“Faith in the Storm”

Categories: M. W. Bassford, Sermons

Our lives often are hard.  Indeed, I believe that without God, they are unbearably hard.  However, our heavenly Father comforts us through His direct intervention, the love of our brethren, and His witness in the word.  The Bible contains numerous stories of God’s people enduring suffering and trial.  When they overcome those things through God, it reveals His faithfulness and gives us confidence that we can overcome too.

We often gain such inspiration from the life of the apostle Paul.  He had a downright miserable life by earthly standards, but with God’s help, he made it through.  This evening, let’s consider his perseverance through the perils of Acts 27 to see what we can learn from his faith in the storm.

Because this is such a long story, I’m not going to follow a conventional outline.  Instead, I’m going to read the chapter, pausing from time to time to make application.  Our first chunk of narrative is Acts 27:1-12.  From this, we should learn that SOMETIMES OUR TROUBLES ARE OF OUR OWN MAKING.

In this, I’m not talking about Paul and his companions, but rather about the centurion.  By the time they reached the south coast of Crete, it was too late in the year for safe sailing.  Paul was an experienced seafarer.  He warned the centurion that continuing on likely would lead to the loss of the ship and their own lives. 

However, the captain and the owner knew that staying where they were would be hard on the ship, so they advocated for one more short voyage that would lead to a better harbor.  The centurion listened to them, and off they sailed into disaster.

The same often is true for us.  We end up in trouble not because of bad luck or the wickedness of others, but because of our own foolishness and evil.  I’ve known people who never have had a problem that was their own fault, and they invariably live horrible lives because they never take responsibility for their own actions.

Instead, we must make a habit of relentless self-honesty.  We have to look straight at ourselves in the mirror and ask how we are contributing to difficulties in our families, problems at work, or struggles at church.  Rarely are we guiltless, and only when we own our own share of culpability can we progress toward greater wisdom and godliness.

Let’s keep going through Acts 27:13-20.  Here, we see that GOD CAN GIVE US MORE THAN WE CAN HANDLE.  We’re dealing with competent sailors here.  They do everything they can think of to make it through the storm.  However, the last thing they do is to throw the ship’s tackle overboard.  They’ve given up hope of being able to control the ship’s movement anymore, and everyone on board has lost hope of survival.

All of us have heard the saying, “God never gives us more than we can handle,” but this is one of the many places in Scripture that proves the saying is untrue.  There was no way for anyone on that ship to handle the fix they were in!  The lesson is not for us to rely harder on ourselves; it is to stop trusting in ourselves and start trusting in God.

Our next reading is Acts 27:21-26, and it teaches us that WHEN WE ARE FEARFUL, WE SHOULD PRAY FOR OTHERS.  I’ve been talking about this one for several months like I figured something out, and I have to admit that when I was studying for this sermon and realized what Paul was doing, I was chagrined.  I could have saved myself a lot of misery if I’d been a better Bible student!

Look at the evidence.  First, note that the angel tells Paul not to be afraid.  I like Clay’s rule of thumb here—whenever God tells somebody not to be afraid, it’s because they are afraid.  Likewise, notice that the angel says that God has graciously given Paul the lives of everyone on the ship.  What can that mean except that Paul has been asking for the lives of everyone on the ship?

Praying for others when I’m afraid is something that I do regularly these days, especially when I wake up in the middle of the night with ALS on the brain.  Frankly, I love everything about it.  It calms my spirit, and it gets me focused on my love for others instead of on my fear for myself.  The next time you find yourself being anxious, fearful, or depressed, try it, and keep trying it.  I think you’ll be amazed at how well it works.

After this, we come to Acts 27:27-38, which shows us that FAITH SHINES IN TIMES OF CRISIS.  This affects not only brethren but also unbelievers.  Before, the centurion ignored Paul’s advice.  Now, he listens to everything Paul says.  When Paul tells the ship’s crew that they all will survive, they are encouraged and eat for the first time in two weeks.  They can tell that he has a Rock that they don’t.

This is no less true today.  Over the past few months, Lauren and I have gotten to know my home-care nurse pretty well.  She’s good to us, and we like her a lot, but she’s not a religious woman. 

However, last Thursday, before we got to the alcohol-swabs and poking-with-needles part, she made a little speech about how impressed with and inspired by me she was.  She sees a lot of terminally ill patients, and she said that usually they just curl up and die, but I’m not like that.

Of course, we know that the credit doesn’t go to me.  It goes to the God who strengthens and sustains me.  Through Him, we can bear up under anything, and when we do, we shine to those who don’t have what we have.

Let’s finish up with Acts 27:39-44.  It reveals that GOD CAN DO MORE THAN WE CAN IMAGINE.  Let’s think for a moment about what a ridiculous story this is.  The storm wrecks their ship on an offshore sandbar.  There are 276 people on the ship, many of whom can’t swim.  Nonetheless, every one of them makes it safely through the storm-tossed surf to land.  That only can be explained by providence verging on miracle!

So too, we can face every crisis in our lives secure in the knowledge that God will deliver us.  It might not be our preferred deliverance on our preferred timetable.  It might be safe deliverance to His heavenly kingdom.  In no case, though, does God forsake His people.  If we put our trust in Him, at the end, we will have no complaints.