Two weeks ago, we talked about resisting Satan’s accusations that we’ve messed up or lost God’s favor when circumstances become difficult. Then last week we started examining how Paul walked in God’s favor regardless of the circumstances. Today we will look at how God’s favor made Paul the most influential person wherever he was, even when he was a prisoner!
Paul began the long trip as a prisoner on the way to Rome. He was excited about sharing the gospel with Caesar, and this way he got a free passage! God’s favor was apparent again. God moved the hearts of the Romans to show him favor even when he was there as a prisoner. As the voyage progressed, that favor became really apparent.
Acts 27:3 (NIV) The next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius, in kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs.
When things God dangerous, Paul warned them that continuing the trip would be a disaster. They needed to wait for conditions to change. But the centurion listened to the owner of the ship, and the majority decided to sail on.
They got caught up in a hurricane-force wind and soon threw the cargo and then the ship’s tackle overboard. After many days of not eating or seeing the sun or stars because of the violent storm, they gave up all hope of getting out of this alive. Then Paul stood up:
Acts 27:21-26 (NIV) After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. But 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 to whom I belong 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. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”
I’ve never been in danger of shipwreck, but I have felt like I was on the brink of great loss! Sometimes I still do. I know how Satan comes with accusations and blame, trying to deceive us into thinking we’ve lost God’s favor when the circumstances look rough. I’ve seen some Christians fall to such accusations, thinking God had abandoned them.
The worst of situations was when God’s favor became most evident on Paul’s life. As an ambassador of Christ, he carried hope when nobody else had any! Like Joseph in the Old Testament, even as a prisoner, he became the most influential person in the whole place! May this be a lesson for us. I think it was Bill Johnson who said something like “The person who has the most hope is the one who has the greatest influence.”
This is why we are talking about remaining aware of God’s favor which is on us if we are in Christ, no matter what the circumstances. If Paul had doubted God’s favor or gotten trapped in the accusations of Satan saying “You messed up…” he would not have carried the same influence for the sake of the gospel. Self-pity can be one of our greatest enemies. When we know we carry God’s favor and act on it, miracles happen!
After Paul’s words imparted hope, people started listening to him!
Acts 27:30-44 (NIV) In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it drift away.
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. 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.” 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. They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. Altogether there were 276 of us on board. When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea….
When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could. Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach. But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf.
The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.
Guys, this is huge! Paul acted and believed according to God’s favor that rested on him. God’s favor on Paul saved not only his own life, but the lives of everybody on the ship!
They landed on Malta and a snake bit Paul’s hand while he was gathering firewood. He shook it off, unharmed. He was walking as a heavenly person, as an ambassador of Christ, and he knew all of heaven was backing him. When the people saw that he didn’t swell up and die, they mistook him for a god. Because of God’s favor, Paul quickly became the most influential person on the island of Malta.
Publius was the chief official of the island, and his dad was dying. Paul laid hands on him and healed him, and then the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. The people of Malta honored the whole group that was with Paul, because God’s favor was on Paul’s life, and they gave them supplies to sail again after they had wintered on the island for three months.
Paul finally arrived in Rome. God’s favor had taken him to the center of the Roman empire to proclaim the gospel! Again, he received unusual favor as a prisoner, being allowed to live in his own rented house with only a soldier guarding him. This is the last thing we read in the book of Acts:
Acts 28: 30-31 (NIV) For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!