Acts 27: 9-15
So Paul warned them, ‘Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.’ But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. Since the harbour was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbour in Crete, facing both south-west and north-west.
When a gentle south wind began to blow, they saw their opportunity; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the ‘North-Easter’, swept down from the island. The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along.
How do you cope under pressure? When everything goes wrong, when it all starts falling apart – do you panic and freak out and lose it? Or do you keep calm, focused, and in control of your emotions?
Do you give up and give in to the circumstances – or do you step up and be proactive in trying to make things right?
As we continue looking at Acts 27, we’re going to see the Apostle Paul face a massive crisis moment. He’s in a boat which is facing a horrendous storm, it’s falling apart and sinking. How does he act – or react?
“When a gentle south wind began to blow, they saw their opportunity; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete.” (v. 13)
At first it seems like the majority were right and Paul was wrong. "A gentle wind…" That sounds so pleasant.
I’ve found that when I do my own thing and disobey God, often at the start it seems OK. In fact it can be a lot of fun. I’m cruising along, it feels liberating. It feels like I’ve got away with it. Maybe even God’s blessing me. But look at the next verses:
“Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the ‘North-Easter’, swept down from the island. The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along.” (vv 14-15)
DRIVING or DRIVEN?
The gentle breeze very quickly has become a hurricane force wind called the ‘North-Easter’. I’m no expert, but I know when you give a particular wind a name, it’s never a good thing.
The force of the wind coming against them is so strong – look at what it says:
“…we gave way to it and were driven along.”
They just gave way to the forces around them – they gave up control.
Whenever my wife and I go anywhere in the car, I always prefer to be the one driving. It’s not that she’s a bad driver or I don’t trust her – I just prefer to be the one behind the wheel in control. I feel safer. I’d rather drive than be driven.
There’s a huge difference between driving and being driven. You might be moving – but it’s because you are being driven by the wind of circumstances around you. You aren’t in control – they control you.
Paul talks in Ephesians 4: 14 about immature Christians as being like “…infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.”
They’re just driven by the wind. Christians who are constantly here and there, up and down, going after this and that, they have no grounding in God’s Word, no convictions or foundations which stabilise them.
I’ve seen churches do it – every new fad that makes its way across from America – they’re after it. Every new model of doing church – they think it’s the thing that will keep them afloat. Every new so-called revival – and they’re chasing it. They’re all over the place driven by what sounds good or looks good or feels good.
Again it’s because they’re not finding their foundation in God’s Word.
At different times in my life I’ve found myself asking this question: Am I driving here, or am I being driven?
Am I still in control of this area of my life – or is it controlling me?
If you’re not married, it could maybe in certain dating relationships. You find yourself in a place where you just give up self-control emotionally or physically to the other person. You’re so into them and don’t want to lose them that you’re willing to do anything or go through anything to keep them.
Maybe it’s with a habit or something you’re drawn to.
Shopping. Prescription medication. What you look at online. Alcohol. Gambling. Gossiping. Dishonesty.
At the start it’s all good fun and pretty harmless. You’re in control. You can stop any time you want. But over time you give over more and more of yourself to it. It becomes more regular. You convince yourself, it’s OK, you can still stop. But you choose not to just yet. You will soon.
And when you try, you discover that you no longer control it, it controls you. Call it addiction or compulsion or whatever you want. But you’re no longer driving – you’re being driven.
What started looking good and feeling good – now doesn’t feel so great anymore. In fact, it feels frightening to be out of control. To not want to do something any longer – but you just keep on doing it. To be pulled in a direction you no longer want to go.
Proverbs 25: 28 says:
“Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.”
In other words, self-control isn’t restrictive – it’s protective. The walls of self-control aren’t there to stop you having freedom – but rather to stop you being attacked and destroyed by the enemy.
Peter the Great of Russia is quoted as saying, "I have been able to conquer an empire, but I have not been able to conquer myself."
One of the fruit of the Holy Spirit is that we have self-control. That means we have the power to choose to do the right thing and we can decide what we think and say. It’s living by the Spirit – doing what we know God wants. We’re not just at the mercy of our emotions or compulsions.
Titus 2 says this:
“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ…” (vv 11-13)
God’s grace isn’t an excuse to sin. Grace is the Spirits empowerment and divine enablement to be able to say NO to the wrong things and YES to the right things.
Ask yourself honestly – right now in my life in this particular area – am I driving or am I being driven? You are not powerless. Get whatever help you need, prayer, counselling, whatever it is. Get out of the situation if you have to. But choose today not to let yourself be at the mercy of whatever is driving you any longer.