I’m continuing my study of the book of Acts, and I can’t help but be blown away and time and again with how relevant the events of Paul’s life are to our current climate.
After Paul’s imprisonment and subsequent non-trial in front of Felix, Fetus, and Agrippa, he boarded a ship headed for Rome to make his appeal to Caesar. Several weeks into their journey, a fierce storm arose. Luke describes it as having “wind of hurricane force, called the ‘northeaster'” (Acts 27:14). The storm battered the vessel to such an extent that the sailors took to tying ropes beneath the hull just to hold the ship together. It bore down upon them relentlessly for days, and they began throwing cargo and tackle overboard in an attempt to stay seaworthy. Luke writes that “when the sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up hope of being saved” (Acts 27:20).
I wonder how many of us are at this point. The ever-increasing number of infections, the constantly rising death toll, every day new and harsher restrictions on our lives and liberties. The battle seems to be never-ending, any victory no matter how small soon vanquished by more bad news and doom and gloom predictions.
There is no light at the end of the tunnel. Regardless of the weather of the physical world, like in Acts 27, it seems as though it has been days since the sun or stars has appeared.
Friends, I’ve been there. Every single day of this pandemic, I’ve struggled with hopelessness, uncertainty, and fear. I’ve fought these feelings with prayers and praise, with long runs and good books. And yet still I’ve struggled. Much like Luke and the sailors aboard the ship, there are times I’ve “finally given up hope of being saved.”
But then Paul spoke.
The wind was still howling, the waves were still churning, the rain still beating them relentlessly. Luke writes that they had run out of food and lost their supplies. Things were even more bleak than ever.
But then Paul spoke.
“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 whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me . . . so keep 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 27:22-26)
In the middle of a storm that seemed unending, Paul commanded the men to keep up their courage. Not because he had any strength to stop the storm, not that he even saw the storm ending (in fact, you’ll notice, he actually gave them MORE bad news, foretelling the upcoming grounding of the ship). No, he told them to have courage because he had heard and received a promise from God.
Paul had been told by God that he would go and preach the good news in Rome. I’m sure he didn’t imagine going there in chains, of course, but God was still fulfilling the plan He’d revealed to Paul earlier. In chains and in the midst of a storm, God’s plan was still in motion, His purposes were still be fulfilled, and He was still speaking to His servant, enabling him to strengthen those around him.
So what does this have to do with our current pandemic? Because we, like Paul, have heard and received God’s promise, too.
1 Peter 1:3-5 says “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy, he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade–kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” (emphasis mine)
We can take courage in the storm, in the middle of this seemingly hopeless, endless pandemic because we have heard and received the promises of God! We can have faith like Paul that “it will happen just as he told me” because God’s Word is full of promises He has never failed to fulfill.
This pandemic is hard. People are suffering all around the world. Even those not infected with the virus are dealing with the financial, mental, and emotional effects of quarantine and “social distancing.” Like the sailors on Paul’s ship, many are losing everything–their “boat” if you will. Some are even losing their lives.
And yet we still have the reassurance and the promise that “not one of you will be lost.” The virus may take a lot of things, whether they be physical or otherwise but, for those of us in Jesus, we know it can never take us from HIM. We will never be lost so long as we abide in our Savior. Romans 8: 38-39 promises us “…that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The worst may be yet to come. There is still so much even the wisest of experts don’t know about this virus–when things will go back to normal, if/when it will return. Like Paul, we may be headed for a shipwreck.
The one thing God never promised was an easy life. In fact, many times throughout the Bible, we are reminded to expect suffering, just as Christ suffered greatly in His earthly body.
But just as the shipwreck had a purpose for Paul, further enabling him to share the gospel, so the trials and sufferings in our life have meaning.
“These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:7)
So friends, “I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost…”
We will get through this.
Because God promised.