When you are caught in a storm this is what goes on in most people’s minds:
How I wish I could make this storm disappear instantly
How I wish I was not caught in this! Will I survive this? When will I get out of this? (All to do with survival)
How can I reach the shore?
If I know the answers to these questions with certainty I can go through the storm almost peacefully. If someone assures me ‘100% Rajesh, you will survive and you will reach your destination.’, that assurance gives me the calmness and peace and strength I need at the moment.
Today all of us are caught up in this storm called Covid-19, a pandemic of our life time. Our peace of mind is gone, because we are helpless. How we wish we can stop it right away. How we wish we would not infected by it, or fall victim to the effect of Corona or how I wish I have enough immunity and survive it and live to see another day, or year or years. An assurance about all these, at least to some degree, would give us peace, right?
As we read Acts 27, it gives us answers to some of our heart cries. Paul was stuck in the storm of his life. His life was at stake, not only his, but also of all the passengers on board.
Through this storm that Paul faced, God reassures us and teaches us that,
God teaches us that he is sovereign over the storm. And he has a purpose for your life through this storm.
God teaches us that He is powerful to sustain you in the storm.
Lastly he teaches us that,
He alone can bring you to the shore where no storm will ever touch you again.
Knowing these truths and trusting these truths alone can give us the peace we need in the eye of the storm.
We can have peace while going through these storms as
God is Sovereign and he allows storms to build our faith
God sustains us in the storm with his presence
God brings us to the shore in Jesus.
1. God is sovereign and he allows storms to build our faith
During the 3rd missionary journey of Paul he collects offerings for the believers in Jerusalem and he comes to Jerusalem where he gets arrested. When there was a plot to kill him he was transferred to Caserea, where Paul goes through various trials. He was the best evangelist available to God. Yet, God puts him on the bench, so to speak, as the 12th man. During the trial, Paul decides to appeal to Caesar as he was a Roman citizen. The responsibility of delivering Paul was given to the Roman centurion, Julius. That is where this narrative in ch.27 begins. Paul knows the seas and seasons. He warns of impending danger in taking the voyage. But business interests outweigh Paul’s counsel.
Paul, along with other passengers, head into the eye of a storm. Rather, God allows Paul to head towards it according to his Sovereign plan and will.
Paul’s journey to Rome. God’s sovereignty
The God of the Bible is Sovereign. That means he is in absolute control over everything that is happening in the world. Without his knowledge, nothing moves. He is directing the course of human history to fulfil his purposes. He is in control over all the storms and pandemics. He is in control even over the finest protein cell Corona, or the unfathomable scale of the universe.
God in his sovereignty allowed Paul to be a prisoner of Rome. He allowed Paul to board the ship even though he knew the fate of the ship. As the narrative unfolds, we see God’s plan unfolding in the lives of the passengers and eventually, we see Paul reaching an Island and healing the sick in the name of the Lord.
God, in his sovereignty, orchestrates world events exactly as per his will to accomplish his purposes. And he used Paul to reveal to all of us his power, his purposes and his deliverance through the storms of life, so that you and I can go through life in peace resting in his sovereignty.
Remember the story of Jonah? God asks him to go to a place called Ninevah, instead he heads to Joppa in the opposite direction. God then brings a storm, and Jonah was thrown overboard. The storm calms down, and God brings a whale to take Jonah where God want him to go.
The God of the Bible is sovereign. He controls nature, he controls creatures, he is in charge. Just like he allowed Paul to enter the eye of the storm, today he is allowing us to sail through this pandemic. The ship Paul was sailing in was hit by a tempestuous wind, called northeaster. For many days they did not see the sun or the stars. Without the sun and stars, navigating the seas was impossible in those days. They were like a cork in the ocean, being tossed around aimlessly. One verse summarises their ordeal.
v20 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.
Their hope of reaching the shore or of survival was gone. They were literally just waiting to die.
For the last 8 months we have been going through extraordinary times. No one would have predicted times like these. Even the whole world’s resources and wisdom put together could not stop this storm. After enduring this for so many months, we too are feeling like a cork in the ocean, just aimlessly tossing about, not knowing when we will reach the shore. Perhaps. many of us, like those passengers in that ship are losing hope.
If God is all powerful and sovereign why didn’t he stop it?
Why did God allow the storm in Paul’s life?
Why didn’t he stop the Corona? Why is he allowing this pandemic in our life?
Let me suggest some reasons.
1. God allows storms to expose our insecurities, fears and heart idols:
When everything goes well in our lives, it’s easy to praise God. It’s easy to be a great witness. But when our world is rocked by suffering. It’s not easy to praise God. It's not easy to bless him and acknowledge his good intentions and plans for us.
At the core of our hearts, all of us want security, comfort and peace. And Storms rock all that.
Storms expose our insecurities
Storms bring out our deepest fears and anxieties
Storms expose our heart idols.
May be your heart idol is comfort.
Comfort: what if I get sick. What if I lose my job, what if my savings run out
Approval: what if a loved one rejects me?
Control: We are helpless and not in control of the situation.
Power: What if this storm ruins my success. What if I become a failure.
But at the same time, God allows storms to surprise us by revealing to us the content of our faith. Some of you must have witnessed in your own lives, how you were able to withstand a storm and come out of it, which you never thought you could ever overcome.
Storms show us the content of our faith.
Through Paul’s life God reveals to all of us the content of Paul’s faith.
2. God allows storms to sanctify us
Rom 5: 2 Through him we have also cobtained access by faith2 into this grace din which we stand, and ewe3 rejoice4 in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we frejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering gproduces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hhope does not put us to shame,
James1: 2 eCount it all joy, my brothers,2 when you meet trials fof various kinds, 3 for you know that gthe testing of your faith hproduces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be iperfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
We often are afraid that our worst nightmares will come true. Meaning our heart idols would be exposed and we are challenged in that area. And God does expose those areas. Not to shame us, or laugh at us but to heal us in those areas. So, that we surrender those areas to him and start trusting him.
He exposes our insecurities, but also he builds our faith in the areas which we are afraid of.
Don’t get surprised, if health is your greatest fear. The idol of comfort- then God may take you through a journey where your health may face the storm. So that you learnt to trust him and enjoy the abundant life.
If relationships or approval is your idol, God may allow a storm in that area for you to deal with that idol and produce a character that is content with God’s approval alone.
God is sanctifying us through the storms, by removing our fears and anxieties, by removing our sinful behaviours. And he is making us holy through the storms. God is using the storms to make us more like his Son. God designed sufferings for our Good.
3. God allows storms to prepare us better for the next storm (by trusting him)
2 Cor 11: 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the gforty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was hbeaten with rods. iOnce I was stoned. Three times I jwas shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea;
Three ship wrecks! How did he survive three and now he was walking into one more potential ship wreck. All those past sufferings would have taught Paul at least one thing. That the Lord he was serving was a faithful God and he would always come to his rescue. Paul learn to trust God and his Sovereignty even over his suffering.
We are waiting for this one pandemic to get over. What if there are 3 more around the corner? Are we prepared for it? Are we allowing God to build our faith as we toss through this pandemic?
4. God allows storms to help us serve each other better
Even in the storm, Paul encourages his fellow passengers. He gives them hope by helping them to focus on God’s word. And eventually we see that he pleads to them to eat so that they can swim to the shore when it comes to that. All the shipwrecks taught Paul important lessons. Here, we see him taking up the leadership role and encouraging the co-passengers, counselling the centurion and even preparing them to reach the shore by encouraging them to eat.
5. God allows storms so that we would seek the shore with sincerity of heart
Have you ever noticed kids in the park? We have to literally drag them out of the park when it’s time to go home.
But when they go to school, as soon as the bell rings, they don’t wait a second, they run towards the gate or their buses which take them home.
Storms are the schools that God takes us through so that, more than anything, we would look forward to going Home or look forward to the Lord’s coming with a sincere heart.
Do you understand why we go through storms of life?
Why did God allow Paul to head into the eye of a storm?
To show us he is sovereign. He allows the storms, he sustains us through them, he brings us out.
God allows Paul in the storm to show us the content of his faith.
God allows Paul in the storm to show us where Paul’s security lay
God allows Paul in the storm to build our faith.
God allows Paul in the storm to show how his sovereign redemptive plans are fulfilled. 276 were saved, Malta was evangelised.
Many of us are used to checking the statistics, how many people contracted Corona and how many have died. How I wish we all could see the statistics or headlines in Heaven. How many souls have been saved due to Corona. God always accomplishes his purposes through the storms. We need to have a greater vision of God.
Peace in God’s sovereignty
Trusting God’s Sovereignty and his sovereign purposes alone can give us peace.
God is sovereign over the pandemic and he is sovereign over our lives .
Through this pandemic he is exposing our hearts so that we realise our heart idols and come to him to be healed and changed.
Through this pandemic he is sanctifying us to his Son’s likeness.
If we do not believe this, we are basically saying that we want to be gods, sovereign over our own lives. We want to control the path of our lives. We want the outcomes exactly how we planned them to be. And anything that derails our plans causes panic, fear, anxiety, disappointment. And our peace is ruined.
Remember, God is Sovereign over this pandemic and he is building our faith through this pandemic.
God knows you are finishing your degree
God knows you are waiting for your admission
God knows your family has medical conditions
God knows your financial needs and your job situation
God knows your relationship heartbreaks.
Knowing all these, God is allowing you to go through this storm, and he is asking you today I am the Lord over the storm, will you trust me? Will you walk through this, surrendering to my good plan for you? I have overcome all these, have faith, trust me, I will give you my peace.
We can have peace going through storms as
God is Sovereign and he allows storms to build our faith.
2. Secondly, God sustains us in the storm with his presence
Rom 27: 21 Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, “Men, oyou should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this oinjury and loss. 22 Yet now I urge you to ptake heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For this very night qthere rstood before me san angel of the God tto whom I belong and uwhom I worship, 24 and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; vyou must stand before Caesar. And behold, wGod has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25 So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. 26 But xwe must yrun aground on some island.”
The men in the boat lost their appetite for food. When life is at stake who would want to eat? The food they needed at that moment was assurance. Before giving them that, Paul reminds them that they were responsible for the troubles they were going through. Paul warned them but they did not listen to his warning in v10.
For some storms we are not responsible, like this pandemic, but for some we are, like carelessly roaming around without masks and not maintaining social distance.
Quite often we are responsible for our sufferings, because of the terrible choices we make without heeding to any counsel. We throw ourselves into turbulent waters and then we blame God. ‘You don’t care and you are ruthless, and heartless.’ We hold God responsible for our sufferings and ruining our peaceful lives. That's us, right? Here, the captain of the ship, the centurion and the owner of the ship are responsible for what they were going through. But yet we see the faithfulness of God. But God assures Paul.
Looks like even Paul was afraid of what they were going through. Because the angel of the Lord asks Paul not to be afraid. Acts 27:24 and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; vyou must stand before Caesar.
The angel not only asks Paul not be fearful, but also to take courage and be peaceful right? You must stand before Caesar. Paul was afraid. God addressed his insecurity and strengthened him through his word. Immediately, Paul would have remembered how many times God protected and preserved him. God continues to work in Paul’s life and sanctify him.
Again, we see the Sovereignty of God here. Who can say something this outrageous, in the middle of a life-threatening storm, not having seen sun, moon or stars which are essential for navigation in those days. Everyone around was losing hope and gave up on life and God was promising Paul, you will not only survive this storm but also will reach Rome, not only will you reach Rome but also stand in front of Caesar? That’s the absolute authority of God over human life and history.
What we see is that Paul was absolutely sure about God’s promise and his presence in the storm. And it was not about his life any more, he starts building the faith of those around him who had lost hope.
And behold, wGod has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25 So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.
Now they would pay attention to Paul, right? He had already predicted before even the journey began that there will be loss of cargo on the ship. In order to secure the boat and reduce the stress on the boat they had already dumped the cargo into the ocean with their own hands. And Paul reminded them about the consequences of their action. But now he is assuring them, he was building their faith through the word of God.
No one will perish in this boat. That’s the assurance God had given to Paul. That makes us wonder, could Paul have taken a different route to Rome. But God allowed Paul to board this boat. He was in a storm because of the terrible choices made by a business man. For many days, the beloved Apostle and his companions Luke and Aristarchus were subjected to terror, fear, anxiety and hopelessness… So that, in his time, God would reveal to the sailors, prisoners, soldiers and everyone present in the boat that God loves them and cares for them and he is preserving their lives, just because the apostle was with them. God in his sovereignty allowed Paul to be in this boat for the sake of the 276.
I am pretty sure, Paul would have prayed for every single soul in that ship. He never missed an opportunity to preach the Gospel. He must have pleaded for the lives of the people and their salvation. ‘Lord do not let them die before they encounter you.’
Here is the moment Paul was waiting for and was assuring them from the word of God. The God I serve would always keep his promises. He will never go back on his word. He is faithful and powerful. All of you will live and have faith.
The one who was afraid, was now full of hope by just one word from the Lord and he was building the faith of those who were hopeless and extremely terrified of the storm. God was showing how a sanctified life looks like. They are peaceful in the storm and they build the faith of others.
God allowed this pandemic in all our lives. May be this pandemic is a result of bad business practices in a wet market, or the eating habits of certain people. But God allowed it. Each one of us is impacted by it one way or other. The suffering is real, and the hope is long gone. But at the same time let’s remember, God is sovereign over this storm and we will reach whatever destiny he has ordained for each one of us. Nothing will derail his plan for us. Confidence in God and his character and his faithfulness gives us peace in circumstances like these.
God is faithful and powerful.
Mark 4:37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves owere breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and prebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and qthere was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you rso afraid? Have you still no faith?”
They were following the Son of God. They had already witnessed many miracles and his authority over spiritual forces and nature. Yet they doubt and accuse him ‘Do you not care?’. He absolutely cares. He was sleeping so that they would exercise their faith. Jesus was building their faith. In order to build their faith he took them on a boat, he ordained a storm and allowed them to experience terror for a moment and when they called for help he did help and he calmed everything.
The days were coming in their life, when they would not cry ‘don’t you care?’ When persecution hits them, they did not cry ‘won’t you save us?’. Instead they gave away their lives joyfully. God was working and building their faith through this school of Storm.
The God we are serving is sovereign, he is all powerful El Shadai. He is the God who sees, El Roi, He cares and he rescues.
Dear brother and sister, the men in the boat tried to secure the boat and save their lives by desperately steering the boat and lowering the anchors, getting rid of excessive load. All were good measures and would use the wisdom God gave them, but the only thing that assured them for sure was the word of God.
Only the word of God and his presence is the anchor we should hold onto in times of pandemic or suffering. Everything would toss us like a cork in the ocean. But when we depend on God and his word, we would stand still, without fear. Not only would we stand still but also we would help those who ask, ‘Lord don’t you care?’ by encouraging them in the word and by building their faith.
How are we building the faith of others? Are we becoming self-focused and going into a mode of self preservation? Or are we like Paul assuring and building the faith of the brothers and sisters who are struggling and giving them hope in the Person of God.
May be some of us, or some in our family will never get out of this pandemic. But we can trust God, he is sovereign and he is accomplishing his plan through the storm.
3. God brings us to the shore in Jesus
33 As day was about to dawn, Paul urged them all to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have continued in suspense and without food, having taken nothing. 34 Therefore I urge you to take some food. For it will give you strength,6 for bnot a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.” 35 And when he had said these things, he took bread, and cgiving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat. 36 Then they all dwere encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 (We were in all 2767 epersons in the ship.)
They needed strength to swim to the shore. Paul was a practical man. Then he broke the bread and thanked God and he ate. His actions encouraged others to eat and gain the much needed strength. Finally, as it was told, we see from v39- 44, as the ship reached near the island its bow gets stuck in the sand and the waves destroyed the ship and all the passengers swam to the shore, all 276 of them. Not one life was lost, just as it was told to Paul.
God is sovereign over the storm
God sustained them in the storm
God saved them and brought them to the shore
To be honest, the pandemic is making us fearful about our lives.
Will I survive this pandemic? Will l live? How will I reach the shore?
This narrative answers that in two ways, an assurance and a reminder.
Here, in the last section Paul gives us two reasons how we can be peaceful in the storm. Both are rooted in God and his promise.
See the way he assures them? ‘for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.’ What does this mean?
Of course ,in a way it tells them that, nothing is going to happen to them. Do not worry. Are these empty words? Everything would turn against you, but don’t worry nothing, not even a hair will perish on your head? No, what God means is that ‘your lives are in my hands. I guard you, I protect you, I keep you, nothing is going to happen to you unless I allow them. Even if I allow I give them strength to endure it. The only thing you need to do is have faith, And show that faith by trusting in me.’ If we have that kind of trust we will live our lives with confidence and peace.
My heavenly father has got my back. I will be still and as peaceful as a child who sleeps in his mother’s arms. If I do not think God cares, God does not keep his promises and God is indifferent to my suffering, I would doubt, I would question I will continue to fight with God and fight with my self. The result will be fear, depression, anxiety and fear.
The choice is ours.
The second reason Paul shows we can have peace like his in v35.
The reminder of the last supper 35 And when he had said these things, he took bread, and cgiving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat.
What does it remind you? When you read this? Last supper isn’t it?
Paul when everything around him was hopeless and scary and fearful surrounded by people who are anxious. What was he doing? He was thanking God and breaking bread. There were at least 3 believers on board. All understood the meaning of this symbolism.
God allowed Jonah in a storm and in the belly of fish, to save Ninevah
God allowed Paul to enter the ship to save 276 men
God puts Jesus in the storm, because there is no way you and I can find our way out of this storm. God puts Jesus in the storm to give us hope and lead us to the shore of salvation. The cross to save us from the greatest storm of our life, sin and death.
And he defeated sin and death so that we don’t have to be fearful, but have peace. In this world you will have troubles. But you know what, I have overcome your greatest fear, death. Now have peace, my peace. May be Corona may have its effect on us, but what is certain is we will arrive at our final destination., heaven. We will reach our shore, that is absolutely certain.
But we are on a journey within the Journey. This journey has trials, and storms, we are going through pandemic. May be many more pandemics and sufferings are around the corner once we are out of it.
If our peace is anchored on how smooth our journey is, then we will be disappointed. Again another trial and our peace would be gone.
We are guaranteed safe landing not safe passage.
But if our peace is anchored on the person of God He is sovereign,
If our peace is anchored on the fact that God is with me and protects me.
If our peace is anchored on the fact that no matter what I will be home.
Then, we will live out our lives as peaceful as Paul or Jesus.
Only trusting God’s sovereignty in the eye of the storm can give us that peace.