Sometimes when we seek to obey God and serve him, we assume it will be all green lights, smooth sailing and open doors. Yet many times, it is just the opposite. We encounter obstacles in our path and storms that threaten to alter our course.
As the apostle Paul obeyed God, he hit some tough times. Yet even while he went through a storm, he knew what God wanted him to do, and he would let nothing deter him from that course. There was no obstacle that was big enough to stop Paul. He always seemed to rise above his circumstances.
Paul was a prisoner onboard a ship sailing for Rome. The centurion and the ship’s captain had ignored Paul’s advice to take a different route, and they found themselves in great trouble – so much so that they thought the ship would break apart. When it looked like they weren’t going to make it, Paul’s words suddenly had a new ring of authority in their ears.
Christians know something that a lot of nonbelievers today don’t know. We know that a storm is coming. We are in a time of dramatic and rapid change on our planet. With advances in technology, we can see world events as they transpire. Some may think that humanity will create its own utopia, solve its own problems, and bring about a new world order in which all the nations of the world will live in peace and harmony.
But any student of the Scriptures knows this will not be the case. We know that politicians will not be able to solve our problems. We know that the nations will not be able to resolve all their differences and live in harmony. We know that we are not going to be able to create some utopia on earth. We know that judgment is ultimately coming, and we are warning people about it. They laugh at us and dismiss our words, probably thinking of us as society thought of Noah so long ago: What does he know? But when a crisis hit, they started paying attention to what Noah had to say.
I remember the days following 9/11 when church pews were packed. But eventually all of those people who were in church disappeared. I know they’ll be back during the next crisis, whenever that may be.
Paul knew that a storm was coming, and he warned the people who were on the journey with him. Then, as the storm raged, he said, “Take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said” (Acts 27:25 NLT). They may have thought, How can we take heart? The ship is about ready to fall apart. It looks like we’re going to die. But Paul’s confidence and hope was built on four principles that we can apply to our lives as well when we hit a storm in life that threatens to swallow us up.
First, Paul was conscious of the presence of God in the face of danger. Time and again God reminded Paul of his presence, no doubt when he needed it the most. God knows what we need, and he knows when we need it. We can take heart in the face of danger or uncertainty because of our awareness of God’s presence with us. When your heart sinks, when it seems as though your life is going to fall apart, when there is no hope, we must remember that God is there with us. No, there are not always easy answers. No, we can’t logically explain why certain things happen. But we not alone. God is standing by our side.
Second, Paul knew that he belonged to God. The Scriptures say that we are God’s children. First John 3:1 says, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (NKJV). This reminds us of God’s tenderness toward us and his protection of us. Do you belong to God? If so, then you can take heart because you are God’s possession. In the midst of a storm, you can be comforted by the great truth that you belong to God.
Third, Paul was on business for God. He was going where God had instructed him to go. In most companies today, you’re taken care of if you were injured on company time doing company work. In the same sense, when we are doing God’s work and his will, we are under his protection, and he will take care of us. When we stray from that, however, we should not necessarily expect his blessing and protection in our lives. If we walk away from God, it might be the very lack of his blessing and protection that brings us to our senses and causes us to return to him.
Fourth, Paul was fully convinced of the faithfulness of God and was sustained by that conviction. He told the others on the ship, “Take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me” (Acts 27:25). In other words, “The Lord has seen me through, and he is going to finish what he has begun.”
One of the things that amazes me about Paul is how he always seemed to rise to the top of every situation. He didn’t seem to be afraid of anything. Here he was, a prisoner on a ship, yet in a short time, the crew, the soldiers, the captain, and the Roman centurion were taking orders from him. Everybody was listening to him. He never seemed to get down. His life wasn’t always easy. In fact, it was very difficult. But the words he penned in Philippians 4:11 seemed to always be true of him: “For I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.”
Many times when a crisis hits, when tragedy strikes, we want out. We ask for an airlift out of our problems. But many times the will of God is for us to learn through the midst of them. Romans 8:35–37 says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Notice the phrase in all these things. It doesn’t say that we won’t have to face some of those things. But it does say that in them we are more than conquerors.
If you are seeking to obey God, then expect opposition. Expect obstacles. Expect difficulties. But also expect that God can see you through.