How do you stand up to life’s storms? I want you to see how Paul was able to respond to the storm that had overtaken him. Notice the following.
1. Paul knew that God was with him. The first thing is that Paul knew that God was with him. On this occasion an angel of the Lord appeared to him to reassure him of God’s presence. That was a powerful evidence. Yet Paul was aware of this truth at other times, too, just as we should be aware of it. The Lord Jesus Christ, when He was about to leave this world, said to His disciples,
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20).
Our situation in regard to the presence of God is no different than Paul’s. On this occasion, an angel appeared to him; on other occasions, the Lord Himself is said to have appeared to him. Yet the message was the same, and it is the message that has been spoken to us: “Surely I will be with you always.” This is what Christians have found as they have gone through life’s storms. They testify to it again and again.
Christians testify that God has been with them in a way that is supernatural. God has quieted their hearts. He has made Himself known in small ways but which in the situation were so significant that the individuals could testify afterward that God did what He did just to reassure them. He taught them that He had a purpose in it all. Do you know that God is with you? Are you aware of His presence? When the storms come, that will make a great difference.
2. Paul knew that he belonged to God. The second principle is that Paul knew that he belonged to God. When Paul mentioned God he identified him as “the God whose I am.” That is, I am not my own; I am bought with a price; I belong to Him.
In one of his published sermons, Donald Grey Barnhouse dealt with this passage by exploring the ways in which we belong to God, using some of the great images of Scripture. He noted that we belong to God as the bride belongs to the bridegroom, since we, the church, are the bride of Christ. This is a precious, beautiful picture. Nothing is going to tear the bride from the arms of Jesus Christ.
We also belong to God as a child belongs to his or her father, since we are God’s children. What would you think of a father who sees something happening to his child and simply walks off in another direction? You would think, “That man is not a good father.” We recognize a basic human duty to care for our children. If a father sees his child being hurt or taken advantage of or persecuted in some way, any decent father comes to the rescue. If we think that way, even though we respond imperfectly, we can be certain that God also does.
Third, we belong to God as sheep belong to the shepherd. Recall Jesus’ story of the shepherd who loses one of his sheep. Although he still has the other ninety-nine, he goes to find the lost sheep and searches until he brings that sheep back.1
I think of a man who, whenever temptation came to him or people were giving him trouble, used to look up to heaven and say, “God, do you know that they are attacking your property?”
1Donald Grey Barnhouse with Herbert Henry Ehrenstein, Acts: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1979), 224.