“Are you on board?”
You might be ‘on board’ a plane. You might be a recently hired employee, now ‘on board’ with a new company. You might be a consenting member of a team, in agreement and ready to cooperate with a program. ‘I’m on board.’
Acts 27 tells the well-known story of Paul’s perilous journey “on board” a ship sailing for Italy.
Here’s the background:
After his last visit to Jerusalem, a mob seized Paul and bound him, accusing him of wrong teachings. A commander, learning Paul was a Roman citizen, rescued him. Paul was tried before Felix and later Festus and then decided to appeal to Caesar.
Before he left, [Acts 23:11] …the Lord stood by him, and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness in Rome.”
Paul would cling to this promise through all the long weeks ahead.
He boarded the ship. Delays followed. Winter storms on the Mediterranean were dangerous. Paul spoke up and advised the crew not to sail.
Acts. 27:10-11 He warned the voyage would be “with hurt and much damage, but the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul.”
Acts 27: 14-19 A storm arose. The ship was caught. Unable to escape the wrath of the sea, they “let the ship drive.”
When caught in a storm, as so many have been, during 2020 and 2021 in particular, what can we do to survive, to be confident, to “be of good cheer”? The answer is in this story.
Undergird and Lighten the Ship.
They brought up the boat they were hauling behind them and undergirded the ship. These were cables or some kind of rope to stiffen the timbers and keep the ship from bulging in the strong tempest.
How do we “undergird” ourselves in our tempest?
- Turn to the Bible.
Jeremiah 15:15-16. O Lord, thou knowest me: remember me, and visit me, and revenge me of my persecutors; take me not away in thy longsuffering: know that for thy sake I have suffered rebuke. Thy words were found and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O Lord God of hosts.
Even if you don’t feel like reading, read anyway. The Bible is miraculous, life-giving, and God has promised His Word will not return void. [Isaiah 55:11]
- Turn to God and talk to Him honestly.
I Kings 19: 4 Elijah—after God fed him at the brook Cherith, after the miracle for the widow, after fire fell from Heaven, after he executed 800 prophets of Baal, after he outran Ahab’s chariot, Jezebel threatened to kill him. It was the final straw for the discouraged prophet.
“But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O, Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.”
When faced with the insurmountable and impossible, don’t mince words with God. Talk to Him honestly. He knows your need. Take your burden to Him and cry out for help.
And please note: Elijah’s discouragement came after all these great deliverances and accomplishments. No matter what age we are, or “how far we’ve come,” despair can get hold of us.
- Turn loose of what you can. [Lighten the ship.]
Hebrews 12: 1-2 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sing which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.
Into everyone’s life comes a time when you cannot do what you used to. Perhaps because of physical limitations, financial limitations, or emotional limitations. When this happens, let go of what weight you can.
You need not throw in the towel, and sit down, doing nothing, but if you’re overscheduled, and, as my grandmother used to say, “meeting yourself coming in the door,” then it may be time to take stock, and learn to say, “I’m sorry. I won’t be able to do that.”
Acts 27:21-26 In the midst of the storm, Paul exhorted his fellow voyagers to “be of good cheer; for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, Saying Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.”
Long before they reached land, Paul rescued them from despair. He comforts his fellow travelers with the same comfort he found. Everyone cheered up. Food was brought. Fellowship prevailed. People began to peer through the gloom with new hope. Somehow Paul’s God seemed very near. ~John Phillips.
After fourteen days, they reached land. They ran the ship aground. The front stuck; the back broke apart. They cast themselves into the sea.
Acts 27: 44. And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land.
If, as this new year begins, you are already “on boards”—“be of good cheer.”
Call upon God, and spread the case before Him; and tell Him your difficulty, and plead His promise of aid. Express your unstaggering confidence in Him. Believe that if He keep you tarrying even till midnight, yet He will come at the right time. –Charles Spurgeon
If you are “on board”—and God has given you a promise or seen you safely through storms of your own, then give assurance, as Paul did, to your “fellow travelers.”
Psalm 107: 25-30. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.