Thursday, March 7, 2013

God's Protective Grace

God’s Protective Grace


For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39

It was a snow day, and there was plenty of it!  This was my daughter Gabby’s first time to play in the snow.  She was about 3 years old, and her brother took her outside and they started building a snowman.  Being cold, I left them out to play and went inside. 
I was cleaning the kitchen when I began to hear her cry.  Going to the window to see where she was, I saw our dog Daisy standing in front of her.  She was standing in front of Gabby, moving left to right as Gabby tried to get around her, but not letting her move forward.  I went out and shouted at Daisy to move.  But she stayed where she was.  As I got closer, I saw why she wouldn’t move.  Within feet in front of Gabby, under a blanket of snow there was a hole in the ground.  Our septic tank had caved in, and Gabby was headed straight for it.   Back then I gave praise to the dog that kept her from falling in and drowning in that septic tank.  Today, I know better, and I praise God for even using the dog to provide safety for her.  He is a protective Father!  Sometimes when His protection comes we can’t see it until time passes.  We have to know what could have been to understand His grace. 

Paul, a prisoner in Caesarea, had boarded a ship to go to Rome and be tried by Augustus Caesar.  As often was the case of those travelling, he, his guard Julius, and other prisoners boarded a cargo ship.  As they sailed they encountered strong winds, and had to navigate the ship close to shore to avoid the strong winds of the open sea.  Paul then warned the guard and ship captain in 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.”  But they wouldn’t listen, and wanted to continue their journey and winter over in Crete.
But when they neared Crete, a strong wind named “Euroclydon”, which means a strong north-east wind that creates large billows, prevented them from docking.  Having no choice, since they could not head into the wind, they let the wind drive.  On the third day, the storm continuing with no sun or stars in sight, they began to throw the ship cargo overboard, fearing the weight would sink the ship.  But day after day, the winds blew stronger, and they feared for their lives.  Then after several days, Paul spoke up 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. However, we must run aground on a certain island.”

Paul had been encouraged by the angel of God, and recognized God’s sovereignty over the wind.  On the fourteenth day of their travel, they ran aground on the island of Malta, near Sicily, Italy, in a bay that is now call St. Paul’s Bay.  Having anchored the ship so it would not become lodged in the sand, they were about to swim to shore when the ships men wanted the guard to kill the prisoners.   But the guard wanted to save Paul, who had provided hope in the storm through the words of the angel of God.  They all swam to shore.  
When they arrived on shore, Paul gathered sticks to build a fire.  As he lit the fire, a snake came out and bit him on the hand.  Those that stood by watching from Malta assumed that because he was a prisoner, this was justice being served by some god who sought to kill Paul.  But Paul shook off the snake, and never swelled up or had any effect from the bite.  Those that watched then presumed Paul himself to be a god. 

Paul ministered in Malta for three months, healing the sick and teaching of the saving grace of Jesus, before boarding another ship to go to Rome, his original destination.  Chained once again to his guard, they arrived in Rome.  The guard, knowing Paul’s innocence, sent the other prisoners ahead with the Roman guards, but let Paul stay by himself. In Acts 28:30-31 we read that  “Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.  Paul had been given freedom to do the work of God once again. 
I’m sure in the two years he was in Rome, Paul must have reflected on the storm and near shipwreck many times.  He had endured fourteen days of being tossed about, no sun by day and no stars by night, waves coming over the top of the ship, and the fear of all on board.  Yet what seemed to be danger was God’s protection, and God’s guidance through the wind to where and when he wanted Paul to arrive in Rome.

God is in the storm.  We don’t always understand the storm while we’re in it, but given time, God will reveal His will for each storm placed in our lives.  Until then, remember the words of Paul in Romans 8:38-39, which says “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

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