[Nov 21]--Darkness and Hope

Acts 27:13-26

I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: I love how the Bible presents even its heroes as human beings who give into sin. This in no way condones sin, but it does give me comfort to know that my Lord knows perfectly well what type of people we turn out to be. It also gives strong evidence to me that the Scriptures are accurate. If I was making up a bunch of stories, I certainly would make my heroes a lot less prone to human failings.

Why do I bring this up? Because I can’t help grinning as I read today’s passage. Just as Paul—and any other reasonable person--expected, the ship hit the Mother of All Storms. For several days they saw neither sun nor stars. The storm-hardened men along with land-lubbers all despaired of making it through this alive.

In the middle of all this darkness, Paul stood up among them and gave a proclamation of hope. But he couldn’t help starting out with a “I told you so.” That’s why I smile as I read this, because I see myself doing exactly the same thing. But it’s what he said right afterward that I want to focus on. There are two points I see here.

First, I see Paul’s solid faith in God. Yes, he did have an angel come to him to repeat what Jesus had told him back in Caesarea—namely that he was going to Rome no matter what. But it looks like Paul didn’t need a whole lot of encouragement in this area, for reasons I’ll get to in a moment. He knew that the Lord Jesus Christ had promised that he would stand in Rome, and he believed it.

The reason I don’t think his faith wavered all that much is actually the second point. I see here a great compassion for others. Please read carefully what the angel told him: God has granted to you the lives of the others on boat. He'd promised that Paul would make it to Rome, but he had said nothing about everyone else on the boat. But apparently Paul had been praying for their lives to be spared as well. Please keep in mind that these were the jerks who had not listened to his counsel. If they had, none of this would have happened. Can I say right here that Paul is definitely showing himself to be a better man that I am (yeah right—and the sun is hot and ice is cold). I’m just saying that when I see someone make a really foolish decision, and I warn them against it, and they go ahead with it, what’s my first reaction when the bad consequences appear just like I predicted? Let me tell you, my first inclination is not to pray fervently that the Almighty will spare them!

But Paul did, and the angel told him that the Lord had granted his request. But notice that God's grace and mercy didn’t protect the ship and its owners from personal loss. They were going to get out with their lives, but everything they had invested in that boat was going to disappear. Just because God spares our lives and our souls, that doesn’t meant that our sins are without consequences. Of course the greatest example of this was David's story.

So what’s your attitude when you see someone who, quite frankly, is getting what they really deserve? They were warned, they chose to ignore the warning, and lo and behold they’re suffering for it. It does happen. How do you react?

Well, let me point out something to you that might have already struck home. The Lord does the same for us. Yes, we can suffer in this life for the bad choices we’ve made. But those bad consequences are not because God has some type of vengeful attitude towards us. His only thoughts towards us are based on love. And I would hope that this merciful approach he has towards us would spill out in the same type of mindset we have towards others. What do you think?

Father God, after all you’ve forgiven me and how you’ve blessed me, there’s no room in my heart for “Gotcha” type thinking. Please forgive me, and please change me from the inside-out.

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