Steven Furtick — It Will Happen
I want to preach to you today on the subject of fear, and I don't want to just stay at a surface level. I want to preach a message about facing your fear, about how feel fear in your life, your heart, your mind, and what to do about that.
Today, our text will be from Acts 27. In this passage, the apostle Paul is in trouble. He's going through a storm, and he has to decide what voice he will believe about the storm he's going through. Thesis for the series and the book, The Voice You Believe Will Determine The Future That You Experience and The Way you Experience Your Reality, and we're going to pick up right in the middle of Paul's problem in Acts 27:9.
The winds are starting to blow contrary. The sailors are having a difficult time. Paul is onboard a ship with 275 other prisoners, and there must be a part of him that can't believe he's facing prison again. He's got to go stand trial before Caesar. He's not on a cruise ship as in Royal Caribbean. He's not headed to Rome 'cause he always thought it would be nice. He's not tasting wine. He's chained as a prisoner, and if that wasn't bad enough, he's now got to face a storm on that ship, and this is where we begin in Verse 9.
It says much time had been lost and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the day of atonement. So, Paul warned them, the other men on the ship, men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo and to our own lives also, but the centurion, he was the guy who was in charge of transporting the prisoners, instead of listening to what Paul said followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship.
Now, I wrote down in my notes, of course he did. That makes sense. If you've got to make a sailing decision, it makes sense to ask the pilot of the ship, not the preacher who happens to be on the ship. Sometimes preachers think they know everything.
And so, Paul is giving advice about where to steer the ship, and they ignore his advice, and they pay for it because on the ship Paul doesn't just represent a preacher or just a prisoner, but he actually represents the purpose of God and the voice of God and so when he speaks about, hey, we're going to be in trouble if we keep going this direction, he's warning them on behalf of God.
I want to give you three things. I'd like you to write these down. They'll be here on the teaching screen. Do you like this little screen I use or is it kind of cheesy? I don't know. I'm still trying to figure out if I like it, but sometimes I like to do it. Just mix it up. Keep you guessing. Will there be a screen or will there not? You'll never know.
Story at 11. All right, so. I wanted to tell you today that when you find yourself in a storm, and you will, steer by the spirit, not by your senses. Steer by the spirit and not by your senses, and it's so easy to steer by your senses because we're trained to... we're trained to walk by what we see, and we're trained in so many ways to respond to what we feel.
God will warn you, but He will never create worry within you. When God warns you, he'll give you a specific instruction, and it will mobilize you and make you stronger. When the enemy threatens you, he won't make you stronger. He'll make your faith weaker.
When God instructs you, He'll give you a specific warning. He'll show you something, maybe through someone, maybe through His Spirit, maybe through His word, and he'll show you something you need to correct. The enemy will never do that. He'll just threaten you in a vague way until you can't even figure out what's wrong, but you just find yourself up at night worried about things.
When I talk about fear, I'm not just talking about the big fears that we all face. I'm talking about just that sense of anxiety that we learn to live with as if it's normal. That sense of dread that we just learn to carry around with us and drag behind us and just, you know, go through life kind of worried about what they'll think and worried about what they'll say and worried about if I fail, and worried about if I succeed.
You know, if I succeed, there's more pressure. If I fail, they're all going to laugh at me and just going through life afraid. Just going through life nervous. Just nervous when things are going good 'cause, you know, if things are going good, it can't be long. What goes up, must come down. I'm just worried. I'm just scared. I'm just anxious.
And so, God gives a warning that is ignored. I need to tell you that when you ignore God's warnings, you will always suffer loss. How many of you will testify? Be real enough to raise your hand and say I have ignored some warnings before that God was trying to give me, and I suffered loss. Yeah. I'm not going to preach about that, but I want to point it out because your life is being steered by something.
Are you being steered like these men on the ship by what you can see? They had their nautical maps spread out. They knew how to sail. They thought they knew exactly what they were doing and where they were going, but we walk by faith, not by sight. And if you steer your life by your senses, you'll end up in trouble. If you send emails based on what you feel in the moment, you'll end up in trouble.
Save the text and see if you still want to send it tomorrow. I can't tell you how many texts I've written that I never sent 'cause I'll be steering by my feelings, see, but your feelings can't forecast the future. Only God's spirit can. And so, you've got to learn how to steer by the Spirit. Isn't that good? Wouldn't that save us a lot of time and trouble? It sure would.
And so they ignore Paul's advice. Instead of hearing God's voice above all others, they hear all other voices above God's. The voice you respond to will determine the future you experience. Are you steering by your senses or are you steering by the Spirit?
Well, Paul was right. They kept sailing along. They refused to stop. And Verse 14 picks up and says before very long a wind of hurricane force called the northeaster swept down from the island. The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind, so we gave way to it and were driven along.
That phrase is so descriptive; driven along. That's how a lot of us live our lives; driven along. When a thought of panic comes, we just go with it. When a thought of worry comes, we just go with it. When a fear of rejection comes, we just clam up, and we just go with it.
You know, the Scripture says that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but power, love, and a sound mind. We'll talk about that verse at the very end of the sermon time permitting, but for right now, I wanted to speak to somebody who is being driven along by the winds and the waves of your life, by the feelings and emotions of fear, by the thoughts of anxiety that are keeping you up at night, have you so nervous, you're playing out scenarios over and over again in your mind, just driven along.
You can't even function correctly, you can't even give yourself fully to the people who are all around you who love you because you're so worried about losing them that you can't even interact with them. You're driven along by a spirit of fear. You're driven along through life. You don't really have an anchor in anything, just driven along, and just always watching out for what's going to happen next. There's a fine line between precaution and paranoia, and some of us are crossing it.
We've just been driven along 'cause the winds are contrary, and so it says they were driven along by the winds and the waves, Verse 16. As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure. Everything's unstable. Life feels that way sometimes.
So, the men hoisted it aboard, and then they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together because they were afraid that they would run aground on the sand bars of Syrtis. The lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along. They just let it be driven along. Now it's at the point where there's nothing we can do. It's just kind. The situation is beyond our control.
So, Verse 18, we took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo over board. Now they're wasting supplies and wasting money all in an effort to lighten the ship so they can somehow save it. Verse 19, on the third day, they through the ship's tackle overboard with their own hands, and Verse 20, to me is very poignant in describing fear's ultimate goal in our lives.
If we let it go unchecked and drive us along, it will eventually come to this point. Luke who is recording the Book of Acts says when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, when the storm continued raging. So, when the trouble first started, we were okay. We were doing what we could do. We were anxious, but we were still active, but now it's gotten so bad we can't see any signs. We can't see any stars. We don't know what to guide by.
It's gotten really dark, and when it got to that point, it says that we finally gave up all hope of being saved. We gave up all hope. Now, we've gone from despair to depression. They say that the clinical definition of depression if you study people who are truly depressed is that they have given up hope that they will ever feel any different than they do right now. Given up hope that life will ever be any different than it is right now.
Luke says that's how bad it was. We couldn't see anything. What we were guiding by got lost, and so our hope was gone. We gave up all hope, and I'm speaking to somebody today, God knows who you are, who has become hopeless. Hopeless that you're ever going to progress past this fear, that you're ever going to change from the state that you're in. It was one thing when you could see the star to guide you by, but now that you're in a storm and you have no star, you've lost your hope.
You see that he said we finally gave up all hope of being saved, but you know, Luke is writing Acts 27. He's the one recording it, but Paul is the main character of the story, and so I've got to imagine if Paul was reading Acts 27 that Luke wrote we gave up all hope of being saved, he'd say wait a minute. What do you mean we? What do you mean we? Because, see, everybody else has given up hope of being saved.
They completely compitulate it to fear, and yet in the midst of all of these voices, don't you know they were all freaking out. We're going down on this ship, and I don't even deserve to be a prisoner, and it ain't fair, and I didn't even do it, and I had an alibi, and I wasn't even there, and they're all talking about loss and despair and the Paul speaks up. You're going to love this.
Verse 21 says after they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said, men, you should have taken my advice, and some of you are very confused. You're thinking, I didn't know Paul was a woman. I'm just teasing. I'm just teasing. Holly said she was going to get that verse printed. She said that's my new life verse, men, you should have taken my advice. Wouldn't that make a great Mother's Day sermon?
Men, you should have, okay, I'm going to move on from that. I felt some hostility. 50% of my love just left the room. Let's see if I can get it back. Men, you should have taken my advice. I told you so. You should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete. Then you would have spared yourself this damage and loss, but now, I love those two words.
I wanted to point out the context of the conflict in this passage because it's one thing to believe that God will get you out of a storm if He put you in the storm, but don't a lot of our fears come from believing that we got ourselves into this mess and now we can't depend on God to get us out?
Like if God lets me be thrown in the lion's den, okay. God's going to shout the mouths of the lion. I read that He could do it. If God sends me into a storm, and I was just obeying Him, but what about if it was my fault? And that's where real fear kicks in.
It is one thing to believe that God will do it, He will deliver you, He will save you if you know He's the one who brought you here, but what about if I lost my job because I was lazy? You don't have to tell anybody else. You can stick to your story about how the boss didn't like you, but what if you know deep down in your heart that you could have done more to keep your job?
And so now you're unemployed, and you know that you're at least part of the cause for why you lost your job. Now will God do it? What about if your relationship is on the ropes because you weren't as loving and tender as you could have been? What about if you were a little neglectful?
See, it's not just the predicaments that God gets me into that I'm worried will He get me out. There is some stuff I get my own self into sometimes and then I get afraid, well, I guess since I got myself into this I've got to get myself out.
You'd be surprised how much of our fear is based in regret that something that I did or didn't do is now catching up with me, and so now I'm out here on my own, but Paul says in Verse 22, put it back on the screen. He said but now, but now. If I had time, I'd take the rest of today and talk about living in now. How Hebrews says now faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.
So, when you can't see the stars, come on, somebody, and when you've lost all hope, God says but now. Yeah, there are some things you could have done differently. Yeah, there's some contributions that you made to this conflict, but now, but now, somebody shout now. Come on. Shout it in the top of the room. Say now. Can't change what I didn't do, can't change what I should have done, can't complete what I left unfinished.
Some things are just the way they are, but now, now, now, now. He said but now. We'll put the Verse back up. I don't remember what he says next. I urge you, oh, here it is, this is good, to keep up your courage. That's part of my second point. I want to tell you, number two. There's only three. We're making excellent time.
Fix your focus and keep up your courage. Fix your focus and keep up your courage. Touch somebody next to you as soon as you're done writing down that point and say keep it up. Keep it up. Keep it up. Come on. If you're still writing, elbow them and tell them keep it up. Right there in the ribs. Keep it up.
Fix your focus. Now, Paul goes on to say keep up your courage because, let's look at the verse, not one of you will be lost. Only the ship will be destroyed. There's good news, and there's bad news. About this boat, it's not looking too good for the boat, but keep up your courage 'cause we're going to make it. God told me so. Keep going. Next verse.
Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong, I know who I am and I know whose I am, and whom I serve stood beside me. I'm glad He doesn't just go before me or behind me, but He stands right by me in the midst of trouble. He's a multidirectional, omnidirectional God. He's a 360 God. He doesn't change positions like, He's just got you. He said He stood beside me. I'm getting heavy preaching this to myself.
Sometimes I don't even need you here to preach. I'm just preaching to me. He said don't be afraid, Paul. This is what the angel told him. He said don't be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar, and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you. In other words, I'm not focused on the storm I see right now. I'm focused on the future that God has promised me.
So, he says don't be afraid, Paul, Verse 25. So, keep up your courage, men. Keep up your courage, for I have faith in God, here's my title, that it will happen. Woo. It will happen just as He told me. Nevertheless, we must find our ground on some island. The ship is going down, but keep your courage up. How do you keep your courage up when the ship is going down? It's the essence of faith.
You have to learn to separate out your courage from your conditions. See, if your courage is tied to your conditions when your bank account goes down, your courage goes down with it. If your courage is tied to your conditions when a certain relationship in your life starts going down, your courage goes down with it.
How do you keep up your courage? Apparently, even when my conditions are outside of my control, my courage is never outside of my control. Your courage is under your control. He didn't say God's going to keep up your courage. So, stop praying, God, give me courage 'cause He's going to say I gave it to you. Now keep it up. Keep it up. Feed it.
You've been feeding your fears, and now they're eating you alive, and you've been surveying your conditions, and you've lost all hope, but Paul said Fix your focus. See, sometimes you can't fix the situation and all you can fix is your focus. Paul said right now all I see is a ship going down, and I know that's all you see, and I know that's all you can think about, and I know that's all you can focus on, but last night I saw an angel. I'm not looking at what I'm going through right now. I'm looking toward my future, and I'm looking back at what God spoke to me in my past and so my focus is fixed. We always want God to stop the storm. Sometimes he doesn't. Sometimes what He wants to teach you to do is to Fix your focus in the middle of the storm.