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read it below.
Weathering the Storms of Life
Would you take your Bible and find Acts chapter 27; in a moment we'll begin reading in verse 9.
We are continuing our series on “That Old Time Religion” looking at how the early church coped with and overcame various situations believing that today’s church can become like the early church. Today message is “Weathering the Storms of Life.”
I love chapter 27 of the book of Acts. The reason I love this chapter is because it is the story of a shipwreck. Not that I'm all enamored with shipwrecks, but it's the story of the sea.
I grew up in Florida, near the Atlantic Ocean, lived there most of my life. The reason I love this wonderful story is because it's so graphic. As you open the Bible to this chapter you just feel the salt spray in your face. It's a story that was written as an eyewitness account of a great shipwreck.
I want us to use our imagination. If we do, we'll taste the salt. We'll feel the swell of this ship as it rises and falls on the billows. We'll hear the winds as it moans, and groans, and screams, and whimpers. We'll hear the booming claps of thunder. We'll see the flashing fingers of lightening as they play across the sky. We'll look on the faces of these mariners and see stark terror that's on their faces as they say to themselves, "Tonight, we die, we'll perish at sea." And, we'll see how God delivered them and we'll learn a lesson.
Have you ever wondered why God used an entire chapter to tell about a shipwreck? Why did the Apostle Luke, who could write so much, why did he spend an entire chapter telling us what happened. I think, while this is history, it is more than history. Luke who wrote this is using it as an illustration that we can apply to our lives in this twenty-first century.
You have heard me speak many times about life being a journey but we could say it’s like a voyage, and the circumstances of life are like the weather. Sometimes there's smooth sailing, sometimes there's storms and we're caught up in these storms because we are sailing on the sea of time between two eternities.
Many times we are caught up in storms that are not our fault, not because of anything we have done wrong. That's the way the Apostle Paul was in this story; Paul did not want to sail. He was a prisoner on this ship and he was going from Caesarea to Rome to be judged. They were trying to make up their mind whether or not they ought to set sail.
That's where we join the study in verse 9. "Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them"—That is he warned them and advised them—"And said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives. Nevertheless"— that nevertheless is a very important word there, "Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul. And because the haven was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised to depart thence also, if by any means they might attain to Phenice, and there to winter; which is an haven of Crete, and lieth toward the south west and north west. And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete. But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon" (Acts 27:9-14). That is, there was a howling hurricane that came down and began to pound the sea with its fist and swept that little boat to disaster.
Now, Paul did not want to set sail and many times we find ourselves in the same situation. We're just caught up in circumstances. Sometimes there's a man who will move from this city to another city and take his family with him. It's not God's plan that the man moves, the man moves for the wrong motive. His company says, "If you will go from here to there we will give you more money." He doesn't pray about it. He doesn't ask God about it. He just says, "More money, that's the answer." So, he takes his kids out of school, he withdraws from the church where he is working, and serving God, and having a ministry. He just goes. He's out of the will of God and he's about to get into a storm. He didn't pray, he didn't seek God's will. He's about to get in a storm and the little children, they're about to get into a storm too. They didn't get to vote. They're just prisoners on that ship and they go.
We find ourselves that way as citizens. Congress votes to do it and we as citizens sail on the ship of state. Wouldn't you like to get your hand on the rudder of the ship of state sometime?
We'll find ourselves in all kind of storms. By the way, do you know why they decided to sail contrary to the will of God? There were five reasons right here in these verses I read, let’s look at them, I'll call them five ways to sink your ship.
Look in verse 9. The very first of these reasons is compulsion. Notice in verse 9, "Now, when much time was spent." That is, they said, "Well look, we've stayed around here long enough. Let's do something even if it's wrong." There are a lot of people who just act out of compulsion. They quit school out of compulsion. They drop out of a job because of compulsion. They move from one church to another. They are just doing something. They don't have the peace of God; they don't have the will of God. They are just simply saying, "Well it seems to me like I'm wasting time where I am so therefore I'm going to do something else."
My advice; stay where God puts you until He tells you to move. You're not wasting time when you wait on God. Have you prayed about it? The Holy Spirit of God leads us, He never drives us. Don't make your big decisions until you soak them in prayer, don't compulsively do this or compulsively do that.
The second reason is just as bad and that's consultation. Notice if you will in verse 10. Paul said, "And sirs I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives." Now, watch, "Nevertheless, the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship more than those things which were spoken by Paul."
The centurion was the Roman army officer in charge. There are two people speaking to him, one is the Apostle Paul, he's God's man. He says, "Don't go." Over here is the master and the owner of the ship, he says, "Go." So this centurion has to make up his mind. "Am I going to listen to this preacher and his so-called revelation from God, or am I going to listen to this man who is an expert, the man who owns the ship. He knows the ways of the wind, and the waves, and the sea. I mean, after all you don't get to be a shipmaster over night. This man is an expert. What does a preacher know about sailing anyway"?
So he chooses contrary to the Word of God. In consultation with an expert he makes a decision. Let me say something right here; thank God for the experts. Thank God for the lawyers. Thank God for the physicians. Thank God for the professors. But, when they contradict the Word of God we must have enough spiritual sense to go with the Word of God. I don't care what they say. So many times we go out and consult with people and get advice from people and that advice is contrary to the Word of God. We're about to sink our ship.
The third thing they did; not only compulsion, and consultation, but comfort. Notice comfort was something that caused them to want to sail. Verse 12, "And because the haven,"—the port—"was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised them to depart thence also."
That simply wasn't a good place to spend the winter. So they said, "Look, we want to do what's going to be best for us. We want to kind of pamper ourselves. We want to take the easy way." The problem with that is the easy way is almost always the wrong way. We, as Christians, are called on to endure hardness.
So many people make their decisions on the animal plain. An animal eats when he wants to eat. He drinks when he wants to drink. He sleeps when he wants to sleep. He wakes up when he wants to wake up and He cohabitates when he wants to cohabitate. That's just animal living. Many people in America are making their decisions the same way.
The world is just leading them along with a ring in their nose and they are acting, wanting to stay in the comfort zone and, they make their decisions based on that. When you make your decisions based on comfort, before long you're going to be very uncomfortable.
Not only comfort, but here's a big one, consensus. Look in verse 12 of this same chapter, "And because the haven was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised to depart thence also."
What happened is this, the centurion, he's already had consultation with the shipmaster and the soul master, but evidently there was a big debate on the ship." So, finally he says, "All right, let's put it to a vote. How many people on board this ship think we ought to sail?" The more part said, "Let's go."
Please, please, don't make your decisions by majority vote. The majority is almost, not always, but almost always wrong. There were ten spies who said, "It can't be done." Two who said, "It could be done, should be done, and by God's grace, it will be done." Even in the average church the majority is almost always wrong! The majority of members don't even come to prayer meeting. Think about it. The majority are not soul winners. It breaks my heart to say it, but it’s true. Oh, the majority is going to be right sometimes, but you better learn not to simply say what most folks are doing because they can be wrong. The fact that the more part advised to sail did not mean that it was the will of God.
I've seen people trying to make a decision and in their heart and in their mind they almost know what they want to do before they do it, but they go around from person to person trying to wrap up a net vote, getting enough people saying, "Hey, I think that will be all right." And yet they are not consulting The Word, the will of God.
I want to mention another thing that so many people do and this is the clincher for many people, they make their decisions on the basis of circumstances. Look if you will in verse 13, "And, when the south winds blew softly, supposing they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence they sailed close by Crete."
They are on the ship, they are voting, they are saying, "All right by compulsion, and consolation, and consensus we're trying to make up our mind." About that time somebody says, "Would you look at that; I know we ought to sail, the south wind is blowing softly. What a wonderful time to sail." And, they said this is a time that we ought to go because circumstances seem right.
Folks, this is the most deceiving of all. I've heard so many people say, "Well, you know, I knew it was God's will because there was an opportunity. God just gave me this opportunity." They didn't check with God. They just check the wind; whichever way the wind is blowing. But, that soothing south wind was about to turn into a horrible, howling, devastating cyclone.
Now, they set sail. It was not Paul's will, nor was it God's will that they set sail. And, they sailed into the teeth of a storm. I want us to learn three things if we find ourselves in a storm like that.
The very first thing is, as a child of God we can find out that God guarded Paul from the storm. Look in verse 20, "And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us all hope that we should be saved was then taken away. But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss. And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man's life among you, but of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee" (Acts 27:20-24).
Now, what God said to Paul is, "Paul, I know that you didn't want to sail. I know you wanted to do My will. I know Paul that you were caught up and swept up in circumstances beyond your control, even so, I'm going to take care of you. And, by the way, not only you, I'm also going to give you the lives of these other people on board." They didn't realize it, but Paul saved their lives. It was Paul on board that kept them from drowning.
Today the people of this world don't realize it, but it's the Christians that keep God from sending judgment on this earth today. It was those sinners that were saved because of this saint on board. God said to Paul, "I have given you these that sail with you." Now, here's the point. God guarded Paul from that storm, and I know that when I get caught in storms beyond my control that God's going to take care of me.
You say, "What about all of the Christians who die? What about the Christians who are martyred? What about the Christians who are put in prison, what about the ones that had their heads cut off?" God takes care of them too.
Look with me in Luke 21, verse 16. Our Lord is talking about what Christians will suffer and he says, "And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends and some of you shall they cause to be put to death" I really believe there's some people today who are going to die for Jesus. I believe that's the age we're living in here in America. World wide more people are dying for Jesus today than any other time in history.
You say, "Well, Pastor, where's all of this protection that you're talking about." Continue to reading in 17, "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake. But there shall not an hair of your head perish."
Lord, I wish you'd make up your mind. Am I going to be put to death or not a hair of my head perish? He is saying both. They may stuff you in the ground for a little while, but they can't hurt you. Jesus said, "... whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die..." (John 11:26). They are going to put you to death and not a hair will perish.
Death, that doesn't kill you. Jesus said, "He that liveth and believeth in me shall never die." I don't care what happens, God has given us an illustration here that as God took Paul through that literal storm, He's going to bring us through every storm and God guarded Paul from the storm.
There's a second thing I want us to see. Not only did God guard Paul from the storm. But, praise God, God gladdened Paul in the storm. You see, Paul, he's on the deck of that ship with a big smile on his face. I mean, everybody else thinks he's crazy. Listen, verse 21, "But after long abstinence," Paul's been down there praying, "Paul stood forth in the midst of them and said, sirs, ye should have harkened unto me and not have loosed from Crete to have gained this harm and loss. Now, I exhort you, be of good cheer." When he said that I bet they felt like throwing him overboard. I mean, here the ship is about to sink and Paul is saying, "Hey, everybody, cheer up."
Thank God for a faith that can praise in the middle of a storm. I mean, when the storms of life are raging, Lord Stand by me. He stood by Paul and said, "Paul, be of good cheer." And, Paul was of good cheer. Paul had the joy of the Lord down in his heart in the midst of the storm, which is real Christianity.
If I'd seen Paul walking on the deck of the ship I might have said, "Paul, who gives you this smile? Who puts that smile on your face in the middle of this storm?" He'd say, "The same one that gave me songs and praise in the night when I was in the dungeon in Philippi." There's no storm that can take the joy out of your life if you are a real Christian.
But, if you're not saved, let me tell you what the storms will do to you. Look in verse 20, "And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away" (Acts 27:20).
The people of that day, sailed by the stars at night, they sailed by the sun at day, and they sailed by the shore, they took their charts; they took their measurement from the shore, their surroundings and so forth. But, now they're blown off course, and it gets so dark that the stars go out of their sky.
What do the unsaved do when the stars go out of their sky? You see, it's easy when you can chart your course, some of you right now, you're doing fine. I mean, the south wind's been blowing, and you're sailing along. You get out your chart and look at your finances, there’re fine. Now, let me look at my plans for retirement, now that's fine. Let me see I need to lose ten pounds, okay I'll do that.
You're just sailing along you're just charting your course. I mean, you're able to measure, you're able to plot, you're able to plan, you're able to guide your ship. The south wind is blowing. But what are you going to do when the storm hits and you can't see the sky? You'd better learn to trust something that the storms can't blot out. I'll show you what they do and it's a tragic thing. They very first thing they do is to wander.
Look in verse 15, "And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive" (Acts 27:15). It means that the rudder didn't mean anything now. It means that the set of the sail didn't mean anything now. It means they were in circumstances beyond their control. Their dreams dissolve and their control is gone and they are out of control.
The man without God is going to get blown off course and all of these dreams, and all of these plans, and all of these ideals, and all of these visions that he has in his manhood and his youth, they all dissolve. And, he just lets her drive.
But, not only do they wander, I want us to see also they work. Look in verse 16, "And running under a certain island which is called Clauda, we had much work to come by the boat." That is to bring the boat around and get the boat heading into the wind so it won't sink. They are laboring; they are pulling on the boat. They are pushing on the beams. They are bailing the water. They are under girding the ship. They are saying, "Oh, if we can just keep afloat." They are working and they are working and they are straining.
People say, "Hey, it's hard to be a Christian." I want to say it's hard not to be a Christian. The Bible says, "... the way of transgressors is hard" (Proverbs 13:15). People take more pains to go to Hell than the Christian does to go to Heaven. Not only do they wander and not only do they work, they waste. Look if you will in verse 18 of this same chapter. "And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship; And the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship."
One day they toss out all the cargo, when that's not enough they toss out the furniture and the tools, the tackling, everything. Why? They are trying to lighten the ship. Suddenly, profit is not the motive. Survival is the motive. That's what happens to folks when the winds of adversity and the storms of life come and they are just driven by the wind. They are laboring so hard. They are sinking deeper and deeper in the water, and, sin begins to cost them everything. They are just pouring it all over board.
There are people now who would not listen to God who would give everything they have now to have their son sober again, to have their wife sane again, to have their health back again. But, sin is a costly thing, it's a wasteful thing.
We don't need a war on poverty as badly as we need a war on sin. We accept, as normal, all these new “life styles” and Aids and other diseases that cost us millions of dollars a year because we have a generation of people who are listening to the experts who think they know more than God. A lot of this problem could be solved overnight by just obeying what the Bible has to say about sex.
Another thing, this is the sad part, they wish. Look if you will in verse 29, "Then fearing lest we should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day."
Don't you feel sorry for them? Here they are saying, "Oh, I wish the sun would come up. I wish I could see the stars. I wish that I could see the sun. I wish I had some light." They are just wishing.
Folks, Paul knew how to get alone and get with God. He knew how to pray. He knew how to intercede. We have a generation that has nothing, when the storms come, they have nothing. You go in to them, they are in the hospital room they are in agony and pain, they are in criminal court, they are in the bankruptcy court, and somebody says, "Well, good luck. Hope things work out."
There's an old song says, "Wishing will make it so." It won't. They just wish. What substance is that, to wish? We need something substantive. But, the stars have gone out of their sky, and they wander and they work, and they waste, and they wish, and then they withdraw.
Look in verse 30, "And as the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat into the sea, under colour as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship, Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved" (Acts 27:30-31).
There were some sailors who said, "We know what to do. There's a little lifeboat over there, we'll just let that little lifeboat down and we'll get in that lifeboat and we'll get out of this mess. We'll just withdraw and if we can just withdraw somehow we'll be safe."
Paul says, "You won't be saved by withdrawing. You won't be saved by running. If you try to run you are going to perish." But, what do the unsaved do when the stars go out of their sky? They withdraw into alcohol. They withdraw into drugs. They withdraw by running away from home. They withdraw by dropping out of society. Some of them withdraw by suicide. That's all they know how to do.
When all of that was happening to these people there was a man of God who had a smile on his face and could say, "Be of good cheer for I believe God." God guarded Paul from this storm. God gladdened Paul in this storm. And, I want to show one last thing; God guided Paul through this storm. I want us to see something in verse 24. God said to Paul, "Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar..." (Acts 27:24).
God said "Paul, you're in a storm, but I have a will for you. My sovereign will, Paul, is that you testify before Caesar. My sovereign will is I want Caesar to hear what Paul has to say." and God says, "Listen to me Paul, it must be done."
Turn to Acts 23:11 where God said to Paul, "... so must thou bear witness also at Rome" you must. Then Acts 28, verse 14 where it says, "... so we went toward Rome" (Acts 28:14). In between there was a storm. Before God says, "Paul, you're going to Rome." After the storm Luke says, "And, we went to Rome."
Listen, the journey on that ship was not the will of God. They were out of the will of God, but it did not stop the will of God. Are you listening to me? They were out of the will of God, but it did not stop the will of God.
Where man rules, God overrules; there's a sovereign God and that sovereign God is going to have His will. Let me tell you how that applies to me and how that applies to you. As a Christian I may disobey God. As a Christian I may stumble, I may falter, I may fail. I may, but because I'm a child of God, God has predestined me to become like Jesus and all Hell can't stop it. I'm going to be like Jesus. Amen?
Yes, I have a free will. Sometimes I disobey, sometimes I get in storms, but one day I'm going to stand faultless before the throne and all Hell can't stop it. The church may falter, the church may flounder, the church may seem to fail, but one of these days our Lord Jesus will present it to Himself a glorious church without spot or wrinkle or any such thing for Jesus said, "... I will build my church..." (Matthew 16:18). And, all Hell can't stop it.
The kings of this world, and the rulers of this world, and the political high muckety mucks can meet and they can plan. They can plan in the Pentagon and they can plan in the White House. They can plan in the Kremlin. And, they can plan in red China, that's where man rules. But, where God rules. "... The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ..." (Revelation 11:15). And, all Hell can't stop it.
Planet earth and those upon it will go through storms, but the kingdoms of this world are going to become the Kingdoms of our Lord and His Christ. God guarded Paul from the storm. God gladdened Paul in the storm. And, God guided Paul through the storm. You must go to Rome. Hallelujah, He’ll do the same for us.
If you are one whose stars have gone out it’s never to late to call upon the name of Jesus, He’ll gladden you heart with His Holy Spirit, in Jesus’ Name Amen!