From confrontations with mortality to restrictions on freedoms while endeavouring to maintain a sense of normality, it’s been tough lately…
Our plans even the ones that clearly have God’s calling all seem up in the air right now. The only thing certain appears to be the growing risk of death or so it seems…
The voyage ahead remains stormy amid the troughs and peaks of coronavirus cases announced daily as if the “grim reaper” lurks just outside the doors to our homes.
Christian communities and places of worship not only have endured extended closures of usual meeting places but now face an even greater challenge of sharing the Gospel message.
We cannot travel in some places of the country beyond a few kilometres of home, let alone evangelise abroad on mission.
All is not lost however as we as the followers of Jesus can find resilience and strength through the Bible story of Paul’s adventures enroute to Rome.
In Acts chapter 23 verse 11, Jesus tells Paul to “take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome”.
Jesus has called upon Paul to share the Good News to the centre of the first century world so that it could be spread to all directions throughout the empire.
Rome was a key part of helping the enlargement of the Church and furthering of the missionary vision, so despite being having been imprisoned for two years in Caesarea – Paul (who was also a Roman citizen) appealed to have his case heard by Caesar.
If getting onboard a ship to cross the Mediterranean alongside Roman soldiers, merchants, other prisoners, and crew was hard enough, this would only be the beginning of Paul’s adventures amid the stormy seas.
We have been dealing with coronavirus for two years now and the end is far from clear, let us not give up on our God given endeavours for His Kingdom despite the challenges that we are facing.
The journey will not be an easy one and often there will be times where even those who accompany us or those yielding more power will give up hope.
Sometimes it may seem that the end is neigh and there is no future beyond the bleakness of death, but if we are truly acting upon God’s calling – there will be no forces of nature or of man that can hold us back from being missional for His Kingdom.
Church leaders have often felt ignored and overlooked in the announcement of new measures to address coronavirus especially with first degrees often unclear on the permissibility’s for places of worship.
Christians having a voice in the public sphere even when carrying messages of hope, often are ignored, and marginalised just as Paul’s warnings to the ship’s crew in the Mediterranean Sea.
Life is not a breeze and often we will feel and maybe even be shipwrecked in our voyage towards God’s Kingdom.
Paul faced a cumulation of many near death circumstances that detoured him on his journey to fulfil Jesus’ calling for him to speak of the Gospel in Rome.
Doubt is a natural part of life, and it is likely that even Paul may have had doubts over if he would actually get to Rome or if he was on the right journey.
There ought not to be shame in doubt as for Paul having been subjected to imprisonment, assassination attempts, and now a shipwreck would be feeling a little sheepish into seeing the fulfilment of God’s calling.
But even among these stormy seas of circumstances, Paul remained faithful knowing that Jesus had achieved victory over Satan (who in Near Eastern times would be represented by the storm).
Paul’s shipwreck story is written in the firsthand perspective of Luke who is accompanying him to Rome reminds us that ultimately that faithfulness to God will see us through the toughest of storms.
But this is not all, as we read from John chapter 16 verse 33 with Jesus saying “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”, so we should not expect a cocktail party aboard a cruise ship but rather be fortunate in the case of Paul to even have a plank of wood to hold onto.
Satan has tried and failed in his attempts to stop people from being saved by Christ whether it be trying to have baby Moses drowned, the Israelites genocide by Haman, baby Jesus killed as part of Herod’s infanticide or the religious leaders’ attempts to destroy the early church.
Jesus Christ has triumphed over death and Romans chapter 8 verse 28 reminds us that “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”.
Let us only not be afraid but be leaders among the stormy seas and the crisis facing our world today – not just coronavirus but the grappling with our mortality.
Leadership matters especially in adversity and Paul living under God’s sovereignty demonstrated faithfulness that gives us hope in the here and now.
When the pagan soldiers and others aboard the ship felt hopeless and could not even bring themselves to sustain their own lives through eating, Paul stood up and brought forth Godly exhortation.
Paul was just a prisoner at the start of the voyage, but by the end he was favoured by the Roman centurion and all lives especially his was spared during the chaos of the shipwreck off Malta.
Instead of fearing death, Paul acts with God’s calling to him in mind to ensure that the Good News is shared with the world.
When we as followers of Jesus face adversity, there ought to be no fear of death but the challenge of how we can be leading others to be making the most of the here and now for the sake of the Gospel.
The story of Paul surviving the shipwreck is followed in Acts chapter 28 by his arrival in Rome and more examples of faith being put into action.
God’s sovereignty is always at work no matter the circumstances and we find no better refuge than Him as we contemplate questions of life and death.
This article was first published in Christian Today Australia on Monday 16 August 2021.