Sermon Five - What to do When Trouble Comes
Sermon preparation has many facets. One is to speak to the needs of the congregation. The purpose of this sermon is to prepare God's children to face days of difficulty and challenge. Since sin entered the world, there has been trouble on every hand.
The sermon was first preached at Ringgold Baptist Church (Ringgold VA) on April 28, 1968, at Hays Fork Baptist Church (Berea KY) on May 16, 1971, three times at Pleasant View Baptist Church (Lynchburg VA) on June 30, 1974 ("very moving service"), February 15, 1976 ("three by letter"), and January 15, 1978 ("a moving service"), and at Immanuel Baptist Church (Newport News VA) on May 11, 1980. hope this sermon will be a blessing to readers and let them know what to do when trouble comes. Let God speak to your heart and work in your situation.
Subject: What to Do When Trouble Comes
Text: Acts 27:14
"But not long after, there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon."
This chapter in the book of Acts has come to mean much in my life because it tells me what to do when trouble comes into my life. Trouble comes to all people. The fact that we are saved members of the family of God does not mean that trouble will never come our way. Note in v 13: "The south wind blew softly." It is always wonderful when THE SOUTH WIND BLOWS SOFTLY. It is warm and gentle and we welcome it.
But there are other winds, too, some of which are "contrary winds" (v 4). Such is this "tempestuous wind" mentioned in v 14.
For two years, Paul was held in custody in Caesarea, a large city on the shores of the Mediterranean in Israel. You will remember when he was arrested in the Temple in Jerusalem, he appealed to Caesar which was his right as a Roman citizen by birth.
After learning the charges against him brought by the Jewish religious leaders, King Agrippa stated to the Roman Governor Festus: "This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar" (Acts 26:32).
Soon after arrangements were made to transport Paul, the prisoner, to Rome. He was handed over to a Roman centurion, Julius, to guard him and get him to Rome. The centurion was kind to Paul and allowed him to visit friends in Sidon so they might provide for his needs before they set out on their journey by sea (27:3).
The year was 59 A.D. The month was October, a very marginal time to travel. Actually, sailing was doubtful even in September due to overcast weather which prevented them from following the stars in their navigation. By November it was impossible to travel.
When Paul realized the plans to leave the safe harbor at Fair Havens, he warned them it was a questionable decision. However, the captain and the ship owner did not want to winter there. The decision was made to set out on the trip.
At first the winds and the weather were favorable--a south wind blew softly and sailing was fine.
Then a contrary wind came. It was a northeastern called Euroclydon or Euroquillo. Typhonic force winds swept down from Crete's great mountain range (more than 7,000 feet high) to drive ships into the open sea toward North Africa.
Luke's accuracy in describing the details of the voyage is one of the best descriptions of ancient seafaring we have. The storm came in gigantic proportion and continued fourteen days during which they saw neither sun nor stars. The violent battering from the storm culminated in their losing control of their boat as they were driven along. The ship was caught up into the storm.
Measures were taken to strengthen the ship including passing ropes under the ship to hold it together.
Finally, Luke said, "we gave up all hope of being saved" (v 20). TROUBLE HAD COME.
Contrary winds will come
There is no way to know when or whence trouble may come. It may come in the church or in the home, or in your own life as an individual before the day is over. It may come in the form of death to someone dearly loved, or it may come when health is lost, a telephone call/a visit, or dreams do not come true.
Job said "Yet trouble came" (Job 3:26); "yet man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward" (5:7); "man that is born of woman is of few days, and full of trouble. He cometh forth as a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow and continueth not" (4:1-2). Paul said "We are TROUBLED on every side, yet not distressed" (2 Corinthians 4:8).
The Scriptures plainly teach that every child of God will be called upon to suffer for the cause of Christ. "For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake" (Philippians 1:29). Paul expressed a deep longing to "know Him in the fellowship of His suffering" (Philippians 3:10).
REMEMBER--TROUBLE WILL COME AND YOU CAN BE PREPARED FOR IT. Now, what shall we do when trouble comes? Shall we be defeated by it, or shall we overcome it by the power and grace of Christ and make it a stepping stone to loftier spiritual heights? God's word in this portion teaches five practical things to do when trouble comes.
We must spend time alone with God
Acts 27:21 "But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them ..."
Notice this expression. Where had Paul been? Little doubt as to where Paul was during this terrific storm. He was down in the hole of the ship alone with God, in prayer for divine deliverance. This was certainly the practice of great men and women of God in Bible times.
This was the case of Jacob when he faced the most stormy and troublesome crisis of his life, namely the meeting with his brother Esau. He dared not face this crisis without first meeting God in the holy place of supplication. Notice some great statements out of the Bible which describe Jacob's experience: "And Jacob was left alone and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day...And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me...And the man said thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and has prevailed" (Genesis 32:24,26,28).
Oh, that we would wait, alone with God, at the throne of Grace, in the time of trouble until God's answer comes! One of the greatest promises to be found on the pages of God's word is Isaiah 40:31 "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary, and they shall walk, and not faint."
The word is clear. "Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10). Again, we are told "Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you" (James 4:8).
WHEN TROUBLE COMES, we must wait upon the Lord, or we shall faint and fall. We shall fail. When the storm arose and the tempestuous winds blew--WHEN TROUBLE CAME--Paul got alone and sought the face of God and came out with an answer from Heaven. Where can I go, but to the Lord? It is then that we come with no mask or hidden motive.
There are many Christians today who have surrendered to problems which could be conquered by getting alone with God. Someone has said believers should praise God for anything that brings us to our knees--to keep us depending on the Lord.
We must reckon upon Godâ€™s presence
Verse 23 "For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve."
How often in His word, the Lord tells us that He will always be with us! How much it must have meant to Paul during this great storm, when the angel of the Lord appeared to Him in the night, and told him not to be afraid. When TROUBLE COMES, if the child of God will only remember that the Lord will be with him and that he can reckon on His presence, he will be sustained.
"And He said, My presence shall go with thee; and I will give thee rest" (Exodus 33:14). "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou are with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me" (Psalm 23:4). "For He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5).
Some years ago a very sick Christian whose faith was sorely tried by illness shared with his Doctor, "I am so alone; so afraid. I fear the experience of facing death." Doctor pulled a chair close to the bedside, but did not sit in it. "I want you to remember that Jesus is here with you all the time. He never will leave you or forsake you. Reckon upon His presence so strongly that you can imagine His sitting in this chair." One day he breathed his last breath and slipped away to be with Jesus. When family found him dead, his hand was upon the empty chair. When told, "I know why his hand was upon the chair. He was holding to the nail-scarred hand of Jesus and was conscious of His presence when he died."
Just as the "fourth man" walked into the fiery furnace with the three Hebrew children, so will Jesus walk with us when trouble comes. A God who would be with Jeremiah in a miry pit, Daniel in a lion's den, and Paul upon the angry bosom of a storm tossed sea will be with His children today when trouble comes.
We must believe the promises
Verse 25. "I believe God that it shall be even as it was told unto me."
Paul had learned to believe the promises of God when all outward circumstances seemed to indicate that their fulfillment was impossible. Paul's confidence and assurance came from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Paul knew Jesus and lived in close fellowship with the Lord.
Paul's source of personal power is available to every Christian. If we know Jesus, and live close to Him, we, too, will have that calm assurance that translates into personal power.
Most of the great promises of the word of God were given to saints in times of great distress, or in depths of sorrow or in the fires of hot persecution. There are over 7,000 promises laid out by God in His Word. These are promises to be claimed and many of them will be valid when trouble comes and we are overwhelmed.
Most believers, today, are not in the Word of God. Consequently, they have no idea of the fullness of God's promises which are theirs to claim.
"God is not a man that He should lie, neither the son of man, that He should repent. Hath He said, and shall He not do it? or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?" (Numbers 23:19). "For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us" (2 Corinthians 1:20). "In hope of eternal life, which God that cannot lie, promised before the world began" (Titus 1:2).
When Adoniram Judson lay languishing in the filthy Burmese jail, his faith was sorely tried. He had gone as one of the first missionaries to win the heathen to Christ, but the response to his labor was minimal with no one saved for many years. He was arrested. He had been strung up by his thumbs and cruelly beaten and now was suffering on a filthy straw bed in the vilest of prisons. When in derision they taunted him by saying "What do you think now of your plans to win the heathen to Christ?" His thrilling answer will live and encourage the hearts of others--"My future is bright this moment as the promises of God."
He believed God when trouble came! Oh, the promises are an unshakable rock amidst the crumbling sands of life. No "tempestuous wind" can ever change one divine promise. We are to stand on the promises, not just sit on the premises. They are as certain and true and eternal as God Himself.
Of Abraham, it is said: "He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God. And being fully persuaded that what He had promised, He was able to perform" (Romans 4:20-21).
We must count our blessings
Verse 35. Paul "gave thanks to God in the presence of them all."
He found something to give praise for even in the hour of trouble. The early believers cultivated the attitude of gratitude. After beaten and imprisoned--they rejoiced that "they were counted worthy to suffer for His name" (Acts 5:41). There was no melancholy or depression. They did not display a persecution complex. They just rejoiced and counted their blessings and were thankful and persecution seemed as nothing.
"Now thanks be to God which always causeth us to triumph in Christ" (II Corinthians 2:14).
A man who had only one leg was tempted to complain until he saw a man who had no legs. A missionary was so discouraged that he was ready to return home when he saw a plaque on the wall: "Try thanksgiving." When he did that, his attitude changed measurably.
Thanksgiving does not change God. He will never be any greater than he already is. Thanksgiving doesn't change God, it changes us.
We must get rid of excess baggage
Verse 38 "They lightened the load and cast the cargo into the sea getting rid of excess baggage."
It is not correct to say that all trouble comes as a corrective measure from God, but it would be right to say that in a time of testing we should search our hearts. We will often find much excess baggage which needs to be removed from our lives. Satan has gained ground because we have given him a place to stand. We live as carnal Christians--with self in control, not the Holy Spirit--and are tossed to and fro by the tempestuous sea upon which we journey.
David prayed in Psalm 139:33-34 "Search me O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
The thoughtful Christian needs to determine by a deep spiritual heart-searching and self-examination whether trouble is corrective. God loves us too much to let us continue a course that takes us farther and farther away from what He wants us to be.
The word of God teaches that we are to EXAMINE OURSELVES. 1 Corinthians 11:30 is plain: '"For this cause many are weak and sickly among you and many sleep." Many have become carnal Christians and their appetites for God have slacked. We have given Satan a place to stand. Sometimes the loss of health is God's punishment and His explanation as to why the storm came. Some are taken prematurely to Heaven because they will not yield to the will of God for their lives.
Trouble gets our attention and brings us back. We often depend on our own skills and abilities when life seems easy--when the south wind blows softly--but we turn to God when we feel unable to help ourselves. Circumstances come along which help us rely on God, not self. Depending on God is a realization of our own powerlessness without Him and our need for His constant touch in our lives.
God is our source of power, and we receive His help by keeping in touch with Him. With this attitude of dependence, problems will drive us to God rather than away from Him. Let's learn to rely on God daily.
Unload all excess baggage which is against the will of God.
Believers have the resources to face trouble with grace. When all hope is gone (v 20), have faith in God (vv 22-25). Don't give up the ship (vv 30-31), and take care of yourself (vv 33-36).
May God help us to do it!