With all the alarms and hype, it’s easy to sink into a funk about how awful the world is. We Christians say to each other that surely, Jesus is coming "soon." But Jesus said that two millennia ago, and it doesn’t seem particularly immediate! Meanwhile, it’s definitely more difficult to make the income stretch to meet the expenditure, and the “bad guys” work even harder in myriad ways to steal your earnings.
How was it possible that in the midst of a hurricane of several days’ duration, and the impending doom of the ship carrying him, the apostle Paul was able to have peace, and tell his fellow sufferers that all was well, to have a meal, and they’d all be saved? How could Jesus’ disciples, experienced fishermen, be expected to know that their slumbering Master would calm their raging tempest with His spoken word?
Hebrews 13 has interesting prepositions and conjunctions. The writer exhorts us to keep loving both our spiritual family and the aliens among us; to cultivate hospitality because we may be honored with the presence of the angels; to honor marriage vows (even if you’re not married, be faithful to your future spouse); and then – “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.’ So we can say with confidence, ‘The LORD is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?’” Hebrews 13:5-6 NLT.
How do those statements track? For? So? Surprising little words. Paul used the same little words at the end of the two-week gale that threatened 276 lives on the ship. “So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said.” Acts 27:25 NLT
This part of the story holds a huge surprise: cut loose your only hope and security, let it drift off and sink, and watch what God will do to your situation.
Then the sailors tried to abandon the ship; they lowered the lifeboat as though they were going to put out anchors from the front of the ship. But Paul said to the commanding officer and the soldiers, “You will all die unless the sailors stay aboard.” So the soldiers cut the ropes to the lifeboat and let it drift away. Acts 27:30-32 NLT
LET GO?? Be relaxed? Have peace? Put your hands down and stop struggling? That’s a lot like saying during the Force-Five tornado, “Peace, be still.”
A song lyric by Steven Curtis Chapman says, “Sometimes His voice comes calling / Like rolling thunder, / Or like driving rain; / And sometimes His voice is quiet, / And we start to wonder / If He knows our pain. / But He who spoke peace to the water / Cares more for our hearts than the waves…” *
We often attribute troubles and storms to the enemy. To the devil. But sometimes it’s God Himself in the raging hurricane or the earthquake or the fire. His voice, the same voice that created the heavens and earth, the same voice that declares our salvation, comes in a whisper, and it comes in a roar. Sometimes His glory and grace can best be revealed in what we perceive as trouble.
How was God’s glory revealed in Paul’s storm and shipwreck? Everything happened as Paul’s angel had said. No one even lost a hair in the ship’s breakup and the swim to the island. But better than that, when the poisonous snake struck Paul's hand, people witnessed God’s miraculous healing power and became believers in Jesus Christ.
Just by reading the news, we can see how predictions played out as the months and years pass, and we can make educated predictions of our own. But some predictions are not of this world: they’re spiritually discerned. That’s how we can predict with confidence during a crisis of finance or war, during a life-threatening natural disaster, that we trust in the Lord and have submitted all we are and have to Him, SO He is in control and we will have no fear FOR He is God alone.
We have faith. We trust that God’s glory will be revealed, and that we are His servants, His instruments to make peace where there is war, to create prosperity from disaster, to encourage and lift up the terrified and hopeless and abused.
Predictions. We will have NO FEAR. All we have to know is that God will never leave us or forsake us. Ever. Because He is Immanuel, God With Us.
* His Eyes, by Steven Curtis Chapman, c. 1988.