February 27, 2019·Tiffany Wortley
The winds rage…
The sea roars…
And the helpless ship is at the mercy of the storm.
As the ship takes a violent battering, the men begin to scramble. They throw the cargo overboard, dumping the tackle into the sea with their bare hands. Lifeboats are pulled on board, and ropes are tied around the ship itself in a desperate attempt to hold it together.
Yet, as days and nights wear on, and neither sun nor stars appear, every man aboard the ship finally agrees… all hope is lost.
Every man. Except our hero, Paul.
In a moving speech, Paul encourages the men to keep up their courage, and I can almost hear the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack playing in the background. He rallies the men, declaring that his faith is in God and hope is surely not lost! And, as this thrilling chapter comes to a close, we read these final words, “every man reached land safely.”
Acts 27 read like an adventure novel, and I couldn’t put it down!
Here I am, sitting on my couch, sipping my coffee, thoroughly caught up in the story and thinking what a grand adventure it would have been to be Paul. Oh, to be sailing the high seas and laughing in the face of danger!
Then I start reading Acts 28, and reality comes crashing back in.
Somewhere along the way, I lost sight of the fact that Paul is a prisoner. Maybe it’s his moving speech, his unwavering faith, or his nothing-can-stop-me-I’m-Captian-Jack-Sparrow attitude… but somehow, for a moment, I forgot what a miserable situation he’s in.
And then a deadly snake bites him on the hand, and suddenly I’m thinking I’m good right where I’m at.
As you may have heard, I recently gave myself a concussion… because of a spider. An imaginary spider to be exact. So, I think we can all guess how I would respond if a snake sunk its teeth into my hand.
I. Would. Be. Freaking. Out.
Our hero has been taken prisoner, hauled aboard a ship that is then caught in a perilous storm, shipwrecked way off course, and to top it all off – bit by a deadly snake.
Friends, can I be honest for a minute? If I were Paul, I don’t know that I would be giving any rallying speeches. In fact, I think it would be far more likely that I would be throwing myself a pity party, the likes of which has never been seen before.
Actually. I hate to admit this… but I might be throwing myself a pity party that looks something like the Israelites.
In our Pause Bible Reading Plan, we’ve been in the midst of two stories – one being the story of hero Paul, and the other being the story of the Israelites’ dramatic rescue from Egypt.
In a thrilling tale that rivals the adventures we just had on the high seas, God sends 10 plagues down upon Egypt to save His people from slavery. It’s miraculous! However, the celebration is short lived, because as soon as the Israelites see Pharaoh chasing after them, they fall to pieces. I almost have to admire the tantrum that follows, as they whine, “Was it because there were NO GRAVES IN EGYPT that you brought us to the desert to die?” (Exodus 14:11)
Wow. Just wow.
But God doesn’t give up on them. Once more, He comes to their rescue by literally parting the sea for them to walk through on dry ground! Yet, the pity party continues, because now they’re thirsty.
So, God turns bitter water into clean water, and you would think these people could now trust God to take care of them. But no. You guessed it. They’re hungry. And they actually begin wailing, “If only we had died at the Lord’s hand in Egypt!” (Exodus 16:3)
I mean… I’ve had my hangry moments before, but this seems a little extreme.
Still, God takes care of them and sends food falling from the heavens! But would you believe that now they’re thirsty again?
Over the past couple of days, I’ve been sitting here on my couch, sipping my coffee, shaking my head at these little drama queens. But now, I have to wonder… am I more like the Israelites than I am like Paul?
That’s a chilling thought.
When life becomes difficult, do I keep my courage because of my faith in God? Or do I immediately lose hope and freak out? Life is always going to bring us moments of difficulty, hardship, heartbreak, worry, stress, and sometimes even danger. I can’t change that.
But I can change how I respond.
I can choose to become so overwhelmed by my circumstances that I forget who God is and all that He has done for me, or I can choose to take courage, hold onto my faith, and declare that hope is NOT lost, because He is with me.
Isaiah 41:10 says “Do not fear for I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I am your God.”
I can’t calm the storm, but I can place my faith in the One who can.
As Captain Jack Sparrow would say, “The problem is not the problem, you see. The problem is your attitude about the problem.”
Pastor Tiffany Wortley