Isn’t it exciting to suddenly see something old in a new light? I’ve read through the Bible a handful of times, but when I read Acts 27 last week, something new struck me. The story was no longer telling me facts about Paul’s journey; the story was showing me how to face life’s difficulties with faith and assurance. Let me show you what I mean.
To start, here’s a summary of Acts 27: Paul has been in prison for years for no good reason. On board a ship with 275 others, he sails toward Italy for his trial, and their two-week journey is comprised of terrifying, unrelenting, violent storms.
All hope of being saved was abandoned by most, yet Paul encouraged the crew to keep up their courage, telling of an angel who had come to him and assured him that God would grant safety to all on board.
Let’s pause here for just a second. Have you ever gone through something hard? Something so difficult it hardly seemed possible to come through on the other side? If so, have you been able to muster your faith and hold tight to Jesus as he helps you through?
OR, have you ever held onto faith on behalf of a friend or family member who was suffering—speaking faith, encouragement, and hope into their difficult situation?
I’d venture to guess many of you have, and kudos to you—faith in the storm is a challenge every time, but Paul gives us an excellent example to follow.
And to conclude the summary…The sailors know they’re getting close to an island, and there is much rejoicing. Paul is probably thinking, Yep, it’s just how God said it would be; I’m not surprised. And then…
WHAM! The ship runs into a reef.
Although land is in sight, the ship is still far off from shore, and is now immoveable and being broken to pieces by the force of the waves.
THE CALL TO FAITH AND COURAGE
What might Paul have been thinking now? Maybe something along the lines of, What’s going on, God?? We were so close to safety!! (Maybe his faith never wavered, but I personally don’t think that’s the natural human gut response.)
In the end, everyone from the ship is able to swim or float to shore and no lives are lost, as God had assured Paul from the start. The island natives even welcome the weary sailors.
But we’re not done… They build a fire for a much-needed meal, and before Paul knows what hit him, a deadly snake bites him. Everyone pauses, expecting him to drop dead, but surprise—the venom doesn’t even affect him, and life goes on.
There’s no question about it—while Paul’s circumstances were certainly bigger than what most of us have experienced, it doesn’t diminish the fact that life often throws challenge after challenge upon us.
How do we respond to a pile-up of difficulties?
Imagine being Paul.
Really, God? I’m in jail for following Jesus?
Really, God? Nonstop, terrifying storms on the open sea for fourteen days?
Really, God? Land is finally in sight and now I’m stuck on a reef?
Really, God? I haven’t even caught my breath, and now a snake bite?
We often praise God when the shore is within sight and shake our fists at him when our boat suddenly gets stuck on an unexpected reef.
But Paul never sits and licks his wounds. In fact, one of the first things he does on the island is heal the father of the man who welcomed them. You certainly need faith for an act of healing. Three months later, Paul meets up with fellow believers in Rome. Acts 28:15b tells us that “on seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage.”
THE IMPORTANCE OF MEETING WITH OTHER BELIEVERS
Paul held tight to his faith during a pileup of challenges, surrounded by others who didn’t understand his steadfastness. He faithfully kept trusting in God to the point where other people probably thought he was ridiculous.
I love how the Bible tells us that Paul “thanked God and took courage” upon meeting up with other believers.
Paul is an incredible example for all of us. We can do life faithfully without the support of other Christ followers, but God uses other Christians to bring us extra doses of courage and faith. Doing life with other believers is like taking our vitamins when we feel a cold coming on. If we can blast our cold with enough vitamin c and zinc, we just might not get knocked down. If we have other Christians to stand with us in faith, we might just make it to the other side of our difficult situation.
This is one big reason why meeting together in church is so important. Although we can and should connect personally with God whenever and wherever we are (his presence is not confined to a church building, thank goodness), we can connect with God on a deeper level through the faith and encouragement of other people.
THE CALL TO ACTION
Do you find yourself stuck on a reef right now when you thought you were almost out of the boat?
If you have a Christian circle, give a friend or pastor a call. Even just a quick chat and prayer with a Christian friend can help courage rise up so you can face tomorrow with faith.
If you don’t have a Christian circle, try to find one. Try a new church, Christian group, or even online group. Be bold and reach out to start developing encouraging relationships.
Thank God and Take Courage. This Christian faith journey is not for the weak-hearted, but it can be an exciting, wonderful experience to learn to draw near to God’s goodness and mercy in ways you never would have expected.
Comment below with your thoughts or if you need prayer for any reason! I would love to connect with you. And if you haven’t already, be sure to sign up with your email address to receive future posts and exciting email updates from me—you’ll get a free downloadable prayer guide as a thank-you gift!
Also, if you know a middle-schooler who is going through a challenging time like we talked about above, my first novel, POWER UP, might just contain the encouragement they need to keep holding on to Jesus.
QUICK UPDATE on my writing journey: I’m excited to announce that I’m participating in a Christmas romance anthology, which will release from Elk Lake Publishing in November! Seven sweet Christmas romance novelettes in one book—it doesn’t get much better than that for the holidays! Can’t wait to share it with you in a few months.
Also, the literary agency I work with is still a bit backed up, so while my historical romance manuscripts have not yet been shopped around to publishers, they will be in the coming months. Prayers for a great publishing home would be appreciated! Meanwhile, I’m shoulder-deep in writing the third, which takes place in the 60s, so at least I’m never bored! 😊