A Small Problem

paul's_ship_2  When the Apostle Paul sailed for Rome (see Acts 27) it was a perilous journey. In our day and age of luxury cruise ships and monstrous military vessels, it may be somewhat hard to imagine sailing on the types of ships used 2000 years ago, but my research tells me the ship Paul was on typically carried large payloads of grain and were of enormous size and had a crew of around 270 men. Still, by today’s standards it would seem quite primitive I’m sure.

Acts 27:9 tells us the trip was occurring “after the fast.” This is a reference to the “Day of Atonement” which occurs in the late September to early October timeframe. Sailing in the open sea was especially dangerous from mid-September to mid-November, after which sailing ceased for the winter. So Paul’s ship was sailing during a time that was particularly dangerous.

Some distance into the journey, after leaving a port in Crete in what the crew felt were favorable conditions, the ship was met with hurricane force winds and after days of struggling against the forces of the storm, the Bible records, the crew gave up all hope of being saved. They desperately began to throw overboard anything they could to lighten the load, they threw ropes around the hull to try and strengthen the ship, and, when it became apparent the ship would be destroyed, they even formulated a plan to kill the prisoners on board, lest any of them escape when the ship was destroyed.

The crew had a big problem on their hands and they had lost all hope, but Paul had heard from an Angel of the Lord and was told they would all survive. I will leave it to you to read the details of the story on your own, but suffice it to say God had bigger plans and He saw to it that the men on the ship were saved even though the ship itself was destroyed. The storm seemed a big problem to the sailors as they bravely struggled to save themselves, but God, who commands the earth and the sky, had a larger plan in mind and was working behind the scenes.

This same God who made that big storm but a small problem for the sailors on Paul’s journey to Rome promises to be at work behind the scenes in our lives as well. In the words of Jesus: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Our God, the creator of heaven and Earth, omnipotent and all powerful, is without limitations. And though we suffer through problems that cause us pain and suffering that is all too real at times, we can place our trust in Almighty God. He promises to bring us comfort, strength, and hope. As the Psalmist wrote: “I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.” (Psalm 16:8)

Here are some verses that I hope will bring you comfort during your next trial as you learn to trust God:

“The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” (Exodus 14:14)

“I cried out, “I am slipping!” but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.” (Psalm 94:18-19)

“Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you.” (Psalm 37:5)

“Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them.” (Psalm 10:17)

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” (2Corinthians 1:3-4)

And in the words of Isaiah: “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:28-31)

So whatever troubles you face, I know your problem is real and the pain, hurt, anxiety, or bitterness you feel can seem huge, but our all-powerful, omnipotent, loving Father and Lord, promises to be there with us, to bring us comfort and strength, to give us rest. And nothing can separate us from that. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:38-39: “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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Payday   Most of us go to work on a regular basis; enduring traffic congested commutes, long hours, physically demanding tasks, bad bosses, gossiping coworkers, impossibly busy schedules, or any number of other sometimes frustrating situations so that we can support ourselves and our families. Some of us work in our chosen fields, for which we were specifically trained or educated, while others of us work at jobs that might not have been our first choice but for which we are now uniquely talented. Whatever your particular employment situation, each day you get up, go to work, and endure the routine all in the expectation of receiving fair pay for your efforts.

Few of us, however, get paid in advance; rather our paydays come at weekly, bi weekly, or monthly intervals, typically after we have put in the required time and effort. For the self-employed the wait to get paid can be even longer, often not occurring until a job is completed and a cycle of billing and collection has passed, which can often be 30-60 days. So we trudge through our daily routines of traffic, the quotidian workplace challenges, hectic schedules, and physical demands all with the expectation that payday will yield a check covering the agreed upon wages. In other words, we do our work on a daily basis having faith that our employers (or customers if you are self-employed) will deliver payment as promised.

And isn’t it true we do many things in life based on faith? For example, when you sat down in the chair you are now occupying, you had faith it would hold your weight without collapsing. And when you opened this blog on your computer or hand-held device, were you not taking it on faith that the wireless signals would traverse the airwaves to the proper towers, satellites, and servers? How much do we take it by faith that our cars will start when we turn the key? That the car heading towards us at 55 miles-per-hour on a two lane highway will stay on its designated side and not slam into us in a fiery head on crash? When the rains come, do we not readily assume by faith that the roof over our heads will keep the water out of our homes?

How many more scenarios can you think of where you are trusting in specific outcomes for which you need faith? For example, did you do the engineering necessary to determine that seven-story parking ramp you just entered would not collapse when the weight of all those cars was placed upon it? Is it not a fact that most of us take it on faith that the structure was properly designed, constructed, and maintained so that it would serve our parking needs. So we find that most of the things we take for granted in our daily lives actually require a lot of faith from us and it is probable that we take these things for granted because of our faith.

Among the definitions for faith you will find on Dictionary.com is: “confidence or trust in a person or thing;” and “belief that is not based on proof.” Similarly, the Bible defines faith this way: “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)  And the truth is, every one of us exercises faith in many areas of our lives, as we have illustrated above.  And so we can see it is not such a big leap to have faith in God. And most of us do have faith in God, in some form or another, though not everyone truly knows the God of the Bible.

The Apostle Paul taught that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) So we know that to develop a strong faith in Christ we must start with reading and hearing the Word of God and that means opening our Bibles and attending a local church. And since we have established now that we exercise faith in so many areas of our lives, is this step of faith that much more? For those of you who are skeptical, and for everyone, I challenge you here and now to read the New Testament daily for 30 consecutive days. And if you don’t already have a Bible, I will make it super easy and free: just download the Bible app to your smartphone by clicking this link: Bible App

So take the 30 day challenge and commit yourself to daily reading, starting in one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John) for at least 20 minutes each day, for 30 consecutive days. I know we all can find a mere 20 minutes in our day. What have you to lose? And I assure you that you have everything to gain; for faith in Christ is the greatest payday you will ever know!

I will leave you with this passage from Romans 3:22-26:

“We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.”

May God bless you and keep you!

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