We live in a goal driven society!
However, this is not a bad thing because goals give us a sense of accomplishment and meaning to our lives. Because there are so many things I want to do in life; so many things I want to experience, nearly every year, I take a personal inventory of all the things I’ve set out to accomplish from the year before to see how close I came to meeting each goal. For the goals I don’t meet, they get added to the list of things to accomplish for the new year. I then come up with a strategy for how I can obtain what it is that I want to accomplish and begin my mission of executing each one. When I look back and see what I’ve accomplished, it makes me feel good that I actually completed what I set out to do and it makes me feel even better when I see that the strategies I used to complete my goals actually worked!
With that being said, there have been many, many seasons in my life where every goal that I planned for myself, failed right along with my carefully thought-out strategies of finishing them. Gone-down the drain! Now if you’ve had a season like that then you can easily imagine how that feels when what you set out to do doesn’t work out as you planned- you feel defeated, anxious about what’s going to be the result of your failed plan and who else will have to suffer because of it, confused about why your plans didn’t work out- and if it’s something you took a significant risk on, then you’re absolutely scared aren’t you; because you have no clue how far back you will have to go before you can see the light of day again!
(I want to let you know ahead of time that this message is a little lengthy but I promise you if you hang in there, you will find that this message and the prayer contained in it is for you or for someone you need to give this to)
In Acts chapters 27, we find a prison officer, a ship captain and the owner of the ship in a similar situation as they’re in the process of sailing to Rome. You see, the officer was sent on a very important mission and put in charge of making sure one distinct prisoner, who made an appeal to Caesar the Emperor, gets to plead his case. His only responsibility was to keep all the prisoners contained while in his custody and especially make sure the prisoner who made the appeal, successfully stands before the Emperor to be heard. The ship captain also submitted to going to Rome but he had his own responsibilities and plan on how to execute the mission. Since ship captains are experts at navigating through Seas, I’m sure he had a proven success plan that he was going to use for navigating to safe lands. Now, although the owner of the boat was not the expert at sailing, nor did he bare responsibility for anyone on the ship, he had the final say over when to sail because the ship belonged to him and he used it to take care of his own business. You see, outside of everyone’s desire to get to go to Rome, the owner had his own set schedule that involved stopping at several ports in a timely manner before getting there.
If you study the text, you can see, everyone had their own motives and strategies for accomplishing what they needed to accomplish for themselves while getting to Rome. There didn’t seem to be anything wrong with this except for them failing to remember one thing; and they would need the prisoner who made the appeal to Caesar, to remind them of the greater purpose of their sail to Rome. However, it was only until things went from bad to worse, when they listened.
Although bound, this famous prisoner (who we know as the Apostle Paul) carried the greatest purpose of all the men on that ship and that purpose was to witness the Gospel to one of the most powerful men in the world for the very first time. Unfortunately, because he was considered a prisoner, his purpose and even his warning of an upcoming storm was overlooked by those in charge of him. Because of this, everyone in the ship (including the ship itself) suffered great loss until everyone else set aside their personal agendas and heeded the instructions of the man whose purpose carried the will of God.
You See, Paul knew they were getting ready to face great warfare through the opposition of the storm. While everyone else was focused on making sure they met their own deadlines and goals, because the message Paul had to deliver was so great and world-changing, he was able to discern that they were going to have several days of slow and difficult sailing and that they needed to move forward with caution and patience so that nothing would be lost in the process. Just as Paul foresaw, the winds became so violent, that they had to sail near the coast lines to avoid the open sea but even still they struggled great difficulty as the weather became dangerous to travel at all. Paul was bound and limited to what he could do but because he discerned the opposition, he felt the need to warn all in charge about the trouble they would face if they didn’t reach the nearest shelter. Paul specifically told the officers and the others, that if they went on sailing, they would suffer a shipwreck, loss of cargo, and danger to everyone’s lives. But no one wanted to settle at the nearest place because it was considered a poor place to settle during the storm and winter season and they wanted to be more comfortable if they chose to stop at all. So, they disregarded Paul.
Have you ever been in a season of your life where you were at a good momentum then you began to see certain things cautioning you to slow down but you didn’t want to because to you didn’t want anything to set you back?
I absolutely understand why they didn’t want to stop! They were goal driven! They were persevering! These men were not lazy people! They all had jobs to do and they were determined to see it out to completion no matter what storm comes! I know first hand that when your pursuing something important to you, it’s hard to listen to the advice of someone telling you to slow down!
Now the officer could have possibly convinced the others to listen to Paul because the officer had a certain level of respect for Paul but he still regarded Paul’s purpose and plan, as less than. Ultimately, they all failed to recognize that although God’s Word was contained in the heart of a humble prisoner, it was still final authority! Because he saw Paul as someone with the least authority on the ship, the officer chose not to listen to Paul’s warning but instead he listened to the ship’s captain and the owner and sailed further up the coast of Crete to try to make it to a place they felt would be more comfortable for them. And the sailors actually thought they would make it because the wind and storm had calmed down for a time but then the weather abruptly changed back violently!
The scripture says, “… a wind of typhoon strength (called a “northeaster”) burst across the island” and blew them out to sea. The wind was so strong, the sailors couldn’t even turn the ship into the wind, and that is when they finally gave up trying to steer their course but they still tried everything in their power to keep the ship intact and strengthened. They bound ropes around the hull of the ship to keep it from falling apart and they lowered the sea anchor to try to keep the ship from being tossed around so much. But that didn’t work and the vicious winds continued to batter the ship, so the crew started throwing the cargo and some of the ship’s gear and threw it overboard. Scripture says that this storm was so horrific, that it raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars; the people were drained and hadn’t eaten for days and they eventually lost all hope. They were out in the middle of the sea; waiting to die.
Have you ever been shipwrecked?
You may not have literally experienced the destruction of a ship at sea, sinking and breaking apart with you in it but has there ever been a season in your life where you were preparing for something you believe to be the next big move for you? You had everything secured and planned out! You’d been spending all this time pacing yourself and calculating how much time it will take you to reach this goal. Maybe you were planning a wedding. Maybe you were in the middle of furthering your education or in the middle of executing a new business proposal, then all of a sudden, as everything you planned moved in the right direction, your whole life went left! You go over in your mind of ways you could have gone around or avoided these issues altogether but here you are, out here in the middle of nowhere; with no sense of direction, no sense of survival, no plan B; just you inside of your ship with the storms of life attempting to tear you apart one piece at a time. You’re problems have completely consumed you; ripped apart almost everything you’ve been trying to build for yourself and all you have left are broken pieces of the thing that once safely held you together. Exhausted by all the beatings, the storm in your life seems to have blotted out every piece of confidence you had. You feel like God is absent, so you lose all hope and now you wake up every day simply waiting to die.
The prayer that I have today comes from being able to relate to this story. I’m saying this because prayers can come from various sources. Sometimes they’re motivated by a specific scripture and sometimes they’re compelled by stories and as we listen, we find ourselves relating to the characters or the situation- from this can come prayers. So, if this is you, Lets Pray:
After listening to this story, I feel like this is my life! I’ve been doing enough of my own planning and talking and maybe it’s time for me to sit and listen to you because my plans are no longer working for me. Please take my life and direct it as you see fit. Speak to me again and I will incline my ears to your instructions. Reveal yourself to me again! Everything I’ve planned for seems to be falling apart, and now my hope is fading. Show me how to get back to safe lands even if it has to be on these broken pieces.
This time I will heed your words because I now realize that that although you have given me the desires of my heart, you use them to serve a greater purpose than just in my life but my desires are to ultimately aide in the fulfillment of your will! I failed because I did not put care into the fact that I am suppose to live my life for your will to be done at the direction of your Holy Spirit. Looking back, I heard your Spirit cautioning me but I tried to rush to a place that was convenient for me instead of listening to your Spirit. I now see that the mission you’ve placed on the inside of me wasn’t just another goal to be scratched off of my to-do list. I now see that Making goals and pursuing what I believe you gave me to do wasn’t a bad thing but that somewhere down the line I made it more about how reaching my destination would benefit me than about how it would benefit the kingdom.
Forgive me for not placing enough value on the gift you’ve placed on the inside of me. Forgive me for being so caught up in how what I have to offer will benefit me to the point that I didn’t recognize that what you’ve placed down on the inside of me is supposed to set others free as well! Now I realize that what you have placed on the inside of me is not just for me and in fact it’s greater than me. And because of this I can’t move any old kind of way; it can no longer be my moves. Because what I’m carrying is for your glory I need to make God moves! Forgive me for not respecting the unadulterated power of the gospel, that’s wrapped up in my purpose; and for not seeing that it’s through my purpose that your gospel is delivered. Yet, my failure to follow and listen to you kept it locked up!
I now give up doing things my way and going in my own direction! Now I’m waiting for you! Please show me where to stand while I’m waiting. Help me to be patient with your will and that it is for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, help me to wait for it; because it will surely come and it will not remain behind!
Just like the men in the Scripture had Paul to warn them, help me to remember that I have Your Spirit to lead and guide me. Help me to see that your Word is right here in the middle of the storm with me. This season has broken me and at times I feel alone. Yet even in my solitude, you have not abandoned me! Because of the blood of Jesus Christ, I still have access to your thrown and you have heard every one of my groans! I now see that only you know the way I should go!
Although I can’t seem to see the sun shining through the dark clouds of uncertainty, I ask that you restore unto me the joy of your salvation! Reclaim your purpose for me for I am yours! Help me to rise again! In Jesus name, Amen!
It’s important for me to note that after about 14 days out at sea and the men had given up all hope of being saved, Paul stepped in and said,
“Men, you should have listened to me in the first place and not left Crete. You would have avoided all this damage and loss. But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.’ So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said…”
I truly believe that every day God allows us to wake up to see another day, it’s because He’s giving us another chance to do better than we did the day before. If you are here today and your listening to this podcast, this is your day to do better, to choose better, and to pursue His will above your own. Of course, you should have listened to the voice of God because you would have avoided unnecessary damage and loss. But because you’re here, you’re alive, God has given you another chance so take courage! Even though your plans have been destroyed, even though you seem to have lost everything you’ve been trying to build for you and your family, even though you are barely surviving on broken pieces, you will not lose your life! Just like the angel of the God stood beside Paul, and said, ‘Don’t be afraid…” because “God, in his goodness has granted safety…”! If this story or this prayer resonated with you, maybe the Holy Spirit is telling you ‘Do not be afraid’, for God’s has granted you safety and his purpose for your life will surely come to pass! So take courage! Believe God! It will be just as he said!
*To hear the audio version of today’s message and prayer, click the icon below or listen on your favorite podcasting network!