"Riding the Wave of Change" part 2
Troubled Waters
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
September 20, 2009



Memory Verse:

Psalm 34:18 (NLT)
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

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AUDIO – Play the theme song to Gillian’s Island

Those poor people… just out for a three hour tour that stretched out into a three year series plus a couple TV movies. Those seven people, just out for a cruise, suddenly finding themselves in the middle of a storm, being tossed back and forth by the waves, just trying to survive.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation like that? Oh, I don’t mean literally… I just mean in life. Have you ever been sailing along peacefully in life, and all of a sudden the storm hits? It unleashes on you in a fury and you don’t know how you can survive?

Well, in life, we all go through our stormy seas. We all encounter troubles waters. And you don’t really have a choice about this. Life has its ups and downs, for all of us.
   
I would say this is the great equalizer. Because it doesn’t matter how rich you are, how educated you are, how old you are… it doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, if you’re religious or an atheist, a wise and intelligent person or a Montreal Canadiens fan. You’re going to face troubled waters in life.

So what do you do when the storm hits?

Last week here we began a brand new message series called “Riding the Wave of Change.” And we talked specifically about the major life changes we go through… the decisions we make that affect our lives and how we can keep our balance when going through them. And mostly we talked about the planned or expected life changes… like getting married, starting a job, moving to a new location, starting a new school… those things that we usually have some kind of control over but they still throw us for a loop.

Well, today, we’re going to talk about the changes in our lives that we don’t have much if any control over… the things that just happen that aren’t so pleasant… the troubles that come our way. Like losing a job, or encountering health problems, or suffering a major loss in life. What do you do when those kinds of storms hit?

Because let me tell you something… No matter who you are…

You are...

•    Heading into a storm
•    Currently going through a storm, or
•    Just coming out of a storm

So what we’re going to do this morning to help us learn to deal with these storms is take a look at an actual storm that happen it October about 1950 years ago. The account is found in the Bible in the book of Acts, and Jasmine just read it for us.

Let me give you some background. The Apostle Paul… an early follower of Christ and the man primarily responsible for spreading the news about Jesus beyond the Jewish community… had been arrested and was to stand trial.

In that era, being a leader of any religious sect without Roman approval was against the law, and causing riots and dissention in the Empire was considered treason against Caesar and was punishable by death. So these Jewish religious leaders who felt threatened by Paul and by this emerging Christian church came up with a plan… they caused dissention themselves and then blamed it on Paul, they exaggerated some of Paul’s actions, and they manufactured other charges against Paul in an attempt to get rid of him. So Paul, being a Roman citizen, claimed his right as a Roman citizen and appealed his case directly to Caesar, which would be the rough equivalent of us appealing to the Supreme Court.

But in order for that to happen, Paul needed to be transported to Rome. And that’s when things get interesting. Let’s pull up a map and take a look at this journey.

[PowerPoint]

The journey began here in Jerusalem with the final destination being all the way over here on the other end of the map. So they left Jerusalem and boarded a ship in Caesarea. This particular ship was just traveling to different ports along the coasts, and the plan was to find another ship in one of these ports that was sailing for Italy.

So they set off from Caesarea and landed the next day in Sidon, about 110 km (70 miles) north. They set out to sea again, and encountered some prevailing winds coming out of the west. So in order to use the island of Cyprus as protection, they sailed up the eastern side of the island and then across the northern side, until finally they landed in the port of Myra in Lycia. That’s where they found a ship heading for Italy and boarded it.

But when they set out from there, they were still battling the winds and made slow headway. They aimed to land here in Cnidus, but the winds wouldn’t let them hold their course, so they ended up sailing down the eastern side of Crete, finally landing in the port of Fair Havens.

But by now, they had lost a lot of time. In fact, it was after the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, which would most likely put them in early October. As a general rule, the Romans considered sailing after September 15th to be questionable, and sailing after November 11th to be suicidal. So they would have been right in the middle of that questionable period. Paul himself warned them that their voyage would be disastrous, but the centurion talked it over with the pilot and the owner of the ship, and they all thought they’d be able to reach the port of Phoenix which was more sheltered and they could spend the winter there. (Who wouldn’t want to spend the winter in Phoenix, eh?)

But shortly after they set off, a wind of hurricane force called the Northeaster swept down from the island, and caught the ship. They weren’t able to sail into the wind, and they ended up losing control of the ship and had to go wherever the wind took them. Which is understandable… it was six years ago next week that Hurricane Juan hit us. Imagine if you were out on a ship when Juan hit. I don’t think you would have stood much of a chance, either. And we only had to deal with Juan for what, an hour or two? Paul and the gang had to endure it for fourteen days!

So for fourteen days they were tossed about by this storm. During that time, they lightened the ship by throwing their cargo and equipment overboard, they cut their lifeboat loose, they went without eating, and for many days they couldn’t see the sun or stars, which would have made navigation impossible. They had no idea where they were and they lost all hope of being saved.

I want to read to you the rest of this account from Acts 27. It’s a longer section, so just listen for a while. I’m going to read it from the Message paraphrase of the Bible. Luke is the writer of Acts, and is traveling with Paul, so he writes in the first person…

Acts 27:21-44 (The Message)
With our appetite for both food and life long gone, Paul took his place in our midst and said, "Friends, you really should have listened to me back in Crete. We could have avoided all this trouble and trial. But there's no need to dwell on that now. From now on, things are looking up! I can assure you that there'll not be a single drowning among us, although I can't say as much for the ship--the ship itself is doomed.
"Last night God's angel stood at my side, an angel of this God I serve, saying to me, "Don't give up, Paul. You're going to stand before Caesar yet--and everyone sailing with you is also going to make it.' So, dear friends, take heart. I believe God will do exactly what he told me. But we're going to shipwreck on some island or other."
On the fourteenth night, adrift somewhere on the Adriatic Sea, at about midnight the sailors sensed that we were approaching land. Sounding, they measured a depth of one hundred twenty feet, and shortly after that ninety feet. Afraid that we were about to run aground, they threw out four anchors and prayed for daylight.
Some of the sailors tried to jump ship. They let down the lifeboat, pretending they were going to set out more anchors from the bow. Paul saw through their guise and told the centurion and his soldiers, "If these sailors don't stay with the ship, we're all going down." So the soldiers cut the lines to the lifeboat and let it drift off.
With dawn about to break, Paul called everyone together and proposed breakfast: "This is the fourteenth day we've gone without food. None of us has felt like eating! But I urge you to eat something now. You'll need strength for the rescue ahead. You're going to come out of this without even a scratch!"
He broke the bread, gave thanks to God, passed it around, and they all ate heartily-- 276 of us, all told! With the meal finished and everyone full, the ship was further lightened by dumping the grain overboard.
At daybreak, no one recognized the land--but then they did notice a bay with a nice beach. They decided to try to run the ship up on the beach. They cut the anchors, loosed the tiller, raised the sail, and ran before the wind toward the beach. But we didn't make it. Still far from shore, we hit a reef and the ship began to break up.
The soldiers decided to kill the prisoners so none could escape by swimming, but the centurion, determined to save Paul, stopped them. He gave orders for anyone who could swim to dive in and go for it, and for the rest to grab a plank. Everyone made it to shore safely.

So just to finish up the map, this is where they crashed on the Island of Malta. They spent the next three months there, until after the winter and they were able to board another ship heading to Rome.

That’s a physical storm that Paul and everyone on board the ship had to endure. And from that, we’re going to identify five steps we need to take when we encounter storms in our own lives.


When You Encounter a Storm in Life…

1.    Embrace God

Most people, when they encounter a storm, have one of two reactions as it relates to God. They either do this [push]… or they do this [embrace]. They either blame Him and push Him away or they, turn to Him and embrace Him. Which do you do?

Obviously, I believe the best response is to embrace Him. You can turn to Him and trust Him… you can count on Him… you can embrace Him… He will be there for you… and He will see you through.

In that storm on the Mediterranean, Paul depended on God. And God responded by sending a messenger to care for Him and encourage Him. In verse, 23, Paul told the other men on the ship…

Acts 27:23 (NLT)
“For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me…”

I believe that one of the things that helped Paul was knowing that He wasn’t alone… that God was on his side. So Paul told the other people on the ship about this God to whom He belonged. But it wasn’t a god who was removed from his creation, it wasn’t a god who was feasting on grapes on top of Mount Olympus, it wasn’t a god who was someplace beyond the stars. It was a God who was right there with Paul going through the storm with him.

Theologically, we talk about God as being both Transcendent (meaning that He is above and beyond all possible experience and knowledge and exists above this material existence) as well as being Immanent (meaning that He is right here right now, intricately involved in the tapestry of our lives). He cares for you.

And sometimes that’s all you need to help you through a storm: to know that you’re not alone. I love this verse from the Old Testament book of Isaiah… God says…

Isaiah 43:2 (NLT)
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.

That verse is included in your notes this morning. I want you to do something… take your pens and put a box around the words “I will be with you.” That’s a guarantee. Notice something else: it says “When you go through…” You’re not given an exemption from hard times. You’re going to have to face them at one time or another. But when you go through the storm, He goes through it with you. Read this with me…

Psalm 23:4 (NLT)
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.

VIDEO – from SermonVideos.com – WALKING ON WATER

Well, Paige certainly is an inspiring person, isn’t she? I love how she has chosen to turn to God… to trust Him… to embrace Him. And she’s right… Christ-followers do seem to have a different outlook on life, even in the midst of a storm. But I do disagree with her on one thing… I don’t believe our trials are necessarily part of God’s plan. I think He can use them, I think he can bring good out of them, but I think a lot of stuff that happens is no where’s close to what His plan for us is. So that brings us to the second thing…


2.    Recognize the cause of the storm and move past it

Sometimes the storms we encounter in life are the result of poor decisions we’ve made along the way. I mean, we want to point fingers, we want to blame other people, we want to blame God… but the truth is, we’re the ones to blame. Not always, but many times the storms we encounter are of our own making. Our health problems, our financial problems, our relational problems… a lot of times they’re preventable. Again, not always, but often.

But sometimes things do just seem to happen. And there doesn’t seem to be any reason for it… no one’s really at fault… so who do we blame? Well, a lot of people blame God.

In fact, there’s a legal term which every one of you has heard before… “Act of God.” When there doesn’t seem to be any reason for something, when no one’s really at fault, we feel like we’ve got to blame someone so we blame it on God.

Isn’t it interesting that for some people this is the only time they’ll ever acknowledge God… when they’re blaming Him?

But really, I think God gets blamed for a lot more than He should. I think most times our storms are our own fault, the fault of someone else, or just the result of living in a sin-stained world. The sin of humanity has corrupted not just us but all of creation. And so, bad things happen. To all of us. Storms happen because we live in a sin-stained world.

In the case of the storm in Acts 27, it was their own fault they were in the storm. Paul had warned them not to set sail… he told them it’d be disastrous… but no, they thought they could make it as far as the next port. And that was the reason they were stuck in the storm. In fact, Paul points that out…

Acts 27:21 (The Message)
Paul took his place in our midst and said, “Friends, you really should have listened to me back in Crete. We could have avoided all this trouble and trial.”

“Told you so.” So Paul’s acknowledging the reason they’re stuck in a storm. It was a decision they made to leave port. But I think what he says next is really important…

Acts 27:22 (The Message)
“But there's no need to dwell on that now.”

We talked about this a bit last week. Instead of living in the past, instead of blaming God, blaming others, or even blaming ourselves, we need to recognize the cause of the storm but then move forward.


3.    Believe God’s Promises

When the angel of the Lord appeared to Paul, the angel promised Paul that everything would work out. That was the message God had sent the angel to deliver… that everything would be all right. That they would survive the storm.

So, wouldn’t you expect that God would immediately calm the storm? I mean, Jesus Himself demonstrated that kind of power and authority. But did it happen? No, the storm raged on. But still, Paul believed the promise and he clung to it. In fact, Paul told the other men…

Acts 27:25 (NLT)
“So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as He said.”

Our God is a God of integrity. He has never broken a promise, he has never gone back on His word, He has never failed, and He never will. Believe His promises. Cling to them.

So what promises does He make to us today? Well, here’s one…

Psalm 34:18 (NLT)
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

That’s a promise God makes to you… to be close to you when you are brokenhearted and to rescue you. Believe Him.

God also promises that He will be with you always. Believe Him.
God promises you can do all things through Christ. Believe Him.
God promises that He can do exceeding abundantly more than you could ever ask or even think. Believe Him.
God promises strength to the weary. Believe Him.
God promises comfort for those who mourn. Believe Him.
God promises victory for those who maintain their faith in Him. Believe Him.
God promises rewards for those who are mistreated because of their faith. Believe Him.
God promises His peace when you go through a storm in life. Believe Him.
And to all Christ-followers, God promises a future home in Heaven where there will be no more pain, no more suffering, no more loss, no more sickness, no more death. Believe Him.

This Book (the Bible) is packed full of promises that God has made, and perhaps He has made some to you personally. Believe Him. He will not back out on His promises. You can trust Him.


4.    Appreciate the blessings of God

Recognize the blessings of God. Even when you’re smack dab in the middle of a personal storm, whatever it may be, take the time to recognize and appreciate the blessings of God.

Acts 27:35 (NLT)
Then he took some bread, gave thanks to God before them all, and broke off a piece and ate it.

What a strange thing to do. The ship is in danger of capsizing, the crew has been battling hurricane force winds for two weeks, and Paul gives thanks? What does he have to be thankful for?

Well, no lives had been lost, they still had some food to eat, and God had given them that great promise that everything would work out. So really, they had a lot to be thankful for.

And you know, it’s not a bad idea to look for the blessings of God even in the midst of a storm. The blessings may not be all that evident at first, but look for them and they’ll be there. And that can have a tremendous impact on your own attitude and perspective.

I think this is something we really need to pay attention to. Because it’s so easy for us to gripe and complain when everything seems to be working against us, but all that does is increase the intensity of the storm.

But what happens when you find something to be grateful for? Suddenly the storm doesn’t seem to be as bad. Oh, your circumstances may not have changed, the storm may still be raging, but your perspective changes. Take a look at what happened to the men on the ship after Paul gave thanks…

Acts 27:36-37 (NLT)
Then everyone was encouraged and began to eat—all 276 of us who were on board.

Men who had been so stressed out that they didn’t even have appetites for two weeks, suddenly were encouraged and were able to eat and regain some of their strength. And I think you would find the same response in your own life. Count your blessings, take note of what you have to thank God for, in spite of the storm you’re going through, and it will lift your spirits and help you make it through.
 

5.    Eliminate Excess Baggage

Acts 27:38 (NLT)
After eating, the crew lightened the ship further by throwing the cargo of wheat overboard.

[Notice the very important punctuation in this verse. It’s “After eating, the crew…” not “After eating the crew, …”]

The crew onboard the ship lightened their load and increased their chances of survival by physically throwing the cargo overboard. The storm they were in forced them to decide if they wanted to save their stuff or if they wanted to save their lives.

In our personal storms, we are also confronted with the opportunity to recognize what is truly important. And as difficult as it can be, our storms can actually help us clarify our priorities.

When you’re going through a financial storm, suddenly that high definition plasma screen TV doesn’t seem all that important, does it? When you’re going through a health crisis, that promotion at work is no longer your primary concern. When you have a relational crisis, that trip you’ve been saving for kind of gets put on the back burner. When you lose your job, accumulating the latest toys and gadgets slips down your list of priorities.

And what are you left with? What do you find is really important? Well, Family, friends, faith… those are the kinds of things that come to the forefront. And it’s those things that can help you through the storm.

VIDEO – from BluefishTV.com – THE STORY BEHIND THE HYMN: IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL


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