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Hope for the Apathetic (Acts 27)

Many souls today are apathetic toward the gospel. “Be saved from this perverse generation,” is an appeal that sounds to their lost ears like an alarmist warning from an out-of-touch fanatic. Yet, it is the cry of the Holy Spirit, the call of God Himself, which they are dismissing.

This is no new phenomenon. In Paul’s day, while prisoner on a ship, he warned the crew that it was dangerous to set sail, but “the centurion was more persuaded by the pilot and the captain of the ship than by what was being said by Paul” (Acts 27:11). In his own mind, the centurion was being sensible! The ship’s captain is the qualified resource, not the man being held as a prisoner. Likewise, in our day, many take counsel from the wealthy business man or the worldly achiever who has done much for himself. They see no profit in taking direction from those who lose all their rights and ambitions to follow Jesus Christ. They quickly pass by the discernment of the Spirit-filled man; the voice of worldly wisdom, qualifications and degrees, sounds more reasonable.

This ought to be expected on the shores of Fair Havens. The crew to which Paul was bound saw no signs of disaster from that vantage point. “Everything looks fair here,” they said, “and we have all the safe haven we need at the moment.” Many are saying the same things today. Among the comforts of ordinary life, there is an added comfort in knowing that the “majority” has “reached a decision” to sail ahead without heeding the voice of warning that God sent (27:12).

In His mercy, God allows the apathetic to leave Fair Havens and go on a little further in self-will so they can see the perilous shipwreck of steering their own lives independent of God. When a treacherous storm sets in and the air of complacency dissolves, our delusions can ironically begin being stripped away. God mercifully opens our eyes to perceive what is truly valuable and what is not; only when “violently storm-tossed” will many begin throwing cargo off their ship (27:18). Many things that were once thought useful, interesting, or helpful, prove to be useless hindrances to being rescued. For the good work of God to be done in us, we must let Him remove every last one of these faulty lifelines, until “all hope of…being saved” is “gradually abandoned” (27:20).

Yet, the point of despairing over our false hopes is, amazingly, the point when God steps in with a voice of hope. Paul reminds them of God’s warning (27:21) but does not proceed to scold them for disobedience; the desperate circumstances have already done enough. His very next word to them is, “keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you” (27:22). When the promised storm comes, Paul becomes a herald of the awesome mercy of God. There was hope for all, if they would simply turn and listen to the voice they had rejected (27:31).

We must avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to prophesying. Pray to be used by God to speak a needed word into someone’s life. Don’t demand to know when God does it, and don’t expect it will always look the same. Some around us will need a word that humbles them. Many others will be weary from storms and will need a word of hope that points them to seek the face of Jesus Christ. You and I ought to pray daily that God will use our tongues to speak the right word at the right time. He will, if we habitually listen to Him and not the majority. “The Lord God has given me the tongue of disciples, that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. … He awakens my ear to listen as a disciple” (Isaiah 50:4).

Alex Mack

Teaching Pastor

The Rock Church

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