Preached at Trenton Baptist, March 5, 2017
(these notes may be used freely within the church ministry of sister congregations. Broadcast, commercial, or other income producing use is prohibited whether in whole or part. Copyright, Dr. George Tumlin, 2017.)
The Ride of Your Life
What’s the wildest ride you have ever taken? How about a switchback railway? How you ever ridden one of those? I bet you have.
Switchback railway is what the first roller coaster in America was called on Coney Island in 1884. It was designed by LaMarcus Thompson. The five-cent ride reach an astounding speed of six miles per hour and became an overnight favorite.
It wouldn’t compete in the world of modern roller coasters. Many roller coasters today product between 4 - 6.5 G’s. To put that in perspective, a spaceship launches as 3-G’s.1 The Formula Rossa roller coaster, in Ferrari World, United Arab Emirates travels 150 mph and goes from zero to sixty in less than two seconds.2
I have ridden a lot of things in my life. I have ridden horses, bulls, motorcycles, airplanes, helicopters, ships of many sorts, trams, and armored vehicles. An elephant as means of getting from one place to another is in the list. I’ve been on a ship in forty foot plus sea on the fringes of a hurricane. I’ve traveled for days on a ship whose stern gate was ripped off by rough seas leaving an opening large enough to fit a chicken house.
But the most exciting ride I’ve ever taken has been following the path the Lord Jesus has place before me. It has taken me to places I never imagines as a young boy growing up in North Georgia hill country.
I have breathed the arctic air so cold it burns your lungs. I have gasped for my breath in humid tropic jungles. I have stood on snow crested mountains allowing a panorama so sweeping it seemed to reach the ends of the earth. I’ve transverse the ocean flood in a tunnel buried in its sands.
It has not always been an easy path, but Jesus has always lightened my load and carried me through. On those days when the path has been lonely, Jesus has come along side me and been closer than a brother. There have been days when like King David, there has been but one step between me and death. Jesus was there and was a shield to me.
All the time Jesus has been faithful to His promise, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” My only regret is that I did not trust Him more assuredly in those times it did seem as if He had forgotten me. He never did. The forgetfulness has been all mine. Failure of faithfulness was my fault.
Many of you have similar experiences in your life. And we don’t know yet where our paths will take before we reach heaven’s shore. We can take a lesson from Paul on his final voyage.
I wish I could say that in the worst of times I stand as confident in God’s providence as does Paul in our scripture today. He says to the crew in verse 22, And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.
We ended last week with the thought that neither the ship’s owner nor the centurion will listen to God’s warning delivered by God’s man.
They will end up on the ride of their life and it will not be on a carefully engineered roller coaster. A storm at sea threatens to send everyone to Davy Jones’s locker. No one on board is exempt from the hardships about to befall the ship and crew.
No one gets through life unscathed. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said it well in The Rainy Day:3
The day is cold, and dark, and dreary; It rains, and the wind is never weary; The vine still clings to the mouldering wall, But at every gust the dead leaves fall, And the day is dark and dreary. My life is cold, and dark, and dreary; It rains, and the wind is never weary; My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past, But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast, And the days are dark and dreary. Be still, sad heart! and cease repining; Behind the clouds is the sun still shining; Thy fate is the common fate of all, Into each life some rain must fall, Some days must be dark and dreary.
It is true “into each life a little rain must fall.” Our experiences, however, pale in comparison to those of Paul in serving our Lord Jesus Christ. Mine, indeed, have be mild in severity, and nearly always pleasant when viewed alongside his ministry.
Paul had overcome every challenge to doing God’s will. Earlier in his ministry Paul listed some of the challenges for the Corinthians. He said in 2Cor. 11:23-28, Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. 24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. 25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. 28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.
Paul is however still on the job. He is on his way to preach at Rome, albeit as a prisoner in chains. Now Satan appears to have incited even nature against Paul, and it seems bent on stopping him.
It is interesting to note that Paul was about to experience his fourth shipwreck. Most people would have given up the ministry after one shipwreck. It’s a good thing that those truly called of God are a tough lot.
Dr. Richard J. Krejcir writes, “Most statistics say that 60% to 80% of those who enter the ministry will not still be in it 10 years later, and only a fraction will stay in it as a lifetime career. Many pastors-I believe over 90 percent-start off right with a true call and the enthusiasm and the endurance of faith to make it, but something happens to derail their train of passion and love for the call.”4
Serving Jesus is never without complications for anyone no matter what place of service He has given us. A lot of things and people tend to get in the way of keeping our commitment clear. Doing what needs to be done is often inconvenient, uncomfortable, or takes time away for something we’d rather be doing. Sometimes it can be frightening.
Luke describes in detail the frightening events and fearful emotions which resulted from this serious storm at sea. The ship is in danger of breaking up. The sailors reinforce it by wrapping cables around it. Some think to abandon ship and steal the life raft, leaving the others behind to die. Finally, all hope of survival is lost.
The ship, crew, and passengers are caught in a Nor’easter of mammoth proportions. The word Euraquilo means northeast. A Euraquilo could be a very the bad typhoon. The word translated “tempestuous” is the Greek too-fo-nee-kos’. Our word, typhoon comes from it.
While those storms remain hazardous for modern ships, they were extremely dangerous storms for shipping of that time. The Jewish historian, Josephus, writes about being shipwrecked during one of the storms a short while before Paul’s wreck. It took place under Felix’s rule. Josephus, like Paul would later, was traveling to Rome on a ship. Six hundred passengers were on board. The ship sank during the storm and only eighty people survived.
Paul will not let a storm, shipwreck, or snake bite stop him. He knows the God of the storm. Nothing can stop him because nothing can overcome the power of our Lord Jesus. Paul looks at the approaching storms like an eager child looks at a roller coaster.
It reminds us of the old Southern Gospel song by the Happy Goodmans, I Wouldn’t Take Nothin’ for My Journey Now.
This is a real, historical event in the ministry of Paul. Back in the 1960’s, Joe Navarro, along with other Malta fishermen, discovered four ancient Roman ship anchor in 90 feet of water, the depth at which Luke says the sailor cut their lines on four anchors. They were located just off a beach in a bay where two sea come together. There was also a reef just as Luke describes in Acts 27.
Storm in our life are just as real. They can come suddenly with little or no warning. They may take us on the ride of our life or even the fight of our life.
But when we are in the will of the Lord, He will always have a way through it for us. We don’t need an angel to tell us because Jesus has already promised us His help and presence.
Sir Humphrey Gilbert's crew became terrified on a voyage. They thought they were sailing off the edge of the world. They asked him to turn back. He would not do it. "I am as near to God by sea," he said, "as ever I was by land." The man of God is the man whose courage stands when terror invades the hearts of others.
What do you do when your whole world is about to be shipwrecked?
We place our hope in God, and God alone. We see here that Paul does not place his hope in the sturdiness of the ship, competence of the captain, or the leadership of the legionnaire. He puts it in God’s promise. He says, So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.
"Where is my hope when I feel hopeless? Where is my encouragement when I feel discouragement? Where is my help when I have no help? It’s right here. The precious word of God.
The February, 2005, issue of Our Daily Bread has a story about a Sunday school teacher who gave each student in his class a New Testament. He encouraged each of them to write their name inside the front cover.
Several weeks later, after inviting the boys to receive Christ as their Savior, he asked those who had done so to write these words under his name: "I accept Jesus." But one boy scribbled instead, "I expect Jesus."
The teacher said, "Why did you write "I expect Jesus?” The boy said, "Not only do I accept the Lord for my salvation. But I EXPECT the Lord to be with me every day of my life. And to do everything He promised me."
That’s the kind of faith Paul had. He EXPECTED God to be there for Him! He expected God to keep His word. He had faith that God could get him through every storm in life. How do I know that? Because 2 Timothy 4:18 says that "The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack bring my safely to His heavenly kingdom."
My message to you is that you can trust God when your life gets stormy and you’re on the ride of your life. You can trust God when things go unexpectedly wrong. And you can trust God even when things seem hopeless. I pray that you would be receptive to His love and that you would allow Him to still the storms in your life.
There are times when it is necessary to cut our anchors to get off the stormy sea. Why don’t you do that today? Cut your anchors and take the ride of your life with Jesus.
1: https://www.nasa.gov/missions/science/hyper.html, 3/4/2017
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Rainy Day, in Poems, Longriver Press, Secaucus, NY, 1976, pg. 16.