How to Survive the Storms of Life

September 8th, 2017

The story of Paul’s voyage to Rome, part of which we heard in Acts 27:27-44, with its trials and triumphs, is an example of the way of faith all through the story of human life. Its remarkable feature is the hard and narrow places which we find intermingled with God’s most extraordinary plans and providences. It’s full of examples of night and day experiences.

The word “night” is symbolic of the times when all seems dark and foreboding for us. Like the people of the ship, we pray, but that prayer is also our time to let down our anchors. What are our anchors? What keeps the ship of our lives off the rocks of life? Do we believe the words of the old hymn, “Will Your Anchor Hold?” Some of these anchors should be faith, surrender to God, hope and thanksgiving.

Because God promised that everyone would be saved, the sailors who were trying to save themselves were fleeing from the promise of their own protection. Paul recognized what they were doing, and the sailors’ plan was thwarted-for their own benefit. A belief that God has purpose (that He designs and has always designed to save some) will prompt the use of all proper means to secure it. Paul believed that God offers mercy. Paul believed that God would save the passengers and crew because Paul was part of God’s plan.

Men can be cruel even when experiencing God’s mercy. God’s goodness will not ease the natural anger and cruelty of those who delight in blood. Roman policy was that if a prisoner escaped, the man who guarded him would be killed. So rather than run the risk of any of the prisoners (Paul and others) escaping, the soldiers wanted to kill them before abandoning ship. But Julius, the centurion, ordered the soldiers not to touch the prisoners. Paul escaped yet another attempt on his life.

For Paul’s sake, the lives of all the prisoners were spared. A pious, God-fearing person can earn the favour of man. God often confers blessings on the wicked for the sake of their believing friends, relatives and neighbours. God can defend people in all dangers and can accomplish all His purposes. We are safe in His keeping. He has a plan that can fulfill all His purposes and protect His people from danger. God promised that everyone on board the ship would be saved, and they were saved. When we take God at His word, we will never go wrong.

Paul modeled not only a life of faith but a life of wisdom and gratitude. Life presents us with a splendid succession of opportunities-both good and bad-to put our faith in action. Often the best chances we have to share our faith result from involvement and caring in ordinary ways for the people we long to introduce to God.

Sometimes God will use the strangest of circumstances to do His greatest works. He used the storm, so He can use any event. Even when life’s voyages are stormy, there will be a time when these storms will be minor compared to what God was able to accomplish because of them.

The worst time to “jump ship” is when times are tough. If we make decisions when times are tough, it’s hard to make clear choices. Isn’t that when we often make life changing decisions, only to look back later, and discover we made the wrong one? We should be more like Jesus and Paul-men who did not turn and run in the face of crisis, offense or opportunity. The storms of life are opportunities to grow as people, believers and followers of Jesus. All we have to do is find them.

When we go through difficult times, what happens to us is not nearly as important as what happens in us. The passage from Acts teaches us three ways we shouldn’t respond:

1. Don’t drift. The problem with coasting is that we’re heading downhill. Life is not a coast. Life is tough. When life is tough, we must not lose our ambition or our dream.
2. Don’t discard. When times are tough, we tend to abandon values and relationships we would not let go of in better times. God can change situations and personalities. He can change us, but He won’t change us if we’re always abandoning ship!
3. Don’t despair. Even in a storm, God is in control. He hasn’t left us. You may not feel Him, but if we feel far from Him, it’s because we have moved. God is with us in the storm, and He will help us through it. He uses the storms of life to test us to see if we will trust Him. Will we pass the test?

Do the Work God Assigns to You – No Excuses Accepted

September 8th, 2017

An old Native American story tells of a young boy who was sent into the woods alone on an autumn night to prove his courage. Soon the sky darkened and the sounds of night filled the air. Trees creaked and groaned, an owl screeched, and a coyote howled. Even though he was frightened, the boy remained in the woods all night, as the test of courage required. Finally, morning came, and he saw a solitary figure nearby. It was his grandfather, who had been watching over him all night long.

It’s often in wilderness experiences that we really see God at work, and the events Exodus 3:1-15 are a good example. Moses grew up in a position of privilege in Pharaoh’s palace, but because he killed an Egyptian, he fled into the wilderness. Forty years later, we see him tending his father-in-law’s flock when God gets his attention. God appeared in an ordinary way that was extraordinary at the same time. In Moses’ time, it was common to see a burning bush, but in this case the bush did not burn up-and that got Moses’ attention.

God had to get Moses’ attention before He could present Himself to Moses. Similarly, God must get our attention before He can present Himself to us. God uses various methods to get our attention. He is always looking for ways to present Himself, and those opportunities come when we give Him our attention.

God often speaks to us through unusual circumstances. When we are amid confusing times that we can’t understand, or when we face life’s trials, we should slow down and listen. God might be trying to get our attention.

In what ways do we expect God to speak to us today? In what ways has God spoken to us unexpectedly? How might we more intentionally turn aside to see in those instances in which God seeks to speak to us?

The appearance of God was the first instance of direct revelation to Moses. After 80 years, Moses was now ready to fulfill the Lord’s calling. No other leader in biblical times had such a lengthy training period. Times of preparation are never wasted; God knows that, properly prepared, His servants can do more in 40 years than they could do in 120 unprepared.

For these divine moments, the area near the bush was the Lord’s house because of the Lord’s presence. The resulting command to “take your sandals off your feet” reflects this. Moses’ sandals had dust and dirt on them, and the place and presence of God are not to be defiled. The symbolic act points to the powerful reality of God’s presence. When we are in God’s presence, the ground on which we stand is holy, so we must not defile it.

What does a holy God do? A holy God hates injustice, oppression and sin. A holy God works to undo wrong. A holy God puts humanity to work.

If God is all powerful, good and holy, why doesn’t God make sure evil is eliminated from the universe? Isn’t that within God’s ability? Yes, but there is a good reason. God is love, and love is by necessity non-coercive, so God needs a partner. That’s where Moses came in, and that’s where we come in. God invited Moses to join Him in the work of redeeming the people of Israel, and He invites us to join him in doing His work in our world.

When God spoke through the burning bush, He put his tent amid Moses’ world. When He pitches His tent our midst, He is present with us and identifies Himself with us. In return, He demands something from us. If He is to identify with us, we are to identify with Him, so He commands us to be holy because He is holy.

The burning bush represents God’s presence. Because the bush was not consumed, we can know God’s presence eternally. God identified Himself so that Moses would know that he was not meeting an unknown God. Similarly, we need to know that God is holy, mighty and lifted up. He is a God who is slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and who always keeps His covenant with us.

God did not forget his covenant with Abraham, and He won’t forget His covenant with us. The phrase “I have come to deliver them” were words for Israel, but they also point to the future incarnation of Jesus. God always hears the cries of His people. God hears our cries and sees our troubles. In His own time and in His own way, He will move to deliver us from our difficulties. God has always promised to be present with those who believe in Him. No matter how dark the night is or how dire our circumstances are, the unseen God is ready to respond appropriately to our need.

There is a connection between Moses and Jesus besides their encounter at the Transfiguration. Moses was the primary actor in the Exodus drama. The word “Jesus” comes from the Greek form of Jesus’ name-Joshua, which means “God saves.” In the name of Jesus, we are taken back to the tradition of Moses and Exodus, but we have the completion of all that Exodus was all about. The picture of redemption in Exodus is now complete in Jesus.

Moses typified human response when God calls someone to do what seems beyond them, but the success of any divine mission is never dependent on human abilities. The Lord’s words- “I will certainly be with you”-were intended to focus Moses on the true source of his future success.

Like Moses, sometimes we feel inadequate or unqualified for the tasks God gives us, so we tend to make excuses. For example. Moses argued that he could not do the task. The confidence Moses had in his younger years was gone. The task God called him to do was overwhelming. Was Moses’ confidence gone because of genuine humility or a lack of faith in God’s ability and wisdom, even though God promised that He would be with Moses?

Moses also gave the excuse that He didn’t know God’s name. At that time, every god had his own personal name. People believed it was necessary to know his name to approach him in prayer or ask for his help. Also, the name revealed something of the god’s character. To know the name of the god was to enjoy a privileged relationship with that god. Moses felt that he needed to give God’s name to the Israelites.

Isn’t that the same with us? We often think that we don’t know enough or that we haven’t experienced enough or that we don’t feel deeply enough. We don’t think that we will have anything to say. At times like this, God tells us what to say just as He told Moses what to say.

When God said, “I AM WHO I AM,” He declared his eternal, unchanging, uncreated self-existence. The identification of the Lord as “God of your fathers” is enormously important. Moses said the people needed to know that this was no new god. He is the Deliverer of Israel.

The Lord’s plan was to deliver His children from bondage so they could worship Him and be established as His chosen people. He gave Moses the responsibility for the task. In a similar way, God always clarifies our responsibility so we can respond in obedience. He uses various events and circumstances to prepare us for increasing levels of spiritual responsibility. He always equips us for the responsibilities He gives us. We are qualified to do God’s work not because of our knowledge or skills but because God is with us. If He is not with us, no amount of skill or experience will make us qualified. As the saying goes, God does not call the equipped. He equips the called. In return, we must wait on God’s timing in every situation. God gives us limitless opportunities but we must assume responsibility and obey His call. When we choose to cooperate with God and submit to His way, He will do amazing things in and through us.

If you wonder where God is, or if He is going to use you to do something, ask Him to use you right where you stand. You’ll find that in Him you have the power of the Holy Spirit to change the world if you ask. For example, look around your local church or community. Are you the missing piece needed to reflect God’s compassion and mercy in a broken world? Which of Moses’ excuses are you hiding behind? What gift, token or resource are you hiding from the world? God is looking for people who will slow down long enough to check out the burning bush. In God’s calling, He has a plan, but He never expects us to carry out the plan. He’s going to pull it off. He simply wants us to be the instrument of action.