Storms of Life

Posted: March 27, 2014 in Religion
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by Chad Daugherty

On Sept 16, 1620 two ships set sail from Plymouth England, The Speedwell and the Mayflower. The Speedwell encountered much difficulty as they began their journey springing many leaks in the ship. So when the two ships went to Port in Plymouth England, the Speedwell decided to go no further. 42 passengers from the Speedwell joined the 60 passengers and 30 crew members aboard the Mayflower. Of the 102 passengers on board the Mayflower the majority were devout Christians. They were coming to America to shake lose from the bonds of the church of England so they could worship God as they believed scriptures taught. With great excitement and expectations they set sail for a new land.

William Bradford a historian on the Mayflower (who would later became Governor of the colony for 33 years) noted that it wasn’t long before the trip became difficult for several reasons. Many of the passengers became sea sick as huge waves would crash over the deck of the ship. The nights were cold, damp and dark. Remember there was no indoor plumbing or electricity. And to make matters worse one of the crew, a very large man would constantly curse and abuse those who were sick. saying to them that he was going to throw them overboard and steal all of their possessions….but God intervened. Bradford records, “BUT IT PLEASED GOD BEFORE THEY CAME HALF SEAS OVER, TO SMITE THE YOUNG MAN WITH A GRIEVOUS DISEASE OF WHICH HE DIED IN A DESPERATE MANNER.. AND SO HE HIMSELF WAS THE FIRST THROWN OVERBOARD. THUS HIS CURSES LIGHT OWN HIS OWN HEAD, AND IT WAS AN ASTONISHMENT TO ALL HIS FELLOWS FOR THEY NOTED IT TO BE THE JUST HAND OF GOD UPON HIM..” But their problems were far from over yet, they encountered many fierce storms which shook the ship with tremendous force. So fierce that many times they could not even keep the sail out and the force of the wind — eventually cracked and bowed the main beams and they had only made it to the half way point across the Atlantic.

Although the passengers and crew wanted to turn back, Christopher Jones, the ships Master, assured all that the vessel was “strong and firm.” He ordered the beam to be secured. It was hoisted into place by a great iron screw that, fortunately, the Pilgrims brought out of Holland. Upon raising the beam, they “committed themselves to the will of God and resolved to proceed.” These 100 people; cold, wet and on wooden ship in the middle of the ocean  put their hope, trust and lives into the hands of God. The battered ship finally came within sight of Cape Cod on November 19, 1620. Two had died at sea and two had given birth. The Pilgrims scanned the shoreline just to the west of them and described it as, “a good land wooded to the brink of the sea,” Before going ashore they decided to write a document know as the Mayflower Compact. At the heart of the compact lay an undisputed conviction that God must be at the center of all law and order and that law without a moral base is really no law at all. The day the Pilgrims signed the May Flower Compact, according to William Bradford, “they came to anchor in the Bay, which was a good harbor…and they blessed the God of Heaven, who brought them over the fast and furious ocean and a sea of trouble. And they read the following from the Geneva Bible (the Bible the Pilgrims used) “LET THEM, THEREFORE PRAISE THE LORD, BECAUSE HE IS GOOD AND HIS MERCIES ENDURE FOREVER.”

As we examine this story we see that these early Christians endured many storms and hardships in order to have freedom of religion. No matter how fierce the storm was they kept their eyes on God and he saw them through. Storms in life are a fact of life, especially as a Christian. In my life I have endured many storms: death of loved ones, health issues, financial issues, family issues, etc.  I’m sure as you read this you can relate to what I am saying. I would imagine almost  everyone has experienced the storms of life. Maybe your storm has been cancer that struck you or a loved one and the Dr’s. prognosis is grim at best. Maybe your children are caught up in a lifestyle that is not only ungodly, but dangerous and you fear for their safety. Maybe your storm is financial. It seems you can never get your head above water. Just as these early Christians endured many storms and trials, you also will have storms come against you. We are in a fallen world full of sin. Wickedness is increasing as we near the return of Christ. Also we have an enemy who is ferocious and relentless in promoting our failure:

1 Peter 5:8–9 (NIV) 8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

How do you deal with life’s storms?

The way you handle the storms of life says everything about who you are in Christ.

In his word God has given us examples role models in how we should conduct ourselves. Especially in the storms of life. Let’s take a look at the Apostle Paul. Paul endured many hardships in his service to God. Let’s take a look at a storm Paul endured and see how he conducted himself. Paul is a God given role model for us. We can find examples from his life and how he dealt with the storms of life that will help us deal with our storms. We see his story in:

Acts 27:13–44

The Storm 13 When a gentle south wind began to blow, they saw their opportunity; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. 14 Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the Northeaster, swept down from the island. 15 The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. 16 As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure, 17 so the men hoisted it aboard. Then they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Because they were afraid they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along. 18 We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. 19 On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. 20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved. 21 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. 22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 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.’ 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. 26 Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.” The Shipwreck 27 On the fourteenth night we were still being driven across the Adriatic Sea, when about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land. 28 They took soundings and found that the water was a hundred and twenty feet deep. A short time later they took soundings again and found it was ninety feet deep. 29 Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. 30 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. 31 Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it drift away. 33 Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. “For the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything. 34 Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” 35 After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. 36 They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 Altogether there were 276 of us on board. 38 When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea. 39 When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could. 40 Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach. 41 But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf. 42 The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. 43 But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. 44 The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.

This entire chapter is about Paul’s voyage and shipwreck. Why would Luke devote such a long section of his book to a description of a voyage and shipwreck? Perhaps the major purpose Luke had in mind was to present Paul as the courageous leader who could take command of a difficult situation in a time of great crisis. In so doing he set an example for us and future generations to follow.

In Paul’s journey to Rome, we see the great apostle in three important roles. Let’s examine those roles. As we do consider how you can apply them to your own life, so that when the storms of life come you will be prepared.

Remember: The way you handle the storms of life says everything about who you are in Christ.

The first role of Paul was that of a counselor. Paul, the other prisoners, and the ships crew had sailed and made it as far as Fair Havens (V8). The centurion in charge of the ship now had to decide whether to winter at Fair Havens or set sail and try to reach the port of Phoenix on the southern coast of Crete, about forty miles away. His approach to making this decision is a classic illustration of how not to determine the will of God. We know from scripture in 2 Corinthians 11:25 that Paul had already been involved in three ship wrecks. He had previous experience. In Acts 27:10 we can see Paul spoke prophetically about what would happen if they continued their journey when he said:

Acts 27:10 (NIV)

10 “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.”

Paul gave Godly council. Yet in V11 we read:

Acts 27:11 (NIV) 11 But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship.

What were the factors that governed Julius’ the centurion’s decision? To begin with, Fair Havens was not a comfortable place to settle down because it was too open to the winter storms. Phoenix, the place Julius wanted to go to had a more sheltered harbor. Julius also listened to the “expert advice” of the pilot and captain (“master and owner”) of the ship. They advised that the ship head for Phoenix as fast as possible. Surely they could cover forty miles safely, and besides they had already lost too much time. When Julius added up the votes, it was three to one that the ship set sail. After all, the majority cannot be wrong, especially when it includes the experts! But the clinching argument came with an encouraging change in the weather, for the south wind began to blow gently, and that was just what they needed. As the ship left the harbor, I can imagine that Julius, the pilot, and the captain smiled tolerantly at Paul as if to say, “See, you were wrong!” However, it was not long before Paul was proved right, for the “soft wind” became a stormy wind. The storm grew worse. Control of the ship was lost, and eventually it ran aground. The situation seemed hopeless, and it all happened because one man would not listen to God’s messenger.

Sometimes we get ourselves into storms for the same reasons:

a. impatience (doing it according to our time schedule instead of waiting on God’s timing).

b. accepting expert advice that is contrary to God’s will (there are always people who feel they are experts to give advice….is it Godly advice?).

c. by following the majority, and trusting “ideal” conditions (Things are not always as they seem….trust the Lord’s ways…not the world’s ways).

They may not always make sense to us but we have to trust that God knows what’s best for us.

Isaiah 55:8 (NIV)

8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.

If you want to be prepared for the storms of life you must follow the Lord’s ways.

You need to seek Godly council: in prayer,  through HIS word, and through the spiritual leaders God has placed in your life.

Paul received Godly council from the Lord and then gave Godly council to the ships crew. At first his council was disregarded. Julius the centurion set sail against his advice. As the journey continued, Julius and the crew learned to listen to his council and it led to their safe arrival on the island of Malta. Godly council is imperative when the storms of life blow. When you seek Godly council….when you do it God’s way…..you will be prepared! Then you can lead yourself and your family through the storm.

The second role of Paul was an encourager. As the storms raged against the ship and all hope seemed lost, God sent an angel to Paul:

V22-26 22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 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.’

When things seemed desperate and all hope lost….Paul sought to encourage them with the word of God. Paul assured them that God was in control and that his promise is true. Why was Paul able to be so confident in the middle of this storm? The answer is in V25:

25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.

Paul had faith! He believed and trusted God.

In V26 we read:

26 Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”

Paul had faith and believed God…yet they still ran aground. Having faith and believing God doesn’t always mean our circumstances will change. It does mean that God will see us through the storm. HE will hold us in the palm of HIS hand. The promises he has made are true. When you are in the middle of a storm…it is in God’s promises that you can stand and find encouragement. In turn you can use his promises to encourage your family and those around you. God has made Promises such as:

a. His promise to prosper you and give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

b. His promise to walk with you and comfort you in the storm.

Psalm 23:4 (NIV)

4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,  I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

c. His promise that one day there will be no more storms.

Revelation 21:4 (NIV)

4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’  or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Like Paul, if you believe God’s promises and hold on to your faith……you can be an encourager to your family and those around you. You will be prepared to lead yourself and your family through the storms.

The third role of Paul was a leader. We see Paul as a leader in two places. First in:

Acts 27:21–22 (NIV)

21 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. 22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.

Paul stood up and said to them “You didn’t listen to me the first time…..listen to me now! Don’t just give up……have courage and everything will be alright!”. We see Paul as a leader again in:

Acts 27:33–34 (NIV)

33 Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. “For the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything. 34 Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.”

Paul recognized what they needed for survival. He stood up and confronted them with that need. They needed food…..they needed strength for what was ahead. Then Paul led by example. V35 says:

35 After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat.

The men listened to Paul and followed his example. We see in V36:

36 They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves.

What we see here is that Paul didn’t hide in a corner to wait out the storm. Paul:

a. Evaluated the situation

b. He discerned the needs

c. He confronted the problem

d. He lead by example

Too many people in our world today when the storms of life come will just hide in a corner trying to wait out the storm. While waiting out the storm the “Pity Party” is on in full force. All the guest arrive. You know the ones I’m talking about:

a. the woe is me guest (God doesn’t like me as much as everyone else)

b. the angry at God guest (He’s not fair….I haven’t done anything to deserve this)

c. Does God really love me guest (if God really loves me….he wouldn’t make me go through this)

There are many more guest. Pity Parties always brings a large crowd. If anybody had reason to have a Pity Party, it was Job. Yet we read in:

Job 1:22 (NIV) 22 

In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

We need to follow Job’s example in how we respond to God during a storm. The problem with humanity is that we expect God to respond to every situation the way we would; but God doesn’t think the way we do. He has a reason for all that he allows and he is always looking out for our best interest. Paul understood that truth and he lead by example. When you are going through the storms of life, you need to be a leader. Your family needs you to be a leader. Those around you need you to be a leader. Just as Paul was a leader during the storm, you can be also if you:

a. Seek God’s guidance

b. Keep your faith

c. Evaluate the situation

d.discern the needs

e. confront the problem

f. lead by example

You have a choice in how you respond to the storms that rage against you. Romans 8:37-39 says:

Romans 8:37–39 (NIV)

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 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.

In the midst of the storm you can stand on God’s word. You can take hold of your faith, and you can take the storm head on or you can hide in a corner and wait for it to pass.

Remember: The way you handle the storms of life says everything about who you are in Christ.

Today we can see storm clouds forming on the horizon. There is a moral and spiritual decline that continues to erode our national life. The warning signs are there for us to see–the signs that Jesus is coming soon. They beckon us to return to the Lord and seek refuge in Him. Jesus told us in:

John 16:33 (NIV)

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

The nearer we get to Christ return….the worse things are going to get in the world. The storms will increase. How will history look back on what we did as the storm approached? I want to encourage you….take the lessons we learn from Paul and apply them to your situation. Like Paul when the storms rage:

a. Seek and give Godly council. (You need it and the people in your life need it)

b. Be an encourager. (We have reason for hope…we have Christ)

c. Be a leader. (demonstrating strength in Christ will strengthen others)

If we follow Paul’s example, we also will arrive at the Lord’s destination safely. If you haven’t received Jesus as your Lord and Savior….then the first thing you need to do is GET ON THE BOAT. You need to seek shelter from the storms. Your refuge is found in Christ.

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