Written and Published by Jean-Louis Mondon
Today, I feel the Lord putting on my heart to post again an outline I wrote about a storm in real life and God's salvation through the terrible ordeal that we can identify with.
For some time now the earth has been reeling from certain clear signs of the time, warning to a human race out of step with its Creator, running headlong into untold, unbearable sufferings that are looming closer to fulfillment than we think. It behooves us to pay close attention to what the Bible has to say.
I have a sense of urgency and have written before in poem form and posted several pieces on the subject of storms and the peace of God through them, personally and from others.
I was a close witness (a few miles away) just 2 weeks ago of the disaster that occurred in the northern region of Rio de Janeiro and left probably more than 1.000 dead and 10s of thousands in need of shelter, food and medical help.
I have a friend in Australia that writes me about the flooding there.
We as Christians are called to encourage each other in words and deeds in times of need.
This is why I write this blog. I hope that something I have said in it has caused you to turn to God and find in Him the only solace and encouragement for your troubled soul.
A Ship Named “Relations” Part I. OutlinePaul’s shipwreck on Malta.
I. PAST SITUATION.
1. Circumstances outside anyone’s control.
“Much time had been lost and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Fast”. Verse 9.
Paul’s warning: “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship, cargo and to our own lives also”. Verse 10.
2. Men’s efforts to correct the situation.
The leadership response: “but the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and the owner of the ship”. Verse 11.
3. Pressure to do something.
Result: wrong decision: “since the harbor was unsuitable for winter, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there”. Verse 12.
Lesson to be learned: Sometimes the majority can make the wrong decisions based on logical reasoning and accurate data.
Consequence: “the ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along”. Verse 15.
II. CURRENT CONDITION.
1. No help from above
"Natural" weather condition: “when neither sun, nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging”. Verse 20, (a).
Result: Loss of hope: “we finally gave up all hope of being saved”. Verse 20, (b).
The much needed “I told you so in learning our lessons”. (Apparently Paul hadn’t had many lessons on how not to damage people’s brittle self-esteem by telling them the truth.) We don’t like to hear those words because we hide our sense of pride under the thin veneer of our fragile egos. (A little shame at first would save us a lot of pain at last.)
Paul to the crew: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete, then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss." Verse 21, (b).
Notice that Paul (or rather God who spoke through him) waited until the men were ready to listen to him, just as the Father in the parable of the prodigal son waited for the son to be hungry and at the end of his rope and to come to his senses. He exhorted them only “after the men had gone a long time without food”. Verse 21, (a).
Exhortation with assurance of knowledge:
Paul says: “but now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be lost”. Verse 22.
2. Help from above: divine intervention
Paul’s explanation: an angelic visitation.
Result: Hope restored
“Last night an angel of the Lord whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said:” Do not be afraid, Paul… God had graciously (here we see the common grace and specific personal grace of God at work) given you the lives of all who sail with you”. Verse 23.
One important biblical principle to remember:
Being always precedes doing. Just as we are sinners not because we commit sins but because of who we are in our sinful nature, we do righteous acts not because we are righteous of our own merit but because we have the righteousness of God imputed to us. God was very clear in revealing His Name to Moses, He told him: "I am that I am, not I do that I do". If Christ whose name we bear could say those words out of the burning bush, who are we to go ahead and have our “doing” before our “being”?
Response from Paul to the Angelic visitation:The only response that pleases God, namely FAITH.
Paul to the men: “I have faith in God that it will happen as he told me. Nevertheless we must run aground on some island”. Verse 25, 26.Not only Paul’s exhortation to the crew came from the assurance of his knowledge of divine revelation (this was not blind faith, neither was Abraham’s faith, neither should our faith be), but from the faith that it inspired and motivated.
3. Escape attempt: (Running away from God and His will).
“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”. Verse 30.
What are some of our lifeboats, the easy way out, the exit strategies that we keep hidden in the back of our minds just in case the boat that God has given us in our present relationships proves to be less than adequate for our lives? After all, we know better than He does what is good for us and how to run our ship, don´t we?
- Is it divorce?
- Is it children running away from a difficult situation at home?
- Is it ending a commitment with a Church or a job situation that turns out to be unpleasant for the moment? (see Hebrews 12:7-13)?
- Is it ending a relationship at whatever level of commitment because it requires unselfishness and sacrifice on our part and does not fulfill our unrealistic expectations and needs although it may be the very ship that God has ordained for us to navigate the rough seas of life, for our own benefit to help us grow and mature into the person He desires us to be?
Notice that in such cases there is always an attitude of pretense, a denial of the reality, indicated by a lack of honesty and willingness to take responsibility in an attempt to justify and rationalize one’s own actions and bad choices. This mostly happens through blaming the other person’s for one’s predicament. (For a more thorough and better understanding, read and study the story of Jonah).
In this story, every one attempts to save his life using his own survival skills. The sailors wanted to use the lifeboats. Further on, the soldiers wanted to use their swords to prevent the prisoners to swim ashore and escape because they needed them to save their own lives from military justice if they failed to carry on their military duties to the end and to take the prisoners to their final destination.
4. Paul’s warning: Condition for God’s rescue.
“Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved”. Verse 32.
The promises and blessings of God are conditional, only His mercy and love as demonstrated in the sacrifice of His son Jesus on the cross in payment for our sins resulting in our forgiveness, salvation and the gift of eternal life are unconditional. The condition required is faith, resulting in trust and obedience. This involves volition, the conscious act of submitting our will to the will of God and choosing His ways rather than our own.
5. Encouragement and reassurance from Paul:
Whatever the reason for the crew deprivation of food for 14 days, whether it be “constant suspense”, unending struggle in keeping the boat afloat against the elements, or purely visceral reaction in keeping any food down, now that all 276 persons are still aboard, Paul encourages them in those terms: “ I urge you all to take some food. You need it to survive. No one of you will lose a single hair from his head”. Verse 34.
6. Paul´s demonstration of Faith and authority in spiritual leadership:
A good and faithful servant of God will always show the example to follow; his actions will prove his words.
First, Paul turns to God who gives the blessings and promises, then, he exemplifies the correct attitude, the response of a grateful heart towards the grace of God who supplies all our needs. “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”. Verse 35.
Results: Faith turns to action:
a) Increased response from the crew in renewed faith and trust in God’s providence through Paul’s leadership and example: “they were all encouraged and ate some food themselves”. Verse 36.
Further proof of their faith and trust in God’s provision for the rest of the journey: “when they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the grain into the sea”. Verse 38.
b) Change of attitude and actions in the centurion entrusted with secular leadership:
Even though the fate of the ship was out of his hands and in the hands of Almighty God, the centurion didn’t shirk his responsibility and delegated governmental authority by asking Paul to take charge of the ship and its human and physical cargo. Whereas at the beginning, the centurion was opposed to Paul’s advice, now because of his training to recognize and respect true authority, he shows wisdom and a right attitude in the end in responding to God’s mercy with faith and mercy of his own as the following verses describe his actions:
The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. 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 of were to get there on planks or on pieces of the ship”. Verses 42-44.
He did this knowing full well that he risked losing not only his career but also his own life. What a great admirable example of courage, leadership and sacrifice!
III. CONCLUSION: Everyone reached land in safety. Verse 44.
Faith and trust in God’s revealed will and obedience to His command will bring the desired fulfillment of God’s true word and sure promises in any situation. Sometimes, this might be done through following the leadership and good example of a legitimate, called servant of God, whose actions consistent with his words demonstrate that he has received his calling and delegated authority from God himself.
Stay tuned for the next portion of God's powerful rescue.
For part II click on the link: