At the end of Acts we encounter two tandem adventures of Paul that are metaphors for life. Yesterday we dissected The Storm and found, not surprisingly, that in the worst batterings life can deliver, our Lord God is there, able to calm the storm and rescue. Today Paul and his crew continue their ill-fated search for land, now for just “any land.”
Sense the Land
If you reflect back on the worst times of your life, I bet you’ll recall that moment when you first sensed land, when you knew that something was changing in your situation that just might enable you to turn things around. And it’s usually in the darkest moment of our trial that that sixth sense kicks in. The Bible says, “…about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land.”
Pray for Light
Weary of the battle, your own resources depleted, it’s in that moment that all we can do is pray for the light, knowing that if it doesn’t come, if that sense of ours is wrong, there is no plan B. The sailors at this point also prayed for daylight.
Hungry. Weak. Tired. Hopeless. At the end of the battle when your fight is gone, desperation shows up to tempt us beyond temptation. Things that would be unthinkable in normal circumstances become conceivable, even doable. Knowing the survival of all depended on their remaining together, Paul ordered the centurions to cut the lines securing the remaining lifeboats to remove any temptation.
yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.Habakkuk 3:18
But I will keep on hoping for your help; I will praise you more and more.Psalm 71:14
After 14 days without food, Paul urged them all to eat and assured them as they sat soaked and traumatized on an unknown land, “not one of you will lose a single hair from your head.
After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of all of them.Acts 27:35
We cry to God in the midst of our storms, but when we reach safety how often do we stop, right there and then, to praise him? This is not what we wanted. It’s not the life I had before. All that came before it has been destroyed. I am not the same. And yet…I will praise you.
Make a Run for It
Acts says that “When daylight came, they did not recognize the land.” How often as we emerge from life’s storm do we hesitate, uncertain that the new normal before us is for us, is acceptable. We are inclined to yearn for what was. But in this case the sailors saw the sandy beach, and must have thought, “How bad can it be?” And they jumped in and swam for shore; those who couldn’t swim clung to the pieces of the shattered ship and paddled their way to dry land.
The thing is that storms bring inevitable, irrevocable change. A tornado or a hurricane leaves a town changed forever. You can rebuild and reunite but the change is organic and permanent. This storm of coronavirus will leave its mark as well. Our public spaces, our relationships, our rules of engagement may never be the same. Rather than lamenting what was, God is saying, “Trust me. Get after it. And know that I am at work in all of this. Not a hair on your head will be lost.”
God Always Uses Place
Paul and company did not know at the time that they had landed in Malta, which means “sweet honey.” What a sweet gift the Lord granted these weary travelers, and what a kind respite offered to his servant Paul before traveling to Rome to face Caesar. God always uses place. He did not put them here by accident. And they did not waste their time drinking and sunbathing.
Instead, it says that the people were kind and hospitable to them. impressed that a snake bite had no ill effect on Paul. Deciding he must be a god, they took Paul to the estate of Publius, the chief official of the island, who welcomed them. Paul healed the man’s father who had been sick in bed and then healed the rest of the sick on the island.
The writer says, “They honored us in many ways; and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed.”
Wherever God has placed you, you are there for a purpose. Rather than preoccupying yourself with your own needs and your next steps, stop. Look into the faces of those God has put around you (albeit at a safe social distance). And then find a way to serve, to bring healing and hope. Share the story of Jesus and how he has accompanied you through the storm and delivered you to safety. And how he will do the same for them.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord