Wednesday, September 17, 2008
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Sometimes I'll throw out a word to an audience of teenagers, and I'll ask them to draw a picture that represents that word for them. Later they'll describe their picture. Now what if I did that with you and the word was peace. How do you draw peace?
That was the challenge, actually, for artists in one community where there was an art contest. The painters were asked to enter a painting that represented peace. There was one that spectators were sure would win. It was this beautiful pastoral scene, a rolling green meadow, punctuated with these colorful flowers, there was a deep blue sky with little puffy white clouds, and a boy walking through the field with a fishing pole. Well, that came in second. First place went to a painting that portrayed a storm! The sky was dark, it was angry, the ocean was slamming into the cliffs, and lightning was flashing in the sky. At first look the spectators said, "What does this have to do with peace?" Then they looked again...
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Storm Peace."
On that second look they saw a cleft in the rock of the cliff and a mother bird with her babies all nestled under her wings, and they were sleeping. Now that's peace. Not the absence of the storm, but peace in the middle of the storm. Maybe the kind of peace you need right now?
That peace is graphically portrayed for us in an incident in the life of Paul, recorded in Acts 27. Paul is being transported to Rome for trial on this large ship that's carrying grain to the Emperor, and they're hit by a massive storm that is so violent and strong that it batters them for two weeks. During that time they have no idea where they are because they can't see the sun, the moon, or the stars. They get so desperate they even jettison their cargo and even the ships' tackle. In verse 20 it says, "We finally gave up all hope of being saved." Even Paul seems to have despaired, he says "we." But then, there is a sudden change in Paul and he becomes the one man under control in an out-of-control situation. Would you like that to be you?
Here's our word for today from the Word of God in Acts 27:22, Paul says this, "Now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.' So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me." Now, suddenly, Paul goes from hopeless to hopeful! He's in control. What's the secret? A personal visit from God in the midst of your storm. In the words of the Psalmist, "He is a very present help in time of trouble." You can touch, and feel, and experience your Lord's power and love during a storm as at no other time in your life. And His message for you is the same as it was for Paul, He wants to use the storm to clarify what really matters. He says, "Hey, the ship won't make it, but it's the people that matter." God is saying, "Focus on the people around you right now, maybe people you've been neglecting because you've been so busy with the ship." Use this time to be sure that the people in your life are O.K. Get close to them during this storm, maybe get back to them.
Then God also focuses Paul on the mission he was on. He says, "Hey, I told you I want you to represent me in Rome, you'll get there. It's your mission that matters, man!" Well, maybe in your business, in your stress you've neglected the work of God that He's asked you to do for Him: serving Him, using your gifts for His work, telling lost people about the Savior. And God wants to use the storm to re-focus you on what He wants you to do for Him. In the middle of the storm your Lord wants to move in very close to you. He's saying, 'Don't worry about the storm. Don't worry about the ship. It's expendable.' Take care of the people and stay focused on your mission. Nestle beneath the protection of your Savior, the God whose you are and whom you serve. Remember, peace is not the absence of a storm. It is peace in the middle of your storm.