This passage raises important questions. “Can I trust God even when my life gets stormy? Can I trust Him even when things go unexpectedly wrong? Can I trust Him even when my situation is so discouraging that I see no way out? Will I trust Him even when things seem hopeless?”
That was the situation on the boat headed for Phoenix. The storm was raging. The wind was blowing. The rain was pouring down. And in spite of the best efforts of the crew, the boat was being battered and beaten by the storm. And the morale of the 276 people on board sank to an all time low. The Bible says in verse twenty that “When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.”
We all have moments where we feel just as battered and beaten and discouraged as the people on that ship. Perhaps there’s a storm brewing over your life right now. Maybe it’s a stormy marriage. Maybe you’re married to someone who argues and fights with you all the time. Or maybe YOU’RE the one who does the arguing and the fighting. Some days, you feeling like nothing will ever change! That your marriage is shipwrecked! That there’s no hope at all.
Or maybe there’s another type of storm brewing in your house. Maybe it’s a stormy relationship with a child. Who rebels against your authority. Who says, “It’s my life! You can’t tell me what to do anymore! I’ll do what I want!” And after many days and nights of dealing with this, you’re not sure if there anything more you can say. You feel like throwing your hands up in frustration. You feel like giving up.
Or maybe you feel battered and storm tossed. And you have no idea why you feel that way. You can’t put a finger on it. All you know is that you feel despair and discouragement and hopelessness. And things seem so bleak that there’s no way out.
The good news is that in the middle of our own personal storm, God gives us a word of hope! A message of encouragement! In verse 22, Paul said to the people, “Keep up your courage, because last night, I got a message from God! An angel appeared to me and said, “Do not be afraid. You must stand trial before Caesar, and God has graciously you the lives of all who sail with you. And I have faith it will happen exactly as he told me. God said it. I believe it. That settles it!”
We might never receive a message of hope from the mouth of an angel. But I have here in my hand a message of hope for all mankind. A message of hope for a storm tossed world. A message of hope for people who have lost hope. Isaiah 41:10 says “Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 43:2 says that “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. And when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.” God is not missing in action when our lives gets stormy. God is here! Encouraging us. Helping us. Orchestrating every situation and circumstance in accordance with the purpose of His will.
Paul had a word from God to help him through the storm. And so do we. The scriptures gave us a tremendous amount of hope at a time in our lives when it would be easy to lose hope.
You ask me, “Where is my hope when I feel hopeless? Where is my encouragement when I feel discouragement? Where is my help when I have no help? It’s right here. The precious word of God.
God gives us a message a hope for the storm. And he also gives us a ministry in the middle of the storm. Paul was able to have a ministry to the people on the boat that he never would have had if the weather was good. Back in verse ten when Paul tried to warn them about the weather, the people said, “Yeah, Paul. Whatever.” They weren’t interested in what he had to say. He was just another prisoner.
But in verse 21, while the storm was raging, and the people were losing heart, when Paul spoke up, everyone was all ears.
God uses the storms in our lives to get our attention. To make us more receptive to His word. Chuck Colson never showed any interest in Christianity while he was working for President Nixon. But as soon as he got sent to jail. As soon as his life fell apart. He became more open to the truth of God that he had ever been before. God was using that storm in his life.
There are five different storms that affect people today and make them more open to divine influence. The first storm is Disease. When we or someone we love has a life threatening disease, we become more receptive to the One who has power over that disease. When the chemotherapy isn’t working. And the prescriptions keep coming. And the bills start accumulating. Many of us start looking beyond the 4 walls of the hospital. And we start looking to the most powerful physician of them all.
Another storm that hits people today is divorce. Nobody goes into a marriage thinking that they’re going to get a divorce. But sometimes it happens. And the pain is so real that people are often more open to spiritual healing than they’ve ever been before. The Bible says in Psalm 34:19 that ’the Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and He saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
A third storm that hits people is Disaster. When Ladysmith got devastated by that Tornado a few years ago, the town really turned to the Lord. When the Baptist church got destroyed, the Lutheran church gave them a bunch of hymnals. People came in from out of town to help in any way they could. And when I was riding through town with the Mertz’s, we saw signs up all over town that had Bible verses on them. And signs that said, ’thank you.’ Disasters are terrible. I don’t wish them on anybody. But they’re also an open door for us to show people the love of God.
A fourth storm that hits people is Depression. We don’t always know why people get depressed. In 1 Kings 19, Elijah got depressed just from being burned out on life. But when people are discouraged, they sometimes become more open to the One who can make them Encouraged. I was just talking to someone on the phone long distance yesterday who was as depressed as a person can be. But they were also more open to God than I’ve ever seen them. God is using that storm in their life.
And a fifth storm that affects people today is death. Death can be one of the most traumatic things that can happen to a family. But it’s also a time when people are ready to hear from the Lord. That’s why I don’t mind presiding over non-member funeral. Because for some of the people there, it’s the one time in their life when they might be receptive to the things of God. There’s a 45 minute window in that worship service where we can speak a comforting word to that storm in their life.
My prayer is that you and I would become more sensitive to the storms that are stirring in people’s lives. We need to let people know that even when there’s nothing that we can do. There’s something that God can do. That God cares about their stormy circumstances.
And not only does God give us a message of hope for the storm. And a ministry for the storm. But He also gives us a purpose for the storm. When the storm first started, Paul might have been thinking, “Why is this happening, Lord? I thought you wanted me to testify before the emperor in Rome? I thought you wanted me to share the gospel of Jesus Christ in the highest court in the land?”
But in chapters 27 and 28, we get the rest of the story. The boat ended up on the island of Malta way on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea. And Paul was able to minister the Lord’s healing power to a people who had never experienced it before. And for the next three months, Paul was able to share the message of this new life. in Acts 28:8 Paul met the chief official of the island and ministered the power of the Lord to his father. If it weren’t for the storm and the shipwreck, the people on the island of Malta might never have had a chance to experience the power of Jesus Christ.
We don’t always realize it at the time. But there is a reason for everything that happens under heaven. There’s a reason why we experience what we experience. And like Paul, we can have faith that in all things God will work for the good of those who love Him.
That’s the kind of faith Paul had. He EXPECTED God to be there for Him! He expected God to keep His word. He had faith that God could get him through every storm in life. How do I know that? Because 2 Timothy 4:18 says that “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack bring my safely to His heavenly kingdom.”
My message to you is that you can trust God when your life gets stormy. You can trust God when things go unexpectedly wrong. And you can trust God even when things seem hopeless. I pray that you would be receptive to His love. And that you would allow Him to still the storms in your life