Friday, August 8, 2014

P3 Weathering Life's Storms - How God provides even when there are no answers - Acts 27

Acts 27:23-24 "For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me, 24 saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you."

Yesterday we considered how in the midst of life's storms, God can shine a ray of hope to encourage the believer. In the verse above we see Paul and 275 other men crammed into a sailing vessel that, based upon archaeological evidence, would had been over 30 feet wide and over 140 feet long. A storm of major proportions had blown upon the ship containing Paul, his fellow prisoners and their Roman captors while they were sailing for Rome. 

Throughout the course of our three day study we have been unfolding the following main point of application: God is in charge over storms and meets us in them. Today we aim to go further into Acts 27 by noting some things that were not present in this storm and some provisions God did grant during the storms.

There are times when we don't know why the storm has come - yet...
What makes Acts 27 so interesting is that despite it being the most detailed chapter in all of the Bible regarding storms, yet we are not told why God ordained this storm. Certainly God had ordained for Paul to go to Rome - this much we know. Throughout Paul's missionary journeys, Paul made it clear that he knew he was going to end up somehow in Rome. For example we read in Acts 19:21 "Now after these things were finished, Paul purposed in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem after he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.”

Could God had led Paul without the storm? Certainly. At times throughout scripture we see storms - both physical and otherwise - pop up in people's lives that have a discernible purpose, and then others like this one where the purpose is not so clear. In scripture we see storms come that are for correction, others for purification and still others for the purpose of putting the person in a holding pattern. Oftentimes too storms are ordained to build into that person a greater level of faith and trust. However there are those storms that - on the surface - seem to lack a defining purpose. Though the purpose may not be so easily seen does not mean there is no purpose. Remember our main point of application: God is over every storm and meets His people in them. 

The storm recorded here in Acts 27 is called a "Euraquilo". (Acts 27:14) This "North Easter" was a storm that was well-known by those ancients who traversed the vast stretches of the Mediterranean. When living in Florida, we learned first hand what it was like to have to deal with hurricanes and tropical storms. The weather patterns of our planet include such storms so as to provide a way for the earth to dissipate heat caused by warm maritime waters. This particular storm was one of those types of phenomena that are built into the created order of things. 

To us reading this text, it may seem like there is no purpose, being that none is stated. However by virtue of the fact that God sends an angel in 27:23 and provides a word for the sailors through Paul indicates that God not only is in charge of the storm, He meets His people in the storm. The most important thing to remember when weathering a storm of life is not about knowing the purpose in-as-much as knowing the God who works forth His purposes. Romans 8:28 reminds us that He works out all things to the good to those who love Him, who are the called according to His purpose. 

There are times we are not told how long the storm will last - however...
Though Paul had been given confirmation that every man and himself would survive the voyage, they were not told how long it would take. Again you can comb through the remainder of Acts 27 and yet not find one time where God told Paul how long the storm would last. Even after two long weeks of constant winds and long after the storm had ceased its winds, it would be months before Paul finally got to Rome. Though there appeared to be no end in sight, yet within the sight of Paul was the Lord Jesus Christ.

What God did provide in the course of this storm
Today's post thus far may appear more negative than positive. Whenever you read through Acts 27, you discover that this is real history, recording a real life incident. Whether physical storms or life's storms, such phenomena don't follow a perfectly predictable pattern. In-as-much that people can "read" where a storm could take a person, no one can control outcomes. Only God possess perfect, comprehensive knowledge and power. We are oftentimes in the midst of a storm forced to find our hope in God, rather than other people or the circumstances. What did God provide in the midst of Paul's storm? Notice...

1. God provided strength. Acts 27:23
God sent an angel to Paul to bring encouragement and comfort. In Isaiah 6 we see God sending an angel to a frightened Isaiah who felt like he was going to die in the presence of God the Holy One. Jesus Himself experience the ministry of angels both at the end of his temptation experience and in the garden of Gethsemane. Hebrews 1:14 reminds us that God sends angels to minister to His people. God's strength is never to short to reach His people where they are at.

2. God provided peace. Acts 27:24
The angel that came to Paul said to not be afraid. When the angel appeared to Joseph and Mary, the same type of message was conveyed. The peace of God that surpasses all understanding is the God-kind of peace, whether delivered directly by God the Holy Spirit or indirectly through emissaries like angels.

3. God provided His word. Acts 27:25-26
God had a word for Paul and for those sailing with him. In a storm, when provisions are low and hope seems lost, only the word of God can bring ultimate comfort.  

More tomorrow....

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