God Granted Paul 276 Men

I encourage you to read Acts 27 in which Luke describes in amazing and accurate firsthand detail the dangerous journey they took by sea. Not only is the firsthand knowledge of Luke’s account an incredible witness to the accuracy of the Bible, this is just a breathtaking and emotional journey as you read what those men went through on that ship in the Mediterranean Sea. So many faith and leadership lessons can be taught here.

What I want to focus on for just a moment this morning is how Paul’s relationship with God and his leadership brought all those people safely to shore.

Notice this: When Paul is speaking to the men on the ship, he tells them about what God told him.

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.’
(Acts 27:24)

God has “granted you all those who sail with you.” What is implied here? Doesn’t it sound like Paul had specifically made a request to God for all of these men on the ship? God seems to be saying, I am giving you what you requested. These men will all safely come to shore, even if they do so swimming or floating on broken pieces of the ship.

and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.
(Acts 27:44)

276 men were on that ship (Acts 27:37). 276 men made it safely to shore, even if it was scary and ugly. And they all can be thankful for Paul’s dedication, prayers, and concern. Paul showed who he was down to his core – he deeply loved and cared for everyone on that ship. And Paul showed them the loving and mighty God he serves. When those men swam ashore and stood on the ground, they could rest assured that God keeps His promises, and God answers the prayers of the faithful.

As we go into Memorial Day weekend, let us also remember that we have made it safely through a lot of storms in our country. God is to be praised and thanked for that first and foremost. But do not forget those who sacrificed of themselves and poured our their blood because they wanted all of us to make it safely to the shores of freedom. We stand in freedom because others laid down their lives.

King Saul Did Not Seek God

1 Chronicles 10:13-14 – So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the LORD in that he did not keep the command of the LORD, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance. He did not seek guidance from the LORD. Therefore the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.

Why did King Saul die? Among the reasons is this: He did not seek guidance from the Lord, instead he sought a medium to ask advice of Samuel. But notice the other account in 1 Samuel 28.

1 Samuel 28:5-7 – When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets. Then Saul said to his servants, “Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.” And his servants said to him, “Behold, there is a medium at En-dor.”

Samuel’s account says that Saul did inquire of the Lord, but God didn’t answer him. So is there a contradiction here? Did King Saul inquire of God? Yes Saul tried to ask God, but he really didn’t want a relationship with God. He didn’t want to repent, he was just scared of being killed by the Philistines. So when he “inquired” he wasn’t really humbly coming before God’s throne.

God knows the difference. If Saul truly would have had a repentant heart before God, there are oodles of examples in Scripture where God would have forgiven him and heard Saul’s prayers.

The Lord Did Not Answer Him

1 Samuel 28:4-6
The Philistines assembled and came and encamped at Shunem. And Saul gathered all Israel, and they encamped at Gilboa. When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets.

Saul had spent at least a decade, maybe more, chasing David around Israel (see 1 Samuel 18-27). The enemy to Saul had been David, not the Philistines. If he was a politician, what would he say his greatest achievement had been in the last decade? “Hey, look at all of the times I almost killed David!” King Saul had spent so much effort, resources and time on finding and killing David that he didn’t even see that the Philistines had surrounded him and were now moving in from the north.

But now the cold, hard reality sets in. He’s surrounded and he’s afraid. He “trembled greatly.” He finally decided to call upon God. God didn’t answer the door, however, when Saul knocked. That’s harsh, but that’s the piercing reality of the life of a person who rejects God. The Lord is going to let King Saul face the music.

This isn’t to say that King Saul could not receive forgiveness. If Saul at the last minute wanted to make things right with God, God is merciful and would forgive. But God also said that if a person keeps living a sinful life and continues in rejection of the correction God sends, then God won’t listen when he prays. If God wasn’t listening to Saul, it is apparent that Saul’s heart was not repentant. He was just scared and wanted to avoid pain and punishment.

Here is a final passage to consider. Look at Proverbs 1 and think of how wisdom is calling for us. What happens when we keep refusing to listen to wisdom? Solomon tells us.

Proverbs 1:20-33
Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”

Let’s take a lesson from King Saul. God is merciful, patient and ready to forgive, but if we continue to live a life in rejection of His word, then we can’t expect God to rescue us from our problems. If we don’t listen when He calls, eventually He won’t listen when we call.

Even When We Struggle to Believe

Acts 12:5
Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.

Herod had just killed James the brother of John. The Jews apparently loved the move, so Herod decided to go for another one of the apostles. This time it was Peter. He was going to make a show of Peter before the crowds on Passover.

The church came together at Mary’s house and prayed constantly for Peter. That’s what God’s people do in times like this. But what strikes me in Acts 12 is that God had already answered their prayers, delivered Peter to their door, and they were blown away not at first believing it was him.

Acts 12:12-16
So, when he had considered this, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying. And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a girl named Rhoda came to answer. When she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her gladness she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter stood before the gate. But they said to her, “You are beside yourself!” Yet she kept insisting that it was so. So they said, “It is his angel.” Now Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.

I love this because it shows that even when we struggle to believe God will still answer our prayers. Jesus said even a mustard grain sized faith in God can move mountains! Sometimes I have thought I had to be just rock solid in conviction before I pray. Maybe you have been the same way, thinking that if you are not as confident as Joshua asking the sun to stand still (Joshua 10), then God won’t even consider your prayer.

That certainly didn’t happen here in Acts 12. It was a pretty dire situation for Peter, and the church knew it. They just lost James, and it looked certain they would lose Peter too. So when they heard Peter was knocking at their door while they were praying for him to be released, they struggled at first to accept it. That’s human…and God knows it. He was merciful to them in their struggle to believe and He is the same for us.

We can pray like the father of the demon-possessed boy in Mark 9.

Mark 9:23-24
Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

Lord, I believe, help my unbelief! God will answer you.

He has not hidden His face

Psalms 22:1 – To the choirmaster: according to The Doe of the Dawn. A Psalm of David. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

We studied Psalm 22 last night in our Bible class. This Psalm is about Jesus’ death on the cross and His gospel that is preached afterwards. But in this Psalm we learn about the intimate relationship that Jesus had with His Father. It is a relationship we all can have with God the Father now because of what Jesus endured at the cross.

The Psalm begins with the question, “Why have You forsaken me?” Jesus, during the most horrible and dark time of His life, felt forsaken and abandoned by God. Verse 1 says that God seems so “far” from Him. Jesus’ requests in verse 11 and verse 19 show what He is thinking. He asks the Father not to be far from Him. That tells us again that Jesus feels at this point that God is far from Him.

But was God “far” from Jesus at the cross? Did God “hide His face” from Jesus at the cross? Was Jesus “forsaken” by the Father at the cross?

Read verse 24 of this Psalm, and you will see the answer:

For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.

Read that again. Slowly. God did not hide His face from Jesus, even at the cross. Even at the darkest moment of humanity, even when Jesus the innocent and holy Lamb was taking upon His shoulders the sins of the entire planet, God did not hide from Him. God was very near to Jesus, even at the cross. Jesus, like many other followers of God, felt abandoned, but was never abandoned.

Verse 21 also shows that God answered and rescued Jesus.

So, when Jesus promised you and me that “I will never leave you or forsake you,” can you believe it (Hebrews 13:5-6)? Will God ever abandon you? When you are at the darkest moments you can possibly imagine as a follower of Jesus, will God forsake you? Never.

Good Decisions and Decisions Made Good

25 Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. 26 And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear.  27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”  28 And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”  29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”  31 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.  33 Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:25-33; NKJV)

At a point in my life when I was making a big decision and was doubting myself, one of the elders/shepherds at the church I was attending said to me “There are good decisions and decisions made good”.  He was communicating to me a lot of things but what I understood was I am free to make decisions but most importantly I needed to make those decisions in prayer and look to Jesus for my guidance and strength.  If I was focused on Jesus, my decision would be good even if it didn’t go the way that I thought it would.

I have since shared this phrase with others as a matter of encouragement and it came back to me this morning as I was thinking through some opportunities and challenges in my life.  As I was thinking, the above verse came to mind.  There are so many lessons in this passage and generally I focus on how Jesus responds.  It has had a profound effect on me in terms of when Peter got himself in trouble, the FIRST thing Jesus did was save him.  When Peter was safe, back with Him and his brethren, only then did Jesus rebuke him and teach him.  That is our Jesus…our Savior…our Lord.  He saves first!

Change and change management is not just a business or organizational term but something we all deal with every day.  We make decisions whether big or small.  We set out on our day and it is made up of a whole lot of decisions.  We often make them fully confident we know how things are going go and boldly set out…and guess what…it doesn’t always go like we think.  One moment we are walking on wave tops and the next we are sinking.  We start flailing and often we make things worse…trying to save ourselves.  I know for me…sometimes I have to be down to my last breath…about to go under…before I put my focus back on my Savior or ask for help.  What I am so thankful for, however, is that His mighty hand thrusts out and grabs a hold of me and pulls me back to Him and safety.

Good decisions and decisions made good.  I pray I make good Jesus-centered decisions but when I don’t, I pray that I call out to Him before it is too late.  Out of the boat…back in the boat…out of the boat again…it’s our life but Jesus doesn’t move and He is all about saving…being His disciple is a good decision and a decision made good.  Focus on Him and go boldly.  Love you all.

Strategic Pause

14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Strategic pause is a phrase I have heard both in the Air Force and in the Army.  The idea is that operations are so high and people are busy that there is a need to take break or stop long enough to check and ensure that everyone is okay, take care of different housekeeping items, ensure everyone is on the same page and that the organization is going in the right direction.

This sounds like life to me as well.  Life is busy.  Life can get hard and the burdens seem to far out weigh the rests.  We can get off track and focus on the wrong things.  There are times we need a pause.

I would argue we should pause before we need to pause.  I believe that is what God wants of us.  He wants us to come to Him often and with confidence that He will hear, He will act, and we will be “strategically aligned” to the eternal purpose of the gospel.  Jesus Christ lived as we live and He did it without sin.  Therefore, He knows what we are going through literally and He has the divine power to intercede and help us.  Moreover, He wants to.

Throughout the day, we should pause and confidently go to our Heavenly Father through prayer and make known what is on our heart and lay our burdens at His feet.  We will get more than we deserve and what we get will be just what we need at that moment.  Grace for the moment!  We pray, God hears, angels act and His children are ministered to.

Be strategic.  Plan to be with God.  Take your cares to Him.  Trust He will not forsake you (Hebrews 13:5) and that He will work for you.  Purposefully pause before you unwillingly get stopped by the load and burdens of this world and Satan’s efforts to derail you.  Grace for the moment is a prayer away!

Thankfully Praying

Continuing on in 1 Thessalonians chapter 5, we read:

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; NKJV)

This brings to mind a similar instruction from Paul in his epistle to the Philippians:

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.  6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthymeditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9; NKJV)

Take some time and consider the key words in these verses:

Rejoice, pray, thanksgiving, will of God, Jesus Christ, peace, true, noble, just, pure, lovely, good report, virtue, praiseworthy.

Evaluate your life today through the lens of these words.

Are you rejoicing in your own life and with those you care about or are you letting the bad things distract you?

Are you spending time in prayer whether it is a time you have set aside or continually conversing with your Father through the good and bad of your day?

Do you see the will of God today?  Do you see Jesus?  Are you trusting God is there and working?  Does this bring you peace?

Are the things you are thinking about true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy or is satan filling your mind with distraction?

God is a builder.  Satan is a destroyer.  Fill your heart and mind with the building materials of God, trust His will, feel His peace.  That is what He is shouting from Heaven.  That is my prayer for you and for me today.

Paul’s Prayer

Brothers and Sisters,

I apologize for the brief break in articles and hope this finds you well and having a great summer. This work was started by a brother who loves Jesus and wants to provide encouragement to men as they work to serve Christ. The result has been a sustained set of biblical thoughts and messages that inform and encourage brethren as we all join in an eternally important work. I want to make every effort to keep this rolling an as we get going again, I would encourage you and invite you to contribute or if you have any other thoughts/questions, please reach out as we would love to hear from you.

For today, I want to draw your attention to one of Paul’s prayers found in Ephesians 3:14-21.

“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height–to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him b glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

God is love and His love is for all and is demonstrated in those who have obeyed the gospel of Jesus and have been reconciled to Him. His love is awesome with a width that makes room for us all, a length that represent the extreme measures He will take to demonstrate it, a depth that has room for every sinner every time, and a height that is equal with an eternal and all powerful God who is lofty and yet ever present.

Love. It is a tough word but made easy in Christ. If God could love us so much as to offer His only Son, we should be able to love and live in Jesus despite what we are facing. That is where God wants us to be despite every effort of the devil to steal us away. God’s love is real and it is knowable and will completely fill us if we open our hearts and make room for it…but we will have to get rid of those things like bitterness, envy, anger, selfishness that crowd out the love God is filling us with. And make no mistake, God is and will do the work…we are His handiwork and He is working in us so that we will bring Him glory…in love…so that others might come and join the family of Jesus.

Take some time and think about Paul’s prayer. It’s a great one. It’s one we should emulate. Allow God to work. Get rid of the things you put in your heart through a fleshly perspective and make room for the love God has given and gives from a Heavenly perspective. Watch the fruit of the Spirit overtake the fruit of the flesh and rejoice with all thanksgiving.

Two men who told God about their giving

Compare Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and tax collector in Luke 18 with what is recorded about Zacchaeus (a tax collector) and Jesus in Luke 19. One thing you will see is that the Pharisee in Luke 18 told God about how much he gave, but so did Zacchaeus in Luke 19. But one was justified (saved, received, accepted), and the other was not. What was different about Zacchaeus in the way he talked to Jesus about his own giving?

Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men–extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
(Luke 18:9-14)

Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.” Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
(Luke 19:1-10)

Here are a few contrasts between the Pharisee and Zacchaeus:

  • Luke 18 says the Pharisee trusted in himself that he was righteous. The Pharisee was a religious man who wanted to look good and justify himself. Luke 19 shows that Zacchaeus had a humble heart that zealously sought out Jesus.
  • The Pharisee talked about his giving because he wanted to sound like an impressive servant of God. Zacchaeus was defending with himself against the accusations of those standing outside his house saying he was a sinner. The heart of Zacchaeus was not one to brag to Jesus, but he was pleading with Jesus saying how much he wanted to be right with God. He wanted to be in a relationship with God, he didn’t try to impress God.
  • Zacchaeus knew he was lost and needed salvation. We see in Zacchaeus that when he saw he had mistreated someone, he made it right. The Pharisee was too blinded to his own lost condition. He only noticed the flaws in others, not in himself.
  • Both men helped the poor, but one did it as a religious duty to check off his list and to show to all how awesome he was. The other gave because he truly had compassion for those in need.

Are we a Zacchaeus?