WALKING ON THE WORD
"At daybreak, no one recognised the land -- but then they did notice a bay with a nice beach. They decided to try to run the ship up on the beach. They cut the anchors, loosed the tiller, raised the sail and ran before the wind toward the beach. But we didn't make it. Still far from shore, we hit a reef and the ship began to break up.
"The soldiers decided to kill the prisoners so that none could escape by swimming, but the centurion, determined to save Paul, stopped them, He gave orders for anyone who could swim to dive in and go for it, and for the rest to grab a plank. Everyone made it to shore safely." Acts 27:39-44 (The Message).
Terra firma! How thankful they must have been to feel solid ground under their feet. After two weeks of hurricane force wind and lashing rain, no matter how wet, cold and bedraggled they were, they were safely on land, for now. But there was still a long road ahead of them. They had no idea where they were, whether the island was inhabited, whether the islanders were friendly or hostile, where they would find shelter, food and water and if and how they would ever reach their destination.
I guess one person was unfazed by their circumstances. God had told Paul that the whole company would be saved. He had also told Paul that he was going to Rome. On the strength of God's word, Paul believed that it would all work out for them.
The centurion's trust and respect for Paul saved the lives of all the prisoners. After all, Paul seemed to be the only one in the company, together with his travelling companions, who was level-headed in the situation. He needed him to navigate the present circumstances to a satisfactory conclusion. The captain of the ship features nowhere in the story. He seems to have faded out of the picture after his bad mistake.
There is a clear and necessary lesson for believers in this event. Paul had learned, through many years of dangerous living, to find his safety, not in any geographical hiding place, but in the Word of God. As long as he believed and acted upon what God had said, his life was indestructible until his work was done.
God does not guarantee our safety for safety's sake but for our role in His big story. Paul knew that Rome was the most dangerous place of all for him. He would have to face the crackpot, Nero, who had a pathological hatred for Christians because they challenged his arrogant claim to being Lord. Death held no terror for a man who passionately believed in and proclaimed the resurrection. He had only one desire -- to please his Master and to fulfil his calling. He could do it only one way -- by staking everything on God's word.
On one occasion Jesus had left His disciples to cross the lake on their own while He went onto the mountain to pray. A storm arose and battered their little craft until they had given up hope and resigned themselves to being drowned. Jesus realised their plight and crossed the lake on foot to rescue them. They thought He was a ghost until He called out to them and they recognised Him. Impulsive Peter also wanted to try walking on water. Jesus said, 'Come,' and on the strength of His word, Peter clambered out of the boat and walked on water until his senses got the better of his faith.
There is no place in life more secure than in the word of God. When God speaks, He means what He says and will do what He says He will do. It is not our place to choose from His word what is convenient or comfortable for us. That is presumption. We are to live by "every word that comes from the mouth of God". Our role is to wait and listen until God speaks to us, whether it be through His written word or in some other way that is compatible with His nature and His Word.
The story of our lives has already been written in His book. It is up to us to overwrite our story to match His by listening and being obedient to His Word. Then, like Paul, we can know that the outcome, no matter what the crisis, is sure in God.
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