Following the Wind

Following the Wind – Acts27: Week 4 – Gospel Actions

On Sunday we finished our mini series journeying through Acts 27 by looking at Paul’s ‘Gospel Actions’ (Acts27:33-38).

At the point where all hope is lost Paul urges his fellow travellers to eat some food. The people on the ship hadn’t eaten for 14 days and Paul says ‘Take some food, you need it to survive.’ He then takes some bread, gives thanks to God in front of everyone, breaks it and eats. This simple action inspires hope for all around. Having seen Paul’s actions they are all encouraged and everyone eats until they had had enough.
Paul did something which was hope in action. Breaking bread encouraged those around him that there was to be a future. They ate, not just to satisfy their hunger that came from the past, but to sustain them in the days that were ahead – ‘you need it to survive.’
The way Luke describes Paul’s action also reminds us of Jesus’ communion meal. Whilst this action may not specifically be a communion meal (although it could be!) it certainly alludes to it and in some ways points to the ultimate salvation hope of Jesus Christ.
The outcome of Paul’s action is that everyone around him follows what he does and, for that moment at least, share his faith. His action is something that brings encouragement and inspires everyone to do the same. Bread and hope are shared with all.
It reminds me of 1Cor11:1 where Paul says ‘Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.’, except here it is more like ‘imitate Christ and those who see it is good will imitate you.’ People around us may not realise it at first but as this happens, and they imitate us, they will begin to follow Christ. In this way faith is shared, meaning the faith we have and live in starts to be assimilated by those around us so that they share our faith just as the people in the boat shared Paul’s faith.

And so we continue to journey together, through the storms, sharing faith in Christ that we know will see us all safely to shore.

Consider some of the issues of hopelessness in the world around us (you may have specific situations and people you know as well as the more general problems in society). In what way can you live out Gospel Actions (actions that speak of hope and encouragement) that others may be able to share and imitate?


Following the Wind – Acts27: Week 3 – Keeping it Together

On Sunday we focused on the way in which God works in the togetherness of people. We saw how the friends of Paul in Sidon (v3) provided for his needs and how we all need other people to help us and provide for our needs.

We also focussed on how the sailors were prevented from jumping ship and escaping in the lifeboat, not for their own good but for the good of everyone else. Paul says “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved” (v31). God’s plan is never just about isolated individuals but communities. It is about individuals following Christ by laying down their lives, as He did, for the sake of others around them. The message to these sailors from everyone else is ‘we need you.’
This speaks deeply to us as a church, reaffirming that every member and part of the body have their important place – we need everyone on board!
It also speaks to how we approach our outreach to those who are outside or on the fringes of church life. We may think that those outside need us because we have the gospel, and this is true. But it is also true that we need them just as much as they need us. Our encounters with people, from all kinds of places, are life giving to us as we live in the gospel of Jesus. I believe that outreach is so much more sincere when we approach people with this attitude, rather than seeing them as statistics in gospel mission. Don’t forget that in Acts 27 we are specifically told that 276 people are saved. God is personally interested in every last individual in the community.
With this in mind I happened to stumble across an article on Monday morning written as a memorial to a lady called Pauline Fell who started Jacob’s Well in Vancouver. This extract sums up perfectly the idea of needing each other in Christ:

‘After she came to really follow Jesus her care became less about “doing good deeds” and much more about meeting Christ in the “other”. Mother Teresa once said, “I do not go to the poor to be Christ to them, as some believe. Rather, I go to meet Christ in them.” Pauline exemplified this.’

This attitude acknowledges that everyone is made in the image of God. It is something that is easy to acknowledge in principle but in practice ‘meeting Christ’ in others can be challenging!

Consider some of the people you encounter from day to day:

Do you meet and see Christ in them? How and in what ways?

Do you appreciate how you need them?

What do you learn about yourself when you consider some of the more difficult, annoying, or not so easy to love people?

How are you challenged by them and how does this transform you?

Following the Wind – Acts 27: Week 2 – Gospel Words

Week 2 – Gospel Words

Despite what the old adage about ‘sticks and stones’ says words are powerful. In particular God’s words are very powerful!
As God’s people we have been given not only the grace of receiving God’s words but the privilege of speaking them. They are the difference between life and death to us, and they have the potential to be life and death for those we speak them to. As we have journeyed in faith God’s words have warned us, given us faith and hope, and ultimately saved us. In turn we have been entrusted with these gospel words to speak to those who we are journeying with. They are the only words that will bring hope and salvation.

In Acts27 Paul is not afraid of speaking dire warning. This is prophetic gospel speaking that calls people to avoid the path that leads to loss and destruction. It is a call to repentance.
Part of our gospel mission is to warn people who are on paths to loss and destruction. This is never easy, as people never want to be told not to do what they want to do! Nevertheless we have a responsibility to speak as God’s watchmen (Eze 3:16-21).

Paul also speaks when people have reached their lowest point. This is hope filled gospel speaking that says ‘no matter how bad things are I believe in God and He can still save us’. It is a call to trust.
Our gospel mission is to speak hope where there is hopelessness, and faith where there is desperation. The people we share the journey with depend on hearing these words. Without them all is lost.

Be bold and proclaim gospel words!

Following the Wind – Acts 27

Week 1 – The Journey

The phrase ‘faith is a journey’ is a bit of a cliché but it is somewhat true. Faith is not just a static statement of belief but a moving and changing journey of discovery through experience and revelation.

Some people worry that their life isn’t going anywhere because they are stuck in the same place/job/situation. But just because life appears not to be moving forward on the outside doesn’t mean it can’t or isn’t moving forward on the inside! The men in Acts 27 were stuck on the ship and once it set sail they couldn’t leave it. As the boat was tossed about on the open sea they were physically stuck and unable to move, however, they moved great distance not so much in nautical miles across the Mediterranean but in their inner heart attitude. They travelled from pride and self confidence, to total despair, hopelessness and fear, to faith and hope. At the beginning of the journey the men are concerned with reaching their destination which is Italy, but by the end of the journey the greater destination that has been reached is encounter with God and His salvation.

All the different characters in Acts27 will have had their own personal journey of faith. There was a diverse group of people on board and they will have all started the journey on the ship with their own individual backgrounds, personal issues and situations. However, they all travel on the same journey, share the same loss and hopelessness, and together discover faith. The inner journey, whilst very personal, is not worked out alone. The inner journey is only possible in community. Without hearing the external words of encouragement and being with others who stand with you in faith the inner journey will rarely get beyond the stage of hopelessness and depression! Strangely then, the inner journey, which is a deeply personal encounter with self and God, is only really possible in sharing and openness with others who are travelling or who have travelled the same path.

Thoughts for meditation and reflection

How aware are you of your own inner journey?
Particularly consider hard times and difficult situations you have faced in your life and what you have learnt about yourself and the Lord. Remember and reflect on times when you have encountered God and His salvation.

Are there some inner journeys where you are still in despair and without hope? If so how are you going to move forward?

How aware are you of the inner journey of the people God has put around you – church/family/friends/neighbours/colleagues/community?
How aware are you of how your inner journey with Christ can interact, affect and influence those around you?
Look at how Paul acted and spoke in Acts 27 and consider how you may also encourage those around you, in and outside the church, to move forward in the journey of faith.

Concluding thoughts

To be fruitful in the kingdom of God we need to be people who move forward in our journey of faith. Those who continually look back and never move forward (like Lot’s wife) will not bear kingdom fruit, those who take the bold steps of faith will.
But we cannot do this alone, so let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.

Further reading

Forgetting what is behind and straining to what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.

Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.