I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that it seemed that whenever Dad and I were chatting that our conversations often drifted to storms that we had been in together when we were at sea. And the reason, of course, is that the storms are more memorable than the nice days at sea, not necessarily more pleasant, just more memorable.
And it seemed that whenever the talk turned to storms that inevitably there was one storm in particular that Dad would bring up.
The year I was in grade 12 Dad worked for Atlantic Towing in Saint John on a salvage tugboat. And he worked 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off. Often times during his two weeks off Dad would freelance for other companies as skipper. Sometimes he would work on the Pilot boat, running pilots out to ships coming into the harbour. Other times he worked for a company that was dredging Saint John Harbour. And sometimes he worked for a company that owned a retired RCMP patrol boat by the name of the Burin. The Burin was 48-foot-long and a little over 20 years old, if she had of been a horse you’d say that she been ridden hard and put away wet.
And now the Burin’s sole function in life was transporting crew members back and forth to ships that were anchored outside the harbour.
Well, one winter night a storm had settled into the Bay of Fundy and Dad was on call for the Burin. I was in my room doing homework, not that can’t be right, I was in my room reading and Dad came in and told me that he had gotten me some work as a deckhand on the Burin. Which was kind of funny, because I didn’t know I was looking for work as a deckhand on the Burin.
The storm had escalated to the point that they had shut down the Harbour, nothing was going out or coming in. Unfortunately, there was a ship anchored off the city that had allowed a number of their crew to go ashore before the storm had gotten worse. Now the ship had to sail and the company that owned the Burin had accepted the job to get the crew members out to the ship.
The problem was, that they had a skipper, but their regular deckhand refused to go out in the storm, and Dad said that wouldn’t be a problem, he had a deckhand. And he assured me that I wouldn’t have to worry about being sick, that I’d be too scared to be sick he was wrong. I was sick and scared.
It was the most terrifying night of my life. We finally got out to the ship and then we had to get the crew back on board, which meant they had dropped a rope ladder over the side, Dad would bring the Burin alongside, in these enormous waves, I’m not sure how big they were so I’ll make up a number, they were a thousand foot. I would help the crew member get in position, we would go up on a wave, they’d grab the ladder and we’d disappear from under them and every time you just prayed they could hang on.
And it seemed that every time we’d talk about being at sea Dad would bring up the night on the Burin and how scared and sick I was, and then he’d laugh. And I’d remind him that I had never gotten paid for that night and he’d laugh again.
This is week 3 of our “Weathering the Storms of Life” series. On the first week, we looked at the story of Jonah and the storm he found himself in.
And you’ll remember that we learned five things from that story
1) Not Every Storm Is Our Fault
2) Every Action Has Consequences for Others.
3) Don’t Make Major Decisions When You Are in The Midst of a Storm.
4) No Storm Lasts forever
5) The Remedy for Disobedience Is Obedience.
Last week we looked at the time that Jesus calmed the storm that he was in the with the disciples on the Sea of Galilee. And from that story we learned:
1) Sometimes Obedience Leads Us into Storms
2) Jesus Is Always With Us In The Storm
3) The Storm Teaches Us About Ourselves
4) The Storm Teaches Us About Jesus
5) It’s Easy to Nap When You Know Who’s in Control.
And again, if you missed those messages the manuscripts and videos are available on the church website.
This week’s story comes from the book of Acts in the New Testament.
So let’s start with The Back Story the story begins when Paul after having returned to Jerusalem to meet with Jesus’ brother James and the other leaders of the baby church is arrested. Paul had been worshipping at the temple and after he was recognized by some of the Jewish leaders a near riot breaks out.
You’ll remember that Paul had been a high-profile Jewish leader who was intent on destroying the early church before his conversion. But now that he was a Jesus follower his old compatriots weren’t amused to see him back in Jerusalem.
A Roman officer ordered Paul to be arrested and we pick up the story in Acts 21:37-38 As Paul was about to be taken inside, he said to the commander, “May I have a word with you?” “Do you know Greek?” the commander asked, surprised. “Aren’t you the Egyptian who led a rebellion some time ago and took 4,000 members of the Assassins out into the desert?”
Talk about a case of mistaken identity. Paul tells the commander who he is and asks the commander for permission to address the crowd, which was granted. And Paul proceeds to tell the mob the story of his conversion and urges them to embrace the claims of Christ and repent. Well, that goes over like Denn trying to pole vault.
The commander orders Paul to be whipped so he will confess, they hadn’t invented waterboarding yet. But before the whipping commences Paul plays his trump card. Which has nothing to do with the President and is simply a term indicating the winning card in a card game.
We pick up the story in Acts 22:25 When they tied Paul down to lash him, Paul said to the officer standing there, “Is it legal for you to whip a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been tried?” Oops. A bit of a blunder.
And the next two chapters are filled with intrigue and deception, the Jewish leaders conspire to kill Paul, the Roman commander hears of the plot and transports Paul to the city of Caesarea to stand trial before the Roman Governor, a man named Felix, who left Paul in prison for two years.
Finally, Felix is replaced as governor by Festus who agrees to hear Paul’s case.
The Jewish religious leaders demand that Paul be returned to Jerusalem to stand trial before the high priests, all the while planning on ambushing him and killing him on the way Jerusalem.
So, you still with me? Governor Festus asks Paul if he’s willing to stand trial in Jerusalem and we read Paul’s response in Acts 25:10-11 But Paul replied, “No! This is the official Roman court, so I ought to be tried right here. You know very well I am not guilty of harming the Jews. If I have done something worthy of death, I don’t refuse to die. But if I am innocent, no one has a right to turn me over to these men to kill me. I appeal to Caesar!”
Which was Paul’s right as a Roman Citizen. And at that point everything stopped, kind of like if you are arrested and are being questioned, once you ask for a lawyer, the questioning should stop.
So if we keep reading we discover, Acts 25:12 Festus conferred with his advisers and then replied, “Very well! You have appealed to Caesar, and to Caesar you will go!”
There is a whole other story that follows where Paul ends up stating his case and sharing his testimony with the Governor and King Agrippa, who like King Herod before him was just a puppet king under the Romans.
But ultimately we arrive at Acts 27:1 When the time came, we set sail for Italy. Paul and several other prisoners were placed in the custody of a Roman officer named Julius, a captain of the Imperial Regiment.
And this is where we discover The Storm Story
And then things go to pieces. Listen to some of the descriptions over the next forty verses. Acts 27:4 Putting out to sea from there, we encountered strong headwinds that made it difficult to keep the ship on course, so we sailed north of Cyprus between the island and the mainland.
Acts 27:7 We had several days of slow sailing, and after great difficulty we finally neared Cnidus. But the wind was against us, so we sailed across to Crete and along the sheltered coast of the island, past the cape of Salmone.
Acts 27:9 We had lost a lot of time. The weather was becoming dangerous for sea travel because it was so late in the fall, and Paul spoke to the ship’s officers about it.
Acts 27:14 But the weather changed abruptly, and a wind of typhoon strength (called a “northeaster”) caught the ship and blew it out to sea.
Acts 27:27 About midnight on the fourteenth night of the storm, as we were being driven across the Sea of Adria, the sailors sensed land was near.
And then finally, Acts 27:41 But they hit a shoal and ran the ship aground too soon. The bow of the ship stuck fast, while the stern was repeatedly smashed by the force of the waves and began to break apart.
I think I may have been on that trip or one like it, where a shipwreck would have been a welcome development.
And that leads us to, Lessons from the Story
Sometimes a Storm is just a Storm
You will remember that in the story of Jonah it was Jonah’s disobedience that caused the storm. God said “Go”, Jonah said “No”. God wanted Jonah to go East, Jonah went west. And as a result of his disobedience, he wound up in the middle of a storm. And we discovered that some storms are caused by our disobedience.
But last week we discovered that the Apostles were obedient to what Jesus asked them to do, he told them to get into the boat, he told them to set sail. And they did exactly what they had been asked to do, and they wound up in a storm.
To be truthful I find the first example a lot easier to understand than the second example.
In the case of Paul, we don’t see God telling him to set sail nor forbidding him to set sail. It was a decision that Paul made, and as a result of that decision he found himself in the midst of a storm.
Sometimes we are the cause of our storms, you smoke and get lung cancer, you cheat on your spouse or neglect your spouse and your marriage dissolves, you do something illegal and you go to jail.
But, I was at a funeral earlier in the month for a lady who had never smoked, and she died of lung cancer. I’ve sat across from people who were completely blindsided when their spouse walked out on them. And believe it or not, I’ve met innocent people who were charged with crimes.
We are on a journey in this life and it’s not always a safe journey. Sorry.
I would say that Paul was in the storm because of a decision he made. He chose to appeal to Caesar and because of that choice he was put on the ship and ended up in the storm.
Remember I told you that he had the opportunity to speak to Festus and King Agrippa? When he was done we pick up this conversation between the two politicians: Acts 26:32 And Agrippa said to Festus, “He could have been set free if he hadn’t appealed to Caesar.”
That would have been handy to know beforehand.
Storms Don’t Always Come Alone I’m sure that by the time they were in the midst of the third storm they must have been thinking, “surely this has to end”. They must have felt like Mr. Murphy was sailing with them.
And we talked about that a couple of weeks ago, that every storm has an end, but sometimes there is another storm right behind the first one.
Do you remember the Old Testament story of Job? All of his livestock is stolen, his house is destroyed, his children are killed and then he ends up with boils all over his body. One storm after another.
On 24 November 1992, The Queen gave a speech to mark the 40th anniversary of her Coronation. She began her speech with these words, “1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an ‘Annus Horribilis’.” Which if you don’t speak Latin is translated “A horrible year.”
That year three of the Queen’s children separated from their spouses, the media seemed to take particular pleasure in picking at the Royal family and Windsor Castle caught fire and was extensively damaged. And any year that one of your castles catches on fire has to be a horrible year.
Eventually, Job’s storms ended and for the Queen 1992 ended on December 31st. For Paul and the crew of the ship they storm finally blew itself out, and your storm will end too.
If There’s Something You Can Do, Do It. If you read through the story you see the ship’s crew taking shelter close to shore, they ran ropes under the hull to hold the ship together, they tried to lighten the ship by throwing cargo overboard, they set sea anchors and when they got close to shore they dropped four anchors to slow down their drift onto the rocks.
They did everything they could humanly do.
I know it’s an old joke but the story is told about the man in the flood and as the water got up to his front door a canoe came by and the guy in it said “Hop in I’ll give you a lift”, to which the first man replied, “no thanks the Lord will save me.” Well eventually the water got to the second floor and a man in a speedboat came by and the fellow in it said, “Hop in I’ll give you a lift”, to which the first man replied, “no thanks the Lord will save me.”
Well you know how the story went, the water go roof high and a helicopter arrived offering the man a lift to safety but still, he declined, saying, “no thanks the Lord will save me.” And then the man fell off the rood and drowned. When the man got to heaven he demanded of God, “How come you didn’t save me?” And God answered, “Hey I sent two boats and a helicopter.”
God is an awesome God and God is a miracle-performing God, but God also gave us a brain to use. If you have a toothache go to the dentist. If you are feeling sick, see a doctor. Take care of your car, your house, your health and your marriage.
I know a lady who stopped wearing her glasses because she was convinced that God would heal her vision, then she got headaches from not wearing her glasses. Maybe God had already healed her vision by providing glasses.
The next thing we learn is The Consequences of the storm Can Outlast the Storm When the storm was over, Paul and Luke and the others were on a beach, just not the beach they were heading for. Let’s pick up the story in Acts 27:42 – 28:2 The soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners to make sure they didn’t swim ashore and escape. But the commanding officer wanted to spare Paul, so he didn’t let them carry out their plan. Then he ordered all who could swim to jump overboard first and make for land. The others held onto planks or debris from the broken ship. So everyone escaped safely to shore. Once we were safe on shore, we learned that we were on the island of Malta. The people of the island were very kind to us. It was cold and rainy, so they built a fire on the shore to welcome us.
In the first two stories we looked, we saw storms that suddenly stopped.
The winds stopped blowing, the sea becomes calm. But even in that, there were consequences. I’m sure that some of the sailors who threw Jonah overboard lived with that decision for the rest of their lives. They didn’t know how the story ended. As far as they knew they had killed a man. And even when the storm ended for the sailors it continued for Jonah.
In the second storm, well after the winds had calmed down the storm would shape how the apostles viewed themselves and Jesus.
When a storm leaves you without a spouse or a child, you’re never the same. Sometimes a business failure allows you to change directions. Because Paul and Luke ended up on the Island of Malta they were able to share the gospel with people who wouldn’t have heard it otherwise.
Recently I bought a print from our very own Bee Stanton that says, “A wise old mariner perhaps once said ‘Never grumble of how the winds they howl, tis one of the few things in life you cannot change.”
Which goes along with Bryant H. McGill who wrote: “When the storm rips you to pieces, you get to decide how to put yourself back together again.”
You will decide if you will simply go through the storm or if you will grow through it. You will let the storm make you better or bitter.
And finally, Never Forget, God is There In the middle of the storm Paul took time to pray and took the opportunity to thank God.
The promise of God is that he will be with you, period. In the good weather and in the storms.
In the storm claim Isaiah 43:2 as your own promise Isaiah 43:2 When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.
And it was because of Paul’s confidence in God’s presence and God’s promises that he was able to encourage the rest of the crew and passengers. You don’t know who might be watching how you respond to the storm.
So a couple of thoughts to finish up, Hunter S Thompson asked the question, “So we shall let the reader answer this question for himself: who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?”
And here is the promise from the past two messages: Proverbs 10:25 When the storms of life come, the wicked are whirled away, but the godly have a lasting foundation.
Numbers 6:24-26 ‘May the LORD bless you and protect you. May the LORD smile on you and be gracious to you. May the LORD show you his favour and give you his peace.’