Keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God
Acts 27: 22-25
Acts 27 is an epic adventure that Paul experienced in his life, detailed by Luke who was with him. Two hundred and seventy-six people on a huge ship ran into a life-threatening storm in the midst of the sea and eventually made it through to the land after a few days. The background is that after facing accusation from the Jews, Paul appealed to Caesar using his citizenship. Now Paul was being shipped over to Roman to have his trial before the emperor.
In the main context, people had already fallen into despair, for they had been without food for a few days. The ship containing them was being rocked back and forth. Remember they did not have advanced technology then. The ship made of ordinary material could not overcome the heavy storm in the sea. Nor was any coast guard or helicopter there to save them. Caught in the incredible storm, they feared for their life, as we can imagine. There was so much anxiety and nervousness that these people experienced together.
Have you ever experienced such trial and anxiety for the future in your life? There are many kinds of trials we may run into in life as if we are in a ferocious storm. Paul had experienced many great trials already before he ran into this one. He was beaten, imprisoned and put on trial before arbitrators and judges a few times. However this trial in the sea was so distinct from all of them. It is like a vivid nightmare. When we go through trials so intimidating that we cannot help but fear for our life, that is when we can discover who we are and what we are made of at the core.
What was Paul made of at his core? Why could Paul show so much courage, giving hope and courage to people?
There are false and true courage in people. They often speak boldly but in a big crisis their courage would surely crumble. Peter was an example. He confessed to Jesus that he would never leave him even if he had to die with him before Jesus was arrested. However he denied the Lord three times in the end. Peter also showed us his true courage later. When facing the same people who put the Lord on the cross, Peter spoke boldly about the Lord in Acts 3. True courage comes from inside, the core of who we are.
Faith works in the same way. When things go well, we can praise God. When times get tough and we have many problems to deal with, like the world of the storm falling on me, can we still praise God, seek Him and depend on Him or blame God?
In Paul, here we see true courage and true faith. God’s angel told him that he would stand the trial before Caesar. He believed that it would be exactly as he had been told. Paul reassured people together with him on the ship telling them what God had revealed to him through the angel. Paul’s faith and courage are based on his certainty of his identity. He knew that he was serving God by spreading the news of Jesus Christ (which had just remained in Jerusalem) from city to city. His goal was to spread the news to Rome, the center of the world at the time. Paul was not walking aimlessly but intentionally went preaching to the places of influence. Furthermore, I work for his glory and even if I have to stand trial, there is a certain reason. If I am working for God, moving together with God on the path led by Him, God is sure to protect me. Being certain of his identity, Paul was confident in God’s protection over him. His foundation and identity did not shake in the moment of crisis. As believers, we should not have our identity taken away in whatever trial.
The crew wanted to escape by taking the life craft. Paul did not go crazy like the others but encouraged others to eat. Paul, a prisoner, missionary, not a soldier or an expert in the sea, became strength for everyone there. His faith reached far, even so that the centurion felt its presence. People of faith will spread and shine in the world. Amen.
By Jeremiah Chan
Bible Portal Contributor
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