These men were experienced sailors. They had faced serious situations before, but this storm was something very different. It had been many days since they had thrown their cargo overboard, hoping to lighten the ship. The storm raged on. They had gathered up the tackle, the irons, anything of weight; and thrown it into the sea to lighten their load. They hadn’t eaten in over a week. They were out of options and waiting to die. The storm raged on. A man stood up in the midst of the hopeless sailors;
——After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”-Acts 27:21-26
We have a tendency to believe that the storms we face in life, come when we are operating outside of God’s will. However, sometimes the worst storms arise when we answer God’s call. Paul knew he had been called to preach in Rome. Being sure of his calling, Paul recognized the storm for what it was, an obstacle to be overcome by faith in God’s plan.
The prophet Jonah encountered a storm of his own. Like Paul, Jonah knew that he had been called by God for a specific purpose. Also like Paul, when the storm arose, Jonah knew the nature of the storm. He knew that he was operating outside the will of God, and no amount of faith would save this ship if Jonah stayed aboard.
——The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?” “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. Then they cried out to the Lord , “Please, Lord , do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord , have done as you pleased.” Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.-Jonah 1:11-15
Paul’s storm was sent for him to overcome, Jonah’s storm was sent to overcome him.
Do you recognize the nature of the storms in your life? Without searching out God’s will for our lives, it can be difficult to understand the nature of the trials we face. When we endeavor to achieve God’s will, the storms can become great opportunities for us to exercise faith in God’s plan for us, regardless of our current circumstances. Outside of God’s will, attempting to weather the storm can turn out disastrous. Know the nature of your storm.
Paul encouraged the frightened sailors in the midst of their storm; but even after his words of encouragement, the storm raged on. God’s word is our encouragement in the midst of tribulation, but we often lose heart when the storm continues to rage around us.
——Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. 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. Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.”-Acts 27:29-31
If today you are in the midst of a storm; ask yourself if it is a Paul storm, or a Jonah storm. Are you inside, or outside, the will of God. If you’ve encountered this storm while seeking God’s will in your life, let me encourage you to stay on board, even if it seems like hope is lost. When you are following the will of God, have faith that he will deliver you from any storm. This is not always easy, I know…I’m in the midst of a storm of my own. I am firmly convinced that God will not abandon you, so don’t abandon ship.
——Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.-Matthew 8:23-26
Paul reacted to the storm in Acts with the same sort of indifference that Jesus did in the Gospels. Both understood God’s will for their lives, that God had plans for them on the other side of the sea. Jonah reached his destination as well; not by weathering the storm, but by understanding it’s nature, and submitting to God’s will. When we answer God’s call, we need to have faith that he will see us through rough waters…..if we don’t bail out. In between God’s call, and your fulfillment of it; there is a sea to cross. Sometimes we sail right into the jaws of a storm; knowing the nature of that storm, by continuously seeking his will in our lives, can make all the difference.