Being Cheerful In A Storm

Title: Being Cheerful In A Storm

Bible Book: Acts 27

Author: Paul E. Brown

Subject: Joy in Adversity; God, Peace of; Peace



Prior to the events recorded in Acts 27, the apostle Paul had been arrested because of his uncompromising stand for Christ. He had appealed his conviction, and therefore--according to Roman law--was promised an opportunity to plead his case before Caesar. The authorities decided to put Paul on a ship, along with other prisoners, and send him to Rome. In the record of that journey, we have not only some interesting history, but we also find there some powerfully valuable lessons for our lives.

Let’s look at the story. First, notice...


Acts 27:1 says, “And when it was determined that we should sail into Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners unto one named Julius, a centurion of Augustus’ band.”

A good bit of detail is given, then, concerning their journey. Although he isn’t named, it appears from the use of “we” that Luke, the author of Acts, was with Paul during these events. They docked at a city called Myra, and verse 6 says: “And there the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing into Italy; and he put us therein.” So they changed ships.

Verse 8 tells us that they sailed to a harbor called “the Fair Havens.” The condition of the sea at that time of the year was dangerous, and Paul--an experienced traveler who knew first-hand what it was like to be shipwrecked--advised the Roman soldier in charge to hold up for a while. However, Paul’s advice was ignored--and we read in verses 9-11, "Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them, And said unto them, 'Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives.' Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul."

But no sooner had they gotten out to sea, than they were in distress. Verses 14-17,  "But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon. And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive. And running under a certain island which is called Clauda, we had much work to come by the boat: Which when they had taken up, they used helps, undergirding the ship; and, fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands, struck sail, and so were driven."

All of us find ourselves in a storm now and then--not necessarily a climatic storm, as in their case, but in a storm nonetheless--that is, we find ourselves in the midst of circumstances which threaten to tear our lives apart, to destroy us. Sometimes the storm is the result of our own wrong decisions, as was the case with the Roman centurion here in Acts 27. Had he listened to the apostle Paul’s advice and not sailed away from The fair havens when he did, he could have avoided the storm.

At other times, we might find ourselves in a storm for other reasons. In some cases we might be the unfortunate victims of someone else’s wrong choices. Or the storm might come for reasons that we can’t even begin to understand or explain. But if God lets us live long enough, the storms will come--because that’s part of life.

You might be in the midst of a storm right now. You might be battling some debilitating illness, or you might be dealing with some heartbreaking family problem. There might be a severe financial crisis threatening to disrupt your life. Perhaps the storm in which you find yourself has to do with your job, or some personal relationship, or some moral failure.

Storms can be terribly distressing. The situation described here in Acts became so critical that the ship’s crew was ready to give up. We read in verses 18-20, "And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship; And the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship. And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away."

It is a terrible thing to lose hope, because then we are more vulnerable and ineffective than ever. But that’s what happened. Those crewmen were so buffeted and hammered by the storm that they said, “What’s the use?” They said, “We’re goners! We’re done for!”--and they were ready to throw in the towel.

However, they should have remembered--and you and I should remember in the midst of life’s storms--that however battered and bruised we may be, and how far gone the situation might seem, as long as there is life, there is hope. There is always the possibility of some new development, some change, however remote it might seem. There is always the possibility of a miracle. So, however dark and ominous your situation, however fierce and threatening the storm, don’t give up, don’t give in to despair--because as long as there is a God in heaven, help is always available!

Let’s look now at...


Right in the midst of all that thunder and lightning, and the drenching rain, Paul stepped up--and I can well imagine that he must have cupped his hands around his mouth so as to be heard above the roar of the wind and waves--and shouted to the crew and passengers. Let’s look at verses 21-22, "But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, 'Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss. And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship.'"

What a mind-boggling thing. Here they were in the midst of a howling storm, with their ship being tossed about like a cork, its hull shuddering violently as if it might break apart at any moment--and yet this prisoner, the apostle Paul, cried out, “Be of good cheer.”

Paul was not suggesting that that was the time for light-hearted banter, or for carefree relaxation--that’s not what he meant at all. While the KJV, from which I’ve just read, translates Paul’s admonition, “be of good cheer,” the NIV translates it, “keep up your courage.” The J. B. Phillips paraphrase of the New Testament renders it, “keep up your spirits.” The Amplified Bible says, “be of good spirits and take heart.” As this passage of Scripture goes on to make clear, when Paul challenged the men on that boat to “be of good cheer” he was challenging them to depend on the great sovereign God of heaven to see them through that crisis. If they would thus yield themselves to the Lord and to his care, they could then experience a deep-seated sense of hope and well-being in spite of the storm’s fury. That’s what he meant by “being of good cheer.”

Is it possible for you and me to be of good cheer in the midst of the storms that batter us? The answer is yes. God is no respecter of persons. If it was possible for Paul and the crew and prisoners on that ship, then it’s possible for you and me. Let’s look at how Paul was able to be cheerful in the midst of a storm, and how he was able to spread that cheer.

A. The Abstinence

First of all, we saw in verse 21 that it was “after long abstinence” that Paul stood forth and made that declaration, urging them to be of good cheer in spite of the storm.

Years prior to this, Paul--on the road to Damascus--had been converted. He had repented of his sins and yielded himself in faith to the crucified, risen, living Christ, so that now he had access to the resources of heaven. He could claim such promises as Jeremiah 33:3: “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.”

We aren’t told the particulars of what was involved in Paul’s long abstinence. Normally, abstinence involved fasting and praying--and that was probably the case here.

But maybe the Lord left out the details in this account so that each of us could apply this to our own lives, whatever our individual situation.

Some folks have physical problems which likely would make it very unwise for them to go without food or water for very long--for if they did, a medical emergency might result. But they can still have a long period of abstinence. They can earnestly seek the face of God in prayer, and abstain from anything that would hinder them from keeping their mind stayed upon the Lord. Others can abstain in a more complete way; they can fast, as Bible characters did, and as many Christians still do.

B. The Angel

But not only did Paul discipline himself by a long period of abstinence, there was also a second reason that he was able to be cheerful in the midst of that storm. He went on to say, in verse 23: “For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve.” The angel of God came to remind Paul that the Lord was with him in that crisis. But it’s important to note that the Greek word translated “angel” means, literally, “messenger”--so, that might have been Jesus himself who appeared to Paul.

Psalm 146:18-19 says, “The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them.”

In Hebrews 13:5 we read, “...for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

I love that old hymn:

I’ve seen the lightning flashing; I’ve heard the thunder roll;

I’ve felt sin’s barriers breaking, Trying to conquer my soul;

I’ve heard the voice of Jesus, Telling me still to fight on;

He promised never to leave me, Never to leave me alone.

C. The Announcement

Now, look with me at the third reason that Paul could be cheerful in the midst of the storm. He went on to tell us what the angel of God said to him, in verse 24: “Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.” Then look at Paul’s statement in verse 25: “Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.”

Bear in mind that as Paul spoke those words the storm wasn’t over yet. The fierce winds were still blowing mercilessly; the waves were still pounding that ship; the water was still roaring and splashing across the deck, and rising in the hold. The spray was still stinging the faces of the crew members and the others on board. But Paul said, in effect, “As bad as this looks, God has told us that he’s going to bring us through it, and I believe God.”

That’s how you can be of good cheer in the midst of life’s storms: be sure that you’ve repented of your sins and invited Jesus into your life to be your personal Lord and Savior--and then, as a child of God, depend on him to take care of you. In Isaiah 41:10 God says to believers, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” Throughout the Scriptures God has promised to sustain his children and to see us through life’s storms, and you can count on those promises.

However, Paul didn’t advise the people on that ship to simply sit back and passively wait for God’s deliverance; he realized that God expected some response, some cooperation, from them. Someone has said, “Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.” As they did what they could see to do, then God intervened on their behalf. Let’s look now at...


Look at verses 38-41:

"And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, and cast out the wheat into the sea. And when it was day, they knew not the land: but they discovered a certain creek with a shore, into which they were minded, if it were possible, to thrust in the ship. And when they had taken up the anchors, they committed themselves unto the sea, and loosed the rudder bands, and hoisted up the mainsail to the wind, and made toward shore. And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the forepart stuck fast, and remained unmovable, but the hinder part was broken with the violence of the waves."

Let’s look also at verses 42-44:

"And the soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape. But the centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from their purpose; and commanded that they which could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land: And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land."

God says, in Psalm 50:15, “ upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.”

God’s deliverance doesn’t always come in the way we had hoped it would. For instance, I expect the people on board that ship with Paul would have preferred that the weather clear up, that the ship remain intact, and that they sail smoothly into the harbor. But what happened was that the ship broke apart, they struggled in the stormy sea, and swam for dear life--and some barely made it to shore by hanging on to broken pieces of timber. But the point is that they were delivered.

Psalm 34:17 says, “The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.” All? That’s what it says: “...he delivereth them out of all their troubles.”

As in the case we’ve just read about, sometimes his deliverance doesn’t come in the way we would have desired--but one way or the other, God will deliver you if you know Christ and if you surrender to his will and call on him. Sometimes he delivers by changing the circumstances, and sometimes by changing us. Sometimes he delivers us in this life, and sometimes by taking us on to heaven to be with him. It isn’t your place or mine to “call the signals.” Our responsibility is to yield ourselves and our troubles to the Lord, do whatever he expects of us in the situation, and then trust him to deliver us in his own time and way.

Henry Van Dyke wrote:

O Maker of the mighty deep

Whereon our vessels fare,

Above our life’s adventure keep

Thy faithful watch and care.

In Thee we trust, whate’er befall;

Thy sea is great, our boats are small.

We know not where the secret tides

Will help us or delay.

Nor where the lurking tempest hides,

Nor where the fogs are gray.

We trust in Thee, whate’er befall,

Thy sea is great, our boats are small.

Beyond the circle of the sea,

When voyaging is past,

We seek our final part in Thee;

O bring us home at last.

In Thee we trust, whate’er befall;

Thy sea is great, our boats are small.


In John 16:33 Jesus said: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

If our lives are linked trustfully and obediently to Christ, we can have peace, and we can be of good cheer, regardless of the storms that might be raging. How do you get linked up with Jesus? John 3:16 says it so beautifully: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If you’ve never done so, the greatest decision you could ever make would be to repent of your sins and commit yourself in faith to the crucified, risen, living, coming again Son of God.

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