Daily D – Acts 27:22-25
“But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.’ So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said.” ACTS 27:22-25 (NLT)
Winston Churchill said, “Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result.” Take his word for it. Do not sign up for any such adventure. Been there, done that. Twice. It is not nearly as much fun as it sounds.
If you tune in and watch certain television preachers this Sunday, you might hear him or her say if you have enough faith, and if you give them enough money, nothing bad will happen to you. Bad things happen when good people are disobedient. This is what is known as a half-truth.
While it is true that disobedience creates unpleasant consequences, so does the disobedience of others. We can suffer the consequences of someone else’s disobedience. Paul was in a ship destined to go down because the sailors went against their own best practices and took an unnecessary risk in search of extraordinary gain. Their bad choice led to a loss of all the revenue-generating cargo abroad and their ship.
Even so, Paul was on a mission from God and God was in charge of this journey.
Does that mean God hurled the powerful storm on the ship, its crew, and its passengers? No, the sailors knew those kinds of storms were normal that time of year (v. 14). The sailors gambled and lost (vv. 13, 15).
Does that mean God made the ship sink? No, the sailors tried and failed to get everyone safely to shore by taking another risk (vv. 39-41). They all survived, by barely.
If God had been in complete control, faithfully manipulating every person like a marionette, none of this would have happened by his grace and in his power. Instead, he allowed sinful people to make bad decisions and experience significant loss as a result. In his mercy, every person on that ship — all 276 of them — survived.
God cannot be blamed for the bad decisions of the sailors. He can be credited with delivering them in spite of their decisions. Rather than saying, “God is in control,” when bad things happen to good people (or even bad people), maybe we should say instead, “God is in charge.” Ultimately, finally, yes, God is in control. Nothing is ever beyond his grasp. When all is said and done, it will be said and done according to his plan. He wins. However, we are not puppets on a string moving and dancing and falling into peril just to make God laugh.
God is in charge. There is nothing we can do to upend his plans for this world. His mission continues. We are moving toward a conclusion no Lenin, Hitler, Mao, or Hussein can thwart. He is the judge of all the earth and he will do what is right (Gen. 18:25).
Think of it this way: We are little children inside a fenced-in playground. We can play on the monkey bars and athletic fields. We can hang on the fences if we like. We can freely choose all kinds of activities inside those fences. However, we cannot go beyond those fences. We are free within limits.
Our Father in heaven knew what was coming for Paul and his shipmates just as surely as he knows what is ahead of us today. He sent a messenger to tell Paul it was going to get much darker before dawn. He told him things were going to grow much worse before they got better. He told him the ship was going down. He also let Paul know that a delay was not a denial. He would reach Rome. He would stand before Caesar and declare the good news. Everything else was simply another adventure.
How did Paul know this was more than his mind playing tricks on him? First, when God speaks through an angel, it tends to get our attention. Second, God told him what he had told him before: Fear not; live courageously.
If you find yourself sailing into a storm, whether of your making or because of someone else’s sin, remember what God always says to us at times like this: Fear not; live courageously. Courage and confidence in God will see you through to the other side. Whenever you get off of God’s path, even if you were pushed, return to his path as quickly as possible. Trust him to lead you through the storm. He’s good at it.
I will trust God to be in charge of all things at all times.
Our Father, thank you for the wonderful freedoms you give us. Thank you for delivering us from the consequences of the misuse of our freedoms. Thank you for delivering us from the consequences of the disobedience of others. Empower us to make choices leading to maximum freedom and minimum consequences. Empower us to honor you and serve others in all things at all times. Deliver us from the sins that entangle us and divert us from your mission for our lives. Amen.
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Jonah 4:2, 3 So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.”
Joel 2:12, 13 That is why the Lord says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish.”
Hosea 14:8, 9 “O Israel, stay away from idols! I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you. I am like a tree that is always green; all your fruit comes from me.” Let those who are wise understand these things. Let those with discernment listen carefully. The paths of the Lord are true and right, and righteous people live by walking in them. But in those paths sinners stumble and fall.”