Acts 27

Acts 27:Stormy Weather: Don’t Know Why There’s No Sun Up in the Sky!

In today’s lesson, Paul and his companions enter into some stormy weather. As believers, we can all identify with storms in life. And sometimes, like the old blues song, “Stormy Weather”  – we are perplexed because we don’t know why there is no sun up in the sky. Let us continue with the story of Paul as our study of Acts nears an end.

Governor Festus had already determined that Paul, who had appealed to Caesar, to Caesar would go.  So Dr. Luke records the voyage, and what a voyage it is! A ship is secured and they head for Rome. We are told of the centurion who is in charge, Julius. His regiment is called the Augustan Cohort, or Imperial Regiment. They are a very select unit, directly responsible to the Emperor, himself.  More than likely they had been dispatched to bring Paul and the other prisoners to Rome to stand trial.  It is possible, Julius had been present to hear Paul’s account before King Agrippa.

Let us remember, what we learned earlier in Acts 23:11- the Lord stood near and told Paul-‘ take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify in Rome.’ It’s easy sometimes to forget what the Lord has promised us when everything seems to be against us, when the storm strikes suddenly in our lives.  The disciples forgot that Jesus told them ‘ let us go over to the other side,’ when a furious squall came up and waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. They feared for their lives. (Mark 4)

It’s easy to remember God’s promise when the sun is shining and it’s smooth sailing. Not so easy- when darkness falls and the storm only grows more fierce. Fear and doubt enter into our hearts and faith seems to waver. Why does this happen?  If we are doing what we believe is God’s will- why isn’t God making it easy?  This is what we will seek to understand in this amazing story. We must remember what Paul would later write in 2 Corinthians  4:  “ But we have this treasure in earthen vessels to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” God wants others to see His all-surpassing power displayed in our lives as a witness and encouragement to others around us.

Winston Churchill said of America and Americans:  “ you can always depend on America to do the right thing, once it has exhausted all other options.” I am afraid that describes many of us as Christians also, doesn’t it?  First we try to accomplish God’s will in our own strength. ( Think Abraham and Hagar producing Ishmael). We try everything, exhausting all options at our disposal, using our own resources and cleverness to accomplish God’s will. God wants us to come to rely completely on Him.  Paul refers to the treasure we have, the Holy Spirit, in these earthen vessels, our bodies. We must recognize our absolute insufficiency and let God’s total sufficiency be revealed.  May we learn the following lessons as Paul learned : we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but spiritual wickedness; the Lord’s power is made perfect in weakness; we are in a battle, which requires weapons that are mighty, not carnal; we must fix our eyes NOT on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporal, but what is unseen in eternal.

In recording this journey, Dr. Luke tells us it began after the Fast.( Acts 27:9) The Fast refers to the Day of Atonement which occurs in late September. So this journey is taking place upon the Mediterranean Sea in October- not the time to travel.  Paul warns them this is going to be a disaster if they try to continue on this journey and will result in loss of ship, cargo and lives. Julius who has been kind to Paul, nevertheless, sides with the captain and owner of the ship to continue the voyage.  They set out for Phoenix on the island of Crete in hopes of wintering there.

Verse 13 tells us:  “ When a gentle south wind began to blow, they thought they had obtained what they wanted..” They were deceived by favorable circumstances. Is this not the way of sin? When first we decide to do what God has said not to do- it seems God was wrong about sin. The promises of sin of smooth sailing, fun, enjoyment and having exactly what you wanted are seemingly being fulfilled. The deception of sin is it is pleasurable for a season. But as Paul would write:  be not deceived, God is not mocked; whatsoever you soweth- that shall you also reap.

Verse 14 : “Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the ‘northeaster’ swept down from the island. The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along.” I am told that some of the new drugs, meth, ecstasy and other powerful hallucinogens  can do irreparable harm and damage from just using them one time. They drive one along a path- that is not easily turned back from.

As the storm grows more severe, the sailors take measures to preserve the ship and avoid damage. The gird the ship with ropes to add additional strength. They lowered the sea anchor and prepare to ride out the storm. The next day- they grow more desperate and begin to throw off the cargo in hope of lightening the load . On the third day, they take down the masts, the tackle and throw it overboard. The storm has brought such a darkness they can neither see the sun by day or the stars by night. Understand in those days, this is how sailors navigated and determined their course- by the sun during the day and the stars at night. They now do not know where they are going- there’s no sun up in the sky.

Having done all they can and still without remedy to their problem- they have lost all hope. Have you ever lost all hope?  Come to realize you are powerless over that which has swept you away and is driving you along? Powerless, helpless then finally – hopeless. We need hope. It is absolutely necessary to human life. What is your hope built on? What do you base your hope or optimism on?  Have you discovered what the songwriter discovered who wrote these words: “ My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand. Have you exhausted all the other options?

Now Paul will reveal the excellent treasure that is in this earthly vessel- the very Spirit of God. Paul reminds them, he told them not to sail from Crete. Is Paul saying- ‘ I told you so…?’ Maybe, not sure, but he is reminding them, what I have told you has occurred; so there is now reason for them to listen to Paul as one who has heard from his God.

Paul now brings them encouraging news- good news from God. “ Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘ Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you. So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.” ( Acts 27:24-26)

Next we read in Dr. Luke’s account on the fourteenth night the sailors sense they were approaching land. The water continued to get shallow. ‘Fearing they would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight.”

A lot of sermons and lessons and have been preached and taught using these four anchors as illustrations for the anchors we drop when we are in a fearful storm.

Here are the anchors I drop: HOPE. FAITH. THE WORD OF GOD. PRAYER.

“We have this HOPE as an anchor for our soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become our high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”  ( Hebrews 6:19-20) Hope deferred makes one heart sick. Hope is the first anchor I cast because hope is one of the most necessary intangibles for persevering in times of trouble. Understand that hope is always in the future. When you are in a storm, the enemy wants to rob you of your hope. Realize human hope based on favorable circumstances is not what we are talking about. Human hope can and often leads to disappointment. Disappointment is never associated with the hope we have as Christians in our Heavenly Father and His Promises to us. Contrary to human hope, this hope does not disappoint.( Romans 5) This hope is a confident expectation that God will do what He said He will do. No wonder the enemy of our soul wants us to feel hopeless- for he does not want us to discover the One who is the source of all HOPE.  Our anchor is not in the shifting sands of a troubled sea of circumstances, it is securely anchored in the inner sanctuary of heaven. We are moored in God. Romans 8 tells us nothing can separate us from the love of God and the anchor holds firm and secure against all odds. And God has made it clear to us, His children, two unchangeable things about Him:  His nature does not change (immutable), He is the same today as He has always been and always will be; and it is impossible for God to lie- so His promises to us will always hold. God’s word makes in clear in Ephesians 2 that anyone who is in this world without God is without hope. Hope is the transforming work of God’s Word as God forms a blueprint in our mind as to what He is going to do. God is a  Promise Keeper and we have fled to Him to take hold of this hope, this sure hope which greatly encourages us. Hope is what keeps us afloat in the storm. “ May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit.: ( Romans 15:13) My first anchor I cast is the anchor of hope, the hope that comes from being in Christ, a confident expectation.

Hebrews 11: 1 tells me of the next anchor I must cast: “Now FAITH is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.(NIV) Now FAITH is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it, the elders received a good report.” ( KJV) Hope is always in the future, faith is always in the present. God starts with a blueprint in our mind, it is the foundation. Faith adds substance to that hope. Faith is built on hope. Faith secures the future hope in the present circumstances. This is why Paul could write he had learned to be content in all situations. This is why he writes – I am confident( this is Biblical hope) that He who has begun a good work  will complete it. That is the same hope, confident expectation that John expressed in I John 5, when he wrote, ‘ this is the confidence we have that if we ask anything..’ So it starts with Hope, a blueprint of what God wants to build in my life that He places in my mind. Our minds had been conformed by the world and now we must transform them. Faith is the second anchor I cast to secure in the present what God has promised in the future. He will get me through the fire, the flood and the storm. I will reach the other side. It starts with Hope that is secured by faith. Trust is nothing more than layers of faith, as through the storms of life, the Lord has proved He is faithful, over and over. Remember your faith is in the Lord and in His promises proclaimed in His Word. Your faith is not in your faith. So powerful is the object of our faith which is God and His Word, that faith only the size of a grain of mustard seed can move mountains. Imagine what the possibilities as your faith grows- which brings us to our next anchor.

“ Now faith comes by hearing and hearing by the WORD OF GOD.” The third anchor is the Word of God.  Paul writes in Romans 15- “ For everything that was written in the past, was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”Do you see the way these anchors hold together.? Hope is necessary for when the enemy of our soul convinces us our situation  is hopeless and nothing will ever change- we will never____________- you fill in the blank that represents the lie the enemy has told you is hopeless. Then we drop the anchor of God’s word that tells us nothing is impossible for God.  Our faith is in the sure hope we have that an Immutable God who cannot lie,who has promised us that although ‘many are the afflictions of the righteous, the Lord delivers him out of all of them.’( Psalms 34:19) Our faith is in Him and in His promises. And this faith can grow as we hear His Word. His Word transforms us. His Word guides us. His Word increases our faith as we obey Him because we trust Him.

“ Lord teach us to PRAY.” “ This is confidence we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will ; He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask- we know that we have what we asked of Him.” ( I John 5:14,15) This is my fourth anchor and this quartet of anchors will hold through the storm.  My prayers are based on His Word, in which I have faith that gives me hope. For God who cannot lie and is unchanging has said to me and you:  “ Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things which you do not know.”( Jeremiah 33:3) And these anchors produce hope that holds in the storm, for it is anchored in God who holds all things together.

Now let us watch as the drama unfolds- some sailors pretending they were going to lower some anchors are actually planning to jump ship and escape on a life boat.  Paul warns the centurion and the soldiers, “ unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” Ever the tempter, when we determine to wait on God, the tempter comes to tempt us to give up on God’s way and find a quicker, easier way.  Take a shortcut.

Paul reminds us God has appointed a way to be saved. It is the only way they can be saved. He has appointed the means of our salvation and we must stay with the ship and try not to accomplish God’s ends by our own means. I would remind you that the Lord Jesus is our ‘ark” who takes us through the storm(s). God Himself has placed us in Him and closed and sealed the door as He did for Noah and his family in the ark in Genesis.

This chapter ends with the ship being destroyed, but all souls on board are saved.

Now let us consider what is certainly puzzling and sometimes frustrating circumstances in our walk of faith. Paul has been told by the Lord he will be his witness in Rome as he was in Jerusalem. So Paul is evidently in God’s will. The question is- why isn’t it smooth sailing? Why this struggle- this time consuming, energy draining life and death battle?

We expect God to cause barriers to sin- but to doing His will? What’s up with this?  Peter tells us we should not consider it strange when we fiery trials occur. Jesus Himself, told us in this world we would have troubles, but not to despair. Storms come from various causes and have a variety of results.   When we lose hope we can identify with  the lyrics of Stormy Weather that capture our feelings- “ life is bare, gloom and misery everywhere. Stormy Weather. Just can’t get myself together. I ‘m so weary, so weary all the time.”

Obviously we will have opposition from the enemy when we are doing the will of God. This is the conflict that Paul writes of in Ephesians 6. The enemy’s strategy is to get us to lose confidence- to doubt the word of God, and thus God Himself. To get us to lose hope and abort the mission and jump ship.

But we must also remember, God is Sovereign. He has allowed the storm, he has allowed the storm just as he did with Job- for the enemy to take actions against us. Why?  To teach us lessons that can only be learned in the storm. Imagine how Paul’s faith grew in and through this event. Imagine also the lessons that others learned as they observed how Paul was able to weather the storm though his faith in God. God always accomplishes the most good for the most people for the longest time through the best method. Just so happens sometimes the best method is a scary storm. Trust is nothing more than layers of faith. Trust is a learned response, learned through experiencing God’s faithfulness through the storms of life.

Here is what we can observe about storms in life based on Scripture:

We all go through storms.

Storms can be storms of correction that show us where our faith is weak or lacking.

Storms can be storms of preparation to help us grow.

And we must remember: God is in control. He has a plan. He is with you in the storm. He is bigger than the storm. He will get us to the other side. His timing is perfect.

The writer of the old blues song, “Stormy Weather” seems to have come to the same conclusion as to what one must do as he writes in the final stanza:  “ All I can do is pray the Lord above will let me walk in the sun once more!” ( Stormy Weather.)

Why does Paul say to fix our eyes on things above?  For there is where the SON is!  While flying to Houston for further tests during my bout with cancer, Gina was plagued with doubt and fear. It was in many ways a more  scary storm for her than it was for me. Flying out of Memphis in a rain storm only added to her worry and concerns.  Seeking to cast her worries upon the Lord she was praying, as we climbed upward in our flight pattern.

Then all of sudden- we were above the storm, the rain, and the dark clouds and bathed in brilliant sunshine made even more dramatic by the darkness beneath us. Gina realized the Lord was going to bring us through this storm to the other side. The sun was going to shine again!

“ The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” ( Revelation 21.)

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14