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05.13.18 Acts 27.20-26, 33-36 Ministry in the Rain Sermon Summary

by on May 14, 2018

Note: This sermon was delivered in first person as a passenger on the boat.

Let me testify to you about a life changing experience, not just for what happened, but for what I have continued to learn from it. I wanted to remember it so I wrote it down. The author of Acts picked it up and included in his book.

We’ve all heard it said that “bad weather is necessary.” That’s easy to accept when the weather is slightly bad or it doesn’t last very long. Bad weather is easier to accept when it leads to beautiful results. “April showers bring May flowers,” you say. “Into each life some rain must fall.” That’s OK until too much rain is falling in yours.

It’s even worse when it’s not just some rain, but a storm! Then it’s not slightly bad, but really bad. It’s not temporary, but apparently unending. Storms don’t lead to beautiful results but only darkness, loss, and loneliness.

And that’s when we set sail! Ours was a merchant vessel but also floating prison. We had people from all over: Merchants, sailors, prisoners, and of course guards. We had a rough beginning but it only got worse.

Tradition said not to sail past September or October. Our experience was confirming that. But the guards and the sailors pressed on. One person, a prisoner named Paul tried to speak some common sense. “It’s dangerous,” he said. “It will lead to damage of property and loss of life. We should slow down.” He seemed an experienced traveler. They didn’t listen.

There are reasons people don’t listen to tradition or nature or experience or common sense. The Centurion was rushing to get the job done. The Captain believed in positive thinking. Others just listened to the majority. So we took off. It was stormy but we held out hope.

Then days went by. There was no sun or stars. It was a tempest and we abandoned hope. Many of us were praying to whatever god we thought could help us: Neptune, Jupiter, Anyone! And we had begun fasting also. Anything to get the gods’ attention!

But one person remained calm throughout: It was Paul. Even when we decided against him and he turned out to be right, he still remained calm and encouraging.

How did he remain calm? Part of it was he knew his purpose. He had a message to deliver to the emperor. When you know your purpose and really believe in it you don’t lose your cool, even in adversity or challenge. You just look for a creative way around it.

Another reason was Paul prayed differently. While we asked for deliverance, Paul knew he was already delivered. So his prayers were more like listening. And he received a message that reminded him of his purpose and assured us of salvation also.

A third reason was his perspective. Paul didn’t stress about material loss. He was candid about it. The boat would be destroyed; we would run aground. But what mattered most—our lives—God would deliver.

Being an itinerant evangelist, Paul had started many churches and come to know lots of people. He encountered different cultures and this had taught him: People and churches go through trials but God delivers them. Later I found a letter he wrote in which he said, “If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:15) He knew what was important and so he wasn’t anxious.

So Paul knew his purpose, and his prayers were mostly listening, and his perspective had an eternal horizon. And so he weathered the storm with faith.

This lasted another fourteen days! Two full weeks, two full cycles of prayer and fasting. Then, while it was still dark, Paul urged us to break our fast. He took bread and thanked God and broke it and began eating. It seemed a kind of ritual to him, like he was remembering a story of deliverance, like he had done it many times before.

We watched and listened to him. We saw his peace. We saw his confidence, joy, and faith as he remembered and ate. And we were encouraged also. We also broke our fast. And you know what was amazing? Everyone ate and was satisfied. There were 276 of us on board. Then the morning broke.

The ship ran aground, just as Paul said, and it disintegrated beneath us. We swam for beach. But I never saw a storm the same way—neither a literal storm nor the metaphorical ones.

You can avoid some storms by closer attention to tradition or experience or nature or common sense. But some storms spontaneously appear, like when your job or your health changes, or when you’ve been victimized, or a loved one dies.

Even then you can still listen to tradition, experience, nature, and common sense. But you can also have faith—like Paul. You can remember God has a purpose. You can pray more as listening. You can keep a longer perspective.

And like Paul, during the storm don’t forget to enjoy God’s providence, offering thanks and remembering past deliverance. In these faithful ways we can weather any storm together.

 

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