After the Acts study, I was so sick of Acts that I refused to even look at it – even though it was part of my daily Bible reading plan 😛 I have since began reading it again, and lo and behold, it is Acts today that grips me! This is the story of Paul, as he is on his final journey towards Rome. Paul and Luke are put on a ship of Alexandria that is sailing to Italy from Myra in Lycia, and as they sail they encounter weeks of bad weather. Verse 8 says that they were coasting along the lee of Crete off Salmone with difficulty when they came to a place called Fair Havens, and Paul then advised them, saying, ” Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives (v10).” But the centurion listened to the pilot and owner, who decided to risk it, rather than stay in the harbor and get stuck there for the winter (vv10-12). So on they sailed! Please read Acts 27:13-20 (ESV):
Now when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to the shore. 14 But soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land. 15 And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along. 16 Running under the lee of a small island called Cauda, we managed with difficulty to secure the ship’s boat. 17 After hoisting it up, they used supports to undergird the ship. Then, fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear, and thus they were driven along. 18 Since we were violently storm-tossed, they began the next day to jettison the cargo. 19 And on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. 20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.
“all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned….”
What happens when God warns us of the consequences, and yet, we chose to go ahead and do the very thing of which He warned us? We lose hope. When those consequences crash down upon us, the darkness becomes overwhelming. We feel like we deserve the dark because of our choices and fail to look for the light. We lose hope of salvation, because of the shame and guilt that comes after the sin. It is our guilt and shame that makes us feel unworthy of the light, of the salvation only One can offer. How I struggle with this! I know I can’t be the only one. Each wrong choice is like one brick added to the wall I allow between God and myself – not because of any lack of trust or faith in Him, but because of my doubt in myself and my own feelings of inadequacy and shame. Isn’t it funny that we are the only thing that stands between ourselves and freedom; between ourselves and peace and joy overflowing? We are the ones that hold ourselves back from the unlimited blessings that God desires to pour upon us; and yet, even knowing it is so, does not make it any easier to tear down the bricks holding us back from basking in the light of His peace.
I just love this verse out of Micah 7:19 that tells us, “He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”
It is exactly in the moments when we feel dirty, shameful, and guilty that we have to seek the light – that we turn our faces toward Him and rush into His arms, asking Him to cast our sin into the depths of the sea. He is a compassionate God!! The longer we hide our faces, the harder it is to turn it back towards Him. The longer you give Satan, the more time he has to whisper discouraging and accusing words in your ear to make you feel like God will never forgive you, that you are not worthy of His forgiveness, that you will never be useful again to Him. Satan is the master manipulator, and if you give him the chance, he will twist the truths until you lose all hope. So Run. Run to your Heavenly Father, and lay yourself bare before Him; He is faithful, He is mighty to save, He is compassionate. You will not be turned away.
One of the incredible things about God, though, is that He never lets us wander too far before He is calling us back – we may not always listen, but He makes sure to let us know that He misses us, He misses our relationship and the time we spend with Him. ❤ How I love that we serve a God who desires time with us!
Please turn and read vv 21-24 (ESV):
21 Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. 22 Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, 24 and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’
Sometimes, we have to be put in dire positions before we finally listen to God, though, don’t we? Like the sailors, we may be lost without sustenance for a long time before God knows we are willing to listen. Finally, the sailors were in such a position that they would listen to a lowly prisoner; and what a beautiful message he has! “Do not be afraid!… God has granted all those who sail with you.” When we are feeling lost in the storm, God’s message is always the same: Do not be afraid!!! I love that saying that I keep seeing around on social media:
Can I get an AMEN?! These sailors didn’t know the lifeguard, but they soon would! I find it incredible that God saved an entire boat-full of men just because a man of God was among them. What does that mean for us?!?! Sometimes God will save those aboard our sinking ship just because we are on it. Isn’t that AMAZING?! Praise Him!!
God wanted Paul in Rome to meet Caesar, so Paul knew to Caesar he would go, no matter the current circumstances. As for these men, they got to meet the Savior along the way. Sometimes those times of darkness are allowed to overtake you so that the people on your ship can follow you back into the light – a light they may never have seen before. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Maybe, just maybe, this is one reason why: the times of trial in your life will not only teach, strengthen, or refine you, but maybe they are also so others around you will be encouraged, strengthened, or even brought to Christ for the first time. Praise Him in the dark, with the knowledge that the light is soon approaching. Amen!