“When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment.”
As we near the end of the book, I have to say it has been a joy to preach through the book of Acts! It is filled with examples and lessons that I need to learn and apply. As I continue to look at the “Acts of Acts” in this sermon series, it seems like each chapter has the apostles, or early Christians, involved in an act that we have a tendency to try to avoid. Yet it was these very acts of God in their lives that transformed a fledgling group disciples in disarray into a mighty force that turned the known world upside down with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We live in a time where we need such a transformation in the church and in the lives of the individuals who follow Jesus.
Paul continues his journey toward Rome in Acts 27 as the decision is made that it is time to set sail. Paul knew that he had a mission to complete. He had been called by God to preach the gospel to the Gentiles and to speak about Jesus before kings and authorities so Rome was the place to go to speak before the highest human authority of the day. While we may not board a ship, many times in our life God uses this same Act of SAIL to move us from where we are to where He wants us to be.
- Storms: As we consider the Act of SAIL, probably the best place to start is with a reminder that there will be Storms! For some reason, even when we know better, we begin to believe that the journey from where we are to where God wants us to be ought to be smooth sailing. Paul had warned of storms to come but it seems as if everyone on board were caught off-guard and unprepared when the storm did arrive. Jesus warns us that in this world we will have trouble but to take heart for he has overcome the world. We read that, and we know that, yet when trouble does come we are often quickly overwhelmed and surprised. It is as if we expect, and even demand, that walking the path Jesus calls us to has to be easy or He wouldn’t have led us in that direction. Instead of seeking Him in the midst of the storm we tend to give up and assume that we must have been sailing in the wrong direction. Sometimes that is true . . . remember Jonah? . . . but the only way we know that is if we turn to Jesus in the midst of the storm and see where we’ve been and where He wants us to be. As God moves you along in your journey with Him through the Act of SAIL, be sure that Storms will come but also that He will be with you in them.
- Advice: The Act of SAIL also involves us in the act of Advice — both giving and receiving. The dictionary defines advice as being “one person’s opinion of what another person ought to do.” At first read, you may wonder what does it matter what someone else thinks I ought to do. God tells us often, especially in the book of Proverbs, that good advice is necessary for great success. Yes, we must weigh the advice and consider if it is godly advice or ungodly advice but too often we dismiss it more because of the source than because of the content. As Paul set out on this journey, he gave advice to the captain of the ship that continuing to sail beyond a certain time of year would not be wise. We also read that this advice was not taken and I can think of a several reasons why! Paul was a prisoner trying to give advice to a ship captain. Paul’s background was that of a religious leader — pharisee turned preacher — what did he know about sailing on the open sea? And then you have the captain himself who seems to be pretty confident at the beginning that he knows what he’s doing and doesn’t really need any advice. Change the names and the occupations and do you see yourself in those statements? How often do you say or hear, “I know what I’m doing!”, “What do they know?”, “Who do they think they are?”, and the statements could go on of the ways we say, “I don’t need or want your advice!”. We are able to grow in the Act of SAIL when we are willing to give and receive Advice that we can filter through our time with God.
- Instruction: While at first it may seem similar to advice, the Act of SAIL requires that we can take, and give, Instruction. The dictionary defines instruction as “a spoken or written statement of what must be done.” Did you notice the difference? Opinion versus what must be done. Are we guilty at times of treating God’s Word as advice rather than instruction? Even though Paul’s advice was not taken by the ship’s captain, there comes a time in the journey when Paul moves from giving advice to giving instruction. As the storm presses in, Paul shares instructions he received from God. He even points out the difference, noting that they had not taken his advice but now he had instructions from God that must be followed in order for the lives of everyone on board to be saved. As we move from where we are to where God wants us to be in the Act of SAIL, it is critical that we realize that God’s instruction is not optional but is given that we, and others, would know what we must do to be saved.
- Listening: The key to moving through the Act of SAIL to where God wants us to be centers around our Listening! It was Paul’s constant listening to God that put him on the path to Rome to begin with. It was also his connection with God that would lead others to listen to the words he would share about how to be saved. We must begin with listening in order to hear clearly the direction God is calling us to. As we move toward where God wants us to be, it is our listening to Him that carries us through the storms that are sure to come. It is our listening to God that helps us to sort through the advice we give and receive so that we can distinguish between good and evil. It is only through listening to God’s Word that we know the instructions necessary that we, and others, might be saved. The Act of SAIL gains its real power from our willingness and consistency in Listening.
So, how are you doing in living out and growing in the Act of SAIL? As you move from where you are to where God wants you to be, do you anticipate the Storms that you will face? Do you surround yourself with people who will give good and godly Advice? Are you willing to accept Instruction from God’s Word on the things you must do? Will you actively be engaged in the process of Listening as you proceed down the path God is leading you on? I pray that your involvement in the Act of SAIL will boldly take you from where you are to where God wants you to be as you show, and tell, the world that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior!
“Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”
It is a joy to preach through the book of Acts! It is filled with examples and lessons that I need to learn and apply. As I continue to look at the “Acts of Acts” in this sermon series, it seems like each chapter has the apostles, or early Christians, involved in an act that we have a tendency to try to avoid. Yet it was these very acts of God in their lives that transformed a fledgling group disciples in disarray into a mighty force that turned the known world upside down with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We live in a time where we need such a transformation in the church and in the lives of the individuals who follow Jesus.
As we arrive in Acts 20 in our sermon series we find Paul completely engaged in the Act of LIFE, even knowing that he is nearing the final leg of his journey. Paul’s relationship with Jesus had not simply become a part of his life — it was his life! It is in the midst of this Act of LIFE that we find Paul speaking until midnight only to be interrupted by a young man falling out a window and dying. Not to worry — Paul raises him to life, takes a short break, and resumes teaching until daybreak! Lets look at some key characteristics from Paul’s Act of LIFE.
- Living: Some have said that life is what happens while you are busy trying to figure out how to make a living. Paul understood that life was all about who you were living for! Paul would make plans and express desires but always sought, and listened to, God’s direction for his travels and life. He wanted to live in obedience to God. While he had his preferences, it didn’t matter where he was or how he got there, he was living for Jesus. If we want to see the world turned upside down for Jesus as it was in the first century, we must begin by living completely for Jesus at all times. Day in and day out, Paul lived for Jesus no matter what. Wherever he went he would worship God, seek out believers, and teach publicly and privately about Jesus being the only way to God. When we are engaged in the Act of LIFE, our living for Jesus must be full-time and evident to all who are around us.
- Instruction: Another part of the Act of LIFE that Paul lived out was the act of Instruction. Even on a tight time schedule, Paul does not neglect his responsibility and calling to pass on instruction in The Way to the people around him. In this chapter, as Paul heads toward Jerusalem, there is a quick stop in Troas where Paul teaches all night because he is leaving in the morning. Part of the great commission is a command to teach everything that Jesus commanded. Unfortunately, far too often we fail to be involved in instruction from either side. Either we think we know everything and don’t need instruction or we’re intimidated by others and let fear keep us from giving instruction — or more likely, a combination of both. Paul understood the great need to pass on all that he had learned from his pursuit of God. The Act of LIFE calls us to be involved in bringing up, discipleing, those who are coming up behind us. Learning to take Godly instruction and to be involved in passing on Godly instruction is an important part of living the Act of LIFE.
- Farewell: Part of the Act of LIFE that can be very difficult for many people is the act of Farewell. Goodbyes can be very difficult because they seem so final and we’re not always prepared for that. Paul understood the importance of using farewells to warn and prepare people for what they would face in the future. As Paul headed toward Jerusalem, he called for the Ephesian elders to come to him so he could say goodbye in person. This farewell was an important time for Paul to let the elders know what he was about to face — and that he was okay with it. It was also a time to warn them of things that they would face and help them to be prepared to handle the difficult times. When we are growing in the Act of LIFE, we need to be deliberate about our Farewells for both our benefit and the benefit of those around us.
- Embrace: At the very heart of Paul’s Act of LIFE was this act of Embrace. I find it interesting that after Paul warns the Ephesian elders of the terrible things that are to come, Acts 20 ends with the statement that what grieved them the most was Paul saying they would never see him again. Even as Paul would travel from place to place, his hearts desire was to embrace people with the love he had found through Jesus. Even when he would write very pointed and corrective letters to the churches, he made it clear that his love for them was not diminished. I’m not too sure we get that concept too often in today’s church culture. Churches split and divide, people are excluded and leave a church fellowship, and “church hopping” runs rampant many times because we’ve not learned the act of Embrace even in times of difficulty and disagreement. While that activity is harmful to the church, the greater problem is that it makes us very ineffective in reaching the unchurched. We will never learn to truly embrace those who are completely outside of a relationship with Jesus if we can’t learn to embrace those who are fellow believers. Embracing someone, whether within the church family or outside of it, doesn’t mean that we agree with or accept everything they do or say — it simply means we love them with the love Jesus has called us to have. The Act of LIFE calls us to learn to embrace one another as brothers and sisters in Christ and to embrace the hurting and lost with the love of Christ.
So, how are you doing in living out and growing in the Act of LIFE? Do you daily recognize and accept the call for every aspect of your Living to be done for Jesus? Are you willingly involved in receiving and giving Instruction in God’s Word? Do you make your Farewells meaningful in preparing people for what is to come? Are you able to Embrace people who need to feel the love of Jesus even when it calls them to go and sin no more? I pray that your response to the Act of LIFE will boldly show the world that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior!