Paul the Apostle/Part 25
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1992|
|There are four things I want you to be challenged by. Now, you can’t make a formula out of Paul’s life. That’s not what I am doing. You know that. However, there are four principles here that may come to help you somewhere down the road in this great adventure of saying “yes” to Jesus.|
Ephesians 1:1; Acts 27
Paul: The Messenger – Part 14
We come to Acts 27 which is almost like a summary of everything we’ve seen so far. Way back in Acts 19:21, God said, “I want you to go to Jerusalem, and I want you to go to Rome.” In 23:11, after Paul had been in Jerusalem and faithfully witnessed there, God came to him, the Lord Jesus spoke to him and said, “Listen, you’ve done well. Now I want you to go on to Rome.” He confirmed it in his heart.
There have been no charges laid against Paul. He’s been beaten by the Jews, illegally held in prison by the Romans for two years, and yet the adventure has continued to be heightened as we have gone from chapter to chapter.
There are four things I want you to be challenged by. Now, you can’t make a formula out of Paul’s life. That’s not what I am doing. You know that. However, there are four principles here that may come to help you somewhere down the road in this great adventure of saying “yes” to Jesus.
First of all, when you are walking with Jesus, He uses authority to direct you. It’s incredible how this works. It is just amazing. Look at 27:1. It says, “And when it was decided.” Now who made this decision? Very obviously Agrippa and Festus had something to do with it. Festus, who was the governor of Judea, and King Herod Agrippa the Second, who was ruler over much of Palestine, made the decision. They had met with Paul and realized he needed to go on to Caesar. “He needs to stand before Caesar. That is his request. Let’s honor it.” Verse 1 continues, “that we should sail for Italy [that’s where Rome is, of course, they proceeded to deliver Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan cohort named Julius.”
I want to stop for a moment and help you realize something. They make a decision. They think they make a decision. What does Proverbs 21:1 say? “The King’s heart is in the hand of God and like a river, He turns it wheresoever He will.” In other words, God makes the choice. He is just simply using these authorities to help direct Paul in the journey that God has set before him.
Well, they appoint a man over him by the name of Julius. This man becomes a real friend because in verse 2 it says, “And embarking in an Adramyttian ship, which was about to sail to the regions along the coast of Asia, we put out to sea, accompanied by Aristarchus.” Who is Aristarchus? We ran into him back in Acts 19:29. He is a Macedonian and a fellow believer. Old Julius allowed Paul to take along a companion. Whoever heard of such a thing? God is orchestrating all of the events in His authority on this earth structure. He uses that authority to lead them.
You never know if the authorities just might be God’s tool He is using to direct a path for you that you are not even aware of. Who knows? God will use the authority structure that He has put into place. Write it down, “God is in charge.”
God lets Julius be nice to Paul. He gives him all the slack in the world. As a matter of fact, verse 3 says, “And the next day we put in at Sidon; and Julius treated Paul with consideration and allowed him to go to his friends and receive care.” The word “received care” doesn’t mean he needed any physical help. It’s the Greek word that has to do with receiving friends in a casual way. Here is a man who is a prisoner, and God appoints a man over him who gives him all the slack in the world. He says, “Listen, if you want to take a friend along, help yourself. When you get over there, if you want to visit with your friends, go on and visit with your friends.” It’s obvious to me that God is in charge. God allows authority many, many times, and in this case, a pagan authority, to direct your lives. Don’t fight against it. Remember, God is in control regardless of what takes place when you get there.
Secondly, the thing that really struck me in this was when you are walking with Jesus on this great adventure, God allows people to deny you. Sometimes you may think, “You know, God sent me here. I am doing His will. I must really be somebody.” You are sitting with a group, and you share your opinion. You certainly think they are going to listen to what you have to say. I mean, after all, God sent you here, and you are on God’s agenda. It’s incredible to me how many people could care less what you think. Many times, even though God is in charge of your life, He’ll allow people around you to deny you.
This really gets good to me. The story gets more and more dramatic. Look at verse 4. You can see already that something is about to happen. “And from there we put out to sea and sailed under the shelter of Cyprus.” What does that mean? It means they had to get as close to the island of Cyprus as they could, “because the winds were contrary.” Look out. These winds are going to prove to be a major problem for Paul in his journey. Verse 5 continues, “And when we had sailed through the sea along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia. And there the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy, and he put us aboard it.” Paul has changed ships. He has been taken off of one ship and put on to another ship. The soldiers with him. They have been put on another ship going to Italy.
Skip down to verse 7, “And when we had sailed slowly for a good many days, and with difficulty had arrived off Cnidus, since the wind did not permit us to go father, we sailed under the shelter of Crete, off Salmone; and with difficulty sailing past it we came to a certain place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea.” Now this is on the island of Crete, and they have to land there. The winds are getting worse and worse and worse. The story is heightening. A pagan authority is directing him.
Now watch what happens in verse 9: “And when considerable time had passed and the voyage was now dangerous, since even the fast was already over, Paul began to admonish them [the word “admonish” means to warn them] and he said to them, ‘Men [Now TV preachers tell us that when we are called of God, people listen to us when we speak to them. That is not what happens here to Paul], I perceive that the voyage will certainly be attended with damage and great loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.’” Paul warns them. He says, “Listen, guys. If we go on, we may lose our lives. There is trouble ahead.” Certainly they will listen to a man who is an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.
Verse 11 reads, “But the centurion was more persuaded by the pilot and the captain of the ship, than by what was being said by Paul.” I mean, what does Paul know about the winds? Let’s ask the Captain. “And because the harbor was not suitable for wintering, the majority reached a decision to put out to sea from there, if somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.”
I couldn’t help but think as I was reading this, surely Paul must have been discouraged. Paul tried to tell them. He said, “Guys, hey, I’m not only interested in you. I’m kind of interested in me. We are going to get on a ship here, and if you keep on going, it’s going to be trouble up ahead. The winds are going to get heavy and hostile.” They said, “Thank you, but no thank you.” They made a majority decision and decided to try to sail to another part of the Island of Crete so they could winter there and then go on later on. Sometimes when you follow the Lord, people just don’t listen to what you have to say. The ones who don’t usually are of the pagan world around you. You have an opinion. So often I think because I am called and because I am sent, everybody is going to listen to what I’ve got to say. No. Remember this. When they don’t, God is still in control. Don’t ever forget that. It’s not up to you and me to persuade them to listen to what we have got to say. We just share what we share, and whatever it is, if it’s for their benefit, and we hope it is, then they either listen or they don’t. God allows people to deny you.
Thirdly, God allows circumstances to distress you. Certainly when you say yes to Jesus, life is going to be a piece of cake, isn’t it? Everywhere we go, God is going to take care of us and we are going to be comfortable and everything is going to be wonderful. The food is even going to taste good. Everything is going to be super. No. He never guarantees you that. He doesn’t guarantee that people are going to pay any attention to the opinions we have. He doesn’t guarantee that the authorities are going to be nice to us. He does say, however, that He will use them in our life. He also doesn’t guarantee that the circumstances will not distress us.
Verse 13 starts the beginning of a lot of distressing circumstances for Paul. He warned them, and they wouldn’t listen. “And when a moderate south wind came up [In other words, when they got enough wind to get around to where they wanted to go, they thought, “Well, okay, we made the right decision. Let’s hurry up and get in the ship. We can make it around to this port of Crete, and we can stay there.”], supposing that they had gained their purpose, they weighed anchor and began sailing along Crete, close inshore.”
Well, three days later they wished they had listened to Paul. That’s interesting. Paul is on the boat that is in distress. On day one in verse 13, they started sailing. In verse 14 it says, “But before very long there rushed down from the land a violent wind, called Euraquilo [This was one of those severe winds that blow down off the land] and when the ship was caught in it, and could not face the wind, we gave way to it, and let ourselves be driven along.” They are in a very dangerous spot. They have sailed close to land to try to keep away from the violent winds, and now the violent winds have come off the land and blown them out to sea. The wind is in control of the ship.
Verse 16 continues the drama. “And running under the shelter of a small island called Clauda, we were scarcely able to get the ship’s boat under control.” It’s getting worse. Look at Verse 17. “And after they had hoisted it up, they used supporting cables in undergirding the ship; and fearing that they might run aground on the shallows of Syrtis, they let down the sea anchor, and so let themselves be driven along.” They threw out the ship’s anchor to try to slow them down. The wind is just driving them. It is driving them away from where they want to go. That’s day one.
Day two gets worse. Verse 18 reads, “The next day as we were being violently storm-tossed, they began to jettison the cargo.” That’s day two. They are throwing off all the cargo. Now you know it’s severe when a sailor throws the cargo off the ship because that is how he gets his profit. This story reminds me of Jonah. They are out of control. The wind is blowing, and Paul, the anointed of God, is on that boat. Paul tried to tell them, but they wouldn’t listen to him. Now Paul is in the midst of a very distressing circumstance.
Day three is in verse 19, “and on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands.” The word “tackle” there refers to equipment and furniture. Anything that was on board they threw overboard. On day two they threw the cargo overboard. On day three they threw overboard the furniture and any equipment. They strip the ship so that they somehow can get some kind of control in that violent wind that they are in.
Now look at verse 20: “And since neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small storm was assailing us, from then on all hope of our being saved was gradually abandoned.” It might help you to look over to verse 37. It tells you how many were on the ship. “And all of us in the ship were two hundred and seventy-six persons.” Here’s Paul in the midst of 275 other people. They are in a distressing situation. The storm has gotten worse and worse and worse. Now they have no navigation. They can’t see the stars. That is the way they navigated. All the cargo is thrown off the ship. They have completely lost hope of ever being rescued. Paul tried to tell them, but they wouldn’t listen to him. These were very distressing circumstances.
Why would God let a missionary become involved in a very distressing circumstance? Life does not guarantee us those kinds of things. The winds may blow, and they may get worse and worse and worse. God may allow that, but there is something in it if you will keep your focus on Him.
Well, Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, is in a very distressing situation. In the great adventure, God does not say we will not have distressing circumstances. He allows pagan authorities to direct us. Many times they step in and do what we don’t want them to do, but it all fits into His divine plan. He allows people to deny you, and He allows circumstances to distress you.
The fourth and final thing I want to share is the longest point that I am going to have. It covers the most verses. God, always, in the midst of all these things, allows His will to delight you. If God tells you to go to Japan, it doesn’t matter what circumstances come up. It doesn’t matter what pagan authorities may say. It really doesn’t matter what they care about your opinion. The key is if God initiated it, God anoints it. Where God guides, God provides. His will will be your constant delight, not your circumstances.
In verse 21 it says, “And when they had gone a long time without food [Notice how Paul is as patient as he can be] then Paul stood up in their midst and said, ‘Men, you ought to have followed my advice [I don’t know why, but I think that’s humorous and not to have set sail from Crete, and incurred this damage and loss.’” I’ve heard that statement, you ought to have followed my advice. I’ve heard that quite often from my wife. It just seems like there was something humorous in that when I read it. Paul said, “You ought to have followed my advice.”
Verse 22 continues, “And yet now I urge you to keep up your courage, for there shall be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.” “Guys, I hate to tell you this, but the ship is about to be shattered, but there is not going to be a single life lost.” What is Paul doing here? Well, look in verse 23: “For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me.” The people on board probably said, “Now wait a minute, Paul. Have you gone out of your mind? Are you delirious? Are you too hungry?” He said, “No, God sent an angel to me.”
Verse 24 says, “saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you.’” The circumstances are distressing, but God said Paul was going to Rome. Paul stood up in the midst of them. They were starving to death. They had lost all hope, and Paul said, “Hey, guys, cheer up! We are going to make it God said I am going to Rome, and we are going to Rome. You stick with me, and we will all get there safely. He has even decided to give grace to each of you.” You see, the delight in knowing of God’s will. God would not have gone through all the pains He went through to get Paul to Rome to drop him at sea and drown him. God said, “You are going to Rome.” He’s going to Rome. That constantly was a delight in Paul’s life.
Well, verse 25 reads, “Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God, that it will turn out exactly as I have been told.” Then he gives another word that the angel told him. “But we must run aground on a certain island.” In other words, “Guys, get ready, somewhere, we are going to run into an island. But remember this, we will lose the ship, but we will not lose a single person.”
Well, what happens? Verse 27 tells us. “But when the fourteenth night had come [This is eleven days later] as we were being driven about in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors began to surmise that they were approaching some land.” Hey, Paul might know something after all. Verse 28 goes on. “And they took soundings and found it to be twenty fathoms; and a little farther on they took another sounding and found it to be fifteen fathoms. And fearing that we might run aground somewhere on the rocks [If they had listened to Paul, they would have known they were going to because Paul said, “You are going to lose the ship, but you won’t lose any lives.”], they cast four anchors from the stern and wished for daybreak.” Man, they were praying for daylight. They couldn’t see a thing. They couldn’t see the stars, and the wind was blowing them. They knew they were going to hit land so they threw out the anchors to try to slow them down.
“And as the sailors were trying to escape from the ship, and had let down the ship’s boat into the sea, on the pretense of intending to lay out anchors from the bow.” Oh, no. They are getting out of there, folks. They think the ship is about to crash. Paul takes over. Now wait a minute. Paul’s the prisoner! Paul is in control because he is under the leadership of the Holy Spirit of God. Paul gets in control. “Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, ‘Unless these men remain in the ship, you yourselves cannot be saved.’” In other words, “It’s all of us or none of us, so you had all better stay on board. The angel told me you will lose the ship, but you won’t lose a single life. Put out that lifeboat, and all of you will be killed. Stay on board, and you will be all right.” “Then the soldiers [not the sailors] cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat, and let it fall away. And until the day was about to dawn, Paul was encouraging them all to take some food.” Now this is Paul. Paul knew he was going to Rome. The thing that delighted him was not the fact that the ship was about to be broken up, was not the fact of the disturbing situation, but the fact that God had told him he is going to Rome. That’s the key. He told them, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have been constantly watching and going without eating, having taken nothing. Therefore I encourage you to take some food, for this is for your preservation; for not a hair from the head of any of you shall perish.” Paul had heard from God.
I got on a plane one day, and as I walked on, somebody from our church reached out, grabbed my arm and said, “I am glad you are on this plane. I hope you know where you are going and I hope God is sending you because if that’s the case, we are going to have a safe flight getting there.” He was just glad to be on board. It made me sit down in my seat and think, “Now God, did you really send me, because I don’t want to let this guy down. I sure would like to get there.”
You see, Paul was on an agenda that God had established in his life. Nothing is going to stop him. I mean, it can be a storm at sea. You don’t usually expect a storm at sea. You usually are wondering, “What storm is going to hit me as soon as I get there? What is going to be the first storm?” Remember, God sent you there and where God guides, God provides. It doesn’t matter how distressing the circumstance, delight in His will. Don’t worry about your circumstance. If He sent you there, He’ll take care of you. What God initiates, God anoints.
Well, it says in verse 35, “And having said this, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of all [Paul did this in the midst of a storm that is almost ready to tear the ship up], and he broke it and began to eat. And all of them were encouraged, and they themselves also took food.” The word means they all ate cheerfully. He cheered every one of them up. Somehow they took courage in his faith. Somehow that happened.
I don’t know what is ahead of you, but I know it is an adventure. I know you are going to face things you have never faced before. I have not been on the mission field long term, but I know from Scripture and from just watching Paul’s life, you had better look out. You can’t predict anything. Remember he may use the authorities to direct you. Go ahead and trust the fact they are in His hands. Don’t fight it. Just trust Him in it. God will allow people to deny you. The first time you make a suggestion, and they cram it right back down your throat, don’t worry about it because God is still in control. God allows circumstances to distress you. You might be thinking about your children. What’s going to happen to them? What is going to happen when they get sick? All these questions come into your mind. There may be some situations that may distress you, but remember, God didn’t promise it would be any different. He did promise, however, that He would be in control of whatever circumstances there are.
Paul looked at that sea. He looked at the fact that people wouldn’t listen to him. They were in a dilemma because they wouldn’t. But he could say to them, “Guys, we are going to get to Rome. Stick as close to me as you can get because God says we are going to Rome. God’s will will be your delight in those days.”
There have been many times that I’ve gone home, sat down and thought about writing my letter of resignation. You may have heard about the preacher who went to a church, and they told him, “Son, the last pastor left three envelopes for you. When you get into a lot of trouble, open up the first envelope. They are numbered.” Six months later big problems started in the church, and he opened up the first letter. It said, “You have probably been there about six months, and the people are already beginning to come against you. Listen, a lot of them there loved me. I want you in the next six months to just talk about all the good things that the last pastor did.” Sure enough he did, and revival came in the church. I mean people started coming back. All the people who had loved the former pastor showed up, and it was wonderful.
About six months later it got bad again. He gets letter number two, opens it, and it says, “You’ve probably been there about a year now, and it has already started over again. There are a lot of people in the church who didn’t like me. Talk down about me. Talk me down. Talk about all my faults. You will bring a brand new crowd right back into the church.” Sure enough, the next six months the church had a revival. I mean people just started coming out of the wood work.
Then trouble started again. He opens up envelope number three, and it said, “Write out three envelopes! It’s time to go!” I don’t know how many times I have just felt sick and tired of all the mess and wanted to just throw it all away. I remember a statement Ian Thomas made years ago to me that stuck. “If you are sent, and you went, you are put!” God’s will will be your delight on the long haul. Did He send you or did He not?
What we are saying to the world is “Yes, we believe He did.” We are releasing you to go and be everything God wants you to be, regardless of the circumstances and all the other things that may come your way. Our challenge to you is to delight in His will.