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The Perfect Storm

Acts 27:20-38

 

”For many days neither sun nor stars appeared, and the severe storm kept raging; finally all hope that we would be saved was disappearing. [21] Since many were going without food, Paul stood up among them and said, ‘You men should have followed my advice not to sail from Crete and sustain this damage and loss. [22] Now I urge you to take courage, because there will be no loss of any of your lives, but only of the ship. [23] For this night an angel of the God I belong to and serve stood by me, [24] saying, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul. You must stand before Caesar. And, look! God has graciously given you all those who are sailing with you.’ [25] Therefore, take courage, men, because I believe God that it will be just the way it was told to me. [26] However, we must run aground on a certain island.’ [27] When the fourteenth night came, we were drifting in the Adriatic Sea, and in the middle of the night the sailors thought they were approaching land. [28] They took a sounding and found it to be 120 feet deep; when they had sailed a little farther and sounded again, they found it to be 90 feet deep. [29] Then, fearing we might run aground in some rocky place, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight to come. [30] Some sailors tried to escape from the ship; they had let down the skiff into the sea, pretending that they were going to put out anchors from the bow. [31] Paul said to the • centurion and the soldiers, ‘Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.’ [32] Then the soldiers cut the ropes holding the skiff and let it drop away. [33] When it was just about daylight, Paul urged them all to take food, saying, ‘Today is the fourteenth day that you have been waiting and going without food, having eaten nothing. [34] Therefore I urge you to take some food. For this has to do with your survival, since not a hair will be lost from the head of any of you.’ [35] After he said these things and had taken some bread, he gave thanks to God in the presence of them all, and when he had broken it, he began to eat. [36] They all became encouraged and took food themselves. [37] In all there were 276 of us on the ship. [38] And having eaten enough food, they began to lighten the ship by throwing the grain overboard into the sea.” (HCSB)

 As I was reading this text this week I began thinking about a movie our family watched a few years ago on DVD entitled “The Perfect Storm.”  Perhaps you’ve seen the movie too.  The movie was based on a true story about a fishing vessel that was lost at sea during a storm in the Atlantic that resulted from three storm fronts colliding.  The Perfect Storm occurred during October of 1991 included an extratropical cyclone that developed along the Northeast Coast of the US, Hurricane Grace, which was off the North Carolina shore. 

 On their website, the Coast Guard has a page entitled “The Real Storm” that includes these images you are seeing now.  They point out that while they were unable to rescue the crew of the "Andrea Gail" they did rescue the crew from several vessels, including three people from the sailing vessel “Satori.”

 I don’t know what the causes of Paul’s storm were, but I do know that the men aboard were shook up, but Paul had a word of encouragement for them—they would not die even though the vessel would be lost.  During stormy times, we often revert to asking the question that was stuck in our minds when we were toddlers:  “Why?”  When we ask the question, we sometimes are able to find answers—we discover that God has a plan for our lives that includes pain and disappointment.

 Sometimes God uses the storms of life to STRENGTHEN US. In his book, Go the Distance, Ed Rowell writes, “Back in the early 1990's just north of Tucson, outside the tiny town of Oracle, a giant greenhouse went up, covering over three acres. For two years, scientists sequestered themselves in this artificial environment called Biosphere 2.Inside their self-sustaining community, the Biospherians created a number of minienvironments, including a desert, rain forest, and savannah. Nearly every weather condition could be simulated except one - wind. Over time, the effects of this windless environment became apparent. Within two years, a number of small trees bent over and even snapped. Without the stress of wind to strengthen the wood, the trunks grew weak and could not hold up their own weight."  (p 56) (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

 The trials we go through are not for punishment, but for improvement. 1 Peter 1:7  says, “that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;” (NASB)

 Sometimes God uses the trials of life to SHAPE US into a usable vessel.  Parents usually want to give their children things they never had as a child.  But as it turns out, the parents who often heard the word “no” may be better off in the long run than their children who hear the word “yes” too much.  William Damon, director of the Stanford Center on Adolescence at Stanford University says, "The risk of overindulgence is self-centeredness and self-absorption, and that's a mental health risk."

 A recent study of adults who were overindulged children suggests that they have more problems coping with disappointments than their peers who weren’t overindulged. (Reader’s Digest, May 2005, p. 36B)  Paul wrote, “I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret [of being content]—whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.” (Philippians 4:12 HCSB)

 Sometimes God uses the trials of life SHOWER HIS GRACE upon us.  This past week Darrell Waddell, the pastor of Cascade Hills in Seattle, WA., emailed several days of his journal to me.  With his permission, I’d like to read a portion of his entry for Wednesday, April 6, 2005. 

I get up early and head down to the Café for a cup of coffee. I am tired, my steps are heavy, and my outlook is somber. I need a shower and a shave, but I don’t even notice. All around me, people come and go with a flurry of activity. I make my way through the main lobby of the hospital, past the paintings and sculpture strategically situated to influence both outlook and perspective, toward the elevators near the Horse Sculpture. . .

  Entering the elevator I turn, and notice him. He is young, much too young to understand why he has lost his hair or wears a scar at the base of his scull. He looks up from his wheel chair and locks eyes with his father, who places a reassuring hand on his tiny shoulders, shoulders much too small to deal with the enormity of his situation. They share this truthful moment; a trust and love that only exists through deep sorrow. We arrive on the first floor, and I watch them go, father and son, into The Cancer Clinic. I turn left into the café, breathing a prayer for the brave boy and his father, who shoulders a weight I cannot even comprehend. . .

We were told by the doctors to expect a tough day. No surprises here. She sleeps most of the time, drifting in and out. The goal for today is to sit in a chair 3 times. She makes that goal through tenacity and shear force of will. She is an amazing woman. 

Kathryn slipped softly into sleep as we said our goodbyes for the night. I drove home in silence, not willing to risk thinking or feeling, but also knowing that she is in God’s hands, a knowledge that brings great comfort. Entering the dark house I instinctively looked around for signs of life. There are none; only silence and the echoes of my footsteps in the hall. ‘You need to rest tonight so you can be strong tomorrow,’ I think to myself, as I crawl into bed, and begin to weep.
Isaiah 41:9-10 (HCSB) ‘I brought you from the ends of the earth and called you from its farthest corners. I said to you: You are My servant; I have chosen you and not rejected you. [10] Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.’” 

I pray for Darrell that he does not lose Kathryn and that through this experience God showers them with His grace. 

 In the storms of life we grow stronger, God shapes us for ministry, and we come to know God’s provisions.  The message of Acts 27 is a simple one, God is with you in your storms and there will never be a time when He isn’t in control.  God uses the storms of life to TAKE YOU WHERE HE WANTS YOU TO be.  It was God’s will for the Apostle Paul to stand before Caesar and testify and nothing could keep that from happening--not the mistakes of a Captain or a storm at sea.  God never relinquishes control.

 That doesn’t mean life always turns out the way we want it to.  We face harsh winds, disappointments and sometimes heart wrenching tragedy.  But through it all, God is there, working our lives out to accomplish His purposes.

 Perhaps you feel like you are in the “Perfect Storm” in your life today.  My encouragement to you is to hold on and remember, God is still on His throne.

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