Hang On For Dear Life

29861But the captain and the owner of the ship did not agree with Paul, and the officer believed what the captain and owner of the ship said. Since that harbor was not a good place for the ship to stay for the winter, most of the men decided that the ship should leave. They hoped we could go to Phoenix and stay there for the winter. Phoenix, a city on the island of Crete, had a harbor which faced southwest and northwest. Acts 27:11-12

What happens right before these verses, and why didn’t the captain and owner of the ship agree with Paul? The journey of sailing toward Italy was rough. It was plagued by winds, which slowed the ship down so much that sailing became more dangerous because of the typical weather of the season. According to God’s guidance, Paul was supposed to go to Rome, but he was met with strong headwinds that seemed to be pushing him away from Rome.

When have you been certain God wanted you to move toward something but experienced significant opposition along the way?

Just because God insures us of a direction doesn’t mean the journey will be smooth. When God tells us to sail, we likely won’t have a trouble free sail, getting to lounge lazily on the deck enjoying the scenery and taking a mental vacation before disembarking and getting on with the work God intends. What he intends is for us to be engaged throughout the journey, which includes sailing toward the destination as much as the destination itself. In fact, the destination itself is really just one part of the entire journey, because there will be another destination beyond it. We travel through seasons, and God expects us to trust him through each one.

We must keep moving as he directs. We won’t stay in one place or one season for long. Even when we are in the same physical location, we will be changing, journeying through spiritual locations. God intends for us to explore, being adventurous in our faith and trusting him every step of the way. When we arrive at a place that seems comfortable to us, it’s tempting to want to stay there even though we know God will keep us moving. We often build a camp or drop an anchor and justify it because God determined it was a destination. If he wanted us to be in that location at some point, and it’s comfortable for us, doesn’t it make sense that we’d stay there for as long as possible? If we’re not careful, we’ll end up missing the update on when and where we’re going next. We’ll miss the boat. By the time we realize it, God will need to reroute us.

An assignment isn’t a sentence.

What assignment are you currently in that feels more like a sentence, as if it will never end?

We will suffer for God. We shouldn’t be surprised. He’s given us warning in his Word:

They are blessed who are persecuted for doing good, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. People will insult you and hurt you. They will lie and say all kinds of evil things about you because you follow me. But when they do, you will be blessed. Rejoice and be glad, because you have a great reward waiting for you in heaven. People did the same evil things to the prophets who lived before you. (Matthew 5:10-12)

We also have joy with our troubles, because we know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope. And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts. He gave us his love through the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is the Father who is full of mercy and all comfort. He comforts us every time we have trouble, so when others have trouble, we can comfort them with the same comfort God gives us. We share in the many sufferings of Christ. In the same way, much comfort comes to us through Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

We don’t need to look for opposition. Sailors don’t look for the roughest route to take. They wisely choose a route that considers a multitude of factors. God sees all the details in front of us, and he knows the best route – perhaps not the easiest route or even the hardest route, but the best route. He promises we can trust him through any suffering we face because of our faith. Just as sailors must make the best of the wind and other travelling conditions, we must do the same along our faith journey. Despite troubling winds, we must move forward the best we can.

The ship Paul was on experienced more demanding challenges along the journey:

  • The ship was tossed by a severe storm.
  • Much of the ship’s cargo and equipment was thrown overboard.
  • People on the ship tried to abandon ship.
  • The ship came dangerously close to rocks.
  • The ship crashed and was demolished.
  • People on the ship survived by clinging to pieces of the boat and swimming.

That’s not exactly “smooth sailing.” In the middle of the trials, an angel visited Paul and told him lives would be saved. Paul encouraged others and shared hope. Yet just because we can see the story in its entirety and appreciate the trials in the context of the outcome, let’s remember that the fact God works everything for our good and his glory doesn’t mean every moment of the journey is pleasant. There’s destruction and chaos. We simply have to keep focused on God, hang on for dear life when the winds toss us, and persevere with a tenacious hold on God’s will for our lives. Sometimes we’ll be reduced to swimming in rough waters, but as long as we’re moving toward God’s goal, we will be progressing.

So we do not give up. Our physical body is becoming older and weaker, but our spirit inside us is made new every day. We have small troubles for a while now, but they are helping us gain an eternal glory that is much greater than the troubles. We set our eyes not on what we see but on what we cannot see. What we see will last only a short time, but what we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

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