The church has lost its voice. This article is about finding your voice again and using it for God’s glory especially in the storms of life. The voice of the church is our voice to the world. This article is not about me as a pastor. This article is is about us. It is about you and me. It is about anyone who is a believer and reading this article. Certainly, as a pastor I have a voice that I use to preach the gospel. I use that voice when I preach on Sunday, whether it is online or to a congregation seated in front of me. I want my voice to be a voice of love and hope. But I also want my voice to be a voice of truth.
And you have a voice. Finding your voice is important! You also testify and preach the gospel. Your voice will reach those that my voice will never reach. Your voice will reach the people in your family, and those on your job, your neighbors, and friends. Maybe your voice has been silent or maybe it’s been very active.But I want to encourage you that your voice will become more significant in the midst of the storm.
I love the KJV of 1 Corinthians 14:10 KJV “There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.”
The voice of believers is extremely significant. That is why finding your voice is so important. You may think that your voice is not important. You may think that it doesn’t matter what you say, or how long you say it, or how much prayer you put behind what you say, the devil may have convinced you that your voice has no influence. Maybe it feels like no one is listening. Perhaps you may have tried to use your voice to share Jesus in the past and it seemed like it just fell on deaf ears. Perhaps your Godly counsel and wisdom may have been ignored by those who are close to you. Your sharing of the gospel may have been rejected.
This message is designed to prepare you spiritually so that you can find your voice again. If there has ever been a moment when the church needs to have a strong voice. It is in the midst of the storm.
Acts 27 seems to be just a historical chapter, but I believe that there is great spiritual significance in it. This is a chapter that is about Paul and his journey to Rome. Paul was a prisoner because of the gospel.
He was being taken by a Roman Centurion and his guards to Rome. God had already revealed to Paul that he would use his voice to testify in Rome. And on the way as they were traveling by ship. There comes a storm. This is not an ordinary storm, but it is a terrible storm that lasts for 14 days. It winds up that there is a shipwreck. The entirety of the ship and its cargo is lost. But the beauty of this passage is that because Paul had found his voice, not one person on the ship lost their lives.
We are going to look at this chapter and compare it to what is happening in our lives. I believe that as we continue to journey along. Life itself will produce storms, both in our lives and in the lives of those we love. And I believe that God will use our voice to show the path to safety.
Here is a part of the biblical account: Acts 27:1-8 “And when it was decided that we should sail to Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to one named Julius, a centurion of the Augustan Regiment. So, entering a ship of Adramyttium, we put to sea, meaning to sail along the coasts of Asia. Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, was with us. And the next day we landed at Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him liberty to go to his friends and receive care. When we had put to sea from there, we sailed under the shelter of Cyprus, because the winds were contrary. And when we had sailed over the sea which is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing to Italy, and he put us on board. When we had sailed slowly many days, and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, the wind not permitting us to proceed, we sailed under the shelter of Crete off Salmone. Passing it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea.”
This little society on this ship had made it in the journey this far. As I read this, there is no mention of God in this passage so far. These people had passed through some contrary winds. They had to sail slowly because of the direction of the wind. Their life had been delayed by difficulty. They had even noted that they passed some parts with difficulty, but thus far in their journey they had made it to this point. It is amazing to me the capacity that human nature has to endure difficulties and hardship even without God in their lives.
There are moments in my life when I have watched some people that I have known. I have watched them go through difficulties, heartaches, brokenness, stresses and heartache of every kind. Storms that would have made many people get on their knees and call out to God. And yet, I have watched some people and even though it seemed like the winds of life were pushing against them, they struggled on never turning to God. Many times, I have prayed for people, and I have thought to myself, maybe this will cause this person to turn to God. Because you see as a pastor that is my heart for people. I want everyone to be saved.
You see many people have the idea that they can make it through life all alone. They think will not ever need God. Yet the truth is we all need God. This is where the voice of the church must sound a very clear call to our world. I want to declare that your voice is important. Finding your voice will make a difference. But we have to allow the Holy Spirit to prepare us.
As we prepare to find our voice again, and as we prepare to speak to our world as God wants us to, I want to give you some characteristics of the voice of the church.
THE VOICE OF THE CHURCH…
- MUST UNDERSTAND THE TIMES AND THE SEASONS
Paul was a man of God and he understood the seasons. Let’s read the next verse. Acts 27:9 “Now when much time had been spent, and sailing was now dangerous because the Fast was already over, Paul advised them,” They were already sailing from East to West in the Mediterranean Sea and they were sailing slowly because of bad weather. In those days, they had no meteorologist to predict storms. They did not have the National Weather Service to warn them that there was a storm on the horizon. But they were educated about weather conditions. Luke made it clear that Paul understood the seasons when he said, “The fast was now already over”. That fast referred to a time of fasting during “The Day of Atonement”. Paul as well as many others knew the seasons. They knew that late September and early October was the most dangerous time to sail.
Paul was not a weatherman, but Paul was a person who lived his life in prayer. Paul could hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. And Paul sensed that the journey that they were about to undertake was full of danger.
I wish today that I could write an article and teach a message that would say, “Everything is going to be fine. There will be no more troubles in the future. The next several decades are going to be peace and prosperity. It doesn’t matter the path you are on.” But I cannot do that. Do you know why? First of all, I don’t know that. And secondly, I do know the season we are in. We are living in the end time season. 2 Timothy 3:1 “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:”
Those who have spiritual understanding will tell you, that we are approaching the end of the age. All of the signs of the times are there. Those signs are saying to the world: It is time for the world to get right with God. The coronavirus is just one of many signs that are there. The very fact that there is a nation by the name of Israel is really a super sign fulfilling scores of bible prophecies. The very fact that they speak Hebrew in Israel. The technology is all in place for prophecy to be fulfilled. The very fact that we live in a society that is largely cashless. All of these things are a sign. The very fact that in Africa a locust plague coupled with difficulty from the coronavirus could cause a famine that will kill multiplied millions of people. Famine, Disease, Pestilence. Add to that, the moral downfall of our world. Abortion, the redefining of what it means to be married and who is married. The apostasy of many churches that are falling away from sound biblical doctrine. Economic uncertainty. We are seeing multiple signs all at once. It is like there is a giant convergence of signs in this generation all at once.
This is what it tells us: THIS SEASON IS A DANGEROUS SEASON TO LIVE WITHOUT CHRIST.
Paul understood the season they were in and by the Spirit of God was able to give godly wisdom and counsel to those who were living in that day. And church, God wants to raise up a church with a voice that says, “Hey…I understand what is going on in our culture and world in our day!”
Now this knowledge of the season doesn’t make the church nervous or stressed. In fact, it causes us to lift our heads to the Eastern sky that Jesus is soon to return. But the voice of the church must understand the seasons.
Back in the Old Testament there was a group of men who understood the times. 1 Chronicles 12:32 “of the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do…” If we have an understanding of the times we should be able to tell those around us what needs to be done.
You say, Pastor do we need to start becoming preppers, and storing up food supplies, gathering weapons, and getting ready for the apocalypse. I don’t buy into that type of thinking at all. The bible doesn’t say that anywhere. However it does say that men everywhere need to prepare spiritually. I am living today with a hope. It is called the Blessed Hope. It is the belief that one day this same Jesus who went to heaven in a cloud, will step out of heaven, with the voice of an archangel and the trumpet call of God. The dead in Christ are going to rise first and then who are alive and remain will be caught away to meet with the Lord in clouds. And we will be together forever.
It is time that the voice of the church speaks with an understanding of the times and seasons. We are living at the end of the age. We are living in a moment of unprecedented biblical prophecy coming to pass. Paul knew the season while he was on that ship! He also understood that as believer we understand the spiritual season we are in! There is a second characteristic that the voice of the church must have.
THE VOICE OF THE CHURCH
- MUST WARN THOSE WE LOVE OF IMPENDING DANGER
I want you to remember who Paul was on this voyage. Paul wasn’t in any type of leadership position on this voyage. He was a prisoner. He did not own the ship. He did not own the cargo. He was just a prisoner on his way to Rome. And yet he spoke up. Acts 27:10 “saying, “Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives.”
Paul was given spiritual perception into the danger that lied ahead for them. For the sake of those who journeyed with him, he could not remain silent. He couldn’t just be quiet. He had to say something.
The voice of the church of Jesus Christ has been way to quiet in many ways in our culture. Finding our voice is essential in this critical hour! That is why I am writing this article. I want us to find our voice again.
There is an impending danger that people need to be aware of. I am not talking about coronavirus. Yes, there is danger with the coronavirus. There is a greater danger. I am talking about entering an eternity without Christ. But our generation must understand, that going forward down the broad road that leads to destruction is a dangerous path. I know that everyone who is a believer and understands the gospel has a concern for this as well.
Finding your voice could same someone from an eternity without Christ.
There is another characteristic of our voice
THE VOICE OF THE CHURCH…
- CONTINUES TO SPEAK EVEN IF WE ARE IN THE MINORITY OR UNLISTENED TO
Paul gave a warning: “Hey everyone…lives are at stake! The ship is at stake! The cargo will perish!” I want you to notice what happened. His voice was swept aside. Acts 27:11-12 “Nevertheless the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman and the owner of the ship than by the things spoken by Paul. And because the harbor was not suitable to winter in, the majority advised to set sail from there also, if by any means they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete opening toward the southwest and northwest, and winter there.”
Paul’s voice was not listened to. Have you ever felt like that? You spoke up as the voice of truth, and your words weren’t listened to. Unfortunately, that little society went with what the majority wanted to do. Can I just be frank? The majority is not always right. The majority were afraid to go in and conquer Canaan because they saw themselves like grasshoppers. A majority of the Israelites wanted to go back and be slaves again rather than wander through the desert any longer. A majority of the children of God wanted a king to rule them like the other nations had, even though their prophet warned them what it would be like. There are still a lot of people who are deceived by a majority.
Don’t be deceived by the majority. Just because everyone is doing it doesn’t make it right!
A lot of people have decided that church and serving God isn’t their thing. They are going down life’s path with the majority. Matthew 7:13 says “… wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.” A lot of people have said, it’s okay if I live a lifestyle that isn’t pleasing to God. A lot of people have said, I don’t have to be a fanatic about Jesus. They look around and the majority are not living in a way that pleases God and they say, why should I? There are a lot of people who feel like the ones they love listen more to the world than to them.
And I know for a fact that there are Christians in our world today that love their children. They love their families. They even raised them in church. You may be one of those people. You have done your very best. You have prayed. You have tried to speak into the lives of your children and grandchildren. You tried to tell the neighbor. You spoke to that person on your job. While they aren’t rude to you. They seem to listen to those that around them more. Down on the inside you feel a nagging creeping sense of despair. It is as though your influence has been negated. It is almost like no one listens to you. They have rejected your loving calls. They have rejected your truth.
I want to encourage you not to give up. When Paul wasn’t listened to, he did what we need to do. What did he do? Did he force them to comply? Absolutely not. I believe that Paul realized that they weren’t listening to him. So he went down into the hold of that ship and began to pray.
Finding your voice can also mean that your voice can speak to God. God can control the circumstances of life. We have influence with the influence maker. From that place where they kept him on the inside of that boat he was interceding.
And the scripture tells that all went good for awhile. Acts 27:13 “When the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their desire, putting out to sea, they sailed close by Crete.” The people thought that guy named Paul who raised an objection should be ashamed. Look at this weather. We have a nice south wind. It just a soft breeze. All will be well.
And there are a lot of people who think, “I am doing okay. My life is fine. I don’t have to worry. I have the wind at my back. I won’t worry about God. I wont heed what people have said. I am good.”
Paul wasn’t deceived by these soft winds. He was in prayer. He said, God I need an opportunity. I need these people to listen to your voice spoken through me. And the scripture tells us that a storm came. Acts 27:14-20 “But not long after, a tempestuous head wind arose, called Euroclydon. So when the ship was caught, and could not head into the wind, we let her drive. And running under the shelter of an island called Clauda, we secured the skiff with difficulty. When they had taken it on board, they used cables to undergird the ship; and fearing lest they should run aground on the Syrtis Sands, they struck sail and so were driven.
Can you imagine being in a storm like that? It is a northeastern wind. It is blowing so hard they think they are going to run aground. The ship is being battered so furiously that they are using cables to undergird the ship. It feels like all hope is gone. “And because we were exceedingly tempest-tossed, the next day they lightened the ship. On the third day we threw the ship’s tackle overboard with our own hands.”
Do you know what happens in the midst of a storm? What is really important comes into focus. No longer are they concerned for the cargo inside the ship. It is thrown overboard. Even the tackle, that which was important to them just a few days before. All that matters now was their life. “Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up.” Sometimes our world needs to find itself in a position where they say these words: “I cannot save myself. I need the God of heaven. No matter how hard I try. All my self-effort has led to nothing. I can’t take it. God, come and rescue me.”
Do you know that is the time when many people are ready finally to hear the voice of the church? Pastor, do you think our society has gotten to that place? Has it been brought to its knees by the coronavirus? No! But I can assure you that when the storms of life blow, that is when we have to be willing to come up out of that hold where we have been praying and let our voice be heard.
I have one more characteristic
THE VOICE OF THE CHURCH…
- WILL BE FULL OF GRACE AND NOT FULL OF “I TOLD YOU SO’S”
When God does grant us a moment to speak. Let our words be full of love and grace. Paul had been in prayer. And when the moment was right, just when despair was about to take over, these tough men of the sea were weary and ready for some good news. Paul stands to his feet. This moment now was completely different from a few days ago. Where many brushed aside what he had to say just a few short days ago. They now listened intently. Because Paul had predicted all of this.
Acts 27:21-25 “But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me.”
Paul could have come out his time of prayer and fasting in anger, saying you guys didn’t listen to God. You bunch of hard heads! You brought this on yourself. You deserve to perish. God is going to spare me, but he won’t you. That is not the voice of the church. He didn’t come out with any blame. He didn’t name any names. Yes, he acknowledged that they should have listened but immediately he turns to words of grace. He says take heart. That is the old school way of saying be encouraged. You are going to come out of this. You are going to make it through. He told them how God had sent an angel to give him this news. Not one life would be lost. And I love those four words that said, “for I believe God.”
I want to tell you that the God that we serve doesn’t delight in sending judgment upon people! He is a God of love. The God that we serve delights in mercy. He is a God who cares. He is a God that when people turn to him with sincere hearts, he answers. Sometimes the voice of the church needs to stand on the deck of a ship that is tempest tossed and say, “I believe God. I am not going to be swayed by these waves and these winds. Because the waves and the winds still know his name. God is going to come through for us and for you.”
That is the message this world needs to hear from the voice of the church. Words that inspire hope. Words that give grace. Words of faith. I believe he is your healer. I believe he will come through. I believe it will be okay! I believe the Lord today!
Paul said we are going to run aground, the ship will be lost but no one will die. Around midnight the sailors began to sense that they were near ground. So, they put down soundings and they could sense that the water was getting shallower. So, they threw out four anchors. And they were praying that they would make it to dawn.
And then I believe this chapter portrays one of the most beautiful scenes in all of the word. We in Houston who live on the South Texas coast and have seen some huge crashing waves can picture this in our mind. There is Paul he is standing in the midst of these 276 souls aboard this ship. The ship is being battered by the storm and about to break to pieces.
But here is a man who is totally at peace. Paul is totally at peace. Why? That is the long-term effect of being with God. Others are clinging to ropes. Some have tied themselves to the boat for fear of being washed over. The storm is still raging. And Paul is encouraging them to eat. Acts 27:33-36 “And as day was about to dawn, Paul implored them all to take food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day you have waited and continued without food, and eaten nothing. Therefore I urge you to take nourishment, for this is for your survival, since not a hair will fall from the head of any of you.” And when he had said these things, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; and when he had broken it he began to eat. Then they were all encouraged, and also took food themselves.”
What a beautiful picture of the voice of the church. The church should be the calmest one in the midst of the storm. The church should be the one giving encouragement to others. The church should be the one saying, let’s eat something. It’s going to be okay. What a picture of peace. He took bread and he broke it and gave thanks to God! Faith began to spread among the people. Don’t you love that last verse, they were all encouraged, and also took food for themselves. I believe that if we will be faithful in prayer. God will arrange the circumstances of life so that our voice will be heard for a testimony to our family. Finding your voice may mean waiting on God for the right moment.
Let’s hear the rest of the story. The threw the rest of the grain overboard. They cut the anchors and that battered ship headed for land. They were headed for a beach but didn’t make it. The prow of the ship got stuck in the rocks and the stern was being beaten apart. The ship begins to break up. Acts 27:42-44
“And the soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim away and escape. But the centurion, wanting to save Paul, kept them from their purpose, and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land, and the rest, some on boards and some on parts of the ship. And so it was that they all escaped safely to land.”
That is a picture of everyone of our lives. I don’t know about you, but I have crashed the ship of my life up on the rocks quite a few times. The things I was trusting in, started to slip away. In those moments I knew I had to trust in the promises of God. I see here some powerful imagery. As that ship breaks up, the men and women on board that ship have to grab onto pieces of wood. Pieces of the ship. They are clinging to that wood. If you have seen a coastline during a huge storm, you can only imagine the miracle it was that all 276 people aboard this ship made it to the shore. I think that those pieces of wood represent the cross of Jesus Christ.
My heart and my goal is that everyone here would make it safely to the shorelines of heaven. We have to go through storms sometimes. But I am grateful today, that we can cling to that old rugged cross. That is where our hope lies. That is where our strength is. We cannot save ourselves. We cant swim into heavens shores. We need cling to that old rugged cross.