Good morning church! Hope you’re well and glad you’ve joined us this morning. Here at the Gathering, we constantly remind ourselves that Sunday Gathering is not just another event or activity.
It’s actually a gift from God to feed our souls – and that primarily happens through God’s Word as it’s being sung, read and preached each week.
And especially now as we’re about to enter a dedicated time with the Word, I’d urge us all to engage with the Word prayerfully, attentively and expectantly.
As most of you might be aware, we are continuing this series from the book of Acts titled God of Power.
One theme that we’ve seen repeatedly week after week (almost like a broken tape recorder) – is that this book is not primarily telling us about extraordinary men and women who did great things for God. Rather this book points us to an extraordinary God who does great things through ordinary people like you and me.
Right now we find ourselves nearing the end of the book of Acts – and this is so unlike the start of the book where we witnessed the excitement in seeing the church explode on the scene – multitudes of people following Jesus
But in contrast, the end of the book is quite somber and subdued. The story seems to be getting harder and worser for the apostle Paul. But before we jump into it, I’d love to pray for us.
Before the introduction of Google Maps, all that we had was “Roadside Stranger Maps” where when we were lost on the road, we were fully reliant on the experience and confidence of the roadside stranger.
And in those detour moments can cause alot of anxiety especially if your detour has landed you in the middle of nowhere.
And that’s true not just with detours on the road, the detours of life can seem more anxious and confusing to us. We feel like we’ve been doing everything that God wants us to do, we’ve been faithfully following Jesus and yet life doesn’t get any easier. Our situations don’t get any better.
And in those moments we often ask ourselves “what is God doing during these detours of my life”? If God could only shed some light on His purposes, then maybe I could make some sense of this detour.
And I think through a passage like the one we read today, God is trying to reveal what He is doing through these detours of life. God wants to lift the cover off so that we can see His purposes through a detour.
So what is God doing during the detours of life?
- He’s revealing His Fame through us
God is revealing His fame and glory to a lost and dying world through us.
Let’s do a quick recap of where we’re at. More than two long years had passed since Paul was imprisoned at Caesarea without a proper warrant.
And then in last week’s passage, we saw how Paul was made to defend his faith in front of the some of the most powerful people alive at the time – governor Festus (who wrote down minutes of the meeting which would be passed on to Caesar for his reference during Paul’s appeal) & Herod Agrippa (who was carefully scrutinizing every thing that Paul said and did).
After serious examination of Paul’s defense, Herod Agrippa’s the conclusion was that – Paul did nothing wrong deserving death or imprisonment. He could have been released had he not appealed to Caesar.
In other words, this was a vindication of Paul’s innocence and yet somehow he was made to undergo an unending, unnecessary, unjust trial.
Chapter 27 starts off by telling us that the date of the appeal in front of Caesar was finally decided, and was going to sail to Rome.
What follows during his journey to Rome is nothing short of eventful. In fact you could make a thrilling movie out of this story – there’s a brewing storm, there’s a shipwreck and there’s even a snake bite.
But let’s not miss the point God is trying to make through this unbelievable, thrilling events which took place in this passage. What God’s doing is that He is revealing His fame and glory / character qualities / attributes to a lost and dying world – and how He’s revealing? Through ordinary people like us!!
Let’s see what evidence do we see in this passage:
- God’s wisdom:
9 Since much time had passed, and the voyage was now dangerous because even the Fast[a] was already over, Paul advised them, 10 saying, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” 11 But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. 12 And because the harbor was not suitable to spend the winter in, the majority decided to put out to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing both southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there. (v9-12)
Paul wasn’t trying to show off his maritime knowledge and skills by giving this advice to the crew. He obviously didn’t have the training, knowledge or experience that the captain or his crew or the majority of those on the ship had.
In fact he was the only one on the ship sounding an alarm, he did that because the all knowing, all wise God revealed something to Paul which wasn’t readily available to the others. God was revealing His wisdom to the others through Paul.
- God’s protection:
21 Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. 22 Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, 24 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.’ (v21-24)
Despite the fact that the entire crew went against the counsel of God, but because Paul was on the ship and because God had ordained for him to stand and testify before mighty Caesar, God spared all of the other passengers on the ship. Through Paul, God was revealing His protection – He is the God who Protects us.
- God’s sovereignty
25 So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. (V25)
Paul wasn’t just trying to build everyone’s morale. He wasn’t being overly optimistic. He fully trusted in what God said and what God would do. He knew that God doesn’t make false promises – He sticks to His word – and not just that God has the absolute authority to make it happen exactly the way He choses. And that’s what gave Paul the confidence to say that to dejected crew and passengers on the ship. Through Paul, God was revealing His sovereignty to the others on the ship.
- God’s comfort
33 As day was about to dawn, Paul urged them all to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have continued in suspense and without food, having taken nothing. 34 Therefore I urge you to take some food. For it will give you strength,[f] for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.” 35 And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat. 36 Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves. (V33-36)
Due to how bad the storm was and the duration of time that it went on for, you can imagine how everyone onboard lost all hope and stopped eating because they didn’t think they were going to survive. And in the midst of that, Paul reassures them by telling them that not a hair is going to perish from their heads (big bold statement). And by consuming food in front of them, he displayed his full trust that God would save all of them. And seeing that, everyone else on the ship followed suit and were encouraged and ate food. Through Paul, God’s and assurance was being revealed to the others on the ship!
- God’s Power
3 When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. 4 When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice[b] has not allowed him to live.” 5 He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. 6 They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god. (v3-6)
7 Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days. 8 It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him, healed him. (V7-8)
God’s miraculous Power was being revealed to the residents of Malta & the passengers who were on the island.
Now imagine if you were one of the passengers on the ship or one of the residents at Malta witnessing these events in Chapter 27 and 28. You would come to the conclusion that the God Paul worships and serves is not like any of the other gods they worship. You would come to acknowledge that this God is perhaps the One True God who controls every single piece of the puzzle (even the detours) to ensure that His purposes advance.
How does this speak to the detours in our life? This passage should encourage us to know that despite the detour, God is revealing His fame and glory and character to a lost and dying world through us.
Trust me, a watching world is taking notice and wondering why are we different from the others despite the situations or people in our lives.
After all this is a restoration of what we were created to do in the first place. In Genesis, we see how God created man and woman in His own image – we were created to reflect who God is to the world around us – we were supposed to be mirrors of God’s character.
But sin entered the world, when we were saturated in sin, that image of God became distorted (we didn’t lose it but it got marred). Which meant that we were no longer perfectly reflecting and revealing God’s character as we should. All human beings since then have been carrying this distorted image.
Until Jesus Christ came into the world as man. Because as God’s Son, Jesus carried the perfect image of God and He was able to reveal the fame of God in everything He said and did perfectly.
And then He died on the cross to redeem us from the punishment for distorting the image of God – all of us our seriously guilty of tarnishing the image of God with our sin. Jesus paid the price, buried and on the third Day rose from the dead so that whoever would repent of their sins and put their faith in Jesus’ finished work would have that distorted image restored and renewed in the likeness of Christ.
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:10)
So it’s not something new that we’re called to do, it’s what we’ve always been created to do. And the detours of life provide a perfect platform to reveal that to a lost and dying world.
Why would a lost world take notice of us if we are being faithful to God in comfortable, pleasant circumstances? That’s what they will expect from people who are experiencing blessing after blessing. What makes them pause and wonder is when they see us respond differently in not so ideal, not so comfortable situations.
And God’s fame and glory and character is being visibly and clearly revealed in seasons like that.
14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. (2 Cor 2:14)
But not is God revealing His fame to a lost and dying world through us, He’s also
- He’s revealing His Favor to us
God wants to show His Favor to us – His children.
V1 tells us that Paul was handed over to a Roman centurion named Julius who was of the Augustan Cohort – this was a special Roman unit. Paul was being treated as a high-profile prisoner who needed to be accompanied by Julius to get him to Rome.
And despite Julius being someone of such high authority who was tasked to escort a high profile prisoner Paul to Rome, we see him respond with unusual kindness throughout the passage.
Look with me at the following verses from Acts 27:
3 The next day we put in at Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him leave to go to his friends and be cared for. (V3) – kindness was shown to Paul and special liberties were given to him to go and meet his friends and be cared for.
42 The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any should swim away and escape. 43 But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, 44 and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land. (v42-44) – Not only was in giving special liberties to Paul, but the Roman centurion also wanted to protect Paul from any harm that could be caused by his own group of soldiers.
It’s pretty clear that this was God’s doing! God was using Julius (a Roman, unbelieving centurion) to reveal His fatherly favor to His child Paul. He wanted to reveal His presence and His care to Paul through this.
That’s a very important principle we need to grasp especially during life’s detours. God is our Father first, before being our Boss.
Sometimes when we read passages like in Acts where we see that our God is an extraordinary God doing great things through ordinary people – we might wrongly assume God to be a taskmaster first whose main job is to ensure that we’re all put us to work.
Or we only see God as a commander of the army who gives us marching orders and supervises our work along the way. But the truth is that He is our Father first and desires to show His fatherly favor to us His children in all seasons – especially the detour seasons of life.
If we miss this principle Or confuse this truth of God being our Father first, then we’ll easily slip into seeing our relationship with God as transactional and conditional. Thinking that God will love and show favor on me because I’m faithfully serving Him.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth, because time and time again in Scripture we are reminded of God’s fatherly favor over us which is not dependent on how well or how badly we serve our duties and responsibilities.
1 John 3:1 ESV
 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.
Romans 8:15 ESV
 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
And this is true in all the moments when we’re on the right road, and also when we are on a detour either because of our personal sin or because of God’s Sovereign plan. Irrespective of what might the cause, God will still reveal His favor to us because He’s our father and He cannot stop showing His favor on us.
He will correct us and discipline us if we are in, but will not turn His face away from us.