence in the Lord came him this confidence in the message he was given. We are not likely to have a visit from an angel but we still can help those around us take courage.

Paul knew that he belonged to God. In v.23 he speaks of “the God to whom I belong.” Do you know that you belong to God? In the first pages of Scripture we see that God created mankind. The Bible also tells us that we are not our own but we were bought with a price.

It’s like the old story of the boy who made his own little toy boat to float in the river, but one day he lost it in the current and off it went. He searched for it but never found it. Months later he was passing by the window of a Goodwill shop where he saw that very same boat he had made for sale. He knew it was his because he carved his name in the side. He went inside and he bought it and then he looked at it and said, “Now you’re twice mine. First, I made you and then I lost you but now I bought you.” God calls you His child. He created you in His image and then bought you with the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.

We are living in a time when people are feeling fearful with everything that has happened in our world. People are living less and less courageous because of the fear that is crippling us. Parents are scared to take their kids to school. Students are scared to go to their high school campus. People are fearful of flying. Friends are fighting over political issues and personal opinions. It’s driven us to hide in our home, watch our news channel and agree with our constituents on social media.

Paul was a God-fearing man, standing on a boat in the middle of the ocean being driven by a storm. He was probably wet and cold. He was surrounded by men who were on their way to meet death. He took the lead in a dire situation by being calm and focused on the Lord. This week, encourage a person in the Lord. Share something God is teaching you or a Bible verse. Watch how their demeanor changes with the encouragement from God. Listen to what Chuck Swindoll said, “Encouragement is awesome. It can actually change the course of another person's day, week, or life.” Paul’s call for this group to take courage changed the direction of these men’s lives.

A much needed warning

Second, Paul gives the men a warning (Acts 27:27-32). After a call to be courageous, Paul needed to warn them about what would take place. For fourteen days they had been driven across the sea in an uncontrolled fashion. For all you control freaks out there, this is your worst nightmare. This was dangerous because they could easily run aground on a sandbar. So they dropped four anchors to make sure they would hold for the night and waited for dawn. The soldiers let down the lifeboat, pretending to lay out more anchors. Paul is experienced in sea travel so he knows what the soldiers say they are doing and what they are actually doing. Paul needed to take action and warn Julius to engage in leading the ship.

We have yet another example of disobedience with these men. The sailors wanted to take their life into their own hands and not leave it in the trust of the ship. Paul spoke up again and this time Julius listened to what he was saying. He immediately went into action to make sure they didn’t loose the men who knew how to navigate the ship. If these men left, the journey would have been infinitely worse.

This is the same in our life. We find ourselves in a storm and we want to leave. But God needs you to stick around to help those around you. Don’t curse the storm when you’re in it, ask God what He is teaching you in the storm. Too often we prefer to leave a situation when God wants to teach us a lesson.

Care for people 

Paul gives us a final example of how to live for God while trapped in a storm. (Acts 27:33-38). The final call is to take food and eat. It sounds like a simple thing but these guys have been living on the edge of their ship for two weeks. They hadn’t been caring for themselves because life was simply crazy. If I don’t eat for one meal I get hangry, I cant imagine these guys after two weeks. In an emergency situation the last thing we think about is food.

We see this characteristic in Paul that makes us love and adore him. Paul has fully taken the place of leader on this ship. He remains calm, and integrates his faith and spirituality into one. The way he thanks God for the food and broke it seems like when we take communion. His leadership encouraged every man aboard that ship. The men who didn’t know how to swim found comfort in Paul’s example. The men who had feared death were drawn to Paul’s Godly example. God lived out him faith in the sight of everyone.

This is speculation on my behalf but I think because of Paul’s example heaven got a little more crowded. I imagine many of these men placed their trust in Christ because they saw Paul’s example of following God. Who is watching your life right now and becoming hungry for God? Each of us have people we interact with in our work, neighborhood and family. Our example for Christ should make them long to know the God we serve. Our witness for Jesus needs to leave people longing to know more about Jesus Christ. Sometimes this means caring more for people’s physical needs before their spiritual needs. This means building a bridge of friendship before talking about God. It means entering into situations that might be uncomfortable to help others know God.

We all face storms in our life. Many of you know that my family has gone through a personal storm for the last eight months. We’ve felt tossed around. We’ve felt like it was raining on us. We’ve cried out to God. We’ve cried. It looks like the sun is starting to shine on us and we’re going to be stronger because of this storm. If you are in a storm right now, don’t try to run from it. Embrace the storm. Cry out to God and ask what He is teaching you. Draw near to Him in prayer and reading Scripture. This might be something you’ve never done, but God might be using this storm to grab your attention.

Storms have a way of revealing our character. Storms can make us or break us. Storms test us and require us to dig deep into what is happening in our life. If you’ve never placed your trust in Christ, I encourage you to reach out to God. If you feel like the storm you’re experiencing in unbearable, take courage. God has a plan for you. It might mean you get shipwrecked but you will still have your life. And your life was created to serve God.

God will spare you in the storm. God didn’t allow this storm in your life to extract your life from you. God might have allowed you to enter this storm to help prove your character or draw you near to Him.

Listen to what the great missionary Hudson Taylor once said, “At the timberline where the storms strike with the most fury, the sturdiest trees are found.” If you are in a storm in life, stand strong. The storm is strengthening you. The storm is increasing your dependence on God. Don’t forget, God remains faithful in our storms.

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