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"'Last night God's angel stood at my side, an angel of this God I serve, saying to me, 'Don't give up, Paul. You're going to stand before Caesar yet -- and everyone sailing with you is also going to make it.' So, dear friends, take heart. I believe God will do exactly what He told me. But we're going to shipwreck on some island or other.'
"On the fourteenth night, adrift somewhere on the Adriatic Sea, at about midnight, the sailors sensed that we were approaching land. Sounding, they measured a depth of one hundred twenty feet, and shortly after that, ninety feet. Afraid that we were about to run aground, they threw out four anchors and prayed for daylight." Acts 27:23-29 (The Message).
What a hopeless situation! Adrift on the ocean in a hurricane, no engine to carry them to safety, the wind too strong to power the ship anywhere but into disaster, the sailors were at the mercy of the elements. To crown it all, they were being driven onto land. They had no idea where they were; it was pitch dark, in the middle of the night and dawn was still hours away.
The best they could do was to throw out their anchors and hope they would hold until daylight. And they prayed! To whom did they pray? Most likely to their gods! They didn't know Paul's God. What good was that? Firstly, their gods did not exist; secondly they were deceived into thinking they did exist, but they were actually in Satan's grip. What was his agenda? Drown them! He wanted Paul's hide and the others didn't matter.
Where was Paul? Praying! To whom was he praying? To the God he had served these many years! He knew his God. He had delivered him through many perils in the past. I can imagine that Paul was not praying for a miracle. He was praying for a word. It was God's word that had steadied him in many a difficult situation. He knew that, when God spoke, he had an anchor.
Once again God came to him with a word. Not only was Paul still bound for Rome, but all those with him as well. Paul had his anchor, not a flimsy piece of metal that would try to grip a rock in a violent storm, but the sure word of God that would hold in the fiercest gale. Armed with this reassurance, he spoke what he believed.
How different is God's way from the "name it and claim it" philosophy that is rife in some parts of the church today. God has not left the initiative to us to choose the "word" we want to believe. The devil tried to stick that trick on Jesus but He refused to buy it. 'Jump!' said the devil. 'No way!' Jesus fired back, "'...Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" Deuteronomy 8:3b (NIV), He quoted.
God's word is not a magic formula to get what we want. It's His mandate for living life His way so that He gets what He wants. Paul knew that, and he waited on God for His word to guide them through this trial. When God had spoken, Paul had his instructions and his security, and could carry the message to the poor sailors who were frantically trying to get their non-existent god's attention.
The tragedy is that so many believers have been taught this "faith" walk, and when God doesn't respond to every click of their fingers, they become disillusioned and blame Him for not answering their prayers. But God is not obliged to do things our way. His way is submission to Him. He is telling the story, not us, and we are the characters in His story, not the authors.
Armed with the sure word of God, Paul was able to bring comfort and reassurance to the entire complement of people on the ship. Whether they believed him or not what up to them. God had spoken and Paul had given the "amen" to His promise. "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "yes" in Christ. And so, through Him, the "amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God." 2 Corinthians 1:20 (NIV),
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