We lost all hope! Acts 27:13-26

I came across a fictional list of improbable quotes – remarks that famous people would NEVER have made.
Peter Pan would never have said “Oh, grow up!”
Florence Nightingale would never have said “Go away, I’m on my tea break”
Sylvester Stallone would never have asked “Precisely what is my motivation in this scene?”
Here’s one you would never expect. Surely the Apostle Paul would never have said, “All hope is lost!”
Yet things are so desperate on this ship that we read
Acts 27:20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved. (NIV)
NLT “All hope was gone”
New Century – “We lost all hope of being saved”
New RSV “all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.”
Message “we lost all hope of rescue.”
It is Doctor Luke traveling with the apostle Paul who wrote this account in Acts. So it was actually Luke, and all the sailors, who lost all hope. When that happened there was just one person aboard the ship who had not sunk into despair. Among all the sailors and passengers, when even Luke himself was in despair, one man did not become despondent! One man of faith had not lost all hope. We will come to him in a few moments.
For everybody else, “All hope was gone.” “We lost all hope.” This can happen to Christians more often than we talk about. I’ve never been in a shipwreck. I have been in more than one storm at sea. I have had a brief experience of being out of my depth in the sea swallowing sea water and facing the possibility of drowning. And these are scary experiences. But the whole of life is full of storms – and the lives of Christians are no less stormy than anybody else’s. First there are the storms of life which every human being can face. Unpleasant or difficult experiences arising from need, from illness or accident or natural disaster, from bereavement and grief, from rejection or even abuse, from disappointment and discouragement. Such times can be so hard that even Christians can be brought so low that they are tempted to give up hope. Then, some Christians also have to face the storms of opposition and ridicule and persecution, and in some places even martyrdom. They can feel pressed to give up hope! Whenever believers go out on a limb and take risks for the sake of the gospel, storms will come! And hope can fade to despair even for believers.
So if you have ever felt tempted to give up all hope – don’t feel guilty. You are in good company and I’m not only talking about Luke.
We talk about the sufferings of Job. Remember how his personal suffering and afflictions, as well as grief for the loss of his family, caused Job to curse the day he was born.
Job 3 11 “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?
12 Why were there knees to receive me and breasts that I might be nursed?
13 For now I would be lying down in peace; I would be asleep and at rest
16 Or why was I not hidden in the ground like a stillborn child, like an infant who never saw the light of day?
Think about how Moses felt in the wilderness when all the people were demanding food to eat. Moses was ready to give up.
Numbers 11 11 He asked the LORD, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? … 14 I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now
Moses found the burden of leading God’s people too much for him. He lost all hope. That is the kind of experience which many Christians, and even many Christian leaders, have gone through!
Remember how Elijah felt after the contest with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Jezebel was out to kill him.
1 Kings 19 3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep.
Standing up for God had driven Elijah to the point where he was ready to give up!
And think about Jonah when he preached to the people of Nineveh so powerfully that they actually repented! At the moment when he should have been rejoicing, instead Jonah fell into deep despair and he said
Jonah 4 . 3 Now, LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.’
All these great believers came to a point in their lives when they give up hope! Many Christians have done – so if that includes you then don’t feel guilty. Faced with hopeless situations it is perfectly natural to want to give up!
It has been said that “Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but only for one second without hope”. The sign at the entrance of Dante’s hell reads, “Abandon hope, all you who enter here”, and a place where there is no hope is a good definition of hell.
You may have faced such a situation when you have been in despair. You may secretly be feeling that way today. Let’s see what we can learn from the one man aboard that sinking ship who did not abandon hope! Who was it guided the sailors to safety? It was the apostle Paul.
Let’s begin by remembering that this was not the first difficult situation that Paul had faced. God had brought Paul safely through so many of the challenges of life, and he had also experienced God’s faithfulness in the midst of all kinds of opposition and persecution. Paul had already proved in his own life that God could be trusted. In not one but two passages in 2 Corinthians Paul listed the ways he had suffered for God.
2 Cor 6:4 … troubles, hardships and distresses; 5 in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; … 8 through glory and dishonour, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 9 known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
There were so many times Paul when had been knocked down but not knocked out! Then in 2 Corinthians 11 he reports how he had
2 Corinthians 11:23 been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.
Here Paul is giving his testimony about all the challenging and painful situations where he had experienced God’s help. Most of us have probably not gone through times as hard as those in our own lives. So it is good for us to learn from Paul’s experiences. It is good for us to be encouraged by the examples of the great saints of scripture and the great saints of history and the great saints in the church around the world today who go through terrible times, but to do not give up. Their experiences inspire us to serve God faithfully and not to despair. Paul didn’t abandon hope. He didn’t wallow in pity! So we also should never give up!
Here in the story of the shipwreck we find no less than SIX pointers to Paul’s faith and determination: six things WE should remember in the middle of whatever storms we are facing to help us to keep on going and not give up hope! Last week I gave you a sermon with four points all beginning with the same letter. Since I am on a roll here are six points all starting with the letter P.
God’s Presence
23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me
God is with us whatever storms in life we may be facing. Sometimes, as Jesus did in the boat on the sea of Galilee when the apostles thought they were drowning, sometimes God calms the storms. Sometimes God leaves the storms raging and he calms US in the midst of the storm. Either way, it is recognising the presence of God which will stop us from giving up hope.
We have to make time and space to find the presence of God. In the midst of the chaos and panic on board, sailors throwing everything they could overboard to lighten the ship, Paul was busy praying! It is very hard to pray with storms raging around us, when we think we are about to sink! But then more than ever we need to make time and space to pray and recognise the presence of Almighty God.
God’s Promise
23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 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.” 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.
Paul received God’s promises in words of prophecy. Many times Paul, and the Early Church, and Christians ever since, have been comforted and saved from despair by words of prophecy, by dreams and visions, or even by the appearance of an angel. But again we need to make time in the middle of the storm to listen to God and hear his still small voice of calm!
For us of course God also speaks to us his promises of Scripture! So we must make time to read the Word, to learn it, to hide it in our hearts!
God’s Purposes and God’s Plan
24You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.”
Paul knew that God had a master plan for his life and that NOTHING could stop God’s plan from being fulfilled. He would go on to Rome to proclaim the gospel before the Emperor himself. God also had plans for the lives of all the sailors who were with Paul. God has a masterplan for each of our lives too. And nothing can stop God’s purposes for us from being fulfilled. So when the storms of life are beating the last remnants of hope out of us, we should remember that God is in control – HIS will shall be done in our lives. He will accomplish in and through us everything which His cosmic masterplan intends.
God’s Power
25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.
In the midst of the storms of life when we are tempted to think that all hope is gone, we need to remember that nothing is impossible for God.
In the 17th century, Jeremy Taylor wrote, “It is impossible for that man to despair who remembers that his Helper is omnipotent.”
From her experience of God’s help through the atrocities of a Nazi Concentration Camp, Corrie Ten Boom confidently declared, “We do not need great faith, just faith in a great God”.
Storms at sea, shipwrecks, the storms of life we experience, are all within the control of Almighty God our Heavenly Father. Remember we serve the God who is able to do so much more than we can ask or even imagine. HE is our hope! He is our shield and our very great reward!
God’s Protection
25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. 26 Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.’
Max Lucado wrote, “It is when we are out of options that we are most ready for God’s surprises.”
When we come to the end of hope – God steps in and does his saving work. The rest of Acts chapter 27 is the story of how, despite a terrible shipwreck, not a single life was lost. After two weeks in this dreadful storm the boat was about to crash into the rocks.
33 Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. ‘For the last fourteen days,’ he said, ‘you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything. 34 Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.’ 35 After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. 36 They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 Altogether there were 276 of us on board.
Paul was even able to break bread with all the sailors and soldiers and all the other prisoners, so everybody knew it was God’s protection which brought them safe to land. They tried rescuing the ship by throwing the cargo overboard but that didn’t work so they decided to run the shop aground.
43 … the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and … ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. 44 The rest were to get there on planks or on pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land in safety.
Every single person was saved through God’s wonderful protection. And in the midst of all this, we see how Paul received
God’s Peace
When everybody else had given up hope, Paul was able to say to them all, not once but twice, “keep up your courage!” As the storm raged around them, Paul rested in God’s peace. And that came to him through prayer.
Philippians 4 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Perhaps you are at the point of giving up all hope today. Perhaps you may come to that point in the days ahead when the storms of life are battering you down into despair. You won’t be alone if you fall so low. Remember Job and Moses and Elijah and Jonah and even Luke. But in that slough of despond remember the apostle Paul. Remember God’s presence, God’s promise, God’s purposes, God’s power and God’s protection. And God’s peace which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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