This morning is our final lesson on hope during this mixed bag of devotions.
“Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, ‘Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved’” (Acts 27:31 NIV).
Life is not fair. You will have problems, difficulties, and hurts that will make you better or bitter. You will either grow up or give up. Either you’ll become who God wants you to be or your heart will become hard. You have to decide how you are going to respond to the tough times in your life. How will you handle it?
When you go through those difficult times, what happens to you is not nearly as important as what happens in you. That’s what you take into eternity — not the circumstances but your character.
In Acts 27, we learn three ways you shouldn’t respond in trials:
1. Don’t drift. “The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along” (Acts 27:15 NIV). The ship carrying Paul and other prisoners to Rome was in the middle of the Mediterranean and hadn’t seen the sun for 14 days, so they couldn’t get any bearings, and they started to drift.
When they face difficulty, some people start drifting through life. They have no goal, purpose, ambition, or dream for their life. Today, we call this “coasting.” The problem with coasting is that you’re headed downhill. Life is not a coast. Life’s tough. Don’t lose your ambition or your dream just because life gets hard.
2. Don’t discard. “We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard” (Acts 27:18 NIV). The men in charge needed to lighten the ship, so they threw the cargo overboard, then the tackle and the food. They were discarding things they needed because the storm was so tough.
When you get in a storm and the stress gets unbearable, you tend to start abandoning values and relationships you would not let go of in better times. You say, “I’m giving up on my marriage. I’m giving up on my dream to go to college.”
God says, “Stay with the ship!” For example, have you done that in your marriage? Have you said, “Divorce is not an option for us; we’re going to make it work”? If you haven’t, you’ll always be tempted to walk out. If you don’t throw away the key, you’ll never develop the character God wants you to have. God can change situations and personalities. He can change you. I’ve learned from personal experience that it is never God’s will to run from a difficult situation. God wants you to learn, grow, and develop, and he is there with you all the time.
3. Don’t despair. “We finally gave up all hope of being saved” (Acts 27:20b NIV). After 14 days in total darkness and after giving up their cargo, tackle, and food, the passengers finally give up hope. But they’d forgotten one thing: Even in a storm, God is in control. He hasn’t left you. You may not feel him, but if you feel far from God, guess who moved?
God is with you in the storm, and he’ll help you through it. He is testing you to see if you’ll trust him.