Sunday, December 16, 2007


Acts 27 What to Do In A Storm

Audio available here

In his book Horns and Halos, Dr. J. Wallace Hamilton tells about one of the weirdest auction sales in history; and it was held in Washington, D.C., in 1926, where 150,000 patented models of old inventions were declared obsolete and placed on the auction block for public auction. Prospective buyers and on-lookers chuckled as item after item was put up for bid; such as a "bed-bug buster" or an "illuminated cat" that was designed to scare away mice. Then there was a device to prevent snoring. It consisted of a trumpet that reached from the mouth to the ear; and was designed to awaken the snorer and not the neighbours. And then there was the adjustable pulpit that could be raised or lowered according to the height of the preacher. Needless to say, this auction of old patent models was worth at least 150,000 laughs; but if we would look into this situation a little deeper, we would discover that these 150,000 old patent models also represent 150,000 broken dreams.  They represented a mountain of disappointments. It may seem inappropriate to talk about broken dreams and disappointments this close to Christmas. After all, this is the season to be jolly. But it's not jolly for everybody, is it? For those who have lost loved ones this is the loneliest time of the year. And in a world that glorifies materialism, those who are struggling financially may find it to be most disappointing.

The passage of scripture before us details a terrible situation that confronted the apostle Paul. He was at sea. He had to go to Rome, he had appealed to Ceasar, and Rome was the next stop.

He is on his way there, and the Centurion in charge is looking after Paul. They had set sail from Sidon on the East end of the Mediterranean, and were heading Westwards across the Mediterranean. They went first to Cyprus, they got a nice warm breeze from the South and thought all was going well. Until the Euroclydon blew down ( like our Southerly buster! )

In literature poetry parable life is a voyage upon a vast sea.           lyric drama simile song metaphor

But those of us who never wrote a line of poetry, find ourselves speaking of life in terms of Acts 27.  We put out to sea in our little boats, hoping to drop anchor in some heavenly port.

We can so easily be caught up in the fury of the terrible storms of life.

Acts 27:14, 15   Euroclydon euras - east wind     kludon - waves                 tempestuous waves

Life is not often sailing under fair skies, across tranquil seas to drop anchor in some fair haven

Life is not often a yachting excursion thru a many-islanded Mediterranean around bays of lovely shores or sailing up, down some romantic Rhine or Blue Danube. Life means being out on the open sea with its roaring reefs, Its sunken shoals and it’s storms and fury.

There is no one of us but has or shall experience that tempestuous journey over life’s sea.  Things we never looked for, Never planned for, Never prepared for, Never thought for; And how overwhelming they sometimes are. 

Sometimes we endure real storms, as some of us did in June in losing houses and cars.

Others experience storms among family and friends. Relational storms. Stresses from sickness. Storms of fear in work.

Sometime our storms are too real. As a young 18 year old I used to surf a lot. I remember surfing at Cronulla beach for about 3 or 4 hours one afternoon. I grew tired, but looked forward to just one more wave. And I waited and waited for that one more wave. “Strange” I thought,, “no waves for half an hour? I wonder where I am in relationship to my car?”

I looked towards the beach and could see it way in the distance. I was closer to Bundeena than to Cronulla! A rip had dragged me out to sea, and a current had dragged me further and I wasn’t even aware of it. And now my greatest fears surfaced. Noah’s Arks! Sharks! I was maybe 2 kilometres out to sea. And there are no waves breaking out there. Ever. I tried for half an hour to paddle against the current but didn’t gain any ground. Now I knew that my life could be over very soon. There was only another half hour to dusk, and feeding time for the big fishes!

I prayed. “Lord if you can’t get me in to the beach, I guess I’ll be coming home real soon.”

Thank fully, within seconds a wave loomed and I caught it and came in a good half kilometre, and then its brother took me in another ¾ quarters of a kilometre. And I paddled in the rest of the way.  Oh bye the way.. did you notice the last verse of Acts 27 introduces us to the first surf boards in history?

Acts 27:44 And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land.

When you are in a crisis, there are some things you need to do.

When you are in a storm, you need to do what Paul did.

Paul’s Strategy for Survival

Step One: Exercise Common Sense. That is, try to avoid foul weather (Acts 27:9-10). Paul was no stranger to the sea. He knew how unpredictable the Mediterranean could be at that time of the year. “The day of the fast [the day of Atonement which comes at the end of September or early October] had passed” (Acts 27:9). Sailing on the Mediterranean in the latter part of October could be treacherous. Come November shipping stopped completely. No captain with any concern for the safety of his passengers, crew and cargo would put his ship to sea until the following March when spring came. Based on his personal knowledge of the Mediterranean Sea and common sense Paul sought to avoid danger and advised against leaving Fair Havens Harbor. Dealing effectively with winds which blow against us calls for an intelligent use of intuition, knowledge of God’s word, memory, the counsel of others and common sense all aimed at avoiding danger and staying clear of foul weather whenever possible. There wasn’t anyone on board that ship who wanted to get to Rome as badly as Paul. He was on an errand for his King. But common sense told him not to be brash or hasty but to play it safe because surviving adverse winds begins with intelligence, not endurance.

Do the Obvious

If, after we’ve done everything we can to avoid it, danger still presents itself, Paul’s experience reveals a second step we can take to survive adversity: do the obvious. Sadly, the centurion did not heed Paul’s counsel but listened to the captain and owner of the boat who wanted to find a more suitable harbor in which to spend the winter. A gentle south wind lured them out to sea but they hadn’t gone far when “a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land; and when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven” (Acts 27:14, 15). They were helpless!

They had one short respite from the wind as they passed under the lee of Cauda, a tiny little island off Crete, during which they did the obvious. “We managed with difficulty to secure the boat” (Acts 27:16). That is to say, they pulled in the dinghy they had been towing because it was about to swamp. “[The crew also] took measures to undergird the ship” (Acts 27:17a). Pictures of ancient Egyptian sailing ships show sets of huge ropes running from stem to the stern and under the keel at midship.

When a severe storm arose those cable-like ropes were drawn taut around the ship by wenches to keep it from breaking up when buffeted by the sea. Then “they [dropped a sea anchor]” (Acts 27:17b). If the northeast caught them broadside it could drive the ship across the Mediterranean to the coast of North Africa and dash it against a treacherous reef known as the Syrtis. So they lowered a huge hunk of canvas aft of the ship to act as a drag against the current. They probably raised a small storm sail to help position them in the wind, and otherwise powerless, they “were driven [by the storm]” (Acts 27:17c).

The next day they did another obvious thing. “As we were violently storm tossed, [the crew] began to throw the cargo overboard” (Acts 27:18). A day later extra tackle and sailing gear was tossed into the sea (Acts 27:19). Even so, when they were without sun by day or stars by night, nothing but driving wind and rain, completely at the mercy of the elements for “many a day . . . all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned” (Acts 27:20).

Step 2. Exercise Faith. TRUST GOD

The life of faith is lived in a life of struggle.

Living by faith must have the proper basis of faith.

His life was in the hands of God.

The Basis of Faith (Acts 27:21-26). For this night an angel of the God I belong to and serve stood by me,

25 Therefore, take courage, men, because I believe God that it will be just the way it was told to me.

Biblical faith not just positive thinking, or positive speaking.

Not just trusting in miracles to get you out of tight spots. Does Paul believe in miracles? Yes. Had he done some ? yes.. Acts 20, raised the dead. I trust God and His Word!

He believed God because of whose he was: The God whose I am ...

For this night an angel of the God I belong to and serve stood by me,

He recognised he beloinged to a mighty God redeemed, bought purchased and you are His. He can do whatever He wants with those who are His.

He understood that whether he lived or died that was not the issue. Phil 1:21 My eager expectation and hope is that I will not be ashamed about anything, but that now as always, with all boldness, Christ will be highly honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For me, living is Christ and dying is gain.
22 Now if I live on in the flesh, this means fruitful work for me; and I don’t know which one I should choose. 23 I am pressured by both. I have the desire to depart and be with Christ—which is far better—

living or dieing?

He can take us through whatever circumstances He wants to because we are His., Romans 8:32  He did not even spare His own Son, but offered Him up for us all; how will He not also with Him grant us everything?

He will do for you everything that needs to be done for you. It may neot be the way you want or desire. But your life is in His hands.

My times are in Thy hands O lord we wish them there A Father’s heart will never bring his child a needless tear.

He believed God because of who He served.

The God whom I serve ... Acts 27:23 For this night an angel of the God I belong to and serve stood by me,

In the story of Paul’s conversion, there were two questions that he asked: Lord who are you? Lord what would you have me to do? The life of faith continually asks Lord what would you have me to do to serve you and please you to honour you and give you glory?

It’s not passive, a “let go and let God” attitude. It’s a life of serving God. Col 1:9 For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, 10  so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing [to Him], bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.

My prayer is that for you Colossians, and you Baptists, trusting God means serving God. I’m going to serve Him. Its not a passive faith, its an active faith. A life of faith means serving the Lord.

He Believed God Because He Believed His Word.. The God whom I believe ...acts 27:25

What is more firm than an angelic encounter? The Word of God.

Peter reckons the Word of God is more secure than any supposed angelic visitations.

2 Peter 1: For we did not follow cleverly contrived myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; instead, we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, a voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory: This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him!18 And we heard this voice when it came from heaven while we were with Him on the holy mountain. 19 So we have the prophetic word strongly confirmed. You will do well to pay attention to it, as to a lamp shining in a dismal place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. 20 First of all, you should know this: no prophecy of Scripture comes from one’s own interpretation, 21 because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, moved by the Holy Spirit, men spoke from God.

God hasn’t promised that every shipwreck you’ll survive. He has promised you a home in heaven. He ahs promised to be with you no matter what. He has promised to strengthen you for whatever trials you face.

This was a treacherous storm, but at the height of it God spoke words of encouragement to Paul. “Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and [I have] granted [safety] to all who sail with you” (Acts 27:24).

When the storm struck the little boat on the Sea of Galilee, the Lord Jesus was walking on the water.  And the disciples were affrighted thinking they had seen a spirit. 

  And the Lord said: Be of good cheer.  It is I.  Be not afraid. 

And do you remember how that incomparable 14, 15 and 16th Chapters of John ends, the discourse in the upper room?  The last sentence is this: The Lord said: In the world ye shall have tribulation.  But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. 

There are no problems for which he does not have an answer.  There are no darkened ways for which he is not the lamp of light.  There are no providences that, that he cannot deliver from. 

Do you remember this beautiful and moving poem by Henry Van Dyke? 

Or maker of the mighty deep

Whereon our vessels Fair

upon our lives Adventure keep

Thy faithful watch and care. 

In thee we trust What err befall,

Thy sea so great Our boats so small. 

We know not where The secret tides

Will help us or delay. 

Nor where the lurking Tempest hides

Nor where the fogs are grey. 

We trust in thee What err betide,

Thy sea so great And our boats so small. 

Beyond the circle of the sea,

When voyaging is past,

We seek our final port in thee. 

O bring us home at last. 

In thee we trust What err befall,

Thy sea so great, And our boats so small. 

There were roughly 476 miles from Cauda to Malta. When the storm died down and they were powered by a small storm sail, one of the few they had left, they moved through the water at about one and a half knots per hour, so it took 13 days 1 hour and 21 minutes from point to point. Interesting! Because Luke writes, “when the fourteenth night had come” (Acts 27:27) the practiced ear of the lookout sailor on the bow of the ship heard a familiar sound. It was the rhythmic beating of waves on rocks signalling they were nearing land. They began to take soundings. First, twenty fathoms. A short time later, fifteen fathoms. They were being relentlessly driven toward some unknown shore. Hastily they let out four anchors to stop the progress of the ship, pulling the bow toward whatever shoreline lay ahead, and “prayed for day to come” (Acts 27:29).

Step 3: OBEY GOD

Identify Character Flaws At this point Paul demonstrated the fourth quality required to survive adversity: identify character flaws in the people around you because only then can you can take corrective action to avoid the harm those flaws might bring you and others. Under the pretext of putting out anchors on the bow, several sailors started to lower the dinghy. Intuitively Paul recognized their evil intent and took corrective action. “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved,” he told the centurion (Acts 27:31). Simply put, there won’t be anybody on board who knows how to get us to safe harbor. Unfortunately, some of the Roman soldiers acted as impetuously as did the Egyptian sailors. They got in the boat and cut it loose (Acts 27:32) leaving Paul and the others “in the soup.” Now, if they were going to get to shore they’d have to swim.

Eat Something At this point Paul took charge of the situation and demonstrated a secret to surviving adversity: get some food on your stomach (Acts 27:33-38). I think we’d all agree the world looks a lot better when our tummy is full. A wise mother whose daughter was about to get married gave her some sound advice: “Give your husband lots of love and a hot breakfast.” Well, they didn’t have a hot breakfast that day, but Paul saw to their need for food. They had gone 14 days without eating. Many had been seasick. Some were depressed. One of the symptoms of depression is a loss of appetite, and one of the results of a loss of appetite is depression! So Paul said, “Take some food, it will give you strength” (Acts 27:34a).

As day was dawning they looked through the mist and saw what is now called St. Paul’s Bay.

At the far end of the bay was a beach. Their plan was to sail through a narrow opening into the bay, but they didn’t realize high tides had deposited a sand bar across the middle of the bay. So when day dawned they did three things in rapid succession (Acts 7:40). They cut the ropes and left the sea anchor behind. They loosened the steering paddles so they could manoeuvre. They raised the foresail which gave them a little power and made a break for the beach. Everything was going great until they hit the sand bar. The bow stuck in the mud and the beating of waves on the aft of the ship caused it to begin to break up. Then, as if Paul was not in enough trouble, some of the Roman soldiers threatened to kill all the prisoners. Roman law required that any Roman soldier who allowed a prisoner to escape had to bear the penalty assigned to that prisoner. It was a workable way of discouraging soldiers from taking a bribe. Fearful that in the melee and confusion Paul and the prisoners might swim away, some of the soldiers planned to kill them. Julius, the centurion, wanting to save Paul, put a stop to that and once again nonbelievers survived because, in their midst, there was a man for whom God had a purpose and over whom God was watching. Paul ordered those who could to jump overboard and swim to shore. The rest clung to bits of wreckage and “so it was that all escaped to land” exactly as God had promised (Acts 27:44).

Prayer and Prudence. We use the means God has given us. Ian told me a good story:

Man in Maitland flood. The waters up near the roof of his house. “Hop in the boat, we are here to save you?” “No I trust God.”

A helicopter came along. “Hop in we are here to save you!” “No I trust God.”

He drowned entered heaven “God why didn’t you save me?” “What do you mean? I sent you a boat and a helicopter!”

Charles Spurgeon used to tell this story. He said in a certain nation years ago, a conquering army would go out to conquer, and its leader, when he would meet the enemy, would tell one of the soldiers to put up a white flag. The white flag was placed out there so that the enemy would see it waving in the wind. This meant if the enemy would surrender while the white flag was up there, mercy and grace would be given them. They would be given their lives and their freedom. As the battle would ensue and time would pass and the fighting would become more fierce, more were wounded, and some were killed, then another order finally would be given if the enemy would not surrender: "Put up the black flag!" A soldier would go out and replace the white flag with a black flag. The black flag meant that no one now would live: "When we conquer you, everyone of you will die; there is nothing but judgment for you now."

I am saying to you that God's white flag with love and grace and mercy is up, but there will be a time when God's black flag will be up and there will be no mercy and no grace. God's love will continue but it will not touch you, it will not effect you. You have turned Jesus down for the last time. Nothing but judgment now! I am talking to unbelievers.

Jesus said one day, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls" (Matt. 11:28,29). He says to all men, "Come." Over seven hundred times in the Bible the invitation "COME" is given. Finally, in Revelation 22:17, "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come.

The white flag is still up. The black flag has not replaced it as yet. Life's sea is stormy and rough. But today there is grace; tomorrow it could be judgment. The Heavenly Father wants you to come. The Saviour wants you to come. The Spirit wants you to come. There is nothing cheap about all that the Father, all that the Son, all that the Spirit have done to make ~very provision for a safe landing. He wants sinners to come home more than they could ever desire to come.

A minister was riding on a train. The only occupant of the coach except himself was a young man who seemed exceedingly ill at ease. The young man would sit in one seat, get up and go to another, take up a book and drop it again. The minister went over and sat down beside him, asking what was wrong. At first the boy would not answer, but at last the dam broke and he burst forth with this story:

"I've run away from home, and I've been away for a long time. I wanted to go back, and I wrote my father asking if he would take me back. I told him that I would not wait for a reply but would start for home, and if he wants me back to hang a white rag on the crab apple tree near the railroad tracks so that I can see it when the train goes by. If the white rag is not there, I shall understand and go on by. We are getting near and I am afraid to look-afraid the white rag won't be there."

The minister told the lad that he need not look-that he would look for him. The boy sat with his eyes closed, the hand of the minister resting on his knee. As they drew near to where the tree was, the hand of the minister closed tight on the boy's knee as he said, "My boy, there is a white rag on every limb of that tree!"

God wants you to come home even more than those parents. Will you come home to Him now?

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