Experiences of God are a premise for faith. An experience of God that one has seen, heard or felt often leads to extraordinary assurance concerning the message embedded within whatever was seen, heard or felt.
The Apostle Paul had been fasting on a boat in the midst of the most monstrous storm. Everybody is panicking for their life when Paul addresses Captain and crew and says, “There stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, Saying . . .” (Acts 27:23-24a) Hey! What sort of visitation is this? Many would say that Paul was suffering from delusions of grandeur. “Why would an angel come to speak to you and all about you Paul? What about us?”
The Holy Spirit locates faith? Jesus once asked (I think it was a rhetorical question) “When the Son of man returns, will He find faith in the earth. The phrase suggests that faith is exactly what He will be looking for. Paul was a man of faith. God loves bold faith. God can build a man who is trusting Him when everything around him seems set for His destruction. The boat was being stretched to its own powers of endurance. The angel of God came to Paul with the intent of making sure that Paul knew how important it was that he got to see the Emperor Nero. In the purposes of God, whether Paul was to spend two minutes in the presence of the Roman emperor or two hours it was to be an auspicious moment for the kingdom of heaven. God was intervening to ensure that no freak storm would inhibit circumstance allowing the, “Paul meets Nero” scene from taking place. I would say that the angelic visitation and the encouraging words were a very strong premise for Paul’s faith.
How do I know this to be true? Because he said in the next moment, “I believe God,” concerning what the angel said.
What did the angel say? That leads us to …
. . . PROMISE #12
The angel said, “ Fear not, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar: and, God has given you all those that are sailing with you.” So Paul has a promise. Note that the angel stated, “God has given you all those that are sailing with you.” This suggests that in his abstinence and deep prayer, Paul was not praying for Himself but everybody else that was on the boat. He was asking God to save the whole crew and any other passengers that were aboard. Is it any surprise that the apostle could declare, “ Wherefore, sirs, take comfort: for I believe God. It shall be even as it was told me.”
The promise was received through a two way communication between God and Paul. Paul’s cry was, ”Save all the people on the ship.” God’s answer was to send an angel that would assure Paul that his prayer was answered, and that Paul’s life also would be preserved and the meeting with Emperor Nero would take place.
Why would such a visitation take place? Why didn’t God just stop the storm and allow the ship to move on? The answer: God wants faith imparted into the human heart.
The whole issue was about Paul bringing all those aboard to faith. The full story informs us that Paul had an intimation from God that the trip was going to be seriously damaging to ship, cargo and crew. He told them beforehand and warned them to wait. Paul was totally ignored on the grounds that a hardened sea-dog of a captain who did not want to lose any fare said he knew better. So in the midst of the storm the crew must have had memories of Paul’s warning. In the midst of the crisis that Paul had predicted, he makes another prediction. This second prediction is slightly more weighty in its credibility status as Paul now claims he has heard from angelic sources the very mind of God on what is going to happen. The promise is clear – as clear as was the premise for believing the promise.
However, we need to add that Paul had other promises to hang on to in the scriptures. Statements like, “I will make a way where there is no way,” cannot be ignored when the sky has been so dark for a straight two week period that the time of day has been lost and life has been consciously on the cusp of ending.
Whatever issue crosses us in our life’s path, Paul’s practicality in the midst of what could have been a human tragedy, is remarkable. He sought God for the safety of all. He received an answer from heaven. He declared the answer to all aboard to give them faith. He set the example by telling them all that, “I believe God.”
It is striking to note that the next thing the scripture tells us is that the storm got worse. But Paul never faltered in what he believed. Some were later thinking of escaping from the boat, but Paul forbad them to do so. The reason he gives for such an order is that God promised all would be saved from death, and the moment any of the crew deserted the ship their infallibly promised survival would be in question. Faith always has some work in its function.