Dear radio friends,
In the Word of God in Acts 27 you may read an exciting nautical tale of ancient marine travel aboard a Roman galley — the gripping account of a harrowing escape from typhoon and shipwreck. But as you read the chapter, you will not understand it unless you see that it was God who, through all the wind and storm, executed His own eternal decree to bring His servant Paul to Rome, there to testify of the gospel of His Son. Every event was being forged by God in the chain to bring the apostle Paul to stand before Nero and to testify of the gospel. The soft wind and the stormy waves were the hand of God bringing to pass God’s will in the life of the apostle Paul. For the Scriptures teach that the fair wind and the storm in our own lives are God’s own hand leading us to what He has willed for us.
But the storm that is described in that chapter, and the shipwreck, were not only sent in order to bring Paul as a prisoner to Rome, to make his beautiful testimony before Caesar, but in order that Paul might make a confession in the storm and before terror-struck sailors. God sets the stage for a beautiful confession of faith.
For the will of God is not only in general that He will direct us to the end and purpose of our life, but the will of God is in the specifics. God directs each one of us through every event of our life to place us where we might make a confession before the world. And what a beautiful confession Paul made. You may read of it in Acts 27:23, “For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve.” That was the confession Paul made by the grace of God — a confession of faith in the heart of a storm and to unbelieving sailors.
I hear in that confession, first of all, the granite-like conviction of the Holy Spirit. I do not find in Paul’s confession of faith any blasé answer that, perhaps, a child would give in catechism. Nor do I find in Paul a hyped-up, emotion-based confession: “Oh, try Jesus!” I do not find the non-committal confession of religious modernism in which Paul would say on that ship, “Well, you know, fellow sailors, God has given Jesus to make significant contributions to culture.” No!
But I find in Paul’s confession of faith the ring of deepest conviction — of something that has been placed in him by the hand of God, something that would never be knocked out of him. He has been through fourteen days of storm. And even now, if they had thrown him over the side, it would not take away this confession — even when he is to be beheaded by Caesar. Listen to him speak: “Whose I am, and whom I serve! Jesus is my Savior and Lord!”
Paul was in a desperate position. Men’s souls stood looking at certain death. There was utter hopelessness for all of them. The sailors had never seen a storm like this. Their eyes were dazed and uncomprehending. This cannot be happening. The wind was howling; the rain was beating; the ship in her timbers was groaning. And yet, in the midst of all this, they heard the measured, calm, powerful words of confession of faith: “My Savior has stood by me this night. I belong to Him. He is mine and I am His. And I serve Him.” That is faith.
Faith brings forth confessions out of deepest conviction. “I belong to God whose I am. He owns me by right of purchase and conquest.” It means that we are convicted by the grace of God that we do not belong to ourselves. We are not autonomous; we are not independent; we do not do our own thing. In fact, to the Christian, all of those are horrible thoughts, because if we were autonomous and independent we would then be responsible for our own sins. Worse, we would have to live our life under the tyranny of fools — ourselves. But the conviction of the grace of God is the very opposite. “I am not my own. I don’t belong to my own self.” Apart from the grace of God, people believe that they are masters of their own fate, and the great principle of life is that you are your own. But grace shows us the utter folly of that and brings us to this confession: “I am nothing; I am not my own; I belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, because He has loved me, a sinner, out of mere grace. He has given Himself for me upon the cross. It was not I who chose Him. But it was He who, by sovereign grace, chose me and redeemed me and made me His own possession. And now I serve Him. He is my Master.” That always follows. That is the proof that we belong to Him.
Faith brings forth confessions
out of deepest conviction.
The confession of faith of the Christian is not simply “Whose I am — I belong to Jesus.” But immediately it must be added, “And whom I serve.” Let me tell you what the doctrine here is. God’s purpose in the redemption of His Son is that there be a people to serve Him. God redeems us in the blood of Christ so that we might serve. That means that, though you may profess to be a child of God, if you have no desire to serve God, then do not say that you belong to Him! A child of God who belongs to Him wants to serve Him with a passionate, principled, devoted service.
Paul says, “I serve Him. God has sole claim upon my heart. I desire to submit to His will, to obey His law, to be devoted to His cause and church, and to use all of my talents for Him.” Paul could serve God on a sinking ship — right on that ship! His calmness was his service. His encouraging words to the sailors were his service. His bailing out water as he took his place in the line was his service of his Master. Listen: everything that we do as children of God must be service. As God’s possession, we are never far from the altar of service. Always, every moment of our life, we must offer to God the sincere thanks of salvation and do all things to serve Him. That means that constantly we dethrone from our hearts our sinful self, who always wants to rule over us. We cease to live to ourselves and we desire to live to God.
Is this conviction yours, as a child of God? Do you say, “Whose I am — I belong to Christ — and whom I serve”? Do you say that as a young person? Then guard the purity of your life. Keep yourself unspotted from the world. The world wants what is owned by Christ to be soiled in sin. The world wants what God has made for His glory to be polluted in the mire of evil. Remember how the heathen kings would always take the gold and the silver vessels of Solomon’s temple and put them into their own temples? Why? Because the world wants what is God’s to be soiled in sin. The world is filled with spite against Jesus Christ. It wants to profane you. It wants your eyes to be filled with pornography. It wants your body to be immodest in your dress. It wants your ears to be polluted with the things and music of the world. It wants you covered with sin. The world does not want the body — the ear, the eyes, and the heart — that you say belongs to Jesus Christ to be pure. They want it to be smeared in the filth of sexual sins, in all sins.
So, do you confess that you are Christ’s, that you belong to Him? Then you need to remember in this storm-tossed world of temptations that you must keep yourself pure before the Lord.
But then you must also guard the direction of your life. If you belong to the Lord, then you must say that this world is not your home, but glory and heaven are your home, and you desire that your life be directed toward your Lord Jesus Christ, not to the idols of this present world, to merely good times, restaurants, money, cars, boats, beer, and wine. You will desire to preserve yourself with one purpose, one goal, one standard: the eternal glory placed before you. Are you focused on that? Where are you going? Do you know where you are going in your life? Are you ready to endure whatever sacrifice comes your way for this eternal goal? The world is as a maze. So readily we get caught up in that maze and we end up not knowing where we are and where we are going. That is true of the world. But the maze of this world and of sin leads to hell. When we belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, we must see that the direction of our life remains fixed upon the hope of glory.
Paul made a very confident and bold confession of his faith. What we need to see is that Paul’s religious convictions led to confession. That is the beautiful thing here. That is the crucial part of God’s purpose. Everything, I said, was being arranged by God in order that a testimony might be left of His grace and of His Son. We need to see that. The picture that we find in Acts 27 of the apostle Paul as a believer in Jesus Christ is not that of a believer who has this great knowledge of Jesus Christ in a sinking, hopeless world and his mouth is dumb. The picture is not that Christ is in the apostle’s heart and the situation is desperate and sailors are beginning to chant to their gods and the captain is rubbing his lucky beads and everybody thinks the ship is going down and Paul keeps quiet off in a corner by himself, as the only one who has comfort, because he has Christ in his heart. Oh, no! The picture is this. There must be a confession. The child of God has something to say. And he must say it, when all around him are hopeless and fear-stricken. “Fear not, I believe God. I belong to Christ. I serve Him.”
The child of God has something to say.
The confession that Paul made was in his words, in his talk. But it was first of all in his walk. His life was first. Those two, of course, are inseparable. Our walk and our talk — we cannot tear them apart. Paul’s words were backed up by his life. And his words were only the verbalizing of what his life had been saying from the moment that he walked up the plank from the dock to board the ship. It had to be that way. That is why God sent the storm. God sent the storm because He wanted those sailors to look at the apostle Paul under trial.
And that is why God sends you trials in your life. God wants the world to look at the church under trial. Do you understand that? On board that ship Paul and those sailors got to know each other better than if they had lived twenty years on the same street in suburban Chicago. They were not just shipmates — 276 souls in a vessel, maybe 100 or 150 feet long. They had been facing death together for fourteen days! With each wave crashing over the bulwarks of the ship, with the timbers groaning, they were staring at death. You cannot hide the innermost secrets of your spiritual life then. You show what you are when you are under such trial. Paul could never have said before them that day, “The God to whom I belong and whom I serve has spoken to me. And we will all be saved” — if he had not been living day-by-day a consistent godly life among them. Long before, his shipmates had taken notice of his walk. They had seen his life.
Do you think that the prisoners who were on that ship, hardened criminals, and the sailors and Roman soldiers would have listened to Paul or cared a snap what he said, if throughout those fourteen days he had been down in the hold drinking with them, living like they do? We must understand that if they thought Paul was like them, they would not have listened to him. If they concluded that, “well, he’s no different than we are — he lives the same way we do,” then do you know what else they would have said? “Yah, sit down Paul — just keep bailing or keep it to yourself! The God you serve, huh? Hm-m-m. Well, we serve gods like that too — Jupiter and Zeus — and they’re no comfort to us. Why should your God, who isn’t seen in your life, be any comfort to us?”
The world will have the right to say that to you and to me if our walk of life and our confession do not match. The confession of the mouth of the child of God has no value unless there is sincere faith in the heart and practice in the life. Words spoken about God without sincerity and without some semblance of that truth in our life is profanity! The person who boasts of his religion but does not live that religion is profane when he speaks of his religion.
You are going to walk down the halls of the dormitory in a Christian (or any) college; you are going to be in a high school; you are going to be in shopping malls; you are going to be before the eye of the world. God is going to lead you to opportunities to confess the name of Jesus Christ. First see to it that it is very plain that Christ is walking with you in all of those places. So often we must fall upon our knees in sorrow and shame. Oh, how we need the Word of God. Oh, how we need the church. Oh, how we need devotions and prayer every day!
In the world, young people, you are going to hear those who curse and swear. You are going to see drinking on the college scene as never before (and even in the high school scene). You are going to meet people who are all messed up, all confused, all afraid, all hopeless — just like those sailors on the ship. You must witness of Him. You must speak of Him. You must speak of the truth of Him — your Savior and your Lord. But you must remember, with me, that it is not just our words. It is our life.
You see, that is why God is going to send storms into your life. That is why it is going to be very necessary for you to go through trial — that there are not just going to be good times. You need to understand that your God wills to glorify Himself in your conduct under trial. For the testimony that you leave of God is often the loudest in what you do not say. It is your confidence and the calmness of your heart to trust in Him.
For the testimony that you leave of God
is often the loudest in what you do not say.
And then we speak. Not a canned speech, but a true speech. Paul did not say to them at that time, “Oh, won’t you be a Christian?” But Paul said, “I am a Christian. I belong to God.” His words were about what God had done — that he belonged to God. His words were words of the sovereign grace of God — “I believe in God!” And his words were backed up by his prayers. He then joined with these sailors in prayer. He gave thanks to God in the presence of them all. He prayed.
Then you can have confidence in the storms of life. Paul was afraid in that storm. It was very natural for him to be afraid. The angel said to him, in verse 24, “Fear not, Paul.” This means that Paul had many moments of fear. As Christians we are not robots. We are not stoics. We are not cynics. What went through Paul’s mind in the bowels of the ship, when the timbers groaned and the waves crashed overhead? He had fears. But in his fears he had confidence. Confidence is not the absence of fear. Confidence is the realization, in those fears, that, belonging to the Lord Jesus Christ, nothing — absolutely nothing — can separate me from the love of God. All these things must work out my salvation.
That is our confidence. Our confidence is in Him, in Christ, and in the grace of God.
We do not know exactly how Paul got to the shore. We do know from Acts 27 that the ship was broken up and that some grabbed hold of a piece of wreckage and others swam. We do not know if Paul swam to the shore or if he grabbed hold of a piece of wreckage to get to the land. Whichever one it was, we do know this: Paul did not come to the shore by his swimming or by the piece of wreckage to which he was clinging. But God, to whom he belonged, brought him to the land and then, later on, brought him to Rome and before Caesar and then brought Paul to the moment when the executioner’s ax was held over his head. Then He brought Paul home, to Father’s house.
Now you who, by the grace of God, believe in God and who testify that you are His, believe that God will bring you home, too.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word. Bless it to our hearts through Jesus Christ, Amen.