- Sermon Notes
The Storm is Not the End
As we open to Acts 28, we turn to the last chapter of the book of Acts, where we will see Paul finally arrive in Rome. Rome was a place that the Lord had put in Paul’s heart. Back in Acts 19 we read the words from Paul, “I must go to Rome…” and in Acts 23, the Lord came to Paul after he was placed in prison and told him to take courage, because just as he had testified to the truth about Jesus in Jerusalem, he would also testify in Rome.”
And in Acts 27, we saw Paul board a ship that is headed to Rome. He boards the ship as prisoner. Paul’s being placed in prison began when after traveling much of the known world, he arrived in Jerusalem and was falsely accused of defiling the temple. This would set off a series of trials beginning in Jerusalem, that would ultimately land him as a prisoner in Roman custody in the city of Caesarea. Paul would be held as a prisoner for two years, standing trial before not one, not two, but three people in power; two governors and a king.
In each trial they were trying to find good reasons for charges against Paul, but they never could. Recognizing that he was not going to get a fair trial, Paul ends up appealing to Caesar, which was a right he had as a Roman citizen. Appealing to Caesar meant that he would head to Rome and Caesar would hear his case.
So Paul, who had it in his heart to go to Rome, and then was told by the Lord that he would go, is now headed in that direction. He may have thought at one point that he would head there as a bold preacher, but what we see is that he will journey to Rome as a bound-up prisoner. He will still preach boldly, but his circumstances likely turn out differently than he was initially thinking.
Illus. Walkthrough with Map.
As we studied Acts 27 last week, we saw Paul, and 275 others aboard a ship that was headed to Rome. It was a ship he would board as a prisoner. It was a grain ship that originated in Alexandria, Egypt but had enough extra room to also carry prisoners for pay. What we see in Acts 27 is that though the ship was intent on Rome, it ended up in the middle of a terrible storm. It was a storm that those on the ship would battle for 14 days, but it was so strong, and so severe that those on the ship ultimately let the storm have its way, and the ship would be wrecked on the 14th day.
Those on the ship tried everything to keep the ship afloat. They had let down anchors, attempted to set sails, used the oars, even throw everything except themselves overboard, but shipwreck is what was in store.
In the middle of the storm, the Lord gave Paul insight into what was ahead:
Acts 27:22-25, I urge you to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 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.
And it would all turn out just as Paul had been told. The ship struck a reef, and the force of the waves broke up the stern. Those who could swim were to jump in and swim, and others were to take hold of a plank or anything they could find that would keep them above water so they could float to shore.
Acts 27:44-28:1, And so it happened that they all were brought safely to land. When they had been brought safely through, then we found out that the island was called Malta.
After coming through the most severe storm we have on record, Paul made it to land. And it seems for Paul, and the other 275 passengers, it took all they had just to make it to land. They did all they could do, just to get through. But was that the end?
There was wreckage, loss of cargo, great damage was done. 14 days of fear, and it seems likely that for many, it took everything they had just to make it through the storm. Now that they made it through the storm, what would they do? Would they look back on that storm and be immobilized for the rest of their lives? Or was there more in store after the difficult storm.
Illus. Hurricane Help.
- Keep the Faith as You Go Forward
Acts 28:1-3, When they had been brought safely through, then we found out that the island was called Malta. The natives showed us extraordinary kindness, for they kindled a fire and took us all in because of the rain that had started and because of the cold. But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire…
- After those on the ship were brough safely through the storm, the end up on the island of Malta. Malta would have been an island that those who had travelled by sea would have likely been familiar with, but they didn’t come to the shore at a port, and furthermore the main port at that time was on the opposite side of the island.
- Another interesting truth about Malta, is the meaning of its name, “refuge.”
- After the 276 people are washed up on the shore of the Island called refuge the natives on the island show what Luke describes as “extraordinary kindness.”
- Those from the ship are cold, wet, weary, wounded, and lest we forget, many of them are prisoners on their way to either a trial or execution, and the natives show kindness to them, taking them in, and providing a fire in the cold of winter.
- And this must have been a huge fire, because it was enough to warm at least 276 people.
- So, they provide a fire, and the next thing we see is Paul goes out and gathers sticks in order to lay them on the fire.
- I love this picture, of all 276 people on the ship, Paul is the one out gathering sticks for the fire.
- Paul did not use his position as an apostle as a reason to sit back and dish out orders to the others to gather sticks.
- You might also remember that Paul had told the ship leadership to stay in the city of Fair Havens on the island of Crete for the winter, but he was out voted. He could have easily, as he sat by the fire, told those who voted against him to go and get the wood… “You’re the reason we are in this mess, go get some sticks!” but he didn’t.
- Paul shows the heart of a servant, and in so doing, Paul displays the heart and posture of a servant leader.
- Paul was a follower of Jesus Christ, and he did not use is disagreement, or difficulty as a reason to leave the line for a little while. Rather, what I see is him continually taking the posture that we see Jesus took personally.
- So, Paul is on the shore after the severe storm, picking up sticks for the fire, doing a good deed, you know, lining up behind Christ, choosing to be the servant of all, and then there is another shift in the scene…
Acts 28:3-5, When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened itself on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they began saying to one another, “Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, and though he has been saved from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.” However, Paul shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm.
- As if things couldn’t become more interesting, now, as Paul is collecting wood to keep the fire warming others going, a viper is in one of the bundles he picks up and it bites his hand.
- The people are astounded and amazed, but Paul is unphased. Paul knew where he is headed, and as things move forward, he seems to have his confidence and faith fully centered on the Lord.
Hebrews 11:1, Now faith is the certainty of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
- What was Paul seeing? A big snake attached to his hand, but while the snake was holding onto Paul’s hand, Paul was holding onto God’s plan in faith!
- Paul had faith in the storm, when the storm was raging, he had made it through. But now that the storm had subsided, he needed to continue to keep faith at the forefront as he went forward.
- The Lord had gotten him through the storm, but Paul’s story wasn’t over. Paul needed to continue to walk by faith, to cling to him.
- This picture often represents not necessarily a reality, but something symbolically for me and you.
- When we have been through some difficulty, when we are on the other side of the storm, standing up to get some sticks, trying to put it all back together, we get bit.
Illus. Right now?
1 Timothy 1:18-19, This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.
- Paul told Timothy to fight the good fight, keeping the faith! Some have rejected it, and it has shipwrecked their faith.
Illus. One piece at a time.
2 Timothy 4:7-8, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; 8 in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.
- I love what Paul decides to do, he keep the faith as he goes forward, and he shakes off the snake!
- Shake Off What Will Set You Back
- There are some things we will need to shake off as we go forward. This list often starts with the storms we go through themselves. We have to shake them off, or we will find ourselves shaken!
- There are other things we have to shake off if we are going to move forward after the storm…That is, the words of others.
- Look at what the natives say in verse 4, “this man must be a murderer, he got through the storm, but he won’t live…. He got to land, but he won’t last, he’s a gonner.” “He got bit by a snake, and he is going to bite the dust…it’s over for him.”
- This is important for us to see because it is what they really believed. When they said, “justice does not allow him to live,” they were speaking of a goddess they believed in called justice. (dee kay)
- In other words, they believed based on what they were seeing that he was being punished justly, so they began to essentially say, we don’t know what he did exactly, must be something really bad, but whatever it is, he is getting what he deserves.
- If they remove Christ from Paul’s life, they might be right. But Hebrews 12 tells us that Jesus’ blood speaks a better word.
Romans 6:18, For the wages of sin is death, but the gracious gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 3:23-25, All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in God’s merciful restraint He let the sins previously committed go unpunished.
- Paul shakes off the snake, how? By faith.
- Paul had already been told, “you are going to Rome,” Paul, “you must testify of me there,” Paul, “you are going to Rome!”
Acts 28:5-6, Paul shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm. Now they were expecting that he was going to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god.
- What a crowd, they go from saying he was cursed by a god and was doing to die, and now, they start thinking he is a god because he didn’t die.
- There was a lot they were saying, then they began waiting to see it happen. They didn’t try to help him, they were just passing judgement on what they thought would happen to him, and then began waiting for it.
- But it didn’t happen because God had bigger plans!
- In other words, the destination of Paul’s life was not based upon what other thought would happen, suggested would happen, or waited as they watched for it to happen. His destination was decided by the Lord.
Illus. Shake it off.
- Like Paul the destination of your life is not based upon what others think will happen, suggested might happen, or what they wait and watch for as they look forward. Your destination is decided by the Lord.
Psalm 16:8, I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
- Paul had made it through the storm, but he had to keep Christ continually before him, if he didn’t, he would likely have been known as one who was shaken from the snake, rather than the one who shook it off!
- From verses 6 to 10, we understand that the people waited a long time to see if something unusual was going to start happening, but nothing did.
- In the next scene, we see Paul and the prisoner taken into the home of the Roman governor on that Island and Paul prays for his father who was afflicted with a recurring fever and illness. The man was healed and from there people from all over the island began coming to Paul and he would pray for them, and they were being cured.
Acts 28:11-15, After three months we set sail on an Alexandrian ship which had wintered at the island, and which had the Twin Brothers for its figurehead. After we put in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. From there we sailed around and arrived at Rhegium, and a day later a south wind came up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. There we found some brothers and sisters, and were invited to stay with them for seven days; and that is how we came to Rome. And from there the brothers and sisters, when they heard about us, came as far as the Market of Appius and the Three Inns to meet us; and when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.
- What sticks out to me in verse 11 to 15 is that here Paul is about to enter Rome, the place that was on his heart, the destination he was destined for…and we read about something Paul was doing, that has become a bit of a theme, Paul thanked God, and took courage.
III. Give Thanks and Take Courage in All Things
- I love what Paul displays to us as he is entering into the land God promised him. He gives thanks and takes courage when he gets there!
- This is an important point, because often in our lives, when we make it to a desired destination, or we get to the goal line, we can lose sight of the One who got us there.
- Many often get through things, great difficulties, storms, or situation and thank everybody for praying, but forget to thank the One to whom everybody was praying.
Illus. Thankful for prayers!
Illus. We will not forget.
Deuteronomy 8:10-11, 18, When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you. “Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God by failing to keep His commandments, His ordinances, and His statutes which I am commanding you today… But you are to remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, in order to confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
- The storm was not the end…be sure to thank Him!
Colossians 2:6-7, So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Illus. The thankful one.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
- In addition to giving thanks, Paul took courage.
- Paul taking courage is a theme we have seen in his ministry. In Acts 23, the Lord had come to Paul in prison previously and had told him to take courage. The Lord had told him that he would testify in Rome.
- In Acts 27, while in the storm, Paul told the men on the ship in the storm to “keep up their courage,” because the Lord had spoken to him, and they would make it through!
- Here is Paul, about to enter into to Rome, and he took courage.
- “Take courage,” is found in several places in Scripture and is translated “be courageous,” “have courage,” “be of good cheer,” or “take courage.” It is a word in the Old Testament that describes strength, bravery, boldness, and determination.
- We see Jesus speak those very words many times to people he knew or would meet.
Illus. Take Courage.
John 16:33, These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation but take courage; I have overcome the world.
- In each case, the people Jesus speaks to are pointed toward the posture of taking courage and having good cheer, and then they are given the reason why the courage and cheer could be applied. Because He can forgive sins, because our faith is in Him, because of who He is, and because He has overcome the world.
- Why Paul “took courage” at that time we do not exactly know: perhaps he it was because he had PTSD from getting aboard another grain ship, perhaps he was just discouraged from the journey, perhaps he was thinking about his coming meetings in Rome, perhaps he was thinking about the promises of God that he would get to Rome were about to be fulfilled, and now he is headed into the unknown.
- While I am not certain what specifically caused him to take courage right then and there, the ambiguity encourages me in that I can take courage even when I don’t know what it is specifically.
- And you too can take courage in Christ even if you don’t know exactly why. Paul took courage continually, both when Jesus told him to do so specifically, and even in ambiguity.
Psalm 42:5-6(a), Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you… (NIV)
- That word downcast is “laid low,” “low,” “brought down,” or “in despair.”
- The Psalmist asks his soul, “why?” And then gives the answer, “put your hope in God.”
- Perhaps you don’t know why you are downcast, you just are, or perhaps this morning you know exactly why you are downcast, in despair, or in need of courage, either way, the answer is the same, put your hope in God!
- The Hebrew word that is translated “hope,” carries the meaning of confidence, security, and safety.
John 6:47, Truly, truly, I say to you, the one who believes has eternal life.
Hebrews 6:19, This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and reliable and one which enters within the veil.
- The veil referred to hear is that which once separated God’s people from His presence, but now we have hope beyond the veil. It is a sure, confident anchor like hope that sees us into the presence of God.
- Biblical hope is the absolute expectation of coming good…. The storm is not the end if your hope is in Him!
Illus. My Hope is built on nothing less.