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God is sovereign over the storms of life. If we are to sail in the storm, we must trust God and keep doing the things we know we need to be doing such as givings thanks, staying in community, abiding in His Word and trusting in His promises. God is in control of our "ships" despite how treacherous the storms seem.
Acts 2018 and Beyond
From Acts 28 to Ad 2018: This Is No Fable
Sailing in the Storm
The Evidence of a Relationship
The True Story of Paul Can Be True of You: Passion, Providence and Peace
Calm in the Midst of Crisis
Courage That Comes From Love
What a privilege it is to be in God's Word with you today. As Todd said, if you're a guest with us, I just want to welcome you into our home. I'm so glad you can be with us. We are back in Acts today, chapter 27. As we dive in, I just want to tell you a story I experienced growing up. I grew up about an hour from the Gulf of Mexico, and my dad was a big fisherman. He would go fishing once or twice a month, and we would go in the bay. That's typically where he would go, but this was the first time I had ever been deep-sea fishing.
We woke up before the sun came up and headed out to Aransas Pass, and we were going to charter a boat to go deep-sea fishing. I'm about 8 years old. We're going with another family, and they have a young boy as well, a good friend of mine. We see the boat, and it's bigger than any boat I had ever been on. It's kind of a two-story, double-decker boat that can endure the ocean. We get on, and I'm just so excited to be there.
The boat is essentially idling toward the dock. It's not tied up. The captain is getting on and off to load up the tackle and the bait and whatnot. I'm watching him as he goes into this door and then comes back out and gets on the boat and then goes back off. My friend Clay and I go into the cabin, and there's this big chrome wheel there where the captain would steer the ship, and there's a dashboard and all of these dials and buttons and knobs and levers and whatnot.
My dad is kind of loading on the ice chest, and he goes off to the truck to get some things. There I am in the cabin with my buddy, and I don't know why I did what I did, but for some reason I turned the wheel. I just grabbed that wheel and turned it. When I turned it, the boat took off backward. It started moving into the ocean away from the dock. I look around. There's no one else but my 9-year-old friend and me. His eyes are about this big, like, "What did you do?" and I'm like, "I don't know!"
I just start panicking. I'm talking level 10, level 11 panicking. I'm like, "I don't know what button makes this thing stop. How do we turn it off? Where's the key?" It's just moving backward, and what's going through my mind is "I'm never going to see my family again. They're going to find us in China or something. How do we get this thing to stop?" Now let me push pause right there for just a moment. Do you ever feel like that in life? Like you're just going backward, like you are completely out of control? Things aren't going the way you thought they would.
I don't know what that is as you came in here today. That could be a marriage that's spiraling out of control. That could be a child of yours who has gone off and made some really poor decisions, and as a parent you feel completely out of control. Maybe it's a work situation. Maybe you were laid off. Maybe it's a conflict. As you're driving down the road, you keep reliving these conversations in your mind. You're like, "What's going on in this relationship?" Something in your community.
Maybe it's loneliness for you, and as you look on the horizon you don't see any opportunity for that to change. It just feels like you're moving backward. Maybe it's some emotions you feel you can't help. Maybe it's despair. Maybe it's depression. Maybe it's anxiety. What drives you to a place where you feel like you are completely and totally out of control? Maybe it's some health issues. Maybe it's a loved one who's sick. Maybe it's grief from loss.
We call these moments the storms of life. These are the storms of life. Today, as we're back in Acts, the apostle Paul is going to go through a real-life storm. This is a textbook chapter on what it looks like to lead through these storms. In fact, the apostle Paul, as a prisoner on the ship, is going to do so masterfully as he leads a moment. We would say he has no control, and yet he steps up as a leader.
In Acts, chapter 27, we're going to talk about how to stay sailing in the storms of life and learn from Paul's example. Obviously, this is a descriptive text. It's a historical narrative, but we're going to learn from Paul's example as we move through this text. Now it has been a while since we've been in Acts. This was long before Easter, so I just need to remind you of where we were in chapters 25 and 26.
Before that, Paul is in Jerusalem. He's preaching the gospel. Some guys come over from Ephesus and cause quite an uproar. They stir the crowd into a commotion, and then they point to Paul and say, "He did it." Then the Romans come and say, "Hey, what are you doing right now?" They arrest Paul. They don't really know why. Then he goes on trial before the Sanhedrin, before Festus. Then he goes to Caesarea and appears before Felix and Agrippa.
Ultimately, these men are like, "Hey, he's innocent," but God has this plan. He wants Paul to go to Rome, the epicenter of culture at the time. So Paul says, "I appeal to the emperor of Rome. I want to talk to the emperor of Rome. I'm going to use my citizenship to get there." So they say, "Hey, this guy is innocent, but he has appealed to the emperor. Off to Rome you will go." That's really where we pick up today in Acts, chapter 27. It is the journey from Caesarea to Rome.
Now to put into perspective how long of a journey this would be, this would be like setting sail from the Port of Galveston to Venezuela or to go from Galveston to Puerto Rico on a boat. That's how long this journey from Jerusalem area to Rome is. I'm going to walk you through verses 1-8 in chapter 27. I want you to know this is a really graphic (in the best way), vivid text. In fact, historians and archaeologists have studied this text to learn about first-century maritime seamanship.
People who don't believe in our God have opened the Bible to this text just to learn what it looked like to sail at this time. It's so graphic, with so many details. As we move through it, we're going to talk about what it looks like to be steady in the storm, to seek who is sovereign in the storm, and how we should not stop in the storm.
What happens here is Paul leaves the Caesarea area and goes up around the island of Cyprus. Here's a map. He sets sail there. He goes up around that island of Cyprus over to Myra. Now at Myra, here's what's going to happen. He's going to change ships. They're going to get on an Alexandrian grain ship. It would be about 133 feet long, about 44 feet wide. Don't think about the Sea of Galilee and Jesus and his buddies on a little boat. This is a big ship.
Two hundred seventy-six people are on this ship. Who's on this ship are Paul, some prisoners, some soldiers, some sailors, some merchants who would be selling grain (it's a grain ship), and then there's a centurion named Julius. He's a good guy. He likes Paul. For whatever reason, Paul has favor with him. Probably because Festus said, "This prisoner going with you is innocent, but he appealed to Rome, so we're sending him off to Caesar. Take good care of him."
For whatever reason, this centurion (centurion just means a man who's over 100 soldiers) has favor for Paul. So he's on there, and then what's really weird is we start to see we in this chapter a lot, which means Luke is back in the picture. Remember, he left earlier on, but he's back now in Acts, chapter 27. He's on the boat with Paul, and so is Paul's buddy Aristarchus. This is strange that Paul, a prisoner, would get to bring his community group with him. That's not normal.
The reason is maybe because they would come up under him and say, "Hey, we're his slaves. Where he goes we go." You just see the bond of friendship here. If we could go back to this map, what's going to happen in this chapter… This is where we pick up in Myra, and they're going to go up to Cnidus and then down to the island of Crete. It's not a good time to sail. Storms are coming in. They land there at Fair Havens.
Paul is like, "Hey, you need to stop," but they say, "No, we're going to try to make it to Phoenix." But when they try to go to Phoenix, all things go awry, and they start dancing around the Mediterranean Sea. They're ultimately going to make it to that tiny, tiny island of Malta. That's where we're going to end the chapter today, but most of the narrative is going to take place where they're lost at sea in the Mediterranean Sea. Let's start in verse 9.
"Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Day of Atonement." The Day of Atonement would happen in late September or early October. If this is AD 59, like most historians believe it was, the Day of Atonement would have been October 5. This is why this is in there: so you would know what time they're sailing.
You could not sail after September 15. It was considered very, very dangerous. The Romans said to sail after November is suicide. Literally, the Mediterranean Sea ceases to have any ships on it whatsoever in November through the winter months. So what they're doing right now is looking for a place to tie up for winter. They don't want to stay in Fair Havens because that's kind of a dump, and they're trying to make it to Phoenix.
"So Paul warned them, 'Men…'" Keep in mind he's a prisoner on the ship. "'Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.' But the centurion [Julius] , instead of listening to what Paul [the prisoner] said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest."
So they're on the lee side of Crete, which means the non-windy side of Crete. They're trying to use the island to block them, but the wind is about to change directions. Now to go from Fair Havens to Phoenix is only 75 miles, but Paul is no stranger to the sea. This is where he grew up. This was his highway he traveled on growing up.
Keep in mind he has been shipwrecked three times. Second Corinthians 11 tells us this. So this guy is a pro in this situation. He's looking up and saying, "Hey, guys, we need to not go any farther. This is a bad idea." How do you stay sailing in the storms of life? We can learn from Paul's example.
1._ Stay steady in the storm. What do I mean by "stay steady"? I mean remain calm and be faithful. So he's here, and he's completely under control. Contrast that to me on that boat. Remember me earlier? I was panicked. I was like, "What am I going to do? Where we're going, I'm never going to see my family again." But Paul is completely under control. In life there are things you _can't control and things you can control. Focus on the things you can control.
It's like, "God, you are sovereign. You love me. You're sovereign over the Enemy. You're sovereign over my life. You're sovereign over my work situation. You're sovereign over my children. God, you have a plan for me. I'm going to focus on what I can control." Paul can't control the weather. He can't control their response. The majority voted. "Hey, you should not go on." They said, "I'm going to keep going."
He says, "Guys, if we can't go this way, we're going to get hurt." Here's what I want you to know. You don't judge obedience in life by the outcome. Do you understand what I'm saying? Paul could have said, "These guys are not going to listen to me. Who am I? I'm a prisoner. They don't care what I have to say." But he says, "I'm going to faithfully speak up, regardless."
This week, I was talking to someone who was really hurt by someone in the church. I sat them down. We turned to Matthew 18, and I said, "You know what faithfulness looks like. You need to go and tell them they hurt you. You need to talk to them." They said, "You know what? It's not going to be any use. They're not going to listen to me."
I said, "That's not how we determine obedience, whether they're going to listen to you or not. We say, 'God, what does obedience look like? Let me be faithful in that. I need to go tell them they hurt me.'" They said, "You know what? I just really want this to be behind me anyways. I really just want this to go away."
"I understand what you want, but God is calling you to something different."
Have you ever been watching the news and there's a hurricane coming in and there's a sign…? Sometimes the news anchor will stand there in the midst of that hurricane, and that sign is just getting whipped around by the storm, but it's standing on that post and saying, "This is the way you should go." Like one of those black arrows on a yellow background, saying, "Hey, you have to turn here."
Sometimes I think Christianity is like us being that sign. Getting whipped around by culture, getting whipped around by situations, getting whipped around by circumstances, saying, "Hey, guys. This is the way you should go. Don't go any farther. Listen to me. This is the way you should go." We stay steady in the storm.
He says, "Fellows, I can see we're about to lose our ship, our cargo, maybe our lives. This is a bad idea." They say, "That's interesting, bro. You're a prisoner. I'm going to listen to the owner of the ship and the captain, if that's cool with you." Paul is like, "All right. Buckle up. Let's go." Verse 13: "When a gentle south wind began to blow, they saw their opportunity; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete."
A gentle south wind comes in. They're like, "Paul, see? You were wrong." A gentle south wind is the dream for a sailor. They're like, "All right, a little bit of the wind in the sail. Let's go. We're going on. See, Paul? You don't know what you're talking about." Oh, but verse 14. "Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the Northeaster, swept down from the island. The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along."
Now any control they thought they had was gone. They are completely at the mercy of the wind, of the currents of the sea, of the ocean. They cannot steer the ship. They are in a hurricane. That's what's going on here. They are on that boat in a hurricane. "As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure, so the men hoisted it aboard. Then they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together."
What's going on here? They're getting tossed to and fro in the ocean. The lifeboat is banging against the ship. They say, "Hey, we have to bring that on top of the ship." They go get that, and then they do what's called frapping the ship. They take ropes and start to tie the ropes around the ship to hold it together so the ship they're on doesn't break apart in the ocean. It's like they're getting duct tape and mummifying the ship so they can keep sailing. This is crazy.
"Because they were afraid they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along." Syrtis is known as a ship graveyard. In fact, today archaeologists have found shipwreck after shipwreck in these sand dunes there. You would see anchor, anchor, anchor, shipwreck. Sailors at this time, when they thought they were going to wreck, would begin to drop anchors to try to slow it down. This is what's going on here. This is where they are here at this ship graveyard.
"We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard." Why did they keep going? Because it's a merchant ship, a grain ship. They're driven by profitability. They want to make money. But in a hurricane you see what matters. In the storms of life you start to audit things, and all of those things you've been collecting, all of those things you've wanted, all of those things you work hard for you start to throw overboard, because it's about survival.
"On the third day, they threw the ship's tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved." The tackle is the ropes that were used to steer the ship. They're at the mercy now of the current of the sea to go wherever it pleases.
I don't know if we can fully grasp what's going on here. I'd love to, if you'd let me, try to put you in this storm with Paul. Can you see the ship and hear the sounds and feel the waves? The waves of the ocean coming up big and crashing over the ship. There they are. Can you feel it? I want you to be in this situation.
Some of you feel like you're going to vomit right now. You hear the sounds of the people screaming and yelling. You don't know if you're going to survive. It would have been absolute chaos. People afraid of falling overboard, going from here and there, dancing with the waves. It would have been complete and total chaos. For 14 days they lived in this storm, tossing them from here to there and from there to here.
"After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: 'Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.
Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, "Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you." So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.'"
This is the "I told you so" of all "I told you sos." That's what seems like is going on, but here's what I want you to know. It's not a spiteful "I told you so." He's not like, "Hey, guys, should have listened to me." It's a hopeful "I told you so."
"Listen. I know God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, the one who numbered the hairs on your head. I have conversations with him. We talk, and I want you to know that none of us are going to get hurt. We're going to lose our ship. It's going to get hurt, but we're not going to get hurt. So remain hopeful. Take courage, men." So what does it look like to be steady in the storm?
2._ Seek who is sovereign in the storm_. Remember that God is the captain of the ship. God is the captain of your life. God is in charge of the wind and the waves and your children and your work and your boss and your marriage and your communities and that conflict. He's sovereign over all of those things, so seek who is sovereign in the storm.
Can I take you back to that story I started with? There I was, and I'm going backward on that ship, thinking, "I'm never going to see my parents again." I look at my friend. Immediately, I grab the wheel and turn it the other way, and nothing happened. It was completely clear that we were out of control.
So when I was out of ideas and out of resources, I just ran outside to yell for help from the cabin. When I went to yell for help I looked up, and when I looked up I saw the captain of the ship sitting there at another wheel on top of the boat. He was in control the whole time. It was just coincidence that it happened when I turned the wheel. He was steering the ship the whole time. It gave me a heart attack. It was like, "You could have told me, buddy."
Can I tell you the swing of emotion I felt? One minute completely panicked, completely thinking, "Hey, I'm going to die. I'm never going to see my family. What did I do? This is on me," and the next minute, in one second, seeing what was really happening, it was like peace. "Oh, there you are. Okay. Let's go fishing."
Some of you just need to look up and see that God right now is still very much in control of your situation. His hands are still very much on the wheel. He's still very much driving this ship called your life. So surrender to him. That's your greatest response to that. Surrender to him, because the storms in this life, Christians, brothers and sisters of the faith, are your greatest opportunity to show your faith, to display your faith.
What is a faith you don't use in the storms? People come to faith by seeing the faith of others. If you were to talk about how you came to the faith, so many of our stories would involve, "I just saw somebody who lived like they believed what I say I believe now. I saw somebody who held fast to faith in their God, their Creator."
Do you guys know the name John Wesley? He's credited for the Methodist Church, he and his brother Charles Wesley. He's a forefather in the faith here in America. Many writings and theologies are accredited to John Wesley. In 1735, John Wesley was sailing from England to the New World. He's on a boat. This is where he's at in his life. He has already been to seminary. He has been a pastor. He has been a missionary. He's the chaplain of this particular ship he's on right now, and he's going to the New World.
They ran into a storm themselves. That boat ran into a storm. John Wesley was afraid for his life. On that boat were some German Moravian missionaries who were coming to America to share the gospel with Native Americans. The Englishmen on the boat were screaming for their lives in horror. John Wesley thought he was going to die, but these Moravian missionaries sat calmly and sang hymns. He was so confused by that.
In fact, they made it through that storm, and he found the leader of these missionaries and said, "What were you doing? Everyone thought we were going to die, but you guys were just singing hymns. You didn't seem scared at all." This guy asked him, "Do you have faith in Jesus Christ?" To which he said, "Of course I do." He was the chaplain of the boat. He was a pastor, a missionary, had been to seminary.
He said, "Of course I do," but that question haunted him, because he realized he lived his life without the faith he claimed he had, the faith he taught. He realized he lived his life without the faith he instructed for others. So John Wesley points to that conversation as his conversion, after being a pastor, after being a missionary, after going to seminary. He said, "When that guy questioned my faith, I believe that's when the Holy Spirit began to work in my life. I think that's when I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ."
People find faith when they observe it in others. Faith played out in the storm is courage. Did you know you can't even have courage unless fear is an option? You can't even grasp for courage. You can't even be called courageous unless you're in a storm. There's no courage on a sunny day in smooth seas. For courage to be displayed there has to be a storm. That courage for us that we take heart… It's our faith played out, lived out.
I know some of you right now are like, "I hear you, bro. I hear what you're saying, but I can't. I don't know what to do. I feel so beat up and despairing. What do I do?" That's why this point is "Seek who is sovereign." It's a verb. Seek who is sovereign. Look for him. Let me ask you guys a question. Have you ever been in a place where you just knew there was God? Has that ever happened to you?
You watched a sermon or sang a song or went to a conference or God showed up in this really big way, and you left that situation and just knew, "God is real. He's at work, and he's sovereign over my life. I got it correct. I could have worshiped Allah or Brahma or any other god, but I worship the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I got it right. He loves me, and he has a plan and a purpose for my life." Have you ever had that moment?
As you think about that moment, think about what got you there and prolong it. Sometimes I think our part in sanctification, which is God's work in our lives, is to do more of what makes us love God more, and the things that distract us from him… Stop it. Don't do that. So as I say, "Seek him," you say, "I don't know what to do. I'm despairing. I don't know what to do."
Do the things you know to do. Do the things that when you look backward have made you love God…the books you've read, the sermons you've read, the quiet times you've had, the communities you've surrounded yourself with, the things that have stirred your affections for God. Go back to that moment when you were on fire for Jesus Christ and ask, "What got me there?" and do that.
"On the fourteenth night we were still being driven across the Adriatic Sea, when about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land." It's interesting that as experts have studied this text, to go from Crete to the island of Malta in a hurricane, they say, would take 14 days. At 14 days you would be three miles from the island of Malta. You see God's sovereignty and reliance and providence and expertise in this text.
"They took soundings…" That's how you find out how deep the water is. "…and found that the water was a hundred and twenty feet deep. A short time later they took soundings again and found it was ninety feet deep." It's getting shallower. They're like, "Hey, we're going to crash." Keep in mind it's the middle of the night. It's midnight. There are no stars in the sky. They can't see anything.
The ocean is throwing them from here to there, and at any moment they know their boat is going to be torn apart. They're going to hit a sandbar. They're going to hit a reef, and their boat is going to be torn apart, and they're going to be tossed into the darkness of the ocean at any moment. This is the fear they live with. "Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight."
"God, would you just make the sun come up?" Wait, what? Who's praying? The people on the boat are now praying. It's funny that God said, "Paul, I have something I want you to do. You're going to get to Rome, and because you're going to get to Rome, I'm going to keep everyone on that ship safe. Their salvation, in an earthly sense, is tied to you." Whose salvation is tied to you? Meaning, who does God want you to save? Where does he have you on a floor, in a building, in a community, in a neighborhood, at a school? Whose salvation is tied to you?
"In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, 'Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.' So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it drift away."
This is so interesting. God said, "You're going to be saved. I'm going to get you where you need to go. You guys are going to be safe," but Paul is like, "Unless they stay on the boat, we're not going to be saved." You see God's sovereignty and man's responsibility here. He's saying, "Hey, God said we're going to get there, but let's not be crazy."
This would be like you're on an airplane and see the pilot about to jump through the door with a parachute. It's like, "Hey, guys, we don't know how to steer this ship. If we lose the sailors…" Remember there are soldiers and sailors. Paul sees the sailors pretending to put down some anchors when they're actually about to get on a lifeboat. He's like, "I see what you're doing, guys. Don't think I'm not on the boat with you."
He's like, "Hey, centurion man, come here. Julius, listen. Do you see what those guys are doing, bro? Those are the sailors, and they're lowering the boat, and they're about to leave us on this boat to die." So the soldiers go over to the sailors and cut down the lifeboat and let it go. Right here is where you see the first army/navy conflict that still exists today. "Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. 'For the last fourteen days,' he said, 'you have been in constant suspense…'" He says, "Guys, you have to eat."
"'…and have gone without food—you haven't eaten anything. Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.' After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. Altogether there were 276 of us on board. When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea."
3._ Don't stop in the storm_. What do I mean by that? Keep doing what you know to do in the storm. These guys got so distracted by the chaos they forgot to eat. You have to keep doing the basic things of life in the storm, because after the storm you're going to be left with life, and the decisions you make in the storm will be left with you after the storm.
Can you imagine if these guys starved to death? Like, if they survived the storm but starved to death? Can you imagine if these guys died because they didn't have the strength to fight the storm because they stopped eating, and the reason they died is not because of the storm but because they stopped eating? Sometimes in storms we do what I do when I go camping. I hate camping, so when I go camping I just kind of give up on life.
I stop shaving. I stop bathing. I'm just like, "Don't get close to me. We're camping." I don't even change clothes. I'm like, "I'm done with life out here. We'll pick back up with life when we get to civilization. Why are we living in a bag?" Sometimes we do that in storms. Like, "Oh, this is chaos. You know what? I don't need community right now. I just need to isolate. I'll start reading my Bible again after the storm. I'll start praying after the storm. I'll get back with church after the storm."
No, in the storm is when you need those things. Pray more in the storm. Seek God more in the storm. Seek community, his people more in the storm. Rely on the church in the storm. Move toward God's people in the storm. Resist the Enemy's temptation to isolate in the storm. You have to do what you know you need to do in the storm. Maintain the basics. Sometimes in life you need a nap. Sometimes you need a quiet time, a meal, a workout, a healthy routine. That's not sexy, but it's life-saving.
Do the things you know to do in the storm. Don't amuse yourself to death in the storm. Don't binge-watch Netflix. "Okay, I'm just going to stay in bed in the storm." That's not going to help. Remember that morning is coming. These guys got on their knees and prayed for daylight. Can I give you some good news this morning? Jesus is coming back. What does he do? He gets the clouds out of his way. He splits open the sky. It's like waking up from a bad dream.
Have you ever had a bad dream that was hard to wake up from? Like, such a bad dream you start to count the consequences when you wake up. "Was that real? Was it not? Wake up, wake up." One time I dreamt my wife was really, really sick and dying, and when I woke up it was like, "Oh no! Is she sick? Oh, no, it was a dream." That day I just lived with gratitude for her, because I was like, "She's not sick. I'm so grateful for her. I'm so grateful for health."
When Jesus comes back, it's going to be like waking up from a bad dream, from a nightmare. You're going to look back on the sickness and disease and the prodigal children and the job loss and the layoff and your concerns for money and resources here. He's going to say, "Snap out of it. See? All this is yours forever and ever and ever. That down there? That was a bad dream. Wake up. Daylight is coming. Morning is coming. Jesus is coming."
Can I tell you something else? You're riding a ship to paradise called the cross that doesn't break up in the storm. It's going to get you where you need to go. The salvation of Jesus Christ… When you've trusted in him, assuming you're a brother and sister in the faith, that you've trusted in Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, his death and resurrection as a payment for your sins, then you don't have to go to hell and pay for your sins. You get to be invited in with him into eternity.
So if you do stop in the storm, stop to do what Paul did. Stop to give thanks. "Lord, I thank you for the storm." It seems like he's serving Communion here. Like those guys would be like, "Paul, who could eat at a time like this?" and he's like, "Guys, you don't understand. You can't afford not to eat." You can't afford not to go to community. You can't afford not to turn to God. You can't afford not to have a quiet time. You can't afford not to pray right now, not to rest right now. You can't afford not to take care of yourself right now. You have to prioritize these things.
"When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach…" This is known as "Saint Paul's Bay" to this day. "…where they decided to run the ship aground if they could. Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders.
Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach. But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern [the back of the ship] was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf. The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping."
Julius, the centurion, is like, "Guys, if you kill the prisoners, you have to kill Paul. I'm not sure we can survive without this guy." Who's in charge here? The prisoner, the apostle Paul, the one who's going to appeal to Caesar. He's very much in charge of this ship because his God is in charge of the ship. This guy Julius is like, "We can't kill the prisoners because we need that guy."
"But the centurion wanted to spare Paul's life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely." Two hundred seventy-six people were safe that day. That's a miracle.
Luke would have written this with another story in the background, another story of a storm and a ship, the story of Jonah. For Jonah, in order for them to be saved from the storm, they had to throw him overboard, but to be saved from this storm… Their salvation, their safety is tied to Paul. "We need to keep this guy here with us." Therefore, the prisoners were saved as well.
Let me point out that at no point did this become easy. In fact, next week you're going to hear that the first thing that happens to Paul on this island is he gets bit by a poisonous snake. "God, when am I going to catch a break?" "When you're with me in heaven. In this world you will suffer. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart. I've overcome the world."
So, in summary, how do we stay sailing in the storm? We stay steady in the storm, we seek the one who is sovereign in the storm, and we don't stop in the storm. You remember that your God's hands are still very much on this wheel. He's still very much driving this thing. That's what you need to know today.
Two weeks ago was my daughter's spring break, so we got to go to a friend's lake house. God gave us a beautiful day to be at a lake house. The sky was clear. The sun was out. It was about 85 degrees. All my kids wanted to do was go swimming that day, and I'm like, "There's no way we're going to." Lo and behold, it was beautiful.
Two of my kids, Weston and Finely, wanted to fish. We were on the dock and we were fishing. My daughter Presley wanted to go paddleboarding. So she gets on the paddleboard, puts on her life jacket, and while I'm fishing with these two (which just looked like constantly loading their hooks up with worms and whatnot) I'm watching my daughter, because anytime one of my kids is in any kind of danger situation, my eyes are locked on them. I'm watching her.
Boats are coming by and going. We're in a really, really big cove. She has drifted almost to the middle of this cove. She's a speck on the horizon, and I'm thinking, "Okay, Presley, it's about time to come back. You need to come back." I see her start to try to come back, but there's a long cross wind now picking up, and it's carrying her farther and farther away. I have no boat. I'm thinking, "Okay, I need some help."
Boats are coming by. I'm like, "Hey, do you have room for one more on there? Can we run a quick errand?" I'm trying to flag down somebody with a boat. Finally, I lock eyes with a guy who has a boat. He comes over. I said, "Hey, is there any way you could take my family and me to get my daughter? She's on the other side of the lake now, it seems like. She has drifted on a paddleboard."
So we get on this guy's boat and go over there, and lo and behold, she has now gotten off on this other shore. She has drifted all the way across the lake. We go over there to get her, and the first thing her siblings ask on this boat, as she's getting on, is "Presley, were you scared? Presley, were you scared?" She looked back and said, "No, I wasn't scared. I knew Daddy was watching me. I wasn't scared. I knew if he was scared he'd come for me." No, she didn't know I was scared. I'm like, "Yeah! I'd come for you."
She's like, "I knew he'd come for me. Why would I be scared if he's not scared?" Can I tell you something? God is not scared. He's not concerned. He's not worried about how to get you out of the storm. He has a purpose in it, and he's watching you, and you can trust him. He's still very much in control. If we ever had a time that we should doubt God, wouldn't it be when Jesus was dead on the cross? He's like, "Guys, I still have a plan."
"But, God, now he's in a tomb. He's dead in a tomb."
"Guys, my hand is still on the wheel. I have a plan. Watch this. It's going to be amazing."
If you can trust him with the cross and trust him with the tomb, why can't you trust him in your storm? You're going to wake up one day from this bad dream. Stay sailing. Let me pray you would.
Father, help my friends stay sailing. Thank you for your Word that doesn't return void. Thank you that we can trust you in the storm. Help us to be steady in the storm. Help us to seek who is sovereign in the storm. Father, help us to keep going in the storm, to stay sailing in the storm. Father, help us to move toward community for help in the storm. We love you so much.
We're so grateful for this text. We're so grateful for Paul's example, so grateful for what you've done in our lives. We want to stop and give thanks to you even in the storm, to acknowledge that you're God and we're not even in the storm, especially in the storm. Father, as we worship you, I pray you would remind us who our anchor is, who our cornerstone is, who our lives are built on. It's in Jesus' name, amen.