- Sermon Notes
Strength in the Storm
Illus. Hurricane ready.
We are in Acts chapter 27 this morning. It is Paul’s last trip on record. Paul is going to board a ship, then another ship on his way to Rome, and it is on this ship that he endures the worst storm he had faced in all his sea travel that we have record of. Paul faces a literal storm, it is an overwhelming storm, a storm that nearly takes his life, as well as the lives of those who are aboard the ship with him, but in the midst of the storm, we see Paul point to and then cling to what was stronger than the storm, and that is, the words God had given him, and his faith in the fact that God would be true to all he had told him.
From the storm story in Acts 27 we will glean insights and understanding into the storms of our lives. But not only this, we will see Paul find strength after hearing from the Lord in the middle of the storm and moving forward according to what the Lord speaks to him. We see him plot His course according to what he hears from the Lord, and though it ends in shipwreck, God was true to His word and Paul’s life was spared.
Acts 26:32-27:1, Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.” Now when it was decided that we would sail for Italy, they proceeded to turn Paul and some other prisoners over to a centurion of the Augustan cohort, named Julius.
From the beginning of chapter 27, we know that Paul is headed to Rome, it was a place the Lord had put on his heart back in Acts 19, and then the Lord confirmed it to him again in Acts 23. Paul was being held in prison in Jerusalem in Acts 23, and the Lord told him, “Be courageous! For as you have testified about Me in Jerusalem, so you must testify in Rome also.” If Rome was ever something that Paul thought was just a nice idea in his head, it was now more than that after being confirmed by the Lord…You must go to Rome!”
So, Paul knew he was going to head to Rome, but what he did not know, was how exactly he would get there. From one of Paul’s other writings, it seems that when Rome was put on his heart, going as a prisoner may not exactly have been what he was thinking. In Romans 15, Paul wrote about his desire to head to Rome. He wrote about his longing to see them prior to going to Spain. It seems from Romans 15 that he was planning on a missionary type of journey, as a preacher, but he ends up heading there as a prisoner on a ship transporting prisoners.
Acts 27 then, does not represent a change in his mission, but a change in the method. The destination remains the same, but way it would all come about, different than how he would have worked it out. Paul’s travel accommodations were not the only change on the journey, however, the path that the Paul was on navigated the waters was different. They were not able to take the path they were initially planning.
That is something that storms often, if not always do. They change things. The way we wanted to go, and the way we thought we were going to go, in a storm can often become a clear “no.” But there is strength in the storm because we know the One who is stronger than the storms of life.
- Keep Choosing Christ When Storms Bring Change
Illus. Walkthrough with Map.
Acts 27:2-14, And we boarded an Adramyttian ship that was about to sail to the regions along the coast of Asia, and put out to sea accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica. 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. From there we put out to sea and sailed under the shelter of Cyprus, because the winds were contrary. When we had sailed through the sea along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy, and he put us aboard it.
- The prisoners were taken off one boat and put on another ship. This ship is from Alexandria, Egypt. It’s an Egyptian grain vessel. Rome got most of its grain from Egypt. The grain was transported on ships. We believe this to be a grain ship, because in verse 38 we find out that there was grain aboard that they threw out to be able to survive the storm. So, it’s a grain ship going from Egypt to Italy.
Illus. Ship insights.
Acts 27:7-9, 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 farther, we sailed under the shelter of Crete, off Salmone; and with difficulty sailing past it, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea. When considerable time had passed and the voyage was now dangerous, since even the fast was already over…
- The mention of “the fast” is a reference to the day of atonement which was a day each year that Jews were required to fast. This puts the timeframe in Mid-October. It is when the weather begins to change, and it becomes more difficult than normal to sail on the Mediterranean Sea.
Acts 27:9-10, Paul started admonishing them, saying to them, “Men, I perceive that the voyage will certainly be with damage and great loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.”
- Paul was a preacher, yes, but he also had experience on the sea. In fact, from 2 Corinthians 11, we know that Paul had already been in a shipwreck three times by this time.
- So, Paul speaks up, “Men, this isn’t looking good, it looks like a storm is brewing, I have been there done that, there is damage ahead if we go forward with this plan.
Acts 27:11-15, But the centurion was more persuaded by the pilot and the captain of the ship than by what was being said by Paul. The harbor was not suitable for wintering, so 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. When a moderate south wind came up, thinking that they had attained their purpose, they weighed anchor and began sailing along Crete, closer to shore. But before very long a violent wind, called Euraquilo, rushed down from the land; and when the ship was caught in it and could not head up into the wind, we gave up and let ourselves be driven by the wind.
- As Paul boards the ship and heads toward Rome, we will see the ship head straight into a storm. And what we see is that the storm will bring changes. The storm will bring changes to their plans, and also to their priorities.
- Anyone who has experience a storm in their life knows that the map begins to look like the map of Paul’s journey. Often the places we end up are place that we would never be had we been left up to our own choosing.
Illus. Choice in change.
- Perhaps that is you this morning, the storms of life, the present storm in your life, or your concern about a potential storm in your life has led you to a place you would never choose for yourself. Perhaps it has you on a path you would have never pursued, but here you are. If you marked it all out, it would look like the map of Paul’s sea journey. If so, I want to point you to an opportunity, to choose Christ presently.
- You didn’t choose the storm, but you can choose what to do in the storm.
Isaiah 55:8-9, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.
- Since God’s ways and thoughts are higher and His ways and thoughts are not our ways and thoughts, knowing what He has to say in the midst of the storm is important if we are going to have strength in it.
- If we are going to have strength in the storm is more that knowing that His thoughts and way are higher, it is choosing His thoughts and ways because we trust that His ways are best.
- Focus on Him, Not the Forecast
Acts 27:14-15, …Before very long a violent wind, called Euraquilo, rushed down from the land; and when the ship was caught in it and could not head up into the wind, we gave up and let ourselves be driven by the wind.
- The storm Paul’s ship heads into had a known name. It was called a “Euraquilo,” it was a violent storm from the southeast.
Illus. Named storms.
- The storm is so strong, that as soon as the ship is caught in it, they were unable to go against it. Vs. 15, They gave up and were driven by the wind.
- The ship had no rudder, just oars. They picked up the oars and went wherever the wind took them.
Acts 27:16-19, Running under the shelter of a small island called Cauda, we were able to get the ship’s boat under control only with difficulty. 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 let themselves be driven along in this way. The next day as we were being violently tossed by the storm, they began to jettison the cargo; and on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands.
- With the shelter of a small Island called Clauda, verse 16 reads “we were able to get the ships boat under control.”
- The boat mentioned is the lifeboat that was usually tied behind the ship. It was taken on board during bad weather so that it would not be lost in a storm. Likely filled with water, there was difficulty in pulling up the lifeboat and getting it on board.
- Next, they undergirded the ship. Which involved wrapping cable around the front bottom the ship, or the hull, which would help the ship stay together as it took a pounding.
- The next thing we see is that they let down a sea anchor, which would serve as a drag to provide whatever help it could to ensure that the boat stayed as close to on track as possible.
- From verse 18, we know that the next day they were being tossed by the storm, and they began to throw their cargo overboard. And on the third day they began to through the ship’s tackle overboard.
- As mentioned, this ship was most likely a grain ship, so they begin throwing grain overboard.
- Vs. 19, And on the third day, they begin to throw the ship’s tackle overboard. This is a broad term for equipment, furniture, or items that were weighing the ship down, but not essential to survival.
- I find this interesting, but also something seen clearly in the storms we face, they shift your focus.
- The purpose of that ship going to Rome, or so they were thinking initially, was to take grain there and make money. That was its primary purpose. The reason it was headed to Rome.
- They picked up some prisoners to make some extra money, but that wasn’t why they ship was headed that way.
- But the storm had changed their focus. From making money to making it through. It had changed their values; it had made clear what mattered most.
- That seems to be something storms do in our lives. They make clear to us what matters most.
Illus. Getting Home.
Acts 27:20, 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 slowly abandoned.
- For navigation, they would use the sun and stars, but they had not seen either for many days, the storm raged on and all hope of being saved was slowly being abandoned.
- They had tried just about everything they could in their own power and know how, but nothing was working. They begin resigning themselves to death at sea.
- For forecast was not changing, things were not clearing up. But then Paul speaks up, and after giving them a personal reminder, he points the Lord and set their focus on Him, not the forecast.
Acts 27:21, When many had lost their appetites, Paul then stood among them and said, “Men, you should have followed my advice and not have set sail from Crete, and thereby spared yourselves this damage and loss.
- Paul began with a personal reminder. e poinHe brings their attention back to what he had said in verse 10 prior to getting outvoted… Men, he had said, I perceive that the journey ahead will only bring about destruction and loss of cargo and loss of our lives.
- There will be voices like that in the storm, by the way. People who say, you shouldn’t have gone there, you shouldn’t be there. I told you so, you should have listened to me!
- But what Paul also does is point them beyond his personal words and to the words God had given him.
Acts 27:22-26, Now I urge you to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong, whom I also serve, came to me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has graciously granted you all those who are sailing with you.’ Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told. But we must run aground on a certain island.”
- Paul gets beyond what had been, and says “Now, keep up your courage.”
- He shifted the focus from the past, or the forecast, to the Father.
- The Lord came to Paul and reminded him of His plan. He comes to Paul and says “Paul, you aren’t going to die in this storm, you have an appointment in Rome!”
- Paul tells them to keep up their courage, the Lord said I am headed to Rome and if you are sailing with me, your life will be spared!
- The translation of “keep up your courage” is, be cheerful, be joyful!” How could they do this at a time like that? Because Paul is telling them that storm is not the end!
- And if you have put your faith and trust in Jesus and in His Word, yet you find yourself in one of the storms of life today, I want to encourage you to cheer up, to be joyful, because this storm you are in is not the end. Perhaps your present storm is one the big ones, you even have a name on it…We let me remind you of just who you belong to, “The name above all names,” Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:9).
Psalm 84:5, Blessed is the person whose strength is in you.
Psalm 28:7-8, The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart triumphs, and with my song I shall thank Him. The Lord is their strength, and He is a refuge of salvation to His anointed.
- In verse 27 to 29, we see the storm rage on. They began to suspect that they were going to hit rocks as in response they took what is called soundings, to determine the depth of the water.
- They would take a weight, tie it to a rope, throw it overboard and see how far down the bottom of the sea was, the first measurement they took measured 20 fathoms, then 15 fathoms. A fathom is six feet, so it starts out at 120 feet, then 90 feet.
- So, they dropped four anchors from the back of the ship, and then prayed for daybreak.
- Some of them, decide to take matters into their own hands. Despite Paul telling them that if you are with me your life will be spared, they decide to let down the life raft and jump ship into it.
- But Paul makes something clear, they won’t be saved if the people jump ship and go their own way.
III. Don’t Jump from the Ship When God is In It
- There are times to get off board when a ship we have boarded is headed in the wrong direction. Jonah is an example of this. He went against God, boarded the ship, and jumped off and into the sea because he knew that he had gone against God’s will willingly.
- But there are other times, often times, when the storm is rising, the winds are strong, the waves are crashing and you just need to hear these words, stay on board, don’t jump ship.
- Perhaps all you see is storms and difficulty, perhaps you have no direction, perhaps the plans you had have fallen flat due to a formidable storm in your life…I encourage you to choose Christ despite the change the storm brought or is bringing.
- Perhaps you see no way forward, no way out, you are overwhelmed with dread regarding what might be ahead… Focus on Him, not the forecast.
- Or perhaps you have said “I am done,” “I am out,” I want to ask you to go to the Lord ask Him what He truly has to say about that and if you know He is in something, don’t jump ship.
- You might not see it now, but some way, somehow, if you seek Him, you will find Him, and when you find Him, he will bring strength in your storm.
- As the story goes on, the ship ends up striking a reef, and the ship ends up breaking apart. Some swam to the shore; others took hold of some of the planks and other things that had broken off the ship. It ends up getting messy, but they made it, all 276 of them.
- Many of them almost gave up, but Paul knew that despite his being powerless personally in the storm, he had strength in the storm because of his trust of in God.
Psalm 20:7, Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. (NIV)
Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (NKJV)
- Paul reminds us in verse 23 of three of his own anchors in the greatest recorded storm in his life…
Acts 27:23, This very night an angel of the God to whom I belong, whom I also serve, came to me…
- Paul belonged to God (God was in control), Paul served God (He was a servant of God, walking according to God’s will), and God came to him.
James 4:8, Come close to God and He will come close to you.
- When you jump from what God is in, you miss the opportunity to be strengthened by Him. Comforted by Him. Built up by Him. Guided by Him. Provided for by Him. Perhaps that is you this morning, you need strength in your storm.
Isaiah 40:31, Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.
Isaiah 43:2-3, When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. for I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.