I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to see clearly how to help somebody and them reject your advice. I have a painful situation in my life where a dear person is addicted to drugs. This gifted and talented person is so gripped by this addiction that they now sit in a jail cell awaiting trial. And this isn’t the first time. Having spent literally hours and hours offering help, getting “tough,” begging, pleading, ignoring, helping, and withholding help so I don’t “enable,” I have run the gambit of emotions of anger, frustration, grief, fear, and resignation. All the while, I hear my own voice “Why doesn’t he listen to me?”
Of course the answer is “He can’t.” And here lies the challenge for all of us. While our lives may not be this out of balance, I’m sure my own choices have frustrated others when they’ve given me good counsel in another direction. So, how do we handle those moments?
Look at our lesson today in Acts 27:1-44; 28:1: It’s a long passage, so I’ll just quote a portion, but please read it all today!
As they had been long without food, Paul then came forward among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me, and should not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. I now bid you take heart; for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and lo, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we shall have to run on some island.”
OK, let me bring you up to speed here. We’ve been seeing Paul in trouble all week with his missionary efforts and how this has caused no small conflict with the Jewish authorities. Now Paul has been arrested and brought to his first trial on these charges. But the Roman authorities who are trying Paul really don’t see what the big deal is. They see this as a religious dispute between factions of the Jewish community. But the Jewish leaders won’t let this go and they insist that if Paul isn’t punished this will set off violence and civil unrest. Well, that gets the Occupying forces’ attention. So, they agree to punish Paul. But, Paul is a Roman citizen and every Roman citizen has the legal right to appeal to the Emperor when he is condemned. So, the Romans have to send Paul to Rome, and they put him on a ship headed that way, and the ship hits a bad storm!
Remember, when Paul was first arrested, the Lord promised Paul he was going to Rome to proclaim the Message. And now, Paul is on his way. It probably wasn’t how Paul expected to get to Rome, under arrest and going to a trial, but he’s headed there in fulfillment of the promise of Christ! During the voyage, the crew felt the impending storm could be weathered and Paul told them they should wait a bit. They didn’t listen to Paul and now they have had to dump the cargo and their ship is in real trouble! Is Paul worried? No. Is he angry? No. He is at peace and his peace flows from an unshakable confidence in the Lord’s purpose and promise for his life. He is to go to Rome and proclaim the Message of Christ. Period. Even a great storm and the ship sinking can’t change that confidence! This confidence flows from three unshakable foundations: First Paul trusts God. Next, Paul loves God. Finally, Paul knows God. This internal, spiritual work and discipline means that outward circumstances aren’t going to shake this man of faith!
Today, do you know God’s purpose for your life? The way to discover this life-changing information is by practicing the wisdom of the faith daily. Be a student of Holy Scripture. Read the lives of the saints. Pray, both at home daily and don’t neglect gathering together in liturgy! By being Orthodox on Purpose you will make your heart eager, your ears able, and your sight clear about who you really are!
P.S. The Holy and Great Council begins with a pre-conciliar meeting of the Patriarchs today. Please pray for the Council and keep up with this historic event at OrthodoxCouncil.org. Have a blessed Feast of Pentecost this weekend!