Anchors In The Storm - Radical

Anchors In The Storm

All followers of Christ will face the storms of life. However, we have anchors in these storms, truths on which we can bank our lives and our eternities. Based on Acts 27 (and several other passages), David Platt identifies five anchors for the believer’s soul in the midst of life’s trials. The God who is sovereign over all things cares for us deeply and is working all things according to His good purposes.

If you have a Bible—and I hope you do—I want you to open it to Acts 27. While you’re turning there, here and at the other campuses, let me just say how grateful I am to God for His grace. I was in Psalm 25 yesterday, in my quiet time, and it was talking about how the Lord leads our paths. It’s so good the way God leads our paths in ways we never could have imagined. So, I praise God for His leadership in my path and for the privilege of walking alongside you all these past few months. I trust Him when it comes to any leadership He has for me in this capacity in the days to come.

So, before we dive into Acts 27, let’s revisit the very beginning of our time together last week when we talked about our need for God’s mercy in light of racism in our country. This week I want to pause and thank God for His mercy in light of one particular member of this church. You may have seen this in national news this week; I saw in the New York Times. Simone Askew is a member of McClean Bible Church, was part of AWANA in elementary school, part of The Rock Junior High and High School ministries and went on the first of five mission trips to the Dominican Republic when she was 12-years-old. This past week Simone made U. S. Military Academy history by becoming the first African-American woman to ever lead as the First Captain at West Point!

First Captain at West Point—that’s the highest position possible in that 4,400-member cadet chain of command. This is a position held by leaders like General Douglass MacArthur, John J. Pershing, William Westmoreland, just to show the significance. One national news headline said, “Diversity at West Point takes a momentous leap forward.”

You can see a couple pictures of Simone on the screen here from these mission trips and just look at that smile. Dale said he was talking with Simone’s mom and her comment was, “We paid a lot of money for that smile.” Praise God for His grace in Simone’s life and may God raise up multitudes of influencers from this church for good in our country and ultimately for His glory. Praise God!

Acts 27 Paints a Picture of Hope

We have two chapters left in our study of Acts and this chapter—Acts 27—is somewhat perplexing. As we’ve read this book, we’ve seen verse after verse and chapter after chapter of the gospel being proclaimed, people coming to Christ, churches being planted, but when we come to this chapter, we don’t see any of that. The gospel is not preached. Nobody comes to Christ that we know of. The church is barely even mentioned. Instead, we have a long story of a storm and a shipwreck filled with all kinds of nautical and navigational details, but in this storm at sea, we see a beautiful and powerful picture of hope for every single one of our lives.

I want to read the story which is kind of long—44 verses—but I want to let God’s Word do the work. Because this is going to be the key to understanding Acts 27, I want to invite you to look for the depth of desperation in this story. Look for the moment at which everybody loses hope and then listen to what happens right after that. So, start in Acts 27:1:

And when it was decided that we should sail for Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort named Julius.  And embarking in a ship of Adramyttium, which was about to sail to the ports along the coast of Asia, we put to sea, accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica. The next day we put in at Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him leave to go to his friends and be cared for. And putting out to sea from there we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were against us. And when we had sailed across the open sea along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing for Italy and put us on board. We sailed slowly for a number of days and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, and as the wind did not allow us to go farther, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone. Coasting along it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea.

Since much time had passed, and the voyage was now dangerous because even the Fast was already over, Paul advised them, saying, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. And because the harbor was not suitable to spend the winter in, the majority decided to put out to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing both southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.

Now when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to the shore. But soon a tempestuous wind, called the nor’easter, struck down from the land.And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along. Running under the lee of a small island called Cauda, we managed with difficulty to secure the ship’s boat. After hoisting it up, they used supports to undergird the ship. Then, fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear, and thus they were driven along. Since we were violently storm-tossed, they began the next day to jettison the cargo.  And 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 no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.

Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship,  and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we must run aground on some island.”

When the fourteenth night had come, as we were being driven across the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors suspected that they were nearing land.So they took a sounding and found twenty fathoms. A little farther on they took a sounding again and found fifteen fathoms. And fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let down four anchors from the stern and prayed for day to come.  And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, and had lowered the ship’s boat into the sea under pretense of laying out anchors from the bow, Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat and let it go.

As day was about to dawn, Paul urged them all to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have continued in suspense and without food, having taken nothing. Therefore I urge you to take some food. For it will give you strength, for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.” And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat. Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves.  (We were in all 276 persons in the ship.) And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, throwing out the wheat into the sea.

Now when it was day, they did not recognize the land, but they noticed a bay with a beach, on which they planned if possible to run the ship ashore.  So they cast off the anchors and left them in the sea, at the same time loosening the ropes that tied the rudders. Then hoisting the foresail to the wind they made for the beach. But striking a reef, they ran the vessel aground. The bow stuck and remained immovable, and the stern was being broken up by the surf. The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any should swim away and escape.But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land,  and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.

Did you see the deepest point of despair in Acts 27? Look back at verse 20: “When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.” “We had no hope.” This is when Paul speaks up and says, “One, you should have listened to me the first time and then two, take heart.” Acts 27:23–24:

For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.

Acts 27 Helps Us Get through the Storms in Our Lives

Everything changes after that and here’s why this statement from Paul is important for your life where you’re sitting right now. First, let’s state the obvious. Followers of Christ face storms in this life. Right? Literally and figuratively followers of Christ face storms in this life. We’ve seen this over and over again in the Book of Acts. Think about Paul in 2 Corinthians 11 where he recounts a summary of all the storms he’s faced on his missionary journeys in Acts. Starting at 2 Corinthians 11:24 Paul says:

Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; [not just once, three times] a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.

This was Paul’s life. Think about what we’ve seen the last few weeks: Paul was arrested, beaten, tried, imprisoned for two years and after all that, you’d think the guy could get a break, but no. As he’s transported to Rome, a massive nor’easter—basically a hurricane—wrecks the ship he’s on with a bunch of prisoners.

Stories like this in the Bible are really important for us to read. Particularly because we live in a day in the church where there are a lot of people who teach that if you follow God, everything will go well for you. Millions and millions of people here and around the world are buying into the theology that if you have faith in God, then everything will be great in your life. If you just have faith, you’ll have health, wealth, possessions and prosperity. Ladies and gentlemen that is not true. That is not what the Bible teaches.

The Bible actually teaches the opposite. The Bible teaches that followers of Christ will face all kinds of storms in this life. If prosperity teaching is true, then what are we to think of the Apostle Paul? That he didn’t have enough faith? “Paul if you just trusted God, you wouldn’t have had to write 2 Corinthians 11. Life would have been a breeze for you if you’d had faith.”

No. Paul knew followers of Christ faced storms in this life. He actually said back in Acts 14:22 to a group of brand new Christians that, “…through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God.” That was a beginning discipleship lesson for new believers. New believers in the New Testament knew that when they followed Christ, they would face storms in this life.

I’m guessing most of you haven’t been caught in the middle of a nor’easter this week, but many of you are living in the middle of a storm right now. For some of you, it’s physical storms affecting your health. I think about individuals I’ve prayed with over the last couple of weeks who’ve received diagnoses that they never could have imagined hearing.

Others of you are walking through relational storms. I think about people I’ve prayed with over the last couple of weeks in to broken marriages and hurting homes.

I think about emotional storms and struggles of all sorts. For some of you, these come and go. Others of you feel like you’re living in them and can’t get out. It’s like that nor’easter has been hovering over you for weeks or months or years and you don’t know if it’s ever going to let up.

This is one of the things I love most about the Bible because it doesn’t gloss over the grim realities in our lives. This story of a storm in Acts 27 is not disconnected from our experiences. It’s near to every one of us because stories like Acts 27 show us how to hope in God when we face the inevitable storms that this life brings, which is exactly what we need. We don’t need somebody saying, “Just have faith and everything will go great.” We know that’s bogus. We need the Word of God helping us by saying, “Here’s how to have faith when everything’s not going great.”

This turning point in Acts 27:21–26 is so helpful because the Holy Spirit of God has given us at least five anchors to hold on to when we face the inevitable storms of this life. Anchors that we can hold on to and in which our hearts can rest secure. Anchors that ground our hearts in hope in the middle of whatever storm we face, especially if we’re walking through some kind of storm in our family or our work, or even if we’re not. None of us knows what storm is waiting for us this week. Any one of us could receive a call one day this week that this or that has happened to somebody we love. Any one of us could feel a lump under our skin this week that we’ve never noticed before that could change everything about the future for us. So, none of us are immune to storms and I just want to give five anchors to keep our hearts from despair when the storm comes. Or in the storm we’re currently walking through.

1. God’s supreme sovereignty over all things.

God’s supreme sovereignty—which means His power and authority over all things. That’s the first anchor for your life in the middle of the storm. In the middle of despair, Paul says in Acts 27:23, “This very night there stood before me an angel of the God to Whom I belong and Whom I worship…”

Now, keep in mind that Paul’s talking here to a ship full of pagan soldiers and prisoners who worship all kinds of gods. Luke and Aristarchus are traveling with Paul, but besides them, very few if any of these other passengers on the ship believe in or worship the One True God. They worship all kinds of gods and you can only imagine that in the course of this storm-ridden sea voyage, they’ve offered up prayers to all sorts of gods.

So Paul steps on the scene and says, “There’s only One God Who has power and authority over the wind and the waves and it’s my God.” And that’s huge. Paul knows that his God—the One True God—no other god holds the wind and the waves in His hands. That’s the only reason Paul knows they’ll be saved because the God Who controls the wind and the waves has said so. If Paul didn’t believe God was sovereign, that He had all power and all authority over the wind and the waves, then Paul couldn’t say this.

So, here’s the first anchor for you in the middle of the storm. It’s the rock-solid confidence that your God—the One True God over-all—possesses supreme sovereignty, power and authority over all things.

Now, obviously there’s mystery that goes with this. After all, if God is sovereign over the storm, then why does God allow the storm? We’re going to come to this “why” at the end of our time together, but before we get to the “why” question, we need to see the “who” question first. Who is ultimately sovereign over all things, including the hard things? The answer the Bible gives is “God.”

Think about another one of Paul’s storms, so-to-speak. Turn with me quickly over to 2 Corinthians 12. You’ve got to see this one. This is right after that list of all the suffering Paul has experienced in 2 Corinthians 11. Paul starts talking in 2 Corinthians 12 about a thorn in his flesh. We’re not sure what this thorn was. It definitely seems like some sort of physical malady or physical pain in his life, but I want you to see what he says in 2 Corinthians 12:7–10:

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Did you hear that language? Paul says, “…a thorn was given me in the flesh.” Which begs the question: Who gave it? Some might say, “Well, Satan did.” And, yes, the thorn is described as the messenger of Satan, but look at how Paul’s praying. Paul’s praying to God saying, “God, please take this away!” Because Paul that Satan is not ultimately sovereign over this thorn. God is. Paul knows the only way this thorn is going away is if God takes it away and Paul knows that if it stays, it will stay because God is keeping it there for some reason, namely to show the sufficiency of His grace and strength in the middle of the storm.

So, don’t tell Paul this is his best life now. I’ve heard it said to people who struggle with Alzheimer’s, for example and I’ll quote:

Maybe Alzheimer’s disease runs in your family genes, but don’t succumb to it. Instead, say every day, ‘My mind is alert. I have clarity of thought. I have a good memory. Every cell in my body is increasing and getting healthier.’ If you’ll rise up in your authority, you can be the one to put a stop to the negative things in your family line….Start boldly declaring, ‘God is restoring health unto me. I am getting better every day in every way.’ (Joel Osteen)

That is absurd! Can you imagine saying that to Paul? “Paul just tell yourself, ‘Every cell in my body is increasing and getting healthier. I’m getting better every day in every way.’”

No. If Paul’s got a thorn in the flesh, God is the one Who is sovereign over it being there and God has a purpose in it. Now, there’s mystery behind that purpose. We’re going to come back to that in a minute. We don’t always understand or know why God in His sovereign wisdom and sovereign love allows some of the suffering that we undergo, but that doesn’t mean we throw His Sovereignty out the window. We look to God. We plead to God in the middle of the suffering. Why? Because we know He alone has supreme sovereignty over all things.

Acts 27 Calls Us to Hold On Tightly to the Anchor of God

So, in the middle of the storms that you’re in right now or will be in the future, hold on tight to this anchor: The supreme sovereignty of God over all things. Please, don’t try to comfort yourself by thinking sickness or cancer is sovereign over all things or evil or injustice is sovereign over all things or Satan is sovereign over all things because he’s not.

Know this: The God you worship, the good, wise, loving, gracious, merciful, powerful God Whom you worship is in heaven and He alone reigns supremely sovereign over everything.

So, that’s one anchor. That’s the first anchor and then consider the second anchor—that this God is with you.

2. God’s constant presence with His people.

So, when you’re in the storm, anchor your mind, your heart, your life in this reality: that God Who is supremely sovereign over all things is constantly present with you. On the boat in the middle of the storm Paul says, “An angel of my God came to me and he told me not to be afraid.”

We’ve seen this all over Acts. We see it all over Scripture when God continually comes to His people and says, “Do not be afraid. I am with you. Do not be afraid. I am with you.”

Just last week I was talking with a precious sister in Christ whose husband recently left her and as I was praying for her, Hebrews 13:5b came to my mind: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” “God, I praise You that we don’t ever have to worry whether or not You will leave us.”

So, hear this brothers and sisters. In the middle of life’s storms, the God of the universe—the God Who reigns supremely sovereign over all things—will never abandon you. He will never leave you in the storm to face that struggle alone. He will always be with you.

One Bible commentator on this passage said, “Here’s the secret. Here was a man on two ships, one after the other in storms, in stress and danger, with howling winds and creaking timbers and rending ropes and buffeting waves. Why was he quiet? Because the Lord was with him and he knew it.”

I pray you’ll know this truth. If you’re walking through a storm right now or you get a call this week about a storm comes, I pray you will know in that moment that you are not alone. You are never alone. The God of the Universe has promised to be with you.

It keeps getting better. Anchor your mind, your heart and your life in God’s constant presence with His people and then:

3. God’s loving ownership of your life.

I love Paul’s language in Acts 27:23: “For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to Whom I belong…” Is that not a great phrase? He said, “I don’t just worship this God; I belong to this God.” Think about what that means.

Think about how God become the Owner of your life. Think about the language Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 when he says, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.” This is how God takes loving ownership of your life.

This is really important, particularly for non-Christians to hear. So, every one of us has sinned against God. We’ve rebelled against God. As a result, we are separated and alienated from God and if nothing changes we will die separated from Him forever. But God has made a way for every one of us to be reconciled and reunited to Him. He’s come to us in Jesus—God in the flesh. He’s paid the price for our sin, for our rebellion. Jesus died on a cross for us so that when we put our faith in Jesus, we can be reconciled and reunited—brought back into relationship to God. We were bought by Him in that sense and when we trust in Jesus, we belong to Him.

I invite you today if you’ve never trusted in Jesus to save you from your sins, to reconcile you, reunite you to God, let today be that day in your life. You can walk out of this room knowing today that you belong to God.

Think about what that means practically. What does it mean to belong to someone else? In my mind, I immediately went to my family—my wife and kids. In a sense they belong to me.

What does it mean for them to belong to me? It means I’m responsible for them. It means I’ve taken personal responsibility to care for them, provide for them, protect them. It means I love them. I have a personal interest in their wellbeing. It means I work on their behalf.

God’s Word says all these things about us as His children. Just let this soak in. We’re talking about the God Who is supremely sovereign over all things. The Supreme God over the universe has taken personal responsibility to care for you, to provide for you, to protect you. He loves you. God has a personal interest in your wellbeing and He is working on your behalf. Is that not an awesome thought?

So, brother and sister in Christ, in the middle of the storms of this life, know this: You belong to God and in a world of sin, suffering, evil, injustice, hurt and pain, God has assumed responsibility for your care, your provision and your wellbeing. Now hold on to this anchor of God’s loving ownership of your life. You belong to Him.

These anchors just keep getting better and better!

4. God’s dependable promises in His Word.

For Paul says, “This God to Whom I belong and Whom I worship has appeared to me and He has spoken,” and then Paul tells them, “He’s promised to bring not just me, but all of you through this storm,” and then he says, “Take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told” (Acts 27:25).

So, Paul knew he had a word from God that they were all going to make it through the storm, so he says, “I trust God is going to be faithful to His Word.”

Now, you might think, “I wish God would come to me with a vision like that and tell me when my storm is going to end. How it’s going to end.” And God certainly has the power to come to us like that, but this is where I want us to realize that we have an advantage that Paul didn’t have. We may think it would be helpful to have some sort of vision like Paul had, but I just want you to realize we have something better. We’re holding before us right now the Bible which contains 66 books filled with countless, precious, priceless promises straight from God’s mouth for you and me in the middle of our storms.

I’ll just give you a small sampling of what He has spoken in His Word to encourage you in the middle of your storm:

  • He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength (Isaiah 40:29).
  • I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10b).
  • I and the one who helps you (Isaiah 41:13b).
  • When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you (Isaiah 43:2).
  • For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you (Isaiah 54:10a).
  • Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths (Proverbs 3:5–6).
  •  Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:31–33).
  • [D]o not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6––7).
  • And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

 

We could keep going on and on and on literally all day looking at promises from God spoken to us. So, take heart. These are promises from God and you can trust that it will be exactly as He has said. God will be faithful to every single one of His promises. He will prove faithful to bring you through the storm.

Now, I want to be careful in saying that because I can’t guarantee—and the Bible doesn’t guarantee—that every storm you or I walk through will end in this world the way we want it to end. So, I don’t have a word from God, you don’t have a word from God that the storm you’re facing right now in your life or marriage or family or health will end the way you want or end in this world for that matter. But the Bible guarantees you that God will ultimately bring you through whatever storms you face in this world. That’s the last anchor we hold onto.

  • God’s supreme Sovereignty over all things.
  • God’s continual abiding constant presence with His people.
  • God’s loving ownership of your life.
  • God’s dependable promise in His Word
  • and then finally…

5. God’s ultimate purpose in the world.

So, we come back to the question “why” that we mentioned earlier. Why is God allowing or even, in some sense, ordaining all these things that are happening to Paul? Arrestings, beatings, imprisonments, now storms.

It’s a question we see all over Scripture. Why does God allow Joseph to be sold into slavery, then unjustly thrown into prison? Why does God let Job experience all the suffering he does?

It’s not just Scripture; it’s our lives. We all want to know why we walk through storms. That question is everywhere around us right now in the middle of the storm. Why is this happening? I want you to notice that Acts 27 doesn’t give us an answer to that question. We can guess how God was using this to strengthen Paul and his faith. How God was using this as a testimony to the prisoners and soldiers onboard. We can only imagine and hope that some of them came to place their faith in God as a result of this story, but the text doesn’t tell us that. We don’t know why, which is often the case in our lives. We can guess. We can sometimes see ways God is using storms in our lives for our good, but sometimes we can’t see it and we’re left to wonder why.

But this is where that Bible promise in Romans 8:28–30 is so important. Remember what this same Paul wrote just a couple of years before he found himself on this ship. He wrote to the church in Rome—the place where he was headed on this ship—and he said:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. [And what is His purpose?] For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified (Romans 8:28–30).

Acts 27 Reminds Us of God’s Ultimate Purpose 

Did you hear that? The ultimate purpose of God is to conform us into the image of Christ in glory forever with Him. This is God’s ultimate purpose and this is our greatest good. So, one day Christian, you and I are going to be free from all sin and suffering and we’re going to be glorified with Christ Himself. God is working all things toward that end. That is our eternal, everlasting hope.

So, follow this then. Our hope is not just in getting through storms in this life and having them end in this world. We know this is a world of sin and suffering. There is a sense in which we’re not surprised by sin and suffering. We’re not surprised by yet another terrorist attack in a place like Barcelona. We mourn over that, but we’re not surprised that sin, evil and suffering are real in this world. We’re not surprised when we face storms in this world because we know we’re not immune to them. At the same time, we know that there is a day coming—a new heaven and a new earth—when storms will be no more. This is where we anchor our hope in God’s ultimate purpose in the world. And this is huge for how we face the storms that we’re in.

I think about John Piper, Pastor of Bethlehem Church, who’s so helpful. When he walked through cancer, he described what we commonly call “cancer survivors” in our culture. We use this term to describe somebody who faces the storm of cancer and live through it. We appreciate what that means in many senses, but we’ve got to realize that kind of picture runs the danger of missing the point. It almost leads to the idea that if you get cancer and live, you’ve won the battle with cancer, but if you die, you’ve lost that battle. Based on Romans 8:28–30 and the entire Bible, that’s not true because beating cancer is not about staying alive. That’s what the world believes and it’s not true because if you live through cancer and you still aren’t putting all your faith and all your hope and all your trust in God, you’ve not won anything. Your hope is still in the things of this world. Your trust is still in yourself. You haven’t won a thing at all. In fact, I would say that cancer has won because you’re still convinced that you can face this life and its storms on your own and when it comes to the ultimate storm of death, to which we will all eventually succumb, you’re still putting your hope in yourself.

If, on the other hand, you face cancer and in the middle of it you hold fast to the hope of God and His supreme sovereignty over all things—His constant presence with you, His loving ownership of you, His dependable, faithful promises to you—then you win. It doesn’t matter if you live or die at that point because with your hope in God and your life in God and your trust in God, you have nothing to fear. Live or die, it doesn’t matter. This is why whenever I’ve spent time with followers of Christ facing death due to cancer or other things, I’ve been humbled by the hope I see in them through the middle of the storm. I think about sitting by numerous people’s bedsides who are facing death and I ask them how they they’re doing. They look at me and say, “I’m ready to be with God.” That’s what it means to be a cancer survivor.

You find out you have fluid around your lungs and you say, “My hope is in God.”

You find out you have a massive tumor with a dismal prognosis and you say, “My hope is not in my odds. My hope is in my God.”

When hospice is brought in and you sit there in a quiet home struggling, to breathe, you say, “My hope is in God.”

Until that moment when breath is no more and your last thought is, “My hope is in God,” that is a win. That’s an eternal win because you’re anchored in God’s ultimate purpose for your life which is to bring you to Himself. To bring you to be with Him in glory for ten trillion years and on and on after that in a place where there will be no more sin and no more evil and no more suffering and no more pain and no more death. In a place where God will literally wipe every tear from your eyes and in a place where there will never be any storm again. I urge you, brothers and sisters, anchor your hope there. Don’t anchor your hope here in this world. Anchor your hope there in God’s promise for the world to come.

So, here’s what I want us to do. I think the most appropriate way for us to respond to this text is for us to pray for one another. If you would say, “I’m walking through a storm and I would love people to pray for me,” then I’m going to ask you to stand where you are. You’re not going to have to say anything about what storm you’re walking through. Just stand across this room, then I’m going to invite the rest of us to gather around those brothers and sisters, put a hand on their shoulder and pray for them.

Again, we don’t know all that’s going on in the other person’s life, but God does and we can pray according to His promises in His Word. We can only imagine what they need in the middle of the storm and we’re going to lift each other up. I hope you feel like this is a safe place for you to stand. If we can’t do that here, we can’t do that anywhere. That’s what it means to be the church. Don’t think, “Well, I don’t know if my storm is as serious as somebody else’s.”

It’s times like this when we are reminded that we are a hurting people who need the help and hope that comes from God alone.

Now I want to invite the rest of us to stand and start going around these brothers and sisters. Let’s try to get a hand on as many shoulders as possible and what I want to invite you to do is for the next couple of minutes, just start praying for them. God will hear all of us talking at the same time. So, even multiple people praying for the same person out loud at the same time.

Oh, God, we don’t presume to know all the situations and storms represented around this room right now, but we praise You as the One Who knows every single detail of every single situation. We come to You in a 2 Corinthians 12 kind of way like Paul did and we plead, oh, God, in the middle of the storm, would You bring peace? Would You take these trials away? Lord, we know You have power to do that. We trust in You. Our hope is in You. You are the One Who is the Sovereign King over our lives in all things. So, we look to You. We need You oh, God. We need You to be strength and sufficiency, grace, mercy for our brothers and sisters. Lord, we pray that You would indeed be all that they need. That in any amount of time where that storm remains, just like the storm remained in the flesh for Paul, Lord that You would show Your Power in weakness. That You show the sufficiency of Your grace on behalf of our brothers and sisters, God. They are Your children. They belong to You. You love them. You are passionate about them. You care for them. You are committed to them, so God, be their Helper, we pray. Strengthen them. Uphold them with Your righteous right hand, we pray. Give them peace where there is worry or anxiety. Give them wisdom where wisdom is needed. God, amidst their weakness, give them strength. We pray for healing where healing is needed. We pray for hope in the middle of it all. God, keep them from putting their hope in anything in this world but You.

Give them, we pray, faith on days when faith is hard to come by. We pray that You would, indeed, work all these things they’re walking through together for good. Lord, show Your grace on their behalf. Bring about restoration in marriages and homes. God, we pray for healing in relationships. God, we pray amidst physical pain for Your comfort, for Your joy that transcends even physical suffering. We pray that You would use all these things for their good. You would draw them into greater intimacy with You in this and we pray that You would use these things for the good of others. God, we do pray that You would draw others to put their faith in You as a result of our brothers and sisters saying, “God is sufficient for me in the middle of the storm.” We pray that the watching world would see Your grace, Your sufficiency and be drawn to trust in You more.

God, we pray with confidence in You, knowing there’s coming a day when You are going to wipe every single tear from our eyes. When all these storms are going to be no more. We long for that day. Oh, God, we long for an end to sin and evil and suffering and pain. We long for the day when death will be no more. So, we pray, hasten the coming of that day. Our Father in Heaven, Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Come Lord Jesus. Come quickly and we pray that until that day, You would keep us faithful. Help us to trust in You from this day until that day. Help our brothers and sisters particularly walking through storms right now to trust and hope in You. In Jesus’ name, we pray these things. Amen.

David Platt

David Platt serves as a pastor in metro Washington, D.C. He is the founder of Radical.

David received his Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of Don’t Hold Back, Radical, Follow MeCounter CultureSomething Needs to ChangeBefore You Vote, as well as the multiple volumes of the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series.

Along with his wife and children, he lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

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