And yet, here you are.
There’ve been some Goliaths here and there, some Waterloos, a Gethsemane or two, and perhaps even a dark night of the soul to spice things up. But you made it. You’re here and in one piece. Yes, you’ve accumulated your share of scars, a wine cellar of bottled tears, and there might even be a hint of PTSD, but the fact remains, you came through. It wasn’t bootstraps or fine breeding that got you through, either. It was God.
I’ll tie a bow on this four-part “God Is Not…” series with this final faith-building installment. In preparation for whatever Everests or Hades that loom before us in 2015, whatever crises of belief to assay our faith, God has already won the day and we are citizens of His unshakable Kingdom.
So what have we learned about God-in-crisis? What is the climate in the throne room when the fury of hell is unleashed? What can we expect from Him as the days grow more uncertain, as frightening darkness encroaches, as alarms are sounding, when even the experts are turning to gloom-and-doom forecasts?
We’ve learned that:
God Is not nervous in the least
God is not aloof and uncaring
And, God is not handicapped
The Psalmist says He even “laughs” in the face of the would-be oppressors – but smiles on His own, because
He looks intimately upon us as we toil and strive against the onslaught of waves – and He’s not at a loss…for words. He will stand and shout at the storm “Enough!” and carry us through.
All the resources of glory are at His disposal and in full operation to countermand the wickedness of evil’s hate against His own. He is not self-absorbed but “will fight for you.” (Exodus 14:14)
And the word that feeds our soul today is,
God Is Not Finished
Paul, the apostle of suffering, said he’d been shipwrecked three times, was once set adrift at sea and, at other times, experienced “dangers at sea” – all in one paragraph (2 Cor 11:25,26). He and the sea didn’t get along too well, it would seem.
Acts 27 gives a harrowing account of one such shipwreck. Luke accurately recounts that Paul was a carefully-guarded prisoner and was loaded onto a cargo ship for an appointment with Caesar in Rome. His case as an insurrectionist against Rome was going to be reviewed by a Roman court with Caesar himself presiding.
It wasn’t the best time to be sailing on the contrary Mediterranean and Paul suggested to the captain they might find a harbor to winter in. The captain considered it but sought other counsel and was told the ship was sturdy to face whatever the sea could throw at it and, besides, weren’t they under some time constraints to deliver their charge? You guessed it. They pushed on – straight into the teeth of a nor’easter.
For two whole weeks they battled and toiled and despaired. They didn’t see the sun for fourteen straight days but fought through night-like conditions 24 hours a day, without food as the all-hands-on-deck situation kept them active and occupied. This was a once-in-a-lifetime storm that terrorized even the most hardened veteran sailors. And there was Paul.
Nearly two weeks of this and Paul was in his quarters one night when he was visited by an Angel who told him,
Don’t fear this storm, Paul. You will not die and none of the other 276 men will die, either. You are destined to speak to Caesar and to Caesar you will go!”
Paul believed God and shared this news with the crew later that night.
“Men,” he said, “God has told me we will not die. Look, you haven’t eaten in two weeks, so eat!”
It was a strange thing to say. The boat was still being lashed by rains and wind and the waves remained mountains of fury against them, but in the midst of it all, as Paul surely had to shout to be heard, there was the promise of deliverance – and the respite of food.
I think we’re in a calm before the storm hits. Indeed it’s coming and it’ll be unlike any past storm we’ve come through before. I believe we’ve foolishly pushed out from Crete instead of listening to the warnings of God, trusting rather in the size and seaworthiness of our vessels. Consequently, there are frightening days ahead – days of peril and dashed hopes. But even in this, God is not absent. His hands are not tied. He will come and save us because we have islands to save and Caesars to stand before and Romes to invade and snakes to shake off our hands – because Acts doesn’t finish with chapter 27 but moves seamlessly into chapter 28.
But the cost will be high.
Remember, it is not the storm – or the size of it – that dictates the outcome. That’s the Lord’s call. Some of us will have to swim for our lives, some will cling to planks and others will have to fight for mere scraps (Acts 27:44) – but God has spoken, He is not finished, and we will make it to shore.
our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast,
and our eternal home:
Under the shadow of thy throne,
thy saints have dwelt secure;
sufficient is thine arm alone,
and our defense is sure.
Before the hills in order stood,
or earth received her frame,
from everlasting thou art God,
to endless years the same.
A thousand ages in thy sight
are like an evening gone;
short as the watch that ends the night
before the rising sun.
Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
bears all its sons away;
they fly, forgotten, as a dream
dies at the opening day.
O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
be thou our guide while troubles last,
and our eternal home!
- Isaac Watts