We find a fascinating story in Acts 27 about the man of God, Paul, on his way to Rome. At times it certainly looked hopeless and surviving the journey was in doubt. How do we as believers deal with times of hopelessness, despair, depression, doubts, and discouragement?
We believe God has a wonderful plan for our lives and that He will fulfill all his promises and protect us from all evil. But what happens when disaster strikes and we find ourselves in hopeless situations, not knowing if we will be able to make it through another day – or night?
Paul boarded a ship to Italy to go before Caesar. His future did not look very bright and we can say that if anyone would have had reasons to be in despair, it would have been Paul. He was facing more persecutions, uncertainties, and even death at the hands of his enemies and the opponents of the Christian faith. Yet, there are lessons we can learn from the Apostle.
1. Being courageous in the face of rejection
“Paul advised them, saying, ‘Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives.’ Nevertheless the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman and the owner of the ship than by the things spoken by Paul. And because the harbor was not suitable to winter in, the majority advised to set sail from there also, if by any means they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete opening toward the southwest and northwest, and winter there” (Acts 27:10-12). Paul’s advice fell on deaf ears. The Centurion would not listen to his counsel and went ahead with the voyage. Yet, Paul remained confident in telling the truth.
We all long to be accepted, respected, and understood. It tends to bother us when a brother or sister in Christ does not understand and even rejects us and our ideas. It can be discouraging when our own family, whom we seek to help, will not accept our advice. We should learn from the Apostle and not allow rejection by others to have harmful effects on us. As followers of Christ, we are called to deal with people who will sometimes reject our words and even our biblical worldview and lifestyle.
2. Avoid withdrawing and feeling sorry for yourself
The man of God, Paul, a prisoner on the ship sailing to Rome, had no fear of death. Everyone on the ship had lost hope of surviving this ordeal. In this situation, the Apostle strove to encourage others.
In Verses 21 & 22 we read: “But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, ‘Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.’”
Instead of cowering and feeling sorry for himself, Paul reached out to those around him, seeking to assure them that all will remain alive. As a child of God, Paul knew that the worst thing that could happen to him was to die, but then he would be with the Lord! Fear is very paralyzing and prevents us from standing up boldly for the cause of Christ. However, when our loving relationship in Christ empowers us to overcome even the fear of death — that is a time of the demonstration of God’s power in and through us.
We continue to read in Acts 27:23-25 (NIV): “Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong 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.” The basis for Paul’s confidence and optimism was grounded in his faith and the promises of God. This was more than positive thinking or will-powered determination. It was true faith and trust in God’s ability and provision. Genuine faith produced courage, hope, and confidence that God was in control and that He was watching over him.
3. Be thankful when you have little.
Paul again demonstrated his love for God by his unselfish and caring actions in faith. As a prisoner, he had no earthly possessions. He could not buy his way out of any hardship, yet he was content in knowing that the Lord was with him. God had also given him all 276 people on board in order to help protect them from perishing. The Lord allowed Paul’s influence to increase and the captain began to listen to him. In God’s Kingdom, even a poor person can gain a positive and life-saving influence on those around them.
In the midst of all the stress and strife for survival, the Apostle paused and asked everyone to pay attention while he prayed and thanked God for the food they were about to take. Financially poor, away from family and friends, and a prisoner headed for Rome, he seized the moment and gave thanks to God.
No wonder he wrote to the Philippians in chapter 4:10-13: “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Praise, thanksgiving, and contentment change our perspective and attitude. It is highly valued before God and brings blessings to ourselves and others.
As we face this New Year with all its uncertainties, let us rise up in faith and confidence that God is in control and that He will provide in every situation according to His wonderful promises. May we all draw encouragement from Isaiah 40:31: “But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.”