God wants to give you hope in the storms of life!
Today’s Faith Fridays post addresses how we are to stay in hope when the “storms of life” hit. I hope you will be encouraged by this to stay hopeful, whatever you may be facing today.
Storms: high-energy displays of climatological power; some last for days while others seem to leave as quickly as they came. Many storms leave damaged structures behind and hundreds of people without electrical power; some make a lot of noise and yet leave no discernible damage at all. The most interesting storms uncover treasures or stir them up from deep waters. All these storms have one thing in common: we are too small to prevent them. They are a part of our planet’s system. On an emotional level, “storms” are a part of our everyday life too. We cannot escape them and we cannot control them. We can only choose how we respond to them.
Today’s devotional will take a look at the Apostle Paul in an important storm he had to endure. Paul had been prosecuted by the Jewish religious leaders (Sanhedrin) of his time for propagating a sect of Judaism called “The Way”, a reference to Jesus being the true Way to God and the Hope of Israel. Paul narrowly escaped a plot against his life, uncovered by his own nephew, and was escorted from protective custody at the Fortress of Antonia to Governor Felix at Herod’s Palace, Caesarea in AD 57. Felix, as governor of Judea, had experience dealing with followers of the Way and knew the Sanhedrin’s accusations against Paul to be false. To satisfy the political pressure of the Jewish religious leaders however, Felix held Paul under arrest for two years and hoped Paul would use his influence among the wealthier followers of the Way to pay for his release through a bribe.
A new governor, Porcius Festus, replaced Felix in AD 59 and the Sanhedrin tried their luck again. The day after Festus was inaugurated into office, he made a trip to Jerusalem and was confronted by the Sanhedrin. They demanded that Paul be given over to them to curry favor in support of Festus’ new administration. Festus insisted that Paul be tried in Caesearea, probably to avoid another plot on Paul’s life. Members of the Sanhedrin went to Caesarea and accused Paul on trumped-up charges (A later hearing by King Agrippa of Chalsis at Festus’ residence confirmed that Paul was completely innocent). The only way Paul could escape being put to death at that time was to make an appeal to Caesar–Nero at the time–to be tried as a Roman citizen rather than in the Jewish courts. Nero had not gone crazy at this point; Paul trusted to give him a fair trial.
Paul was put under custody of a centurion of the Imperial Regiment called Julius, who was responsible for transporting prisoners by ship for trial in Rome. Paul’s friends the Apostle Luke and fellow “Christian” (follower of the Way) Aristarchus were permitted to accompany him. They probably wished they hadn’tI The boat’s itinerary took them from Adramyttium to the ports at Sidon, Myra, and Fair Havens. By that time the season for fair sailing had ended: the winds had picked up producing ever-increasing delays between ports. Paul concluded that sailing to Rome at this point would result in their ruin. He would have known; by this time he had already been shipwrecked THREE times on previous missionary journeys to spread the Way across Asia Minor and into Europe. Julius ignored Paul’s experience and followed the self-confident talk of the ship’s pilot and owner (for profit) that they could make it at least to Phoenix with a gentle South wind. As any seaman will attest, conditions on the sea change rapidly: the gentle south wind was soon replaced with an all-out “Noreaster”, a hurricane-inducing wind from the east-north-east that lasted for fourteen days.
A small island gave them some shelter from the storm as they sailed past, enough to take some life-preserving steps of securing the lifeboat, reinforcing the ship’s hull with ropes, and releasing the sea anchor to slow the ship’s speed and stabilize it. The following day they started throwing things overboard. The men were sea sick from being tossed by the storm; there was almost no daylight to see by. Their final condition is described by this verse:
The terrible storm raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone.
Acts 27:20 New Living Translation (NLT) copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation
Does that describe you? I hope not. However, storms have a way of bringing us to the end of what we can do; we often feel like we are at the mercy of the driving winds (which is no mercy at all). Are you under trial, like Paul? Have people accused you falsely? Have your “own people” (family/friends) rejected you and you feel forced to take refuge with foreigners (strangers)? Are you like the ship’s pilot, so desperate to make it that you ignored the warning signs and ended up in a terrible situation of your own choosing? Are you like the frightened crewmen who hadn’t seen the light of hope for a long time: you sit in darkness, tossed by the turmoil of your own emotions, unable even to eat? Even if you do not feel that way now, there are plenty of situations that may happen to put us through a similar experience of hopelessness: a divorce, the death of a loved one, custody problems, joblessness, broken relationships…I could go on.
Paul’s situation dramatically changed when he received a visit from an angel:
No one had eaten for a long time. Finally, Paul called the crew together and said, “Men, you should have listened to me in the first place and not left Crete. You would have avoided all this damage and loss. But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.’ So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said. But we will be shipwrecked on an island.”
Acts 27:21-26 New Living Translation (NLT) copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.
Paul’s prediction came true. The crewmen dropped four more anchors to keep the ship from hitting land before daybreak. Some tried to escape the boat on the lifeboat: Paul warned that this would be a certain death so the lifeboat was cut loose. Paul managed to get the men to eat on the basis of his hope that they would all survive. The ship drifted across the Mediterranean/Adriatic Sea (the same place where Jonah was swallowed by a large fish) and ran aground on a narrow channel by the Island of Malta. The men swam ashore. All 276 of them, prisoners and captors alike, survived. You can read the entire story of the shipwreck in Acts 27.
Twice in the story, anchors are mentioned; the sea anchor at the beginning of the storm near Crete and the four anchors use to prevent the ship running aground at Malta. I’m sorry to give you so much background to lead up to this final point, but a lot like grains and beans, I think the truth is most nutritious when it is soaked long enough in our hearts to sprout new life!
So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls…
Hebrews 6:18-19a New Living Translation (NLT) copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.
Paul’s true anchor in the storms he faced–the storms of persecution and the physical shipwrecks–was belief in God’s word. Paul said, “It will be just as He said.” The Bible is filled with promises that God has given us to navigate the storms of life such as:
And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age
But when you are arrested and stand trial, don’t worry in advance about what to say. Just say what God tells you at that time, for it is not you who will be speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.
Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.
Matt 28:20b; Mark 13:11; John 14:27; John 16:33b New Living Translation (NLT) copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.
All of these words were spoken by Jesus, “The Way” that Paul and the other early Christians identified with and were willing to endure such storms for. Jesus, during his earthly ministry, was in a storm on the Lake of Galilee and stilled it with a display of his Divine power as Creator God. Jesus was in the boat with His disciples on that occasion; many years later, He was in the ship with Paul and the other 275 passengers too. Paul knew he was not alone; his hope became the hope of everyone on the ship.
Could Paul have stopped the storm in the name of Jesus to impress Julius and the others on board? Possibly. Paul had seen miracles flow through fabric that had touched him! Why would God allow Paul to go through this horrible ordeal for the fourth time?
Jesus can stop the storms of our lives with a display of his miraculous power. But I think there is something far more valuable than God delivering us out of every storm: learning to trust His words. We impart far more hope to other people when they take courage because of our faith in God’s promises; others need to hear us say like Paul, “I believe God. It will be just as He said“. Such hope outlasts the storm and brings us to the fulfillment of the promises He has made to us. Sure, miracles are wonderful, but they have a “fizzle-pop” effect. The only way to be truly satisfied by Hope is to get to know the Source; we get a much clearer picture of what God’s personality is like when we learn to trust Him through the storms of life and put faith in His Word:
Through Him also we have [our] access (entrance, introduction) by faith into this grace (state of God’s favor) in which we [firmly and safely] stand. And let us rejoice and exult in our hope of experiencing and enjoying the glory of God.
Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance.
…And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity).
…And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation.
Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.
Romans 5:2-5 Amplified Bible (AMP) Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation
Do you have an anchor of hope that will help you through the storms of life? Have you invited Jesus into your boat? Paul was willing to suffer persecution and shipwreck to give the hope of Jesus to the whole world. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if by reading his history thousands of years after it happened, you were to become a follower of the same Way he preached 🙂 ? If you do not consider yourself a follower of Jesus’ (lots of people are Christian by heritage, but not by personal belief or practice), please invite Him into your boat. Come what may, He will bring you safely through to the other side. He will never leave or forsake you. You can trust Him because He loves you, even through the storm. He is allowing you to go through this storm to produce the character you need to keep you in joyful anticipation for the rest of your life!
If you are a follower of Jesus, like Paul, be encouraged: it was because of Paul’s faith that the entire boat (mostly non-believers) were saved from a watery grave. You too can help preserve your friends, family, and neighborhood from drowning in hopelessness simply by demonstrating a steadfast hope in God’s promises. Perhaps you are not in a storm, but a Christian brother or sister is. Be encouraged by Luke’s and Aristarchus’ example of fellowship to ride through the storm with them, believing God for the strength that will get him to the other side.
If you found this Faith Fridays post encouraging, please share using one of the many features below. Thanks!
Read Full Post »