A passenger on an ocean liner was enduring a rough Atlantic crossing. As he leaned over the rail, his face a shade of green, a steward came along and tried to encourage him: “Don’t be discouraged, sir! No one’s ever died of seasickness yet!” The nauseous passenger looked up at the steward with horror and said, “Don’t say that! It’s only the hope of dying that’s kept me alive this long!” That’s probably how Paul’s fellow-passengers felt after two weeks of enduring the storm at sea. Not only were they sick; after not being able to see the sun or stars for many days, they had lost all hope of being saved (27:20). In the same way, when people go through severe storms in life, often they lose all hope. Into this bleak picture, the encouraging words of the apostle Paul brought a ray of light. In verse 22, he urges everyone to keep up their courage, promising that there would be no loss of life among them. Again in verse 25 he says, “Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God, that it will turn out exactly as I have been told.” Paul wasn’t just an upbeat, positive person who never felt down. Luke’s words in verse 20 imply that Paul, Aristarchus, and Luke felt the same as everyone else on board, that there was no hope of their being saved. This is reinforced by the angel’s words to Paul (27:24), “Do not be afraid.” If Paul had not been discouraged and afraid, he would not have needed this encouraging word. But once he experienced God’s encouragement, he then passed it on to others. Before we can pass God’s encouragement along to others, we must personally experience it ourselves. Those who have received God’s encouragement in life’s storms should encourage others to look to God. So how do we receive God’s encouragement when we’re going through a difficult time? WE RECEIVE GOD’S ENCOURAGEMENT BY BEING WITH HIS PEOPLE. Paul was not alone in his journey, and neither are we! Authentic Community is so important in good and in difficult times. WE RECEIVE GOD’S ENCOURAGEMENT WHEN WE REMEMBER HIS PRESENCE WITH US AND KNOW GOD ANSWERS OUR PRAYERS. Paul had an angel speak courage to him, we have the same Spirit of God who reminds us of his presence through life. WE RECEIVE GOD’S ENCOURAGEMENT WHEN WE REMEMBER THAT WE ARE HIS SERVANTS, AND REMEMBER HIS PROMISES TO US, AND HOLD ONTO OUR FAITH IN JESUS. Paul calls God the one “whom I serve”. He knows who he belongs to, and called to serve, and the promise made by Jesus to his servants.
When we experience the abundance of encouragement that is at our disposal in belonging to Jesus, we can, in all these ways, encourage others who are going through the storms of life. Who can you come alongside this week?