In yesterday’s study we saw how Paul responded to the storm that had overtaken him. We’ve already noted that 1) Paul knew that God was with him; and 2) Paul knew that he belonged to God. In today’s lesson we look at a third and fourth response.
3. Paul was in the Lord’s service. The third truth is that Paul knew he was in God’s service, about God’s business. In verse 23 we read: “Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve….” God had told him what he was to do: he was to bear witness in Rome. But he had not gotten to Rome yet, and it does not take an Einstein to figure out the implication of those two facts. If God had told Paul that he was going to serve Him in Rome, bearing a witness there, and if he had not yet gotten to Rome, then the storm that was battering the ship on which he was sailing was not going to take his life. God was going to preserve him.
You and I do not have special revelations of that nature, to be sure. God has not revealed to most of us any specific length of service or specific future place of service. But we can know that as long as God has work for us to do, God will preserve us to do it. God will not be frustrated; and if God is not frustrated, we do not need to be frustrated either. If God has work for us to do, then God will keep us alive to do it. And let me add: If you have finished the work that God has given you to do, why should you want to linger around here any longer? We may want to go to heaven as soon as possible, but until then we need to get on with our Father’s business.
4. Paul trusted God in all circumstances. The final principle comes just a bit later in Paul’s speech, where he says, “For I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me” (v. 25). Paul knew God. So it was not only a case of God being with him or him belonging to God or God having work for him to do. He also knew God as the God of all circumstances, and was able to trust Him for life’s details.
When I lose my job? Yes, when I lose my job.
When I have cancer? Yes, that too.
When someone I love has died? Yes, even then.
These things are not insurmountable mountains to God. They are merely circumstances that He brings into our lives for His glory and our good. Romans 8:28 says, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
I want you to see one other thing about this. Because of the faith Paul had and because of what he knew of God, Paul was able to encourage others. I find that interesting, especially when I think back to the story of Jonah. Jonah was running away from God. So when the storm came to batter the ship that was trying to carry him to Tarshish, Jonah was not on the deck helping others. He was in the hold of the ship asleep, like so many Christians. Others were in danger, but he was of no use to them.
By contrast, Paul was obeying God. So when the storm broke, he emerged as the real leader in the situation. We see it throughout. We see it in the passage of assurance we have studied. Later on we also see it in the way Paul gives instructions that resulted in the eventual salvation of the crew. Paul said, “For the last fourteen days you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything. 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” (vv. 33-34). Then he “took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all… broke it and began to eat” (v. 35). That was a very striking thing. It was practical Christianity.
Sometimes people say of Christians, “They’re so heavenly minded, they’re of no earthly use.” But that gets it backward. It is the heavenly-minded people who are of earthly use. People who are earthly minded are of no use whatever when the real storms come.
I do not think the world has any awareness of how much it owes to the presence of Christians in its midst. Here were soldiers, sailors, prisoners—276 of them. All of them were spared because of Paul. Yet afterward, when it was over, I am sure that most of them went away and never thought of their deliverance again. They did not thank God.
I think of Sodom and Gomorrah. God was willing to spare these cities if just ten righteous persons could have been found there. But there were not ten righteous persons, and those cities perished.
What about America? I am sure that for all our sin, evil, materialism, blasphemy, and determination to eliminate any vestige of God from national life, God is sparing our country because of the remnant of believers.
The Lord Jesus, not long before His arrest and crucifixion, gave a sermon on the Mount of Olives. He spoke of wars and rumors of wars. It was a way of saying, “Life is filled with trouble, and you will experience your share of it.” But he added, “See to it that you are not alarmed” (Matt. 24:8).
Not alarmed by war with its calamities?
Not alarmed by life’s storms, as difficult as they can be?
Not alarmed by sickness, disease, persecution, loss of jobs?
No. “See to it that you are not alarmed.” Why? Because God is the God of circumstances, and He is able and indeed does preserve us in the midst of them. It is our task to trust Him at all times and bear witness to Him. It is our task as long as God permits us to remain in this world.