After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said:Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said,Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.Acts 27:21-25
The twenty-seventh chapter is a fascinating account by Luke of Paul's voyage to Rome, and of the shipwreck which occurred on the way. Luke has taken note of the distress of these men. They had for many days been so upset and anxious over the outcome of this voyage that fear had destroyed their appetites and they had not eaten. In the midst of that, Paul stands before these men and announces with absolute conviction,
There will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. His reason for saying so is that an angel had come to him the night before and encouraged him with the message that he was going to stand before Caesar and that he was not to be afraid. Fear had begun to creep even into the apostle's heart, but he is reassured by the angelic messenger. Furthermore the angel had said,
God has given you all those who sail with you. Paul has been praying that the sailors and soldiers accompanying him would be spared as well as that his own object would be accomplished on this trip. God heard his prayer and granted him their lives.
Notice the tremendous power that a man of faith exercises through the instrument of prayer. He does such mighty things if we will but ask him. God stands ready to grant us much, much more than we have ever dreamed about. I have often said that the church is really the secret government of earth, and that it has power to control the current events which happen around us, the events reported in our newspapers. We sometimes feel that we are just helpless pilgrims drifting through this age, waiting to get to heaven. But the Scriptures never portray a Christian that way. He is intimately related to the events happening around him and he has great control over them. Here God granted this one man, because of his prayer, the lives of the two hundred seventy-five individuals who sailed with him. They were spared because Paul prayed for them. What a revelation of the power of prayer!
Notice also the secret help given to the believer in time of distress. Paul was exposed to the same peril as the others, and yet God strengthened him with a word of encouragement in the midst of the trial. He didn't take him away from it. The storm was no less severe for Paul than it was for anyone else. The danger was just as evident, the waves were just as high, the darkness just as intense. Everything was exactly the same except that God granted to him an encouraging word, a secret knowledge that the others did not possess. He didn't lessen the pressure but he gave an inward reassurance that enabled Paul to stand out from the rest of them.
This reveals what the Christian faith is all about. It is a way of discovering hidden resources, secret resources which others do not know about, which make it possible for you to live and to act and react differently from those around you. That is the characteristic of Christianity. That is what it is supposed to be like all the time.
Father, thank you for the hidden resources you provide through prayer and faith in the midst of the storms of life. Teach me to draw from the secret resources you provide that I might react differently from those around me.
Fear is the natural, instinctive reaction to life's threatening circumstances. What is the supernatural antidote to fear available to us through believing prayer? Are we succumbing to fear, or choosing to conquer our fears through prayer, in deepening awareness of the presence and peace of God?