There’s something about a good storm – so long as you are not caught in it!
Acts 27 is one of most exciting narratives in the whole book of Acts, it’s full of drama describing in great detail a ship at sea in the midst of a very violent storm, the loss of navigation and control and subsequently it’s running aground after being driven along for 14 long days and nights – not what they intended.
When I started looking at this passage for a Sunday preach I started in the usual, traditional place, looking at the storm, the fact that God is sovereign, His purposes, protection, provision and deliverance, all of which is very good, but I found myself getting nowhere, then one day while driving the car I found things unpacking in my mind in a totally different way! I found a question formulating in my mind ‘where is the Holy Spirit in the storm?’ And as I thought about it, it had power to it and led me in a totally different direction, after all, Acts is all about the activity of the Holy Spirit is it not?
Frequently when we think of the gifts and ministry of the Spirit we think of the more spectacular aspects, i.e. prophecy, tongues, healing, miracles – all very right, and all very good, but there is another side that we need to consider, the Spirit in the ordinary, especially in the storm, when life gets heavy, turbulent.
Now storms come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, it could be turbulence in a relationship – marriage or family, the loss of a job, bad news from the doctor, Brexit, etc… They can be short and blow over in no time, or they can seem to have no end.
Being a Christian doesn’t make us immune to the storm, whoever we are, wherever we are, at some time or other we will find ourselves riding into a storm. The question is how do we respond to them, how will we navigate them?
The apostle Paul found himself in a storm, a BIG one… in fact it begins some chapters earlier in 21:26-40 when Paul was attacked by a mob in the Temple who tried to kill him, was subsequently arrested by the Romans, appeared before various people, and then following his appeal to Caesar (because he was a Roman citizen) was put on a boat heading for Rome…. To begin with all is well, but then things begin to go wrong, BIG TIME… A STORM! They end up adrift for 14 days covering something like 580 miles! They start taking on water…. things are thrown things overboard and they can no longer see the stars – absolutely essential for plotting your course, and all hope was gone (27:20)! Not a situation in which you want to find yourself.
Bad decisions were made based on wrong advice (27:11-13), the wisdom of man, rather than the wisdom of God. That may be your situation, decisions have been made based on the wrong advice. But note, even then God is sovereign and secures the safety of Paul and his companions.
It’s worthwhile pointing out here that we can become so absorbed in the storm that we are more conscious of the storm than God and so have a total loss of perspective and a total inability to perceive or hear God.
Paul ultimately gets a word that brings them all to safety – if you’ve not read the story please go and read it as there’s just too much to cover here.
So, back to that question….
WHERE IS THE SPIRIT IN THE STORM?
We want to know, you want to know, where are you Lord in this storm that’s enveloping me/us?
And the answer is simple, he is with Paul… Paul knew the teaching of Jesus – Jesus said that he was going so send one just like himself, he Holy Spirit who would abide/remain with us – not here today and gone tomorrow. Paul not only knew the truth but it was his experience, he lived ‘being filled.’ Paul taught that we are temples of the Spirit, that the Spirit of God dwells within us. Therefore, He, the Holy Spirit was right there in the midst! He was with Paul in the storm!
Now it’s one thing to know that intellectually, it’s another to be aware of and nurture our relationship with Him – that is why we are frequently unaware. From the way Paul wrote we know that he nurtured his life in the Spirit – through being filled, through prayer, through speaking in tongues… He knew how to encourage himself in God and was ready for the storm! This set him up to be able to hear God and bring wise counsel.
- If you are in a storm, He is with you.
- If you are in a storm or not, seek his fulness, nurture His presence, listen for His voice – God spoke in the storm.
A second question to ask if you find yourself in the storm is:
WHAT ARE THE KINGDOM REALITIES?
Kingdom realities or eternal truths are what we need to know and be reminding ourselves of because the enemy certainly doesn’t want us to know and live in them. They are:
- God is Sovereign
- God is with you
- God is for you
- God is still working and able to work all things together for good
- God has something to say
- God wants to use you, yes you!
They didn’t want to listen earlier, but later they were ready to listen to Paul, to God….
Then one final question:
HOW CAN THE KINGDOM COME?
After all, that’s how Jesus taught us how to pray isn’t it? Whatever the situation this must be our prayer, anything less will let the devil in.
- By recognising His Presence and resting/trusting in Him
- By praying/asking how can the Kingdom come here – Father, what do you want to do?
- Then be open to and listen to His voice – He has something to say
- And then doing what He says – our obedience is key
Paul knew the Spirit’s Presence in the storm, he was not alone. He knew kingdom realities and He was engaged in and saw the kingdom coming!