WALKING ON THE WORD
Storms are part of our lives, aren’t they?
Storms come unannounced and uninvited. We sometimes bring them on ourselves. Take Jonah, for instance. God sent a storm to catch His wayward prophet’s attention because Jonah refused to obey Him. When God chased him down with a storm, he thought his time was up but God was not interested in punishing him or doing him in for disobedience. He wanted to direct him back to the path so that Jonah would do what He instructed. A few miracles and Jonah got the message!
The Apostle Paul found himself in a storm which was not of his making. He was en route to Rome by ship. Winter was approaching and sailing at that time of the year was a gamble. In spite of Paul’s warning, the ship’s captain took a chance when calm weather promised a safe passage, setting sail from Fair Havens on the island of Crete for Rome.
Not long after they left the harbour, a violent storm hit and battered and buffeted their vessel for fourteen days. After lightening the ship and doing everything they could to stay afloat, they gave up hope. There were 276 people on board, soldiers, sailors and Paul and his companions. All except one person feared for their lives.
God has told Paul that he was going to Rome to stand trial before Caesar. Paul never doubted Him but, in this crisis he needed direction. What was Paul doing while the others were panicking? He was praying. For what was he praying? Most of us would pray for a miracle in a time of crisis. Oh God, stop the storm! Oh God, send an angel! Oh God, I need a miracle!
Paul did not need a miracle. He needed a word and God gave him a word.
“Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me 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.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as He told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.” (Acts 27:23-26)
Strange as it may seem, Paul the preacher, Paul the apostle, Paul the rabbi became Paul the ship’s captain. After his foolish decision, the captain disappeared off the scene. He must have been somewhere on the ship but he certainly did not seem to be in charge. Armed with God’s promise, Paul gave instructions to everyone on board to stand together because no one would be lost. The ship would go down but all on board would make it safely to land. Some of the sailors tried to make a break for it on the lifeboat but Paul cautioned them to stay on the ship, or they would be lost.
To fortify themselves for the peril ahead, Paul instructed them to eat, which they had not done since the storm hit. After a hearty meal, they ditched the rest of the food and waited for morning. Just as God had said, the ship broke up in the fierce swells but everyone reached the land in safety.
What do we make of this story? Why would God not perform a miracle for His servant? Paul had been faithful and obedient through many years of trials and hardships, beatings and imprisonment, hunger and cold. Surely God could have tempered the storm just this once.
How much more important it is for us, as it was for Paul, to live by God’s Word than to live by miracles! Miracles are temporary and benefit us only in this life. God’s Word is eternal and changes us from the inside. God has a different agenda from ours. Most of the time, we want our lives to be as comfortable and trouble-free as possible. God’s plan is to recreate us in the image of His Son. This takes time and hard work – the Holy Spirit’s work in us to get our attention and co-operation.
God does not always protect us from hardships. He sometimes orchestrates them and sometimes allows them because His plan is for us to share in His holiness.
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons… Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us from our good, that we may share in His holiness (Heb. 12: 7-8,10).
God fine-tunes every storm we face for a particular reason. There are flaws in our character and in our faith that need to be brought to the surface so that we can come to Him for forgiveness and cleansing. How else are we to become replicas of Jesus, our elder brother?
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son that He might be the firstborn among many brothers (Rom. 8:28-29).
Where is God taking us as we weather the storms of life? His purpose is take us beyond our suspicions, our fears and anxieties, our doubts and insecurities into an unshakeable faith in His perfect love.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love (1 John 4:18).
The next time you are facing a storm, ask God for a word, not for a miracle. Faith does not come by miracles. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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