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Trusting God Through Life's Perils

June 16, 2024 Preacher: Jeff Griffis Series: Acts of the Holy Spirit Through the Apostles

Scripture: Acts 27:1–44

Trusting God Through Life’s Perils – Acts 27:1–44

PRAY & INTRO: As Luke narrates how Paul is transferred from Caesarea to Rome, why does he include so much detail, especially about how difficult and perilous the sea voyage was, and of God’s deliverance… and who was present, and what their reactions were, and so on?  

It seems clear to me that the detail of this journey is to draw our attention to the sovereignty of God in allowing Paul to go through the journey this way, and to emphasize God’s faithfulness to deliver Paul in order to fulfill his promise and accomplish his purpose. (What promise, what purpose? - Take courage; you will testify about me also in Rome. Ac 23:11) Luke is demonstrating God’s preservation of Paul to fulfill his promise and accomplish his purpose. 

Like Paul, we must entrust ourselves in life’s perils to God’s sovereign will and control, and to his faithful care.

What difference does it make to know that God is sovereign—that he is trustworthy, that he is faithful, and that he is powerful to accomplish his will?

The one who knows God knows that he is trustworthy and faithful, even (or especially) in life’s greatest perils. The one who knows God knows that he has a plan to accomplish his good purposes and that he has the authority and power to carry it out.

Let’s read of this perilous voyage beginning at v. 1 of Acts 27.

Acts 27:1–8 ESV

1 And when it was decided that we should sail for Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort named Julius. 2 And embarking in a ship of Adramyttium, which was about to sail to the ports along the coast of Asia, we put to sea, accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica. 3 The next day we put in at Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him leave to go to his friends and be cared for. 4 And putting out to sea from there we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were against us. 5 And when we had sailed across the open sea along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra in Lycia. 6 There the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing for Italy and put us on board. 7 We sailed slowly for a number of days and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, and as the wind did not allow us to go farther, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone. 8 Coasting along it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea.

What do we learn about Paul’s relationship to God in this perilous journey that Luke describes in such detail?

Is God any less good and trustworthy, any less caring, any less powerful to accomplish his will, for allowing us to undergo trials?

Does Paul trust God any less because he is suffering, transferred to Rome as a prisoner?

-In one sense, he’s even treated as just one among other prisoners. Paul could really be feeling sorry for himself here, and saying, “Where are you now, God?” But Paul does not need to doubt God presence and power.

God had delivered Paul from his wrongheaded religious effort through faith in Jesus Christ, simultaneously commissioning him to be Christ’s witness to both Jew and Gentile, into the ranks of the rich and powerful rulers of the day. Now God had determined Paul’s destination (comforting him along the way, confirming his promise), that he should testify in Rome. And Paul knew it was God’s will that he should go there now as a prisoner.

By what means does God provide simple mercies of his care for Paul at the outset of this journey?

-fellow Christians: we (Luke and others), including Aristarchus (Ac 19:29 in Ephesus)

-The other companions are pagan (unsaved) soldiers and sailors, but the primary one, the centurion over Paul, Julius, treats him kindly, so that Paul is able to see and be supported by fellow believers in Sidon. (who undoubtedly not only pray with him, but likely also give generously so that he will be supplied for the journey)

At all times, but especially when experiencing difficulty, let God use his people to comfort you and remind you of God’s trustworthiness, and to keep you focused on belonging to Christ—set apart to him and sent as his witness. (It is not yours to take justice or vengeance into your own hands; you have more important things to concern yourself with. It is not mine to try to solve every problem; I have primary responsibilities in which I need to prioritize faithfulness.)

Does Paul trust God any less because the sea voyage this time proves particularly difficult and dangerous?

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-Why must the sailing this time be so blooming difficult? - Isn’t this how we feel in our own lives, like it’s adding insult to injury? Something else goes wrong and we’ve already suffered enough, and we forget about the ways in which God has been and is being merciful to us even now.

Now the voyage shifts from difficult to dangerous.

Acts 27:9–20 ESV

9 Since much time had passed, and the voyage was now dangerous because even the Fast was already over, Paul advised them, 10 saying, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” 11 But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. 12 And because the harbor was not suitable to spend the winter in, the majority decided to put out to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing both southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there. 13 Now when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to the shore. 14 But soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land. 15 And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along. 16 Running under the lee of a small island called Cauda, we managed with difficulty to secure the ship’s boat. 17 After hoisting it up, they used supports to undergird the ship. Then, fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear, and thus they were driven along. 18 Since we were violently storm-tossed, they began the next day to jettison the cargo. 19 And 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 no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.

From difficult to dangerous and from perilous to hopeless. (In this section…)

Is God any less sovereign or trustworthy because others foolishly ignore godly wisdom?

-Paul’s wise warning goes unheeded. - Paul advised them to remain at Fair Havens for the winter, but they did not listen. (the result… more peril, to everyone!) —> It is always wise to obey a direct command from God. But it is foolish to presume upon God’s protection when wisdom warns us to avoid trouble.

-Sin and foolishness (lack of listening to wisdom) results in suffering for everyone involved.

-I was thinking about how God’s goodness and sovereignty can help us put our perils in perspective. (There are at least) Three kinds of significant perils in our lives: the things happening around us through nature in a fallen world, and the things that happen to us because of others, and the consequences of our own decisions and actions. - God uses these to turn our desperate attention to him, and he offers grace and redemption through Jesus Christ.

What do significant trials teach us about our own frailty and inability, and about our priorities?

(strap the ship together, jettison the cargo, the tackle; life-threatening - They are at the mercy of this relentless tempestuous wind.)

(stuff isn’t important anymore! Stuff can’t save you)

… at last all hope was abandoned of our being saved/delivered/rescued.

Whom do we trust when hope seems lost? (let’s read more and ask this question again)

Acts 27:21–38 ESV

21 Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. 22 Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, 24 and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25 So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. 26 But we must run aground on some island.” 27 When the fourteenth night had come, as we were being driven across the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors suspected that they were nearing land. 28 So they took a sounding and found twenty fathoms. A little farther on they took a sounding again and found fifteen fathoms. 29 And fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let down four anchors from the stern and prayed for day to come. 30 And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, and had lowered the ship’s boat into the sea under pretense of laying out anchors from the bow, 31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat and let it go. 33 As day was about to dawn, Paul urged them all to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have continued in suspense and without food, having taken nothing. 34 Therefore I urge you to take some food. For it will give you strength, for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.” 35 And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat. 36 Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 (We were in all 276 persons in the ship.) 38 And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, throwing out the wheat into the sea.

Whom do we trust when all hope seems lost?

Now when Paul starts talking, he isn’t saying “I told you so,” but reminding them us his unheeded warning so that they will listen to what he says now. (Like parenting: that’s why I said… Next time…)

Paul urges them to take heart based upon HIS faith in HIS God. (interesting) “The God to whom I belong and whom I worship” … God has not forsaken: I belong to him, and worship/serve him. - God’s reassurance strengthens Paul’s faith, and by his trust in God, Paul reassures others.

-Take heart, for I have faith in God… -our faith in God is a blessing to those around us, even if they do not have faith. God’s people, as a reflection of Jesus, are his light in the darkness, his city on a hill. - Imagine if that light were gone, if God were not still making a people for his possession, if his people were all removed! Our trust in God and our obedience to God is certainly one means that the Holy Spirit uses to restrain the depths of wickedness that mankind’s hard hearts and blinded eyes are capable of. - They know not how grateful they should be to God that there are those among them who have faith in God through Jesus Christ.

Does faith in God lead to passivity or activity?

Paul’s faith takes action.

Paul’s faith in God leads him to take actions that protect and encourage his companions, believers and pagans alike. - Faith in God allows us to not be paralyzed by the perilousness of the journey, by the calamity that threatens around us, but to lead with wise words and actions.

Paul warned the centurion that the sailors sneaking off was not according to what God had said and thus would not end well. (30-32) 

Paul leads by example that they should take food, preparing them to regain their strength and courage (for escaping with their lives).

-To demonstrate that Paul’s faith is well-founded, Luke tells us the exact number of souls on board the ship, as specific evidence of God’s faithfulness to complete his promises.

So Paul’s trust in God gives hope to those around him.

Acts 27:39–44 ESV

39 Now when it was day, they did not recognize the land, but they noticed a bay with a beach, on which they planned if possible to run the ship ashore. 40 So they cast off the anchors and left them in the sea, at the same time loosening the ropes that tied the rudders. Then hoisting the foresail to the wind they made for the beach. 41 But striking a reef, they ran the vessel aground. The bow stuck and remained immovable, and the stern was being broken up by the surf. 42 The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any should swim away and escape. 43 But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, 44 and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.

How does the escape with only their lives reinforce God’s faithfulness and the need to trust in him?

(v. 22) No loss of life but only the ship (was what God promised).

When they know they must abandon ship, the soldiers want to kill the prisoners, so that if they should survive this ordeal, they wouldn’t be liable for letting prisoners escape. But God uses the centurion’s concern for Paul to prevent this plan from being carried out.

So whether they can swim or float on debris, every last one of them is brought safely to land. - They can’t take any credit for their survival. The only thing that makes any sense is that Paul’s God said it would be so. If God had not decided thus, most of them might have perished.

As we near a conclusion for this morning, here are some rhetorical questions for you to meditate on:

Is God not sovereign even over those who do not acknowledge him?

Does God not allow desperate situations so that we might turn to him in faith?

… And that as believers we will be more dependent on him?

Conclusion:

“Take Heart, for I Have Faith in God”

 How frequently God rescues us from perils in this life we will only know in glory (or we may never know). And why God lets us experience certain evils and suffering only he knows, but we know that we can trust in his goodness, so our suffering serves to lead us back to God, especially to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Nothing—nothing—is outside the power of God to control for his purposes. That means that whether he protects us, whether he strengthens us to persevere through suffering, or whether he prepares us to die in his service, we can trust that he keeps his promises and he is indeed Sovereign—he has all power and authority, and he will to do what is best.

Our faith is nothing if not the most reasonable position we can possibly take with relationship to God.

PRAY

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