“I Believe God”
Acts 27:25, “Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.”
This morning, there are any number of things in the world to be depressed about. One of the many devices of Satan is to deflect the child of God’s gaze downward at the sorrow’s of life, rather than upward on the beauty of heaven’s glory. The more he can distract our attention to the affairs of life, the more susceptible we are to making rash, ungodly, and very harmful decisions. Friends, life is – as it has always been – a “tangle of toil and care” as one old hymnwriter put it. We may see more toil and tangled cares than before, but depravity and sin have plagued this old earth and will continue to do so until the Lord says “no more.” Therefore, while traversing through the brief shores of this life, we need to remember some things and act upon (believe) those things.
Our study verse is set in the midst of the most “seafaring” chapter of the Bible. The whole chapter is devoted to Paul’s somewhat tempestuous journey from the coasts of his homeland and eventually to Rome, where his life here would end. Earlier in the chapter, Paul encouraged the men not to make the next leg of the journey as he had revealed to him that it would be perilous. Now the peril is upon them, and Paul rebukes them for not listening. However, once the rebuke is over, Paul then encourages them to keep their chin up. He had something else revealed to him: not a single soul on the boat would die. Paul tells them that “his angel” had come to him and told him that both his life and all those with him would be spared, though the boat would perish.
At this point in the story, Paul is the only one we read about on the boat that has any sense of optimism. He is upbeat though all around them things are – quite literally – falling apart. Paul’s attention to the word of God should here garner our finest attention today. How many of us feel to be passengers on a sinking craft that is on a journey that our guardian listened to the wrong sources? (Verse 11) Paul was not a volunteer on this boat, and his advice for its journey was not followed. We may today feel like we are on an involuntary journey when none of our advice or counsel is followed. It would be easy for Paul to simply rebuke the boat’s owner, master, and his own centurion, and yet, after the rebuke, he comforts them. “Be of good cheer” he says.
Today, our desire should be to tell fellow travelers in this tempestuous journey, “Be of good cheer.” Why would Paul say that? He believed God! God told him simply and plainly that all would be well with his life and the life of those with him. Before we get into the meat of believing God, we need to make a fine point of distinction here. Many equate believing God with believing in God, but they are not the same. To believe that God exists is but the first point of belief. To believe God (trust Him for His word) is to extend beyond the confident affirmation of His existence. Many today affirm a belief in God, but their actions show a sad, lacking trust in Him. Paul did not say “I believe in God” but rather “I believe God.”
Now, that we are ready to talk about believing God, some might argue, “Yes, but Paul had an angelic vision and direct revelation from God.” Indeed He did. Yet, you and I have something that I would argue is better than that. Peter said that when we preach the Bible in church with the Holy Ghost’s attendance, we talk of things that “angels desire to look into.” (I Peter 1:10-12) Peter would go on to declare that the sacred pages of Scripture are “more sure” than even a Mountain of Transfiguration experience. (II Peter 1:16-21) By simply reading the Bible and taking it for what it says and means, you and I get a better revelation than Paul’s experience on the boat.
So what did the angel tell Paul, and how should we see that in the Bible today? The angel told him that his life was secure and so were the lives of those with him. That verily came to pass, as they all escaped safe to land by the chapter’s end, even though the boat utterly perished. What does the Bible tell us? We read where God’s children – each and every one including us – will be with God where He is. (John 5:26-29) Jesus even gave similar language to Paul when He said “Let not your heart be troubled.” (John 14:1a) Why? Because He is going to prepare a place for us to be with Him when He receives us to Himself. (John 14:1-3)
God does not promise us that our boat will be safe, but He promises us that we will be safe. He does not promise us feathery landings in this life, but He promises to be with wherever we are in this life. (Hebrews 13:5-6) Should that be our happy lot, Paul encourages us in the Hebrews passage not to fear what man can or will do to us. Instead of looking at the stormy sea, the men in the boat should have been looking where Paul was looking. Paul saw all the destruction and said “I believe God.” Too many times today we look around and our steps say “I want to believe God…” Friends, no matter what it looks like outside, trust Him. Believe Him. Nothing He has ever said has ever or will ever come to naught.
Currently, I am a young father with 4 small children, and our “schedule” brings us in contact with many other young parents of small children. Here lately, I have heard quite a lot of talk, “I just feel so sorry for our children don’t you? I just don’t know what they’re going to do.” Doubtless parents of the previous generation thought the same for my generation. My parents may have even had similar thoughts: though I really do not know. Consider the name that has endured generation after generation. Consider the One that has endured through all generations. He has been with previous generations, and He will be with the coming ones too. The same God that has delivered me thus far will not only lead me home, but also lead, guide, and guard His own that come after me.
Yes, their boat – and mine too – may crumble, but the Lord will preserve and watch over the souls of those whom He loves. People ask today, “Is this country finished?” Maybe, perhaps even probably. However, the more important thing to consider is that no matter what happens to the boat, God’s own will all escape safely to heaven. Nothing here will change the precious promise that all of God’s own will be kept forever. What did that knowledge do to Paul? He was upbeat. He encouraged others. He declared freely what God had so mercifully revealed to Him. Do we believe God? Ah, but the more sobering question; do we act like we believe God? If we are upbeat, encouraging others, and declaring freely what God has so mercifully revealed to us, then yes, we are acting like those that believe God.
Friends, I freely confess that most of my life is much like the father in Mark 9 that had the possessed son. “Lord I believe, help thou mine unbelief.” So much of my life looks like belief and unbelief mixed together. My fountain sends forth sweet and bitter at the same source, which James says ought not so to be. Let us encourage one another with the motto of “Be of good cheer.” No matter how stormy the sea, how broken the ship, or how downcast the sailors are, we need to maintain the firm and steadfast trust in God for His word. (I Corinthians 15:58) As I have heard a wise elder say on many occasions, “The problem with most of God’s children is that they have an outlook. They need an uplook. If we have an uplook, we can help others out there that are stuck on an outlook.” Let us look up together. As the wise woman of Shunam was able to say when her only son died, “It is well.” (II Kings 4:26) Be of good cheer, for it is well.