By Rufus M. Parker
Storms oftentimes appear when least expected. They are generated usually at sea when hot air and cold air meet. According to Luke, a violent storm by the name of Euroclydon appeared. “No small tempest,” he said, meaning, this baby is packing a punch. Katrina, Rita, Andrew, and other storms that have caused much damage do not compare. It seemed as if life, Luke said, would be taken away. Hope seemed to be void. Death seemed to be imminent. Death seemed to be knocking at their door. They were trying everything they knew as boatmen to save their lives. They had encouraging words from Paul to “be of good cheer.” But even words from such a man as the apostle Paul, a man who had a relationship with God, a man who had done many miracles before them, just seemed to fall upon deaf ears. You see, when times of doubt and the violent storms of life are in your face, even words from the man of God can sometimes be hard to accept as factual.
When people are facing storms of life, they look for the immediate fix. They look for the life raft or life vest that they can touch. Words just do not seem to fit the bill when we think we are going under for the third time or for the final count. Much fear, Luke said, came upon the ship. How much fear is much fear? Much fear is fear that no matter where you look, no matter where you turn, the evil is still coming after you. Much fear is that fear that pierces the soul, bringing with it a dreadful feeling. Much fear says, “Your time is over and your life is now in my hands, and there is nothing you can do about it.” The winds, waves, rain, lightning, thunder, tidal waves were filling their ship with water to capacity. They were tossed to and fro, from one side of the ship to the other, by and with the waves and the winds. “Man overboard” could possibly be heard. Sails ripped. The mast of the ship broke, and one man, the apostle Paul, continued to encourage them, “Be of good cheer.” How could a man say such a thing? You see, you can say such a thing when you have been through storms and have seen the hand of God bring you through. Listen to Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth:
“Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches”
(II Corinthians 11:22-28).
Paul had been through much in his life, and he knew that if God had brought him through once, He would bring him through again. But before his final journey to Rome, Paul would have to face another bout with death from the sea. So he told us to be of good cheer when we are facing the storms of life:
- Be of good cheer, when it seems as if everything is coming against you.
- Be of good cheer, when you have to get rid of things that you feel were dear to you.
- Be of good cheer, when you lose a loved one or a friend.
- Be of good cheer, when you look from your ship and all you see are waters of affliction and waves of despair.
The psalmist said, “This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me” (Psalm 119:50). During the times of the storms, we must have some hoarded Word of God within us. It is during these times that Scripture must be manifested in our lives.
But even with many words of encouragement, there will always be those who desire to abandon the ship. Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, “Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved. Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off” (Acts 27:31-32). Paul said, “You have to stay in the ship to be saved.” You have to remain in the church if you are going to be saved. Jesus is coming back for a church without spot and wrinkle, so you have to stay in the ship. This is the old ship of Zion; it is the hope for the lost and the dying. It is a soul-saving station; it is the tower of salvation. Do not step out of the ship just because the storm is coming. It is not going under, because Jesus is on board with you.
After Paul’s instructions, the soldiers cut the ropes of the boat and let her fall off. You may have to cut loose your old friends who are still living the ways of the world. You have to cut loose those past hurts, past feelings, past envy, past jealousy, past prejudices, past decisions that were not right. You have to cut loose things that bind you. You have to let go of some things in your life and in your home. Your ship might be sinking because you are holding on to things that really do not matter. I do not know what you have on board, but you might need to cast it into the sea of forgetfulness and let the waves take it away from you.
The men thought the boats could save them. They thought, If we get into these other boats, we have a chance and it is much safer. No, friend! Except you abide in the ship (the true church) you cannot be saved.
I believe it is time we cut loose the past. I believe it is time we cast some things from our lives and send them into the sea of forgetfulness.
The crowd asked Peter and the apostles on the Day of Pentecost, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Peter answered, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:37-41). Peter further exhorted, “Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 3:20-21).
Saved by water! Sometimes we might just need a good storm to help us. Storms may be used by God as a purging method to help us rid things from our lives.
Paul instructed the young pastor Titus, “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:1-5).
The storms of life will come, but we must remain in the ship. Every false wind of doctrine that comes our way will try to pull us from the ship. Suffering, persecutions, and rejection will come to pull you from the ship. We have to learn to rejoice when things are coming against us and not regress into a state of defeat and self condemnation. We must continue to look unto Jesus, who is the author and finisher of our faith. Your ship may be torn and battered, but you must stay in it.
It is not going to sink while the Master is on board.
As one songwriter said, “Though the storms keep on raging in my life and sometimes it’s hard to tell the night from day, still there lies a hope within that’s reassured as I keep my eye upon the distant shores. I know He’ll lead me safely to the blessed place He has prepared; and if the storms don’t cease and the winds keep on blowing in my life, my soul has been anchored in the Lord.” Except you abide in the old ship of Zion you cannot be saved.
This article “Except You Abide In the Ship You Cannot Be Saved” by Rufus M. Parker was excerpted from the book, If God Be For Us, Who Can Be Against Us? It may be used for study & research purposes only.