In The Face of Crisis, The Spirit Empowers You With Wisdom, Courage, Faith, & Grace


The Greatest Orchestra in the World

The sinking of the Titanic might be the most famous ship disaster of maritime history. On April 14, 1912, approximately 1500 people perished in the Atlantic Ocean when the dream liner Titanic was sheared on her starboard side by an ice berg.
god’s grace showed up is so many ways that night. I see it in the acts of bravery that night. For example, the chivalry the men showed toward the women and children. Thirteen hundred of the fifteen hundred people who perished were men who put women and children first to be saved. Men like millionaire Ben Gunningheim who infamously said, ““No woman shall be left aboard because Ben Guggenheim is a coward.” To put the exclamation mark on his courage and chivalry, he changed into form dinner attire, sat on a deck chair, and smoked a cigar with a glass of Brandy as the ship sank.
God grace was displayed in an eight member orchestra that continued to play music while the ship sank.
The band sought to try to bring calm to the people as they faced the terrifying thought of perishing in the cold waters of the Atlantic.
One survivor famously said,
“Many brave things were done that night, but none were braver than those done by men playing minute after minute as the ship settled quietly lower and lower in the sea.
The music they played served alike as their own immortal requiem and their right to be recalled on the scrolls of undying fame.”
One of the songs that was played as the ship went down was the hymn, “Near My God to Thee,” by Sarah Flowers Adams.
One commentator says,
“This hymn is about the joy and comfort found in being close to God. The first stanza introduces the theme of the hymn, with the repeated phrase “Nearer, my God, to thee.” The second through fourth stanzas are based on the story of Jacob and the ladder to heaven, found in Genesis 28:10-22. God's close connection to Jacob in this story is seen as a way of relief from the darkness (st. 2) and “stony griefs” (st. 4) of his human journey. The last stanza looks forward to the time when we will come to stand before God in eternal song.”
When the storms of life prevails and batters us to the point of hopelessness, when we are faced with a crisis that causes the fabric of our faith to come undone, Sarah Adams Flowers reminds us that being nearer to God is what gives us courage to not loose hope.
In Acts 27, Luke spends 44 verses detailing Paul’s journey to Rome. It reads like a movie plot in some ways. Jesus told Paul he must testify in Rome. God uses a corrupt Roman legal system to get him face to face with Caesar. Acts 27, is Paul’s journey by sea to Italy, in order to stand before Caesar.
The first six verses set up the trip. Paul is assigned a centurion named Julios who befriends Paul, so much so, that Luke says
Acts 27:3 ESV
The next day we put in at Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him leave to go to his friends and be cared for.
The the trip to Sidon was uneventful. Sidon was located about 70 miles north of Caesarea, where they had started. Their voyage was slow because of the summer winds from the west or northwest. They have to stay close to the coastline.
By verse Acts 27:8, the trip is started to get rough. Luke says
Acts 27:8 ESV
Coasting along it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea.
It’s getting difficult because Crete’s southern coast veers sharply northward, exposing the ship to the onslaught of northwesterly wind blowing across the land, to which Luke implies the danger of the trip is getting worse in verse 9.
The fast mentioned in verse nine refers to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Yom Kippur occurs in September or October. Sea travel begins to wind down in the late fall because of the risk of bad weather. In Paul’s day, shipping completely shut down from November to as late as March.
So Paul says in verse 10, “Fella’s, to sail on now would be no bueno. The winter weather is coming and we will wreck the ship. Why don’t we hunker down for the winter and pick up our trip in April?”
Julios, the centurion, could appreciate Paul’s insight, but he valued the captain’s advice more. Despite Paul’s warning, they set sail hoping to reach Phoenix, on the northern side of Crete.
At first, things look really good. They got the south wind they were looking for to sail smoothly. If the south wind holds, they will reach their destination in a matter of hours. However, in verse 14, Luke tells us that a strong northeast wind came from the land creating dangerous sea conditions.
The only place for them to anchor is Cauda, but the winds kept them from getting there. The seas were getting rough. The lifeboat, which was likely tied to the back of the ship, was either filling with water or breaking apart. Luke says they were able to secure the lifeboat in verse 16. In verse 17, the ship had to be secured with supporting cables to help it not tear apart by the waves. The situation was only getting worse.
The real danger was an approaching shoal in Syrtis Major, which is modern day Gulf of Sidra. A shoal is a something like a sandbar. Its a place in the water where sediment has gathered creating shallow waters for ships. Running into a shoal in dangerous weather would destroy the boat and likely kill everyone on board.
The common sense move in verse 18, was to jettison the cargo and secure the tackle. At this point, being driven by a relentless and raging sea, the 276 men on board the boat are hopeless.
Acts 27:20 ESV
When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.
It would be elementary to say that Paul was in a massive crisis. His circumstances were so dire that death seemed imminent. I would imagine that is what those on the Titanic felt as well.
A genuine crisis in your life has the power to make you feel hopeless. Very few of us will have to face the disaster of a sinking ship. But all of us are subject to late night phone call from the state police, or an early morning doctor’s appointment because the doctor could not speak with you about the results of your test over the phone. Let us not forget we are in the middle of a pandemic. Some of you this morning might be feeling hopeless, or at the very least overwhelmed by crisis.
This morning Paul voyage to Italy reveals that God has not left you with His grace to deal with crisis. God promised he would never leave or forsake you, Christian. He kept that promise by giving you His Spirit to live inside of you when you accepted Jesus Christ salvation by faith. The book of Acts is about how the Holy Spirit empowers the church, this God’s people, to testify of Jesus.

How do you cope with crisis?

Where do you look in times of crisis?

Who do you trust when life falls apart?

Can anything frustrate the purpose of God?

How do you testify of Jesus in the midst of your crisis?

The Holy Spirit empowers you to testify with wisdom, courage, faith, and grace in the face of crisis.

The Spirit empowers you to be wise in the face of a crisis (Acts 27:21)

Paul tried warn the centurion and the skipper of the skipper of the boat that sailing at that time of year would be dangerous.
Acts 27:10 (ESV)
saying, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.”
Theologians are divided on whether Paul was prophetic to the coming peril or if he was just using common sense as an experienced traveler. Either way, Paul said the wise thing to do was to harbor for the winter and pick up the voyage in the Spring.
In verse 11, the centurion rejects Paul’s advice and sides with the skipper. In hind sight, this was a foolish decision that should have killed everyone on board.
By the time you reach Acts 27:21, the storm is raging and battering the ship. They’ve jettisoned the cargo and have come to the conclusion that all hope is lost. At this point, Paul stands up and wisely offers a promsie and a plan for their salvation.
In acts 27:22, he says you should have listened to my wisdom. In spite of your foolishness, God has promised that all of you will live. Paul’s wisdom comes with the promsie of life, if it is followed.
Acts 27:22 ESV
Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.
Acts 27:24 ESV
and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’
Paul did not stand up and give them a well deserved, “I told you so.” Wisdom points out foolishness in order to correct it so that you can live. Paul told his men that God is with them, and God has promised a way of escape.
Now, wisdom is only effective if you trust it enough to apply it. Some of the men were not picking up what Paul was putting down. When they saw the chance to bail, they were jumping ship. Paul warned if they do not stay in the boat they will perish. Wisdom says, “stay in the boat.”
The plan is you must stay in the boat and let it run aground. The plan did not make sense to the men, especially the sailors. Running the ship aground at sea during a storm seemed counter intuitive, however, that was God’s plan.
Realizing the men were getting squirrelly and things were about to get hairy, Paul offers more wisdom. He says in verse 33-34
Acts 27:33–34 (ESV)
As day was about to dawn, Paul urged them all to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have continued in suspense and without food, having taken nothing.
Therefore I urge you to take some food. For it will give you strength, for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.”
Paul says, lets eat something together. Food brings comfort in a time of crisis. Jay Adams says that “Food has a relationship to encouragement and good feeling,” to which I say amen. Food can be a means of grace for you in times of crisis. We eat at funerals because food unites us together and the fellowship we share over a meal brings comfort. Jesus, in his moment of crisis before enduring the cross, shared a meal with his disciples. It was a meal is shared in the church every time we do communion.
For two weeks, these men were either suffering from sea sickness or too anxious to eat anything. They were famished. Food brought strength to their body, which they needed to make it to the beach once the boat ran aground. Eating a meal together brought encouragement.
The Spirit empowered Paul to be wise. Paul was able to see the danger ahead and warned of their peril. When the Skipper and centurion did not listen to Paul, and boat was overcome by the storm, the Spirit empowered Paul to wisely offer a promise and a plan of salvation. Finally, when the men were famished and filled with anxiety, the Spirit empowered Paul to feed the men , to encourage them, strengthen them, and to prepare them to abandon ship.
Paul’s wisdom brought hope in their time of crisis. Holy Spirit inspired wisdom brings hope in times of crisis because it offers real solutions and real hope. The Holy Spirit empowers to help you help others put their feet on a rock, having a firm place to stand as the waves keep pounding your faith.

The Spirit empowers you to have courage in the face of a crisis (Acts 27:22).

In Acts 27:22,
Acts 27:22 ESV
Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.
Paul recognizes in verse 20, that then men have lost hope. After Paul gives them a minor rebuke, he tells them to “I urge you to take heart.” Paul says, “Take heart three times in the text.
There are to verbal ideas here. First, Paul urges them to do something. The verb is a present active indicative of parainew, which means too strongly advise what someone should do. What does he strongly advise them to do? He’s adamant that they “take heart. “ This word is a present active infinitive which carries the idea of being cheerful, encouraged, to take courage. Be courageous.
It is likely all the men are below deck. Their heads are down. It might even be dead quiet. The Skipper has nothing to say. The centurion, the man with the most authority on the ship, has nothing to say. Paul, inspired by the word of the Lord, stands up and gives a speech.
I think Paul speech, or at least his tone, is in the same vein as what men like William Wallace spoke to encourage his men to fight.
If you’ve seen Braveheart with Mel Gibson, then you would likely remember his speech to his army just before they took on the English at Stirling. They are out numbered and out gunned. They are afraid, and one veteran soldier suggests that they should make a run for it. Wallace says,
“Aye, fight and you may die. Run and you'll live -- at least a while. And dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom!!!” William Wallace
God gives Paul courage in two ways. First, God gives Paul his word. God sends a special word to Paul to encourage him to hold fast. God said Paul will stand before Caesar and testify. He will make it to Rome. Furthermore, God’s word to Paul was that all of the men would be saved. The Word of God is Paul’s foundation for his courage.
Second, God gives Paul courage by answering his prayer. The phrase, “God has granted you all those who sail with you,” implies Paul was praying for these men. Desperate times call for desperate prayers.
In times of crisis, God has provided his word, his truth, his promises as a source of encouragement. God is a faithful promise keeping God. No matter how desperate your crisis may be, God’s word tells you
Isaiah 41:10 ESV
fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
He has also given you access to His throne of grace to pray and plead for help in your time of trouble. His Spirit who helps us pray The Father promises to hear the prayers of his people.
As Joseph Scriven wonderfully put it:
“Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.” Joseph Scriven
You have everything you need to be courageous in your time of crisis. These men may have found it hard to believe God’s promsie. The storm was overbearing and death seemed eminent. But God promised they would survive. Paul was praying to that end, and was confident that God would answer his prayer with amen. That kind of confidence in God’s word and prayer empowers you to be courageous.

The Spirit empowers you to trust in God’s sovereignty in the face of crisis (Acts 27:25).

Last Monday, Ethan and I were making observations in Acts 27. One of the observations we both had seen on the text is the sovereign hand of God.
The reason the men were going to be saved was because God had decided it was necessary for Paul to testify before Caesar in Rome.
Acts 27:24 ESV
and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’
Jesus told Paul
Acts 23:11 ESV
The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”
Nothing can stop the plans of God.
We’ve already seen that God is sovereign over convoluted legal systems and corrupt Roman officials and Jewish religious leaders. God used those things to get Paul on a ship headed to Rome. In Acts 27, we see that God is sovereign over the foolishness of men and creation itself.
Layton Talbert rightly says,
“God’s sovereignty refers to his absolute and unrivaled rule over all his creatures and their circumstances.” Layton Talbert
His dominion includes his rule over the affairs of man. For example
Psalm 33:10–11 ESV
The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.
There is no decision made on this earth by kings, presidents, or peasants, that is not governed by the wisdom and power of God.
Solomon, the wisest king who ever lived apart from Jesus, said
Proverbs 21:1 ESV
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.
And we know Paul believed God is sovereign over the affairs of man because when he preached in the midst of the Areopagus, he told the men of Athens
Acts 17:26 ESV
And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,
Sometimes we suffer at the hands of foolish people who make foolish decisions. Your crisis might be because someone was acting foolishly, and their foolishness turned your world upside down.
I lost a good friend to a car accident that was not his fault. He was driving one way, and another man was driving the opposite direction. The other man was texting while he was driving and swerved over into Kyle’s lane, hitting him head on. Both men died instantly. The other man’s wife was two cars behind him when the accident happened. Kyle was 27 years old and engaged to be married. Both families were thrown immediately into a crisis by one man’s foolish decision.
Paul was thrown into a crisis because the centurion and the skipper would not listen to his warning. What keeps Paul from falling apart? What keeps Paul steady emotionally? What keeps Paul from hating these men? What keeps Paul praying for these men? His belief in God’s sovereignty over the foolish decisions of men.
Paul is also aware that God is sovereign over all of creation. God could have calmed the storm with a word. He could made the decision of the skipper and the centurion null and void. Instead, he used the storm to do His work.
This is not the first time God has used creation to accomplish his will. In the Exodus story God manipulated 10 plagues on earth, and parted the Red Sea to deliver his people. He held the sun in place to help Israel win a battle. He hurled a storm at Jonah and commanded a giant fish to swallow Jonah, and regurgitate him on the shore. Jesus calmed the storm to show his disciples he was the Son of God. Creation is at God’s disposal to do as he pleases. For Paul and his companions, God used the storm bring about faith and to use Paul as an agent of grace to people who needed the gospel.
Pauls says,
Acts 27:25 (ESV)
So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.
Paul’s faith is an example to his men that he courage is not grounded in chivalry or machoism, but in God and His sovereignty. Paul didn’t change into formal dinner attire and sit in a chair smoking a cigar drinking Brandy as the ship went down. His faith in God gave him courage, and in turn gave others courage.

The Spirit empowers you to be an agent of grace in the face of crisis (Acts 27:25; 30-32; 39-44).

The Spirit empowered Paul to be wise in the face of a crisis. His wisdom provided the men the promise of hope and a practical solution. With wisdom, the Spirit empowered Paul with courage founded on God’s word and the courage to pray for the men of the ship. His courage became an encouragement to all on board who were feeling hopeless. The Spirit empowered Paul to trust in the sovereignty of God. God is sovereign over the foolish affairs of men and his creation. This allowed Paul to be overwhelmed by the storm and to stay focused on the plans God has for Paul, to testify in Rome. All of these things helped Paul be an agent of grace to his ship mates.
Paul was able to minister the gospel even when it looked like his world was turning upside down. Though the centurion had the most authority on the ship, it was Paul the men began to look for hope. Paul is the one standing up and giving them the promise of God. It is Paul standing up giving them the means of salvation. It is Paul changeling the men to believe God wills save them.
At one point, the men start to doubt they can be saved. They make a plan to abandon the boat. Paul says if they abandon the boat they will perish. They must remain in the boat to be saved. Paul is an agent of God’s grace by helping them believe God in the midst of crisis.
Just as it is with Paul in a storm tossed sea, so it is with you when you are rocked by hurricane winds and high seas in this life. In your time of crisis, you have a testimony. All of God’s promises are yes and Amen in Jesus Christ. He is our salvation. He is the boat we must remain in to be saved. He is the one who gets us safely to the Golden Shores of heaven and resurrection. In your time of crisis, the world marvels when you testify of Jesus, his life, death, resurrection, and ascension. The world marvels when you can say through the tears of grief, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. But I will choose to bless His name.”

Nearer My God to Thee

It makes perfect sense, now, why the orchestra played “Nearer My God to Thee,” as the Titanic sank. Nearer to God is where we find wisdom, courage, faith, and grace when it the boat is about to sink. How do you draw near to God? Jesus.
The first verse of that beloved hymn sings,
Nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee! E'en though it be a cross that raiseth me, still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to thee; nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!
The cross is the way to the presence of God. By faith in Jesus’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension you can draw near to God, and receive his salvation. Jesus is the boat you must be in and remain in to be saved. In Christ, you receive wisdom, courage, faith, and grace to overcome in times of crisis. He is the one you turn to to cope and find strength. He is the one you look to for help. Christ is the one you can trust with all your heart. Nothing can stop him, not even death on a cross! You are safe and secure in His hands. In your time of crisis, you have as sure testimony
Then, with my waking thoughts bright with thy praise, out of my stony griefs Bethel I'll raise; so by my woes to be nearer, my God, to thee; nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!
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