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Choosing God's Purpose

Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church

(6/28) Welcome to Christís Community Church. I wonder how many of you decided to keep going, to take another lap around that wall or that obstacle that had been keeping you from what God promised. Any of you begin this week with a little more zeal, ready to persevere, and to keep going knowing that when you canít see God working around you that heís always working within you? You know, so many times whatís most important to God is not what heís doing for us but what heís doing in us.

Romans 8:28 tells us, "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose"

Today we are going to talk about "Choosing Godís Purpose", because you never know, this might be your sixth day, your last time around that wall, but youíll never know if you donít keep going. This morning, youíve come too far to walk away, youíve come too far to go back, and Iím believing that many of you are going to have powerful testimonies in the weeks to come because you kept going. This week you were faithful, you kept going, and God showed himself to be more faithful than you could ever imagine. Others of youÖ others of you, you give up too quick. If you donít lose 10 pounds in the first week you quit going to the gym, but you need to keep going. Hebrews 10:36 tells us, "You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised" (Hebrews 10:36).

So this morning I want to share with you from the New Testament book of Acts and weíre going to look at one of the great Bible heroes known as the apostle Paul. You know, we often hear his name, but I donít think we truly understand the depth of the character, the perseverance, and the strength of this man. We read so much of his writings in the New Testament but we overlook the personal challenges and difficulties which led him to experience the depth of the riches of Christ. Paul was a man of great spiritual strength whose character was born out of great pain, difficulty, and sorrow and todayís story illustrates this well.

If you have your Bibles with you, turn with me to Acts chapter 27. As we pick up the story we find Paul on board a ship headed for Rome, but heís not on the Carnival Cruise Lines, heís not a tourist, heís in trouble, and he is experiencing great difficulty. You see, Paul is going to Rome as a prisoner with 275 other prisoners bound hand and foot and along the way he encountered an unexpected difficulty. We find them sailing against the winds, unable to keep their course, and they were traveling with great difficulty. If you can relate to that, if youíve been there and done that, youíre in the right place because we are going to talk about persevering in the midst of unexpected difficulty.

Letís read together at verse nine, Acts 27:9-12, "Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Fast. So Paul warned them, "Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also." But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest."

Today I want to talk to you about Choosing Godís Purpose and here in the text weíve got a centurion in charge of getting these prisoners safely to where they needed to go, youíve got the owner of the ship, youíve got the pilot of the ship, and then youíve got a passenger saying, "I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous." And so the centurion has to make a decision, choosing between listening to the owner of the ship, the pilot of the ship who has maps, understands the sea, and is familiar with navigating this ship, or he can listen to a prisoner, a passenger on board. And so obviously he decides to go with the pilot and owner of the ship, but what he didnít recognize that Paul was no ordinary passenger. He didnít know that Paul was on board because he was fulfilling Godís purpose and that God was speaking through Paul to warn them and so theyíre not listening. Instead theyíre listening to the news, the weather, and everybody elseís ideas, opinions, and assessments all before they listen to the preacher. And weíve all been there, weíve all done this, and weíve all got to make this decision. Will I make my decision based on my senses or by the Spirit of God?

So number one, I want to talk to you about when it doesnít make sense.

Choosing Godís purpose when it doesnít make sense, because a lot of us are like the Centurion and instead of listening to what God says, weíre listening to what our senses say, and honestly thatís understandable, because a lot of times God just doesnít make sense. Thereís a lot of stuff that God told people do in the Bible that didnít make sense, but if we weíre to live our lives by what makes sense weíll never become a person of faith. If it always has to make sense for you to obey God youíll never know what it means to trust him.

Last week we read about Jericho and it didnít make sense for Joshua to walk around the walls of Jericho seven times did it? But you know, if today you stop every time following Jesus doesnít make sense youíll never have faith. If youíre concerned that you canít afford to give God 10 percent, or that people are going to think youíre weird, people arenít going to want to be around you, or that people are going to call you one of those Jesus freaks; if youíre always trying to make sense of God, youíll never walk in faith, but we walk by faith and not by sight. I want you to think about those areas of your life where youíre living by your senses and to consider how you might live according to faith in Godís promise.

You see, you donít have to understand to obey. The outcome is God responsibility; obedience is yours. You donít have to know where youíre going to end up to take the next step. In this passage of Scripture we see some men who kept sailing when they shouldíve stopped. Itís a recipe for disaster, because anytime you ignore Godís warnings, the winds will be against you. In this situation the sailors should have stopped, but they didnít, they caught a wind, and for little while it looks like everything was going to be okay.

But then verse 13 says, Acts 27:13-15, "When a gentle south wind began to blow, they thought they had obtained what they wanted; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the "northeaster," swept down from the island. The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along."

Secondly, as weíre driven along.

They were driven along, going with the flow, but now theyíve completely lost control. It doesnít say how long, but before very long the disaster Paul had predicted struck. Roaring down from the mountains of Crete came the dreaded northeaster and though sometimes when you ignore Godís warnings it feels like youíre making progress, what little progress you make is ultimately leading you to disaster. The ship was caught in it and could not head into the wind so the sailors had no choice but to give way to it. They let themselves be driven along, out of control, pushed along by the wind.

Luke says, Acts 27:16-17, "As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure. When the men had hoisted it aboard, they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Fearing that they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along"

Thereís that phrase again, "Driven along." I wonder how many of you are being driven along today because youíve ignored the warnings of God. You know it was that gentle, quiet whisper saying, "You need to pay more attention, you need to put more heart into this, you need to do it like you used to, youíve lost your first love." And so now youíve lost your hope, youíve lowered the anchor, and youíre being driven along.

Picking up again in verse 18, "We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard." Things are getting so bad now, and you know, maybe this might describe what your life looks like right now. Maybe youíre in a panic, youíre just throwing stuff overboard, youíre trying anything, like those sailors, youíre caught up in a storm. You found yourself in trouble, facing great difficulty, in the midst of some uncomfortable situations, circumstances that maybe for the most part, you created yourself.

Verse 19 says, Acts 27:19-20, "On the third day, they threw the ship's tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved."

Have you ever found yourself in that place, where the storms raging, youíre throwing cargo overboard, youíre trying to survive, still trying to make your way through the storm, until finally that moment that you gave up all hope? You came to the conclusion that allís lost, thereís no way out, and some of youíve made that conclusion about your own lives. Youíve decided that youíre always going to be depressed, youíre always going to be overweight, youíre always going to have these health problems, youíre always going to be addicted to this or that. And so youíve resigned yourself to being bitter, to always having a negative view of things, and youíre driven along without hope. These sailors are out there on the sea with neither sun nor stars, theyíre taking a beating, thereís no way of knowing where they are, and they gave up hopeÖ theyíre just drifting.

Verse 21 tells us, Acts 27:21, "After the men had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: "Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. But nowÖ"

But now, changes everything. You see, we canít do anything about what happened back then, we canít do anything about the decisions we made when we were 14, we canít even do anything about what we did last weekÖ but now! "But now," Paul says, "I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed."

Thatís number three, keep up your courage.

Like Paul, I want to speak to you today whoíve been driven along; maybe youíve lost some time, lost some cargo, lost some money, lost your peace, and lost your joy. "But now, I urge you to keep up your courage." But now, and hereís where itís going to get good.

You know, just like Mary and Martha met Jesus on the road after their brother Lazarus had died. They met him and Martha said, "If you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask." (John 11:21-22). But even now, "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we donít see" (Hebrews 11:1). But now, I canít see the stars, I canít see any dry ground, but now Paul said, "But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead" (Philippians 3:13). But now, weíre not putting this off anymore, weíre not going to drift along one more day, now is the time to do the right thing. And he says, "Keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed" (vs. 22).

Isnít that amazing? Our God is such a merciful God! You may have made the wrong choices, you may have got yourself into that situation on your own, but God said, "Iíll still come get you, Iíll save you, Iíll give you another chance." "Not one of you will be lost."

"Only the ship will be destroyed." Now whether thatís good news or bad news depends on your perspective. You see, if what you care about most is in the boat, when the boat goes down your hope goes down with it. And get this, sometimes our hope is too much in how we want God to do something, or how we want to get where we think God wants to take us. When our hope is in our plan, when our plan is interrupted our faith fails. You know, itís like I thought Iíd be better off by now, I thought theyíd never leave me, I thought I was going to get into this university, I thought I was going to marry him, I thought they were going toÖ And what happens, is you get so focused on how you thought it was going to happen, that you missing what God wants to do in you.

Thatís what Paul is trying to get these guys to see. Heís telling them, "Weíre not going to get there in the boat." You know, he likes the boat, but thereís no hope for the boat. You canít just rewind and do that over, some things are never going to be like they were again. But listen to the confidence with which Paul speaks in verse 23, Acts 27:23, "Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me." Isnít that powerful? The Bible teaches us that God goes before us, he goes behind us, but he also goes beside us. Arenít you glad that heís a 360 degree God? He goes into our future and prepares it for you. Heís gone into our past and redeemed you from it. Heís right here beside you in this moment to comfort you and to give you courage.

Youíve got to keep your courage up. The boat might be going down, but keep your courage up. Your bank account might be going down, but keep your courage up. Your grades mightíve gone down last semester, but keep your courage up. You see, your conditions are not always in your control, you donít get to decide the forecast, some things are outside of our control, but your courage is in your control. Some of youíve lost your courage, youíve lost your confidence, youíve lost your hope, and youíve lost your joy. And the reason why is because your hope is in the boat. Your hope is in your circumstances and so sometimes God needs to break your boat apart so he can teach you how to let your hope float to the surface without it.

Keep up your courage even though you didnít know youíd be divorced. Keep up your courage even though business... Keep up your courage even though your retirement accountÖ Keep up the courageÖ even if everything else goes down.

Look at verse 24, Acts 27:24-25, the angel said, "Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.' So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me."

Thatís the fourth point as we close; have faith in God that it will happen.

It will happen. Godís purpose will be fulfilled. Maybe not like you thought, maybe not like you wished, but heís still standing beside you, heís still got you, and your security was never in the boat anyway. "Have faith in God" Paul says, "it will happen just as he told me." Nevertheless" verse 26, "Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island."

Letís skip ahead to verse 41, because I want to show you this before weíre out of time. Acts 27:41-44, "But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf. The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. But the centurion wanted to spare Paul's life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. The rest were to get there on planks or on pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land in safety."

This morning as we close, are youíre worshiping the way you want God to do it, or are you worshiping God who said he would and trusting him to do it however he sees fit? You see, he said heíd provide for you, but he didnít say how he would provide. He said that heíd be there for you, but he didnít promise that youíd feel it. He promised to meet every need, but he didnít say heíd give you everything you wanted. Itíll happen, it might take longer than you want, it might look different than you thought, but if God spoke it one things for sure, whateverís happening in your life, whateverís happening in your spirit, I assure you. Scripture says, "He who began a good work in you ... Philippians 1:6, "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion." You see, God finishes what he starts. Some of you just need to remember today that God is the one who started it. Paul knew that God was the one who let him get on that ship. God was the one who let him end up in chains. Heíd always wanted to go to Rome, but he hadnít pictured the accommodations. This morning, we need to have the same mindset as Paul, that if God put me on the ship, if I have to float on pieces, if I have to grab on to boards, if I have to do the breaststroke, Iíll do it.

Last week we said shut up and keep marching. This week, somebody needs to be encouraged just to keep swimming. If youíve got to do the backstroke, tread water, or do the doggie-paddle, just keep going, it will happen.

Read past sermons by Pastor John Talcott

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