Back to the Beginning: When Church Was Church
Surviving the Storms of Life
Delivered by James L Goforth, Jr
New Life Baptist Church
August 27, 2006
Well … we are almost through the end of our study of Acts and almost to the end of this accounting of Paul's adventures as recorded by Luke
However, this book is NOT about Paul, it is about the early church, and we are trying to learn in the 21st Century from the 1st Century Church
As we found out last week, though the scripture says "there is wisdom in the counsel of many", the majority isn't always right
And sometimes the decision of the majority leads into storms
I want us to pick the story up today and I am going to just be real practical
Now hear me, Dr. Phil, and Oprah, and all the rest, cannot solve all those problems in one segment or even an entire show, even though it seems that they do.
And if you are going through storms today, I'm not going to solve all your problems in the next ½ hour. However, I'm going to try and give you some principles, that if you apply them, and follow the scriptural principles, I believe they CAN help you survive the storm you are facing now, or will face in the future.
We all face storms and difficulty in life, the question is how do we handle the storms of life?
We are in an economic storm
We are in a cultural storm
We are in a family storm
You are in a Schooling Storm
Maybe a Relationship Storm
Maybe you are in a Spiritual Storm
So, while I can’t solve it all here today, I can give you some principles that if you go back and pray through them and apply them as the Lord leads, I believe you can get through the storm and come again to safe harbor.
Well let's Read the Story and see if you can Listen for Principles while we read and then I will give them two you
Read Acts 27:5-44
Let me give you 7 principles today, and I'll spend more time on some than on others
How do I survive this storm?
1. Avoid When Possible
A. some people that just prefer storms
1. Let's be honest now, there are some of you who like storms
2. you will create storms when necessary
3. some people stir the pot just to see the swirls in the soup
4. They'd rather have negative feedback than no feedback at all
5. They like the attention that storms bring
6. When storms are in their lives people come to help and though it's hard it's not lonely
7. That's an unhealthy way live
B. Some storms are OUR fault because of choices, sin, etc
1. as much as we’d like to blame someone else, we could have avoided this one
2. learn from this in the future and stay away from it. When you pray “lead us not into temptation” sometimes God says, “hey stop going over there … I didn’t lead you there”
C. Some people are called to helping people in storms
1. Some of you feel that you can’t avoid the storm because you’ve got to help that person. Maybe so, but be aware that if you enter the storm, you might not survive the storm.
2. Nearly every storm has casualties and it might be you, so don’t get in unless you are prepared
3. so, if you want a guarantee, then avoid the storm whenever possible
2. Listen to the Voice of Wisdom
A. Don't go simply by what you feel or what appears to be positive
1. Our text says “They felt a gentle south breeze and thought … "yes … this is it"
We are guilty often of taking the first favorable sign that fits with our desires and assuming that is the hand of providence, the will of God
"Lord if I make it through the next light, then it will be your will that I make this decision in life"
2. The gentle South wind is, "see Paul this is God's will"
V13 says "they thought they had obtained what they wanted"
3. It was only about 30 miles to Phoenix. With a gentle south wind it would only take a few hours to travel that distance.
4. How often have our short trip against better judgment turned into WEEKS in a storm?
5. They got about 9 miles before that GENTLE wind from the south blowing, became a NORTHEASTER … A strong hurricane force wind blowing from the northeast to the southwest
6. The Scripture says that this storm rushed down on them.
There were mountains some 7,000 feet high along the coast of Crete and as they passed along the coast this gentle wind suddenly was replaced by Enormous winds that came, as if out of nowhere, over the mountains and probably broadsided their boat, pushing them off course into the open sea.
7. The word translated "hurricane force", or "violent", wind, is the Greek word, tuphonikos /too-fo-nee-kos/
8. The Greek says the storm was called Euprosopeo /yoo-pros-o-peh-o/ that is translated as a "northeaster" but the literal translation means "to make a fair show" In other words this northeaster that blew over the mountains was quite a spectacle, some kind of a show, it was a Perfect Storm. If this was on the Discovery Channel we would watch it!
9. But they didn't HAVE to be there, and many of the storms of life can be avoided if we will listen to the voice of wisdom
B. Voices of Wisdom
1. Voice of Wisdom #1 - The Word of God - Various scriptures from Ps 119
a. Ps 119:4 you have ordained your precepts that we should keep them diligently
b. 119:11 Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee
c. John 6:63 … The Words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life … (Jesus)
d. Deut. 32:47 They are not just idle words for you - they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.
e. 119:45 I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts
f. 119:93 I will never forget your precepts for by them you have preserved my life
g. 119:104 I gain understanding from your precepts …
h. 119:159 see how I you're your precepts …
precepts are truths, foundational principles that will give guidance and direction for all things whether you have an exact word on it or not. Not only that but this Hebrew word, only used in Psalms, means instructions that, not only will help but also we are OBLIGATED in COVENANTAL RELATIONSHIP to adhere to them.
We have to listen to the Voice of Wisdom because we are in a love relationship with Christ and obligated to follow his precepts
i. 2 Tim 3:16 The Word of God is God Breathed and useful … that we may be thoroughly equipped …
God's word is not only Inerrant, that is without error, but it is Infallible in that it will not lead you INTO falsehood if correctly followed
2. Voice of Wisdom #2 - The Holy Spirit living in you -
a. John 14:25 the Holy Spirit … will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said.
b. John 16:13 he will guide you into all truth …
3. Voice of Wisdom #3 - The Church - i.e. Pastors / Elders / Leaders / Other Believers / --
a. Eph 4:11-13 God has given to the church Evangelists, Prophets, Apostles, Pastors and Teachers, to build up the body … that we might be unified, mature and like Christ.
b. 2 Cor 1:4 (paraphrase) God comforts us in all our troubles, so we can comfort those in trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received. 5 as suffering overflowed, so comfort overflows 7 our hope is firm … you share in our comfort
4. Before the storm, the voice of wisdom can help you avoid storms …
5. after the storms of life have hit, the voice of wisdom can help you survive, get to harbor, or out of the ocean or off the shipwrecked island of isolation
6. But just because you wouldn't listen to the voice of wisdom first does not mean that you have to remain in pride and work it out on your own
7. You have gone your own way and ended up in the storm, but you can humble yourself now and receive aid and wisdom to get out or at least to survive and move forward
3. Know when to Surrender to the Winds
"Hunker Down" - I went whitewater rafting about 6 years ago. Shortly after we started, the other boat in our group was in front of us and as we watched them, our guide said "watch this". A few seconds later, that raft disappeared from site as it dropped over about a 15 foot waterfall. She then said, when I give the word, get down in the boat as far as you can and HOLD ON. When we got close to the edge she said "hunker down" and we DID and held on for the few seconds as we dropped over the waterfall.
When the storm comes, there is a time to surrender to the storm, you can't fight it, so let go of control on the storm and just worry about controlling what you can.
A. Batten down the hatches
1. That means to tie everything down, close and lock all the doors, try to minimize the damage.
2. If there is a health storm, or a financial storm, or something else lashing at your family, if you can't control the storm, tie everything else down so you can minimize collateral damage.
3. You don't have to lose your marriage
4. You don't have to lose relationship with your family
5. You don't have to alienate your friends
6. Instead hold on more tightly to all of those things
7. Make sure your that your relationship with Christ remains strong
8. When you batten down the hatches you also release unnecessary things. Be sure that the things you hold on to are critical things or eternal things.
9. Dump any dead weight
B. Throw a Rope Around the Hull
Hurricane Housing in Florida with Steel bands tied around the concrete walls and anchored to the foundation
1. There are precious scriptures that you can use to tie a rope around the boat to survive as you surrender to the winds
a. 1 Cor 10:13 There is no temptation that has overtaken you that is not common to man, but God is faithful and won't allow you to be tempted above which you are able, and with the temptation provide a way of escape that you may stand up under it
b. 2 Peter 1:3 his divine power has given us everything we need for LIFE and godliness
c. John 14:27 … do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid
d. Ps 55:22 Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.
e. 2 Chron 16:9 - the eyes of the Lord move range throughout the earth to show himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is completely his
2. There are wonderful songs of victory, hope, expectation that you can hold on to in the midst of the winds
a. take the songs, hymns spiritual songs that we sing here and sing them when life gets hard
b. let them be an encouragement to you
c. let them shift your focus
4. Use your Anchor
Sometimes your hope is in the Anchor that holds
Sometimes your hope is in the Lord of the Storm and HE becomes your anchor that holds, while the world around you rages
But as Paul's ship let down 4 anchors … let me give you 4 anchors
A. past action - that is God's Past action in Paul's life, on Paul's behalf
Left for dead
God Always came through for Paul
God Always strengthened and encouraged him
Things were not always what he thought but God was always his strength and shield
Rom. 8:28 - all things work together for good for those who love him, how have been called according to his purpose.
Let God's Past Action to you and others be an anchor for you
B. Purpose - direction for life; "you will testify in Rome"; "you must stand trial before Caesar"
Young David didn't fear Saul, or Goliath or the Whole Philistine army, because he knew that his purpose was to be King. He had been anointed
In verse 25 Paul said "Keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God, that it will happen just as he told me"
C. Power - for right now …
1. The greatest power we can have to anchor us in a storm is to believe and then act on that belief
2. The power that he believed in was NOT his but the Power of the Almighty that he served
D. Promise of Future hope -
1. Paul said "for me to live is Christ, to die is gain" Phil. 1:21 -
2. Paul wasn't worried about the storm, or being in prison, or heading to Rome, or eventually facing Nero's Executioner's Blade. Why? Because he had Hope for Eternity.
3. Paul said that "to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord" 2 Cor. 5:5
4. Eternal Life, what an Anchor that is
5. Job lost his family, wealth, and health and he said "Naked I came from the mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."
Use your Anchors of the Past Action of God, Present Purpose, Power for Today, and Promise for Tomorrow
5. Feed Yourself
Not going to spend much time here … just a good principle
1. When the storms rage, make sure you get the nourishment that you need
2. When I visit with families in the hospital or in a Funeral Home, I often ask the questions, are you eating? Are you getting your sleep, are you leaning on the Lord? I also give them opportunity to talk about the one who is close to them that is distressed or they may have lost to death.
3. These questions are for the purpose of making sure they are physically, emotionally, and spiritually fed.
4. It has been said - that an "army fights on its stomach"; - They say "you are what you eat"; That when you "bump a glass, what spills out is what's on the inside"
5. If you are going to survive the storm you need to be well fed.
a. Physically - eat well, eat good food, eat regularly
b. Emotionally - think on good things - remember good things, remember what has brought joy and victory
I'm not saying "think happy thoughts and all will be well"
But you do need to keep your attitude up
Do not let depression take over
Elijah defeated 400 Prophets of Baal and the next thing you know he is depressed hiding in a cave saying he is all alone
c. Spiritually - Feed yourself through personal study,
meditating on the Word, meditating on his precepts
You can't stand on the anchors if you don't know God, his promises, his purposes for you, the power and authority that is yours in Christ Jesus, as well as the promises of hope for the future that are yours, you can't survive the storms.
You need to know what the word of God says, be full of it in order to survive the storms
6. Encourage Each Other
1. Only once in this story do you find Paul reminding them that they made the wrong choice and that they should have listened to him
But he mentions it in passing, more as a reason for them to listen to him now
2. Paul did not rub it in their face
Paul did not brush them off in anger for putting them all in this predicament
3. No, he encouraged them, he served them, he gave instructions for what to do next
4. We comfort you with the same comfort which we ourselves received
Finally; our last principle … #7
7. Rest in the Hope You Have
1. The Resurrection is Yours …
2. Make for the Shores of Jordon's Stormy Banks
3. Storms can be purposeful
4. Storms never catch God off guard - God is not surprised at your storm, God is not wringing his hands wondering what next
5. Those Anchors I referred to are not limited to the strength of the anchors Paul had on the Boat. Eventually they had to cut loose those anchors, in surrendering to the Winds.
6. What Paul was doing was anchoring to the Lord of the Storm when he couldn't beat the Storm.
Those spiritual anchors The Past, Our Purpose, the Power in the Present, our Promised Hope … they are all one thing, one name, one person, JESUS CHRIST, the Anchor of our Soul. He has gone on to Heaven.
7. And we can survive the Storms because our anchors are not anchored to anything or anyone ON this earth,
they are anchored, behind the curtain, in the inner sanctuary, the Holy of Holies in Heaven.
8. What is behind the Curtain?
With God … because
Jesus is our Anchor
Hebrews 6:19,20 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever
5845 The Picture When Inverted
The famous Thomas Nast, in a public exhibition of his skill, once performed a strange feat with his brushes. Taking a canvas about six-feet long by two-feet wide, he placed it nearly horizontal upon an easel before his audience, and began to sketch rapidly a landscape. In quick succession appeared green meadows with cattle, fields of grain, the farmhouse and surrounding buildings, with orchard near; while, over all, the bright sky, with fleecy clouds, seemed to pour Heaven's benediction upon the scene below. At length no finishing touch was necessary. Still the artist held his brush, as he stepped aside to receive the hearty plaudits of the admiring audience.
When the applause had subsided, Mr. Nast stepped back to the canvas, as if he had not quite completed the picture. Taking darker colors, he applied them most recklessly to the canvas. Out went the bright sky. "Did you ever see a picture like this?" he asked, as he blotted out the meadows, fields, orchards, and buildings. Up, down and across passed the artist's hand, until the landscape was totally obliterated, and nothing but a daub, such as a child might make, remained. Then, with a more satisfied look, he stepped aside, laying down his brush as if to say. "It is finished."
But no applause came from the perplexed audience, and Nast then ordered the stage attendants to place a gilded frame around the ruined work of art, and to turn it to a vertical position. The mystery was revealed, for before the audience stood a panel picture of a beautiful waterfall, the water plunging over a precipice of dark rock, skirted with trees and verdue. It is needless to say that the audience burst into rounds of applause.
The point is NOT that God is messing with your life … But the point is that God has a different perspective on the storm than you do and all things work together FOR good, for those who love God
I would say one other thing that I left out as we close today as we close
How to survive the storms of life? …
Cry Out For Help!
One of the things that concerns me most is that I don't believe we cry out for help enough
We don't cry out to God
We don't cry out to one another
We don't want anyone to know that we are hurting, struggling, floundering, weak, in need, less than perfect
It concerns me sometimes that we do not fill this altar more.
If we are in a storm, we should be at this altar crying out to the Lord
We should be crying with other believers
If you are in a storm right now, or facing a potential storm
If you have just come out of the storm
I would encourage you today to come forward today
Ask someone to come and pray with you
Ask one of our deacon or staff, one of their wives to pray for you
You don't have to even tell what you are facing or going through, but just ask them to pray with you or for you
If you were in the midst of a storm, drifting on the open sea and someone was going by on a ship … what would you do?
Would you float quietly on your own? Or, would you cry out for assistance?
Well … come, cry out for help
Come and pray for someone that you know is facing a storm
But Come …
If someone asks you to come with them come. You may not know what to do or say but come with them stand with them, pray with them or kneel in silence and pray for them
You CAN Survive the Storm in your Life!