The Grace of Storms

Sermon by Gary Sinclair on Mar 10

Acts 27

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This evening, I’d like to invite you to take up your Bibles and turn with me to Acts chapter 27; Acts chapter 27. For those of you using the pew Bibles, you’ll find our chapter and our verse on page 936. Page 936 in the pew Bibles.

As you're turning there and before we read a large portion of this passage together, let me begin by asking you some of the images that went out on the various forms of modern media where it's almost as if the oceans themselves seem to turn against humanity, where nothing remains in their path, as wave after wave after wave pounds the shorelines at various places around the earth. It's an incredible display of fury and power in many of those cases. I mean, who can forget the images that were sent around the world on December 26, 2004, where we were watching in horror as a tsunami literally engulfed large portions of the east - 285,000  people lost their lives. Eight months later, we would watch Hurricane Katrina amass vast devastation across the Gulf Shore and destroying much of the city of New Orleans. Two thousand five hundred people lost their lives. It's estimated 80% of the city was underwater and in some places 4 meters deep. Some families, some people never had a sense of a normal life after that and some are still recuperating. You here in Jackson, you'll remember those events because in many ways it affected you - physically, emotionally, mentally, psychologically, even spiritually as you had wave upon wave upon wave upon people trying to flee to a place of safety as they were coming away from the place of terror two-and-a-half, three hours south of here.

And so whether you’ve seen it or whether you’ve experienced it, there is a sense in which we understand the ferocity of the open seas and that we can begin to understand and identify with part of what Luke is describing for us in Acts chapter 27, the passage that’s before us. Now just before we read it, you will remember that in Acts 21 or since Acts 21, Paul has been a prisoner for a period of two years. Initially, he’s been a prisoner of the Jewish authorities and then because he’s appealed to Caesar with regards to his trial, he then became a prisoner of the Roman government. And at this point in Acts 27, Paul is in the custody of Julius who is a Roman centurion who is preparing to take him on a ship and take him all the way on this long journey to Rome. They’re embarking on this journey not knowing what is about to take place. A few hiccups are on the way. And yet amidst adverse weather conditions that pound their voyage, one of the things that hopefully we will see as we read this text together is that we must see the beauty and the grace of God’s hand of sovereign mercy in the midst of this. That’s one of the things that I want us to draw out of the text this evening. It’s so indicative of life. Isn’t it? It’s so indicative of the Christian life - wave after wave after wave pummels our life from various angles and yet there is grace upon grace upon grace that undergirds and supports us and sustains us.

And so before we read God’s Word together, let’s bow our heads as we turn to Him in prayer. Let’s pray.

Our Father in heaven, we give You thanks and praise for gathering us as Your people together this evening. What a great privilege to worship and to adore the living God. Father, we pray that You would use Your Word in a powerful way, preparing hearts and minds even at this moment for the seeds of truth that they may fall on ready soil and bring forth beautiful fruit for the glory of King Jesus. We pray this and ask these things in Christ’s name. Amen.

We will read verse 1 and then I’ll direct you to a couple of other verses and then read a large portion together. Verse 1. This is God’s Word:

“And when it was decided that we should sail for Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort named Julius.”

 

And then down to verse 8. They’re off the lee of Crete at this point in their voyage:

"Coasting along it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea.  Since much time had passed, and the voyage was now dangerous because even the Fast" - that's the Day of Atonement - "was already over, Paul advised them, saying, ‘Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.' But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. And because the harbor was not suitable to spend the winter in, the majority decided to put out to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing both southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.  Now when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to the shore. But soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land. And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along. Running under the lee of a small island called Cauda, we managed with difficulty to secure the ship's boat. After hoisting it up, they used supports to undergird the ship. Then, fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear, and thus they were driven along. Since we were violently storm-tossed, they began the next day to jettison the cargo. And on the third day, they threw the ship's tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.

Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, ‘Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship,  and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we must run aground on some island.’

When the fourteenth night had come, as we were being driven across the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors suspected that they were nearing land. So they took a sounding and found twenty fathoms. A little farther on they took a sounding again and found fifteen fathoms. And fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let down four anchors from the stern and prayed for day to come.”

Interesting that so-called unbelievers at this point are praying!

“And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, and had lowered the ship's boat into the sea under pretense of laying out anchors from the bow, Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, ‘Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.’ Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship's boat and let it go.

As day was about to dawn, Paul urged them all to take some food, saying, ‘Today is the fourteenth day that you have continued in suspense and without food, having taken nothing. Therefore I urge you to take some food. For it will give you strength, for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.’ And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat. Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves. (We were in all 276 persons in the ship.) And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, throwing out the wheat into the sea.”

We’re going to read just up until that point. From there on, there’s a bit of a running of the ground and the ship begins to break apart, but all 276 people on board do make it to safety on the island of Malta. Here ends God’s Word. Amen.

In South Africa, a few miles offshore from the beautiful Cape Peninsula, there is a very treacherous stretch of ocean. It’s well known amongst captains of seafaring vessels. Many lives and many vessels have been claimed over the years. And part of the danger at this point in the ocean is three-fold. The first one is that there are gale force winds that come up from the south from Antarctica and they come without warning. And together with that, there’s gale force winds that often come across from the west, across the Atlantic Ocean, and cause much damage to some of those ships. There’s also the coming together of the blue, cold Atlantic Ocean together with the warmer, Indian Ocean and that causes certain swells on the sea itself. And then on top of that, there are many rock protrusions offshore that have to be very carefully navigated. This region and this stretch of the coastline has been called the Cape of Storms. The Cape of Storms. It’s a region that, as I said, has claimed many vessels and amidst the tragedy and the great loss of life, thousands of people have lost their lives as a result, there are also stories of abundant grace that have emerged.

On one occasion in the early 1900s, a ship called the Petronella, they were on their voyage sailing from Europe around the Cape Point on their way to the east. Many on board were looking for new opportunities that had arisen out in some of the countries that were on the Asia Pacific region. The captain seemed to be navigating the vessel with near precision and just when he thought he was in the clear there was one of those southern gusts of wind from the Antarctic side that blew the ship against one of the rock protrusions and it started to take on water. He continued sailing up the Cape coastline with the hope that it would get to one of the ports, but wave after wave after wave continued to batter the vessel and another vessel was eventually claimed by the ocean and most people on board lost their life. However, stories of grace began to emerge in the months that followed. And I'm going to leave you at that point and pick up the story right at our end time together.

Returning to the passage that’s before us in Acts chapter 27, we have Luke and Aristarchus accompanying Paul, two of his dear friends, on this long journey towards Rome. We know that this is Paul’s final journey and that he is going there basically to testify before Caesar and before the Roman courts. God will use that in profound and magnificent ways in the furtherance of the Gospel in the Roman Empire. A number of scholars looking at this text have asked questions of, “Why is it that Luke gives such precise detail about running over this lee and under this lee and around here and traveling so far and almost hitting the Syrtis, which is out towards Libya?”

And of course it could be multiple factors, but one of the options that they do set forth is that Luke is desperately wanting us as the reader to understand just how harrowing this ordeal and this experience was for all 276 people that were on board. This was not an easy journey. In fact, as we read through this and as we go through this, this evening, we’re going to see that God was bringing each and every one of them to the end of themselves, ultimately so that they would look up to the One who is in control. As one reads, we dare not miss the sovereign hand of God that is behind these events. We have to see God’s fingerprint all over this. It’s the same God who continues to fulfill His promise to the apostle Paul that “You will stand before Caesar and give an account in the courts of Rome.” Chapter 23 verse 11 was the promise God made to Paul. One of the things we have to grasp is how Luke, he longs for the reader to know that God’s purposes cannot be thwarted. God’s purposes cannot be thwarted, even by the forces of nature that are ultimately in His hands and He uses it for His own means.

The other thing that we’re going to come across and we’re going to see very clearly here is that Luke paints a picture of Paul’s calm and very wise disposition in the midst of all of this. Even though he’s the prisoner, all 276 passengers on board survive this ordeal due to his boldness to proclaim the truth of the Word that had been expressed and declared to him. In other words, he didn’t hold back but he expressed that with boldness. And I’m pretty sure that in the months that were to come on the island of Malta this would have an unforgettable impact upon each of those men and women that were on board that ship during this time.

Now bringing it a little bit closer to home, I’m pretty sure that many of us here in the sanctuary this evening we have never faced a storm at sea, not to this extent at least. But each and every one of us has been pummeled by the waves of life. And sometimes it comes at us from different angles and with different strengths. And sometimes it’s wave after wave after wave. And sometimes we may even get to the point where we despair for life itself, just as some of them on board in verse 20 did too. It’s not if these things will happen, it’s rather when these things will happen.

Three Gospel Truths

And so this evening I want us to consider three truths that come out of the text. The first one is the fact that God is sovereign. It’s all over this chapter. God is sovereign. The second one is, I want you to see how patient God is. God is patient. And thirdly, I want you to notice that God is always on mission. God is always on mission. So he’s sovereign, patient, and on mission.

God is Sovereign

Firstly, God is sovereign. Let us consider this. I think in Presbyterian circles it’s safe to say that the Biblical doctrine of God’s sovereignty, it’s meant to be one of the most precious, practical truths and a great comfort to us in times of great trial. It’s not meant to be something that we hold to theoretically but it actually plays out into the details of our everyday existence. And yet, I can’t tell you how many times - maybe not so much in the United States - how many times I’ve heard men and women say, when there’s a time of grief and suffering, that “God is not in the midst of this.” I remember a time in South Africa at a funeral - it was a tragic set of circumstances where a teenager had committed suicide and the pastor looked to the family and said to the family, said to them, “This was not God’s plan to take your son.” Now I guess we get what they’re trying to communicate. They’re trying to use human platitudes as a means to ease the pain and sadness and grief. But in actual fact, what is being communicated is that for some moment in time, God lost control and He was subservient to a greater force.

Now besides being blasphemous, that can hardly be comforting to those who have lost a loved one. It’s far more comforting to believe what the Bible teaches, and that is that God is absolutely sovereign over every detail of the created order. All of history belongs to Him and the whole of our lives is in the palm of His hand. And in the midst of tragedy and in the midst of tough circumstances, it’s better to rely and to cling to the One who reveals Himself to be faithful, trustworthy, merciful, gracious, comforting, who is the strength, who is our anchor, who is the Rock of our salvation and all the other great names and attributes that have been given to us as God’s revelation of Himself in Scripture. And so when you’re in a situation that is out of your control, when it’s out of our control, please remember that it’s never out of God’s control. That may seem straightforward, but we as human beings tend to forget and we need to be reminded of that.

This ship that is in Acts 27, it is out of control. We see that in verses 15 through 20, over and over again. It was at the mercy of this fierce storm. Helplessness had begun to set in amongst the majority of the sailors. They were doing everything they possibly new to do. All their training, all their experience was coming to bear and it was having no effect in sparing the ship, and of course, they were fearing for their life. They had lowered the sails we're told, in verses 17 and 18, in order to protect the sail and to protect the mast. They had tied straps around the boat to prevent its disintegration. Literally, they took ropes, or it may have been steel cables, and strapped it around the hull with the hope that it would actually hold the boat together. And then over the course of two or three days, we're told that they began the process of dumping most of the precious grain and cargo overboard, and eventually other non-essential items. Their very livelihood was being thrown overboard because it was of no substance, it was of no worth in the midst of the fact that they were about to lose their life. They were doing whatever was needed to be done in order to regain control and to avoid the reefs off the coast of Libya, Syrtis in verse 17, which was to the south.

And then we see this little thing in verse 20, because nothing had changed, and we see the majority position of those on the boat - "all hope of being saved was abandoned." There's a sense of utter helplessness, being brought to the end of themselves, that there is nothing more that can be done in the midst of this situation. But friends, God was in control. He always is. It is not as if the storm took God by surprise. It's not as if He was having to get together a heavenly council meeting in order to devise "Plan B," in order to make sure that Paul lands safely on the shore in order to get him to Rome in order to fulfill what had originally been stated. God was coordinating every detail and it was with absolute precision because there's a sense in which He wasn't just going to fulfill what had been said to Paul, but He was preparing the hearts of all 273 others on board, He was preparing them to be receptive and to hear a testimony of the living God at work in the midst of the trials and sufferings and storms, not just literally but the storms of our own lives. Even these events would show that God is in control and that His Word would stand true in the midst of the events.

Verse 22, Paul says to them, "Take heart. There will be no loss of life, only the ship. For an angel of the God I worship and serve has said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul, you must stand before Caesar.'" The truth of God, in a sense, not only comforted Paul but in actual fact was a declaration of truth to those who were listening that day. Here is a God who desires to commune with all 276 and He desires for each one to know Him a little bit more clearly. And so when life is out of control, brothers and sisters, look to the One who has it in the palm of His hand. His Word is "Yes" and "Amen" in Jesus Christ and there is no false element in that which He has stated and revealed of Himself and declared to be true.

And then remember that when you are caught in a storm it doesn’t mean that you are out of God’s will. I don’t know about you, but sometimes when the waves keep rolling in it’s easy for me to start thinking, “What have I done to bring this on?” Maybe it’s just myself that thinks that periodically! Let’s be honest, there may be some sort of ongoing pattern of sin that our Heavenly Father is needing to make us aware of and He’s bringing us to the end of ourselves in order to draw us back to Himself that we may repent and believe once again and have close and intimate communion. But that’s not always the case. On the other hand, we may be exactly where God wants us to be - in the midst of a storm. The Lord had told Paul that he would testify for Him in Rome - chapter 23 verse 11 and again in verse 23 in the text here. But it’s interesting that God didn’t mention the detail of the storm and the shipwreck that would take place.

Isn’t that so instructive of the Christian life? God, in His grace and mercy, He lavishes it out upon us and He sets forth Christ before us and He shows us His love that is demonstrated in the cross of Calvary and through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And He draws us in to see the loveliness and the beauty of this great Savior and the beginning of a new life takes place as we are given the Holy Spirit and we are regenerated. And we’re told in Scripture time and time again that what God begins He will bring to completion, but we are not told of the details in between. Are we? What happens between the beginning and the end is not important because what is important is that we are to know the God who safely will take us from Point A to Point B. And hence, we are to cling to Him and look to Him and trust in Him.

Matthew 14:22 gives us another example of Jesus in the midst of a storm. Immediately after feeding the 5,000 we are told that “Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and to go out ahead of Him to the other side while He sent the crowds away.” It’s interesting because that little word “made” actually carries the force of compulsion. It was a strong persuasion. In other words, He was telling them, “There is no other way for you to do this but to get in the boat and go across.” And the text tells us that He was actually sending them out into a storm. Why would He do that? Because there was an aspect of His deity, there was an aspect of who He was as God Most High that they didn’t yet grasp and they needed to know that before He would die and go to His place in glory.

Friends, so often in the midst of the storms in life God is teaching us something about Himself that will serve us not just in that moment but also as we cling to Him in the months and years that lie ahead. But also, it’s part of our witness to a watching world. God is always at work. Out on Galilee, they were exactly where God had ordained them to be and where God needed them to be - in the midst of a storm. And so it is with you and I. Whatever it is that you are going through at this very moment in time, or what you will go through in months and years that lie ahead, we can know that, assuming that there is no known sin, God’s will does include storms. It includes storms. And He is there to take us through. Because we need to remember that in the midst of a storm you are never apart from God’s personal care for you. You are never apart from God’s personal care.

Can you imagine - these are seasoned sailors. All their training, all their experience was meant to have prepared them for the very moment they find themselves at this point in their lives. And yet, in the midst of the anxiety, in the midst of their fear, in the midst of the struggle just to survive, they had lost all bearings. Can you imagine the confusion that began to set in as they did not know where they were in the Mediterranean Sea? And yet they were just not off of God's radar screen. God had not forgotten or lost care of them. God graciously cared for all of them. We see that in the fact that He spared all 276 lives as they got safely to the island of Malta. Friends, God cares for those who don't yet know Him. Do you believe that? Or do we only want to associate with Christians and brothers and sisters who are in union with Christ? God cares for those who do not yet know Him because they are made in the image and likeness of Himself, and hence we are meant to reach out and we are meant to love them and care for them and draw them in.

But He does especially care for those who are His children - in this case, Paul, Luke, and Aristarchus, maybe a couple of others. You can maybe think of it this way - and it's an imperfect analogy - but if my three kids are all on board a ship or a plane and something begins to happen, there is a sense in which I do care for all those on board and I want to do whatever I can to help people get to a place of safety, but I do have a special care towards my three children. And so it is if you are God's child through faith and in union with Christ, you can be assured that He cares for you as He takes you through the various valleys. One Peter teaches us that we are to humble ourselves among God's mighty hand. Why? "Because He cares for you." Because He cares for you. And so God's sovereignty over everything is meant to be this tremendous source of comfort for the believer in every season.

God is Patient

And that brings me to the second point. And I know some of you are breathing rather heavily at this point! My first point is always the longest because I am setting the stage! The second point is this. And that is, that God is patient. God is patient. Friends, I’m not saying that it is the most important trait in God’s attributes, not at all, but I do think that God’s patience is an incredibly attractive trait. What do I mean by that? Before we knew life in Christ, He did not deal with us as our sins deserved. His patience and longsuffering with us, in order to work with His eternal timetable, eventually to draw us in slowly but surely that we may understand the mercy and the grace and this incredible love of God displayed in Jesus Christ. It’s astonishing that He deals with us the way He does. And yet, even though we are in union with Christ, He does not deal with us as our sin deserves because now we are covered by the blood, we are covered by the Lamb, we have the righteousness of Christ imputed to us and He does not deal with us because we are slow of learning either.

One of the details I really love about the New Testament regarding the apostle Paul is that time and time again we are reminded that he is a man of great faith. Here is a man who is consumed with knowing Jesus, with loving Jesus, with growing in Jesus and making Jesus known to as many people as he possibly can. You look at his missionary journeys - he’s obsessed with getting out into the community in order to tell people about the Messiah with the hope that they will come together and be gathered together in the church which is being established in those various cities. And part of the reason that Paul stands out in this desperate situation is his calm faith in the living God.

Now even as I say that, we need to recognize that there must have been a moment in this voyage where Paul himself was overcome by anxiety and fear because we have that little detail in verse 24 with the angel saying to Paul, “Do not be afraid, Paul.” And it’s just a great reminder that even the strongest of Christians have moments in their life when they can be overwhelmed with the waves that keep pummeling them in this world. And that’s where the body of Christ needs to have their eyes opened so that we as brothers and sisters can come alongside one another and be there to literally hold each other up and be praying for one another in the midst of the storms.

But did you notice what brings solace to Paul? We see this in verse 25. What brings solace to Paul is not human platitudes. There’s none of that at this moment. In fact, there’s probably just sheer terror as they start to think about what is about to take place. But what brings solace to him is actually the Word of God that is spoken through the angel and that promise that all of them will reach safety on the island as it runs aground. And then just a few verses later we’re reminded how Paul encourages them to eat some food. So not only does Paul believe this promise from the angel and he is reassured and he then goes on to communicate it, but he actually actions on it. They hadn’t eaten for fourteen days; they were weak. Probably anxiety and fear had caused them not to be able to eat because their stomachs were literally turning. And yet in preparation for the fulfillment of what God has promised, that they will be spared, he says, “You must eat.” In other words, there’s a responsibility and there’s a wisdom that is applied in order to see the fulfillment of God’s purpose and His Word.

Friends, if you want to stand out in a time of trial in the midst of people who do not yet know the Lord, it’s imperative and, to avoid sounding legalistic, it’s actually your responsibility, it’s my responsibility to fight to daily seek the Lord and to walk in His ways before the trial hits. It is God who prepares us and who grants us Biblical insight and wisdom in preparation for the difficult times. And He does that in the regular and normal times of our lives so that when those difficult times do come we know who to look to and whom to trust. And so because God is sovereign, we can also know that He is patient because He is working out all things on His time scale.

God is Always on Mission

And that brings me to the third point because it’s because He is sovereign and because He is patient that it also shows forth in evidence in the fact that God is on mission to redeem the lost. Once Paul - we see this in the text that’s before us - once Paul had been reminded of God’s promise to him that all lives would be spared, Paul didn’t and he couldn’t keep it to himself; he had to tell them what the angel had declared and the promise that he had been reminded of. He had to set that forth because he wanted each of the people on board to know that his peace and the hope and the trust that he had was not something from his own strength but it was because of the sure Word of God.

Friends, you will find that people in times of trial are especially open to spiritual things. Now that does not mean that we go around looking for opportunities to manipulate people, obviously, but it does mean that when people are going through the valleys we have the obligation and responsibility to come alongside them and point them back to the source of true peace, true comfort, true solace. The funny this is this - as long as people are able to devise human ways of coping with a situation apart from God they will do it. It’s part of our fallenness as humanity. We will draw on our own strength, on our own gifts until we can no longer draw on anything that is within me and then we begin to look up. These sailors had heard Paul’s testimony that God would spare every single one of their lives and still in verse 27 through verse 32 we read about how they were trying to use their own ingenuity to save their lives. They had dropped one of the smaller boats and they were about to climb in, in order to sail to shore. And it took Paul the opportunity to remind the soldier that the Lord’s only requirement, His only requirement for all to be delivered was that everyone must stay on the ship. You must stay on the ship in order for 276 lives to be spared.

It’s a great reminder that God actually only has one way of salvation. God has one way of salvation and you can imagine what a powerful Gospel moment that would have been for the apostle Paul in the months that lay ahead on the island of Malta. Brothers and sisters, let us be reminded again this evening that God’s only way of salvation, God’s only way of our ongoing deliverance is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. There is nothing within us, there is nothing of this world that can possibly bring the peace and the hope and the trust and the reliance other than the Lord Jesus Christ. We see that in the text where they abandoned everything; their very livelihood was thrown overboard in order to save their life. We may even say that Jesus Christ is our ship of salvation. He’s our ship of salvation. And just as on this ship in Acts 27 all 276 would be spared and delivered, the ship itself would be demolished. And in a similar sense, God accepts and brings those who repent and believe, He will take them all the way home, but it costs His own beloved Son. His Son was the One that was demolished on the cross of Calvary so to speak. It was Him that faced the judgment of God’s wrath towards sin in order that we may be able to experience the mercy and the grace of God.

You know one of the things that comes out of this text and that I was pondering was, “Can you imagine the conversations on the island of Malta?” Paul, sitting around campfires with individuals or with groups being able to point them back to the events on the Mediterranean Sea and that Jesus Christ is the ship of salvation - perfect and beautiful Gospel moments to be able to point them forward to the cross at Calvary. Can you imagine some of them asking detailed questions that ultimately are maybe used of God to bring them to a place of salvation themselves? And how these 273 people then go back onto the mainland in months to come and they begin to tell about the events at sea and this Paul, this Paul fellow who told us about Jesus Christ and how he related it to the events of the storm on the open ocean and how all of a sudden it’s about the storm of our own lives and the rack of sin that weighs heavy and that Jesus Christ has made a way. Do you look forward to speaking to some of those men and women in glory one day? I’d love to be able to hear how God connects the dots between Paul and those 273 and those people that they spoke to and so on and so on and so on as God used the testimony to bring many, many thousands to Himself.

So let me close by taking you back to the Petronella, the ship that was wrecked off the South African coastline. As I said to you, many of the sailors lost their lives in the enormous swells, many of the passengers lost their lives too, but there were a few survivors. And two of the survivors were brothers who were running away from their family in Europe and seeking to experience the world, kind of like the prodigal sons out in the east, to make a new life for themselves. They were not Christians and in all accounts, they were actually making shipwreck of their faith. However, upon reaching land, there was a Presbyterian minister who had been watching the whole ordeal and praying that God would have mercy and spare some of the lives of those on board. And as these two brothers came to land, he ran up to them and he graciously wrapped them in his arms and took them back to his home. He helped them and cared for them and over the course of a few months, through his example and through his discipleship of them and of course attending church and sitting under the Word, they actually professed faith. One of them went on to marry the minister's daughter and both of them did very well in business and they were intricately used in the establishment and the building of many more churches in the Eastern Cape in South Africa. The Cape of Storms that basically cost the ship and many lives that were on board became the grace of storms to these two brothers and a few others.

Believers, never ever forget that God is in control, please. He is at work in ways that defy our imagination and quite honestly we cannot as human beings begin to comprehend how He is working out His purpose and plan not just in your life but even in the lives of those around you that are also affected by the same detail. He gives grace to you to be able to persevere that you may be able to hold the excellency of Christ before men and women that they, through your witness, may behold and recognize their own need for the Savior and ultimately as they trust in Christ they will be delivered from the storm of God's ultimately judgment - His wrath against sin - and they may be covered by the righteousness of Jesus Christ. And one day, when their life is through too, they may bear testimony to hearing those words, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Brothers and sisters, this evening, I hope that this text reminds us of the fact that God is sovereign, He is patient with us, constantly reminding us of who He is so that as we are being shaped and formed into the likeness of Christ we are encouraged to go and be a witness, because God is on mission but He uses the means of the church to reach out to the community and to those He is drawing in. So press on and take courage and be mindful that your hope is in the Lord, not just in this life, but it’s in this life and the next. May God bless His Word to each and every one of us this evening. Amen.

Let's bow our heads and pray, shall we?

Our gracious Father, we do thank You for Your Word. We thank You for harrowing passages like this one that set forth so many of the attributes of who You are as the living God. Father, impress those truths upon each of our hearts so that we may stand firm upon the Rock of our salvation in both the hills and the valleys and that ultimately as we are being shaped to see You in glory one day, Lord, we do pray that in the shaping process You may use us to be a beacon of shining light for the glory of Your kingdom. And we ask and pray these things, we ask and pray that You would use us in Christ's name, amen.

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