Friday, July 17, 2015

Getting Through the Storms of Life

Life Lessons from God's Word

I believe the stories in the Bible are lessons we can apply to our lives today. Many times the experiences of groups of people in the Bible can be applied to a single person's spiritual journey. The flight from Egypt, the wandering in the desert, and the entrance to the promised land, can all be used as metaphors for the Christian walk. During the wandering in the desert, the unbelieving generation of people died, just as each Christian person must let all his doubts and fears die in the desert before he can enter his personal promised land. So those people represent the doubts and fears in each of us that need to die. In the story of the shipwreck, different people in the story can be likened to different aspects of our personalities. In this hub, I show how a group of men's actions can be compared to the life of an individual as they deal with the storms of life. I show how you can use the lessons here to make it through to the other side of any difficulty you face. Most importantly, Paul said, "Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved." When you are going through difficulty, be kind to yourself, and don't neglect or reject any part of yourself. You are precious and necessary!

Stay on the Path

Do you ever feel like you are lost on the path of life? You have a plan. You are following your plan. Then suddenly, or gradually, your plan goes awry. You lose your footing. You lose sight of the goal. Your confidence is shaken. Your equilibrium is way off. Nothing makes sense anymore, and everywhere you turn looks like a dead end. You might say, I can handle this. I know what to do. So you do it. And you don't get the result that you hoped for. And now your world is really rocking. You look for God, and He's nowhere to be found. Or so it seems. You are no longer on dry ground. Suddenly, it is more like you are in the middle of the ocean, the sky is dark, the storm is raging, and you don't even have a compass.

The Storms of Life

Now you have entered into a storm. In the Christian life, we sometimes have mountain top experiences, sometimes we have dry desert experiences, and occasionally, we have a whopper of a storm. Sometimes they come on suddenly, without warning. Sometimes, we see them coming. Sometimes, just when we think we are nearing the end, the storm gets worse! The only thing we can do is cling to the promise that God will never leave us nor forsake us, even when everything we see may be telling us all hope is lost.

In God’s Word, the Bible, God has given us some tips on how to get through a storm. Acts 27:13-44 tells the story. The apostle Paul was a prisoner in the custody of the Roman army. The Roman soldiers were taking Paul and some other prisoners to Italy to stand trial before Caesar. Against Paul’s sound advice, the Roman Centurion decided to set sail even though it was too late in the year to travel safely by sea. Soon after they set sail, the storm hit. How many times did a voice inside tell you not to go in a direction, but you did it anyway? In verse 15, it says they could not head into the wind, so they gave way, and the wind drove them along. Now we know from the Bible that He has given us everything we need for life and godliness, and that with every temptation He has provided a way of escape, so I am not implying that we should give way to the temptation to sin. However, when the storms of life hit, don't struggle against what is happening by complaining, arguing, or fighting about things over which you have no control. Conserve your energy. Rest, both mentally and physically.

In verse 17, the men passed ropes under the ship to hold it together. When you are in a storm, get support. Use what is available to you. Does your church have a prayer chain? Call it. Are there certain scriptures, songs, or people that encourage you? Gather them around. Do you have certain rituals that calm you down? Prayer? Meditation? A bubble bath? Hot tea? A massage or spa treatment? Indulge yourself in these. Next, notice in verse 17 that the men lowered the sea anchor. The sea anchor is not the anchor that stops the ship completely. If they did that, the waves would hammer the ship to pieces. The sea anchor, however, does slow the ship down. Don't allow fear to paralyze you, or the circumstances to buffet you unnecessarily, but do slow down. Take your time in making decisions, and give yourself permission to take some time off from work, or release yourself from some of your commitments for the time being.

In verse 18, the storm raged so intensely that the men had to make a decision to throw their cargo overboard. Think about the "cargo" in your own life. What is it? Past wounds you have held onto. Affection for things not useful for you in your journey. Excess baggage. Things that weigh you down. These things may have seemed useful when you were sailing on smooth waters. That wall you built to keep from getting hurt, the computer games that help you zone out when you feel stressed, or things like bitterness, jealousy, or resentment.

During the storm, the crew had to toss the cargo overboard in order to survive. Speaking of survival, did you notice what happened next? The crew tossed the ship's tackle overboard with their own hands. These were skilled sailors, and the tackle represents their tools for survival and for success. What are your tools? What gifts and talents do you have to be successful in life? An advanced degree. A tremendous gift for speaking, singing, mathematics, building, organizing, or whatever! Now that you are in the storm, you realize even these things cannot help you. You cannot rely on them, but only on God. You may continue using them or you will use them again, but where the storm is raging, you find they are useless.

By the time we reach verse 20, there is no sign of relief, and the storm rages on. The men give up all hope. Sometimes in the natural, there is no hope. There is no medicine, operation, application, organization, or agency than can fix what has gone wrong. You might feel like Job at this point, with everyone who has not already abandoned you saying things like, just have faith, rebuke the devil, say this scripture, get the sin out of your life, speak in tongues, raise your hands, bow down, etc., etc., etc. Thanks a lot. I tried that, and fifty other things you never thought of.

The men had lost all hope. Remember, these were seaworthy men, not wimps. If you lose hope in the storm, you are not a wimp. You are having a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. Notice in verse 21, Paul indulges in a little, "I told you so." He said if they had listened to him they would not be in this mess. Perhaps you realize that if you had done such and such or not done so and so, you would not be in the storm. Perhaps. However, even if you got yourself into this mess, God is on your side and you can be encouraged. So ignore the accusers, the judgmental and the critical, and get yourself around encouragers. You know who they are.

Next, in verse 27, as the storm continued to drive them along, they sensed they were approaching land. This fact brought both relief and fear. Getting to land would mean they are saved, but if they ran aground during the night, the ship could be broken to bits by the waves. Some of the men responded in fear while others held onto the hope that Paul had said that all would be saved. In all of us is the tendency to respond to hope or to fear. When some of the men tried to escape in the lifeboat, the Centurions, the "police," cut the ropes.

Paul had received a vision that all the men would be saved. However, when some of the men tried to escape, Paul told those in charge that the vision would not come true without the cooperation of everyone on board. We could use this story as a metaphor for one person. We all have different facets of ourselves. Imagine Paul, the spiritual part of a man, received information from God, and passed on information, hope, and encouragement. Paul also recognized the danger of division and double mindedness. Some parts of us are on board with the spiritual man, ready and eager to obey God's leading and heed His warnings. Other parts of us are at the same time fearful. Double mindedness.

The Centurions and soldiers overrode the actions of the fearful ones by cutting the ropes and making it impossible for them to jump ship. Can you see this? Is there a "cop" part of you that can override the parts of you that are hesitant or fearful? What did these soldiers do? They removed the temptation. They removed the option of going in another direction. Can you think of ways you are doing the same in your own life? Deleting that negative person from your Facebook page. Throwing away magazines, CDs, DVDs, and unsubscribing from all the websites about that subject that is destructive to you? Cutting up your credit cards.

When it looked like they were on the home stretch, the dangers were increased. In verse 33, Paul encourages them again. He insists that they eat something. When we are in incredibly stressful situations, self-care is neglected. Gear up! Get some good food in you! What does that look like for you? Have you neglected to eat? Have you eaten only junk food? Have you neglected the spiritual food of the Word, fellowship, and prayer? Perhaps you have neglected your physical appearance and grooming. No one goes through a storm of this magnitude unscathed.

After they had eaten, they even threw the rest of the food overboard. Food. The very essence of physical life. Jesus said if you want to save your life, you must lose it. By this time they had given up everything of themselves and everything they could possibly rely on for life. They were trusting in God alone. Notice that, in verse 42, the soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners so they wouldn't escape. If they allowed prisoners to escape, it would most likely mean the loss of their own lives as punishment. Nevertheless, because of the spiritual man, Paul, that plan was stopped by the head of the soldiers, the Centurion. The last thing they gave up was life itself, both in sustenance and in protection of their own lives.

If you read on in chapter 28 verses 1 through10, we see that once the storm had passed, Paul and his shipmates enjoyed a time of peace, prosperity, and miracles. So don't give up in the times of your storm, even when it appears there is no hope.

Lessons in the Storms of Life

Once you have made it through the storm, you are back on dry land, and back on the path. But now, the load is lighter, the way is more cheerful, you are more creative, and your efforts are so much more effective! You've gained a healthy respect for the skills God has gifted you with to make a living (the tackle) and no longer claim them as your own or use them without relying on God. What happened? God sometimes uses the storms of life to help us throw off everything that hinders and the sin (like pride) that so easily entangles. He wants us to mount up as with wings like eagles, to run and not be weary, to walk and not faint.

Read about Paul's Shipwreck

·         Acts 27 NIV - Paul Sails for Rome When it was decided - Bible Gateway
Paul Sails for Rome When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who...

·         Acts 28:1-10 NIV - Paul Ashore on Malta Once safely on - Bible Gateway
Paul Ashore on Malta Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire...

Other Scripture References

·         Isaiah 40:31 NIV - but those who hope in the LORD will - Bible Gateway
but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and...

·         Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV - Therefore, since we are surrounded by - Bible Gateway
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.

·         1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV - No temptation has overtaken you except - Bible Gateway
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But...

·         2 Peter 1:3 NIV1984 - Making Ones Calling and Election Sure - Bible Gateway
Making Ones Calling and Election Sure His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called...

·         James 4:7-10 NIV - Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist - Bible Gateway
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you...

·         James 1:5-8 NIV - If any of you lacks wisdom, you should - Bible Gateway
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you...




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