Have you ever been warned?
There’s plenty of warnings in our world. On cigarette packages, at the gas pump or by an exit door. Lawn signs tell us a house is protected, and TSA tries to protect us by telling us what we can’t take on airplanes.
But what about the small voice in your spirit that tells you what to do or not do multiple times a day? Maybe it comes as a whisper, a word from a friend or a verse you’ve read in the Bible. Do you heed it? I’m trying to listen to that voice better each day.
I believe it’s God helping me navigate life well.
Recently, I read about Paul in chapter 27 of Acts. He was a prisoner on a ship headed for Rome when he sensed danger ahead. A storm was headed their way. After a radical change in his life, Paul was now pretty in tune with listening to God (another story) so it wasn’t unusual for him to sense instruction from God.
He shared his concerns, but no one listened.
Ever been there? Yeah. Not a fun place. But even more important is what we can learn from the situation, both from the ones who didn’t listen, and Paul who voiced his concerns. Here are some insights I gleaned from the story.
- The captain of the ship believed he knew the situation better based on his expertise on a ship so he didn’t listen to Paul. No matter how much we think we know (or do know!) God knows more. It never pays to lean on our own understanding.
- Initially, after they made their choice, it appeared that they got what they wanted. God cannot be mocked. Eventually his ways, truth or insight will come about.
- Their choices took them into a hurricane force wind they couldn’t fight against. They were forced to give into it and were driven along in a way they never wanted to go. We may think we’ve made the right choice, but if we don’t heed God’s warning, we’ll be caught up in something more powerful than we can handle.
- They ended up having to throw cargo and belongings overboard. We have to realize that if we don’t choose to heed God’s ways, we are by default choosing Satan’s, and he is out to destroy us. We WILL lose peace, possessions, life, relationships, etc. along the way.
- They were hungry, tired and finally gave up hope of surviving. Denying God’s warnings will lead us to a weak, hopeless place.
- God offered a promise to Paul that he would spare their lives, but they would lose everything else. God is gracious in wanting to save us even when we don’t listen to him. He will still allow us to suffer consequences, but ultimately, he’ll rescue us if we do what he says.
- In order to save themselves, they looked for another way out, pretending to do something else. God used Paul to sternly rebuke them and tell them that the only way to live was to stay in the boat. We can “pretend” to accept God’s way while still looking out for ourselves, but our lives are actually in God’s hands. We have no power to save ourselves outside of doing things his way.
In the end, the boat was lost, but all on the ship were safe and well-cared for by the people on the island where they ended up. Paul suffered no harm because he continued to trust God in the storm.
Maybe you’re the receiver who didn’t listen. Or maybe you’re the speaker who wasn’t heard. Either way, God has good for you. I love that about God. Even when we bring dire circumstances upon ourselves and others by ignoring or discounting what he says, he will still make a way to be gracious to us.
And when we are at the mercy of others’ choices?
God sticks by us and still uses us to speak to the situation. He doesn’t give up and neither should we. It’s natural to feel afraid in a crisis. But God’s already there, knowing what will be and how to save us.
For those of us who have experienced trauma, it can be difficult to trust God when something traumatic arises again, especially if we are not choosing the situation. I know it’s been a challenge for me at times. But we do have the choice to put ourselves into God’s care and do what he tells us.
Maybe that means leaving a situation if that option exists, or as in Paul’s circumstances, sitting still and waiting where he was at. Either way, we can believe that God is in control.
And if we haven’t heeded God’s warnings to us, it is never too late to go back and change our course. God promises that when we turn around, he’ll set us in the right direction without condemning us.