God’s Faithfulness in a Dangerous World
Sermon Theme: In a world that offers so many opportunities to lose heart, be careful to notice the many expressions of God’s faithfulness.
Acts 27 provides an overview of the journey as the prisoner Paul is being taken to Rome where he was going to face trial before Caesar. On the journey to Rome, a major storm occurs which takes the ship that Paul and other prisoners were on off its course. The sailors gave up on trying to direct the ship and they let it go where the winds took it. Before long, the crew began throwing cargo overboard. They even threw some gear into the sea to lighten the ship’s load. When the winds died down several days later, Paul offered words of encouragement to those on the ship. He said that although the ship will go down, nobody will die. He told them that the Lord sent an angel to him in a vision and told him these things. After 14 days of the storm, Paul urged them to eat something. In their presence, he broke the bread and ate while encouraging them to do the same. Afterwards, the sailors saw land and ran the ship aground. They wanted to kill the prisoners that were aboard the ship so they would not escape. However, the commanding officer did not want anyone to harm Paul. So some swam to shore while others held on to planks, but everybody made it safely to the land just as Paul had said.
The first half of Acts 28 focuses on another one of Paul’s experiences. It begins with Paul and the ship’s crew being shipwrecked on the island of Malta. The chapter goes on to talk about the way the Maltese people treated Paul and the others following their shipwreck. One way they showed their kindness to them was by building a fire along the shore to keep them warm. Suddenly, out of the ashes a viper jumped out and latched onto Paul’s hand. The people commented and said that he was a murderer because even though he managed to survive the shipwreck, he was still going to die from the snakebite. But when they saw that Paul was unharmed, they quickly changed their minds and said that he must be a god or else he would not have survived the snake attack. A wealthy man of Malta at that time was Publius, who was also very kind to Paul and the others. During their stay, Publius’ father was feverish. Paul went to see him and healed him. He also healed several others from various diseases while preaching the Gospel. When Paul and the others left the island, people gave them all the supplies and resources they needed for the trip because of their gratitude.
[Edited from totallyhistory.com]
- Often when things are going well, we persuade ourselves that we are exempt from storms or that they will not affect us. But we are not, and they will. Then the question will be: Are you anchored to the Rock? Do you trust the One who is able to pilot you through those tempestuous seas? This was Paul’s experience. As we look at the story, we see how he prevailed so we can too. Paul’s words contain several principles by which you and I can keep up our courage and be fearless in the midst of life’s storms. We may not be in the midst of a literal storm like this, but we do experience storms. Storms come into our lives, and sometimes they come quite suddenly and are fierce. One day we are in perfect health. Suddenly we experience pain, and within a matter of hours we find ourselves in the hospital and the diagnosis is grim. How are we to stand up in life’s storms? The true anchors in any storm — physical, emotional, or spiritual — can only be found in faith, hope, prayer, and the sovereignty of God. And this is how Paul responded to the storm that had overtaken him. The first thing is that Paul knew that God was with him. On this occasion an angel of the Lord appeared to him to reassure him of God’s presence. That was powerful evidence. Yet Paul was aware of this truth at other times too, just as we should be aware of it. The Lord Jesus Christ, when he was about to leave this world for the final time, said to his disciples, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). The message is the same for us as it was for apostles. Christians have found Jesus with them as they have gone through life’s storms. They testify to it again and again. Christians testify that God has been with them in a way that is supernatural. God has quieted their hearts. He has made himself known in small ways that turned out to be so significant the individuals could testify afterward that God did what he did just to reassure them. He taught them that he had a purpose in it all. Do you know that God is with you? Are you aware of his presence? When the storms come, that will make a great difference. Remember that we belong to God as sheep belong to the shepherd. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29).
- Do you take comfort as a faithful servant of God when you are in difficult times, that as long as the Lord has any work for you to do, your life shall be prolonged? Paul knew that he was in God’s service ― going about God’s business. For in Acts 27:23 Paul speaks of “… the God to whom I belong and whom I serve.” God had told him what he was to do: He was to bear witness in Rome. But he had not gotten to Rome yet, and it does not take much to figure out the implication of those two facts. If God had told him that he was going to serve him in Rome, bearing a witness there, and if he had not yet gotten to Rome, then the storm that was battering the ship on which he was sailing was not going to take his life ― God was going to preserve him. We do not have special revelations of that nature, to be sure. God has not revealed to us any specific length of service or specific future place of service. But we can know that as long as God has work for us to do, God will preserve us to do it. God will not be frustrated; and if God is not frustrated, we do not need to be frustrated either. If God has work for us to do, then God will keep us alive to do it. And if we have finished the work that God has given us to do, why should we want to linger around any longer? We may want to go to heaven as soon as possible, but until then we need to get on with our Father’s business knowing that Scripture is accurate, and God is true to His word.
- Why is the doctrine of God’s sovereignty very practical in life’s storms? Why is a denial of it a serious error that leads to frustration and distress? If we will trust in God’s sovereign care for us in life’s storms, He will use us to bear witness to many. When things seem to be out of our control, they are never out of God’s control, no matter how humanly impossible the situation may seem. God has always been in control! This storm, which Paul was in, did not take God by surprise. He was not in heaven in a panic, summoning His angels to come up with a rescue plan for Paul. God caused the boat to drift 476 miles from the small island of Cauda to Malta, another speck in that vast sea. Although the sailors were not in control, God was! When things in our lives are out of our control, they are never out of God’s control. Trust in the promises of His Word of truth! Sometimes when we find ourselves in the midst of a sudden storm in life, we wonder if we’re out of God’s will. We may be, especially if we got into the storm because of sin in our lives. But we may be exactly where God wants us to be. The Lord had told Paul that he would testify for Him in Rome (Acts 23:11), but He had not bothered to mention the little detail of this storm and shipwreck. The point is God’s will for His children sometimes includes storms. For you can be assured that He cares for you in every storm that He takes you through. Peter combines God’s sovereignty and His care when he tells us to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand, and then adds, “casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7). Take heart that God’s sovereignty over everything that happens is a source of great comfort for the believer in the storms of life. But God’s sovereignty never negates our responsibility. To conclude that since God is sovereign, whatever will be will be, and thus to kick back and do nothing, is not biblical. The point is, there was nothing wrong with Paul’s using good judgment and common sense. Trusting God and using your brain are not necessarily opposed to one another. But if we want to stand out in a time of trial from those who do not know the Lord, we’ve got to have a daily walk of seeking God before the trial hits. In Proverbs 1:24-29, wisdom warns us that if we refuse to seek her during normal times, she will laugh at us when distress and anguish comes like a storm upon us. But if we daily seek God and His wisdom during normal times, when a storm hits, we will be different than those in the world, because we know and trust our God.
- How do we receive God’s encouragement when we’re going through a difficult time? We often think of Paul as giving care to others, but he also needed to receive care. He taught that we all are part of the body of Christ, where each member both gives and receives from the other members in order to function properly (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). But, isn’t the world telling us that we should drop our church memberships, leave our congregations, and just listen to the radio or watch sermons on YouTube? Can we sleep in on Sunday with no meetings, no obligations, no messy involvement in the lives of other Christians? But this is in direct disobedience to Scripture, which tells us not to forsake assembling together, but rather to encourage one another (Hebrews 10:25). We receive encouragement by being with God’s people. In Acts 28:15, Paul received encouragement when he gathered with his brothers in Christ and “on seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage.” This had the same effect of reminding Paul that God was always with him, always aware of the trials that he was going through. Paul experienced it when he was afraid in Corinth. The Lord appeared to him and promised, “for I am with you” (Acts 18:9-10). Paul had also experienced it when he was in custody in Jerusalem, and the Lord stood at his side and said, “Take courage,” and promised that he would bear witness at Rome (Acts 23:11). He would later experience it at his final imprisonment, just before his execution. He told Timothy that no one supported him, but all deserted him. Then he added, “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me” (2 Timothy 4:17). Each of these experiences of the Lord’s presence came at times of crisis in Paul’s life. So even if we do not have literal visions of Christ or His angels, we can still feel His presence with us in times of great need and take great encourage that we have His promises. What will it mean for your life today to live truly believing that God’s promises are true?
- What may be holding you back from having the same confidence trust in the Lord that Paul expresses in Acts 27:22-25? Are you praying for that kind of calm trust? Paul knew God. So, it was not only a case of God’s being with him or his belonging to God or God’s having work for him to do. He also knew God as the God of all circumstances and was able to trust him for life’s details. When I lose my job? When I have cancer? When someone I love has died? Yes, to all of these. These things are not insurmountable to God. They are merely circumstances that he brings into our lives for his glory and our good. For Romans 8:28 says, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Because of the faith Paul had and because of what he knew of God, Paul was able to encourage others. But sometimes people say of Christians, “They’re so heavenly minded, they’re of no earthly use.” But that gets it backward. It is the heavenly-minded people who are of earthly use. People who are earthly minded are of no use whatever when the real storms come.
- Do you think the world is unawareness of how much it owes to the presence of Christians in its midst? Here were soldiers, sailors, prisoners — 276 of them. All of them were spared because of Paul. Yet afterward, when it was over, probably most of them went away and never thought of their deliverance again. They did not thank God. What about America? We may be sure that for all our sin, evil, materialism, blasphemy, and determination to eliminate any vestige of God from national life. Is God sparing our country because of the remnant of believers? The Lord Jesus, not long before his arrest and crucifixion, gave a sermon on the Mount of Olives. He spoke of wars and rumors of wars. It was a way of saying, “Life is filled with trouble, and you will experience your share of it.” But he added, “See to it that you are not alarmed” (Matthew 24:6). Not alarmed by war with its calamities? Not alarmed by life’s storms, as difficult as they can be? Not alarmed by sickness, disease, persecution, loss of jobs? No ― see to it that you are not alarmed. Why? Because God is the God of circumstances, and he is able to and indeed does preserve us in the midst of them. It is our task to trust Him at all times and bear witness to Him. It is our task as long as God permits us to remain in this world. So we should pray as we sail through life’s storms, that His presence be in our lives, may He rule in our lives, and preserve our trust in Him. May we not allow the winds and waves to draw us aside from serving Him faithfully, wholeheartedly, courageously. When we must decide whether to believe circumstances or the Sovereign Lord, may we again and again choose to trust in Him.
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