Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. “For the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything. Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. Altogether there were 276 of us on board. When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea (Acts 27:33-38).
There are a few memories that stick out from my childhood. One of them was the day my dad took off the training wheels on my bike. My neighbor had a sloped driveway, so I set up at the top and positioned myself to push off. Once I gained momentum, I started to pedal and whooshed down into the street! My friends were cheering me on and chasing alongside me, and as I pedaled more and more, their voices faded in the distance. As a father of six, I have had the privilege of being there for five of my kids learning how to ride. Number six is a bit resistant so pray for him and me. : ). I would put my hand against their back and run alongside them assuring them that I would not let go until they gained full momentum. I told them to look straight ahead and keep pedaling. Watching them take off for the first time on their own was exhilarating having a sense of pride and wonder as they hit another step in their personal growth.
Having a household of eight, you can imagine the latest news has been disruptive. Plans are getting canceled, new policies at work, concerns are looming, and people are generally gearing up preparing what may happen in the days to come. When I left my house this morning after spending some time in the Word and prayer, the Holy Spirit prompted me with this picture from my past. I said to the Lord, “Well God, it looks like you are taking the training wheels off.” We, in one of the most plentiful and abundant places on earth, have gotten used to our daily routine and a sense of normality living our lives without a lot of concern comparatively speaking. We as Christians in America can trust in God but are generally able to teeter back and forth with no great harm. We rely on our robust national infrastructure, the wheels of commerce, educational systems, public services, and government institutions. Without us knowing it, this has slowed us down and kept us back for all we can experience in God.
Times like these allow us to grow personally in our reliance on God, who is trustworthy, and to more clearly hear and communicate His Word to the world around us.
The Apostle Paul was no stranger to hardship. Wherever he ended up, he would share Jesus, and Satan would, in turn, stir up a hornet’s nest to try and oppose these efforts, but God’s purposes would always prevail! Towards the end of the book of Acts, Paul was arrested and scheduled to be brought to Rome on a prison ship (see Acts 27). God tells Paul that the trip is not going to go well because of an impending storm but no one listens to his warning. When the storm hits and all are in a panic, Paul places himself in a posture of prayer, looking for God’s direction. An angel gives Paul the insider information that all the people will survive because God has plans for Paul in Rome. We see Paul as a calming influence amid the storm giving people direction just as God gave it to Paul so that life would be preserved. In a pivotal moment, Paul broke bread and gave thanks to God, which encouraged his fellow passengers to eat and receive nourishment as well. The passengers all made it to shore, just as God told Paul. Even on the island, a poisonous snake bites Paul, and he does not go down because of God’s amazing plans for Him!
With everything going on, we must ask ourselves what is God wanting to do in His people?
I believe God allows us to go through disruption, so we come to know He is trustworthy,
that nothing can thwart His plans, and to teach us to listen to His Word and direction alone.
Paul had learned to look to God for all his answers and to take care of all his needs. Every step of the way he acted on God’s instructions and waited on God to give him direction through the God's Word, the Spirit or special messages from heaven. Paul found his strength through His relationship with God. He says he found the secret of being content in all things because Jesus Christ strengthened him (Phil 4:11-13). This same comfort, contentedness, and guidance are offered to all God’s saints who look to Him.
We should also consider that many of us have been praying that God will revive His church! Perhaps He will use the current situation to bring us to Him in a deeper relationship and the boldness that we need in this day and hour.
Oh, that He would take the training wheels off and teach us to rely entirely on Him no matter what the situation or circumstance. God wants you to find your footing and experience the exhilaration of trusting in Him! As you do, picture God the Father lightly taking His hand off your back, looking on with a sense of pride as you grow in Christ.
Look straight ahead and keep pedaling my friends! Keep your eyes on Jesus and follow the prompting of the Spirit as He guides and directs! God promises to complete the good work He started in us until the day of Christ Jesus, and He NEVER breaks His promises! (Phil 1:6)
Lord, I pray your church would know how trustworthy you are. That when you said you would never leave us or forsake us and that nothing can separate us from your love, you meant it, and your Word will never fail. I thank you for the things that you allow in our lives that draw us closer to you. May your Bride shine forth as the world’s systems are shaken and may you recover your people and all people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as King and Lord of this earth. Lord, we desire healing, but not just in the physical, but spirit, soul, and body. Bring about wholeness in people’s lives like never before. May we long for the day you set all things aright with your return Jesus and, in the meantime, make us salt and light with great boldness empowered with your love and your Spirit. Your Kingdom come, and Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven! In Jesus Name, Amen!