Thursday, August 7, 2014

P2 Weathering Life's storms - The ray of light in the midst of the storm - Acts 27

Acts 27:20 Since neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small storm was assailing us, from then on all hope of our being saved was gradually abandoned.

Yesterday we began considering the subject of weathering the storms of life. We discovered that throughout the scriptures there is much discussion about all kinds of storms.  We proposed the main point of application: God is in charge over storms and meets us in them. 

In Acts 27 we see the Apostle Paul getting on board with 275 other prisoners and Romans soldiers to set sail to Rome.  Paul was to appear before Caesar per his appeal to do so, as recorded in Acts 25:21 - "But when Paul appealed to be held in custody for the Emperor’s decision, I ordered him to be kept in custody until I send him to Caesar.” That appeal would guarantee Paul an audience with the then most powerful man in the ancient world and an unprecedented opportunity to share the Gospel in the ancient world's most powerful city. 

When the wind begins to below before the storm
As the journey was set and begun in Acts 27, it was immediately clear that the journey was going to be anything but "smooth sailing". Both physical and of course spiritual winds began to blow. As you begin to walk your way through Acts 27:1-13, you get a "feel" for what was bound to be a storm of major proportions:

Acts 27:4 "From there we put out to sea and sailed under the shelter of Cyprus because the winds were contrary."

Acts 27:7 "When we had sailed slowly for a good many days, and with difficulty had arrived off Cnidus, since the wind did not permit us to go farther, we sailed under the shelter of Crete, off Salmone."

These waters were no different from the ones Paul had sailed in the course of his missionary journeys recorded in Acts 13-21. However the difference was that he was now traveling over waters with storms coming fast. Paul in his spirit sensed that before the trip was done, disaster would result. Perhaps you had experienced that in the course of your life, where it seemed like one thing after another was taking place. 

John MacArthur in his "The Book on Leadership", page 19, comments on this series of events in Acts 27: "Paul could see what was coming. He knew it was a risky and foolhardy plan. He had been in at least three shipwrecks before this (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:25, which was written a few years prior to this episode), and he was obviously not eager to suffer through another one." 

We read Paul's words of warning to his shipmates in Acts 27:10 "and said to them, “Men, I perceive that the voyage will certainly be with damage and great loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” it was very clear that before things were going to get better, they were going to keep getting worse, as seen in Acts 27:13 where reference is made to a "moderate south wind."

The storm arrives
Then the "perfect storm" hit. The NASB calls this storm by name: "Euraquilo" which means a northeaster. The winds were of hurricane force and before long paul and the sailors would be in the middle of a two week long storm! Soon Paul and the 275 men on board were throwing off anything that could potentially weigh down their vessel: cargo, ships tackle and supplies (Acts 27:14-19). One thing I learned when living in Florida and having survived three hurricanes is that when a storm hits, what you deem precious and valuable turns into a very short list. Storms have a way of trimming our priorities down to the bare basics. The storm got so bad that in Acts 27:20 we read: "Since neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small storm was assailing us, from then on all hope of our being saved was gradually abandoned."

The ray of light in the midst of the storm
No man, no fleet of ships and no reprieve could be found in the midst of the howling winds and mountains of waves. The storm greatly simplified the matter: only God could provide rescue. Scripture time and time again reminds us of God's control over storms. Psalm 89:9 reveals - "You rule the swelling of the sea; When its waves rise, You still them." We see Jesus do that very thing when He gets into the boat with his disciples during a storm and stills the storm. (Mark 6:49-50) Psalm 93:4 states - "More than the sounds of many waters,Than the mighty breakers of the sea, The Lord on high is mighty." Without a doubt when Jesus told Lazarus to come forth from his tomb in John 11, or when he spoke the name of Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb in John 20:16, His voice calmed the troubled waters. 

Though the storm was raging outside the vessel wherein Paul and the men were at, yet God ministered to Paul in a very special way during that storm. By the time we reach Acts 27:25 we see Paul saying: "Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told." How was Paul able to say such a thing in the midst of the storm? Find out tomorrow.... 

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