Our faith is one of the most cherished assets which we possess. Yet there are many times in our lives when our faith is stronger than at other times. When I am truly honest with myself and do some real “soul searching,” I may ask myself, “How can I really make myself more faithful?” Or I may ask myself, “What can I do as a Christian to improve my faith and make it stronger?”
To answer these questions, I could easily revert to the well-known verse: “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of God” (2 Ti. 2:15). I may think of improving my prayer life as is stated by Paul to the Thessalonians: “Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Th. 5:17-18). When we take our Christianity seriously and it becomes more than just showing up at the church building on Sundays and Wednesday nights, it will greatly impact our lives and the lives of others.
But what do we do when something happens that threatens every thread of our faith? When an event takes place in our lives that challenges us to even dare to ask God, “Why me?” What if another person or Christian hurts us so badly that we feel like we are falling into a bottomless pit of hopelessness and despair?
Let’s briefly consider God’s servant Paul as we examine just one of his many hardships and how he dealt with it and overcame all odds with God’s help. In the latter part of the book of Acts, we find that Paul was literally shipwrecked while sailing to Rome (27:13-44). He was a prisoner sailing alongside many other prisoners and the ship’s crew when a wind known as the Northeaster hit them so badly that they eventually had to give into it (vs. 13-15). They couldn’t fight what was coming at them.
In our lives, things are find at certain times…but sooner or later something beyond our control comes our way and there is absolutely nothing we can do. Part of us says, “Give up!” Another part tells us that God has a plan and we just need to hang in there a little longer.
Paul and his shipmates tried with difficulty to secure the boat. They even threw over cargo in an effort to desperately save themselves (vs. 16-19). In like manner, we try various ways to stay afloat through the storms that occur in our own lives. It’s often difficult, even when others are there trying to help us. Again, this goes back to the question: How strong is my faith in the fact that God really will take care of me?
The others on Paul’s ship abandoned all hope (v. 20). Each of us knows that we have felt like this in some way or another in our own lives. No matter your age or experiences, it’s easy to think that giving up is the easiest and perhaps even the only way to handle things. We forget that God’s timing and our timing do not always coincide.
While everyone was feeling hopeless on the ship and things were at their most critical, Paul began to encourage them. He even told them that no life would be lost (vs. 21-24). Do we encourage others when we feel hopeless? Paul’s faith was at a stronger level than the others’ and he was reassured by the Angel of the Lord. God’s Word reassures us that things will be okay in the darkest of times (Ro. 8:28). Yet, so often we neglect to read it.
Paul had been told that he must stand before Caesar (v. 24). God was not done with him, and he knew it. He still had much work to do and a purpose to fulfill. So as he continued to encourage these men, he told them to “take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told” (v. 25). Yet, notice that he also gave them a warning that the journey wasn’t going to be easy because they would have to run the ship aground (v. 26). The crew knew this would not be pleasant at all. That’s why they were so fearful (vs. 29-30). Yet, Paul cared enough to exhort them to not give up. He told them to eat for strength, that “not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you,” and still managed to give thanks throughout all that was going on! (vs. 33-35)
When we go through the worst times of our lives, do we have Christian friends who support us regardless of the cost or hardship? Do we have that kind of support from our brothers and sisters even if we are fearful? Are we ourselves willing to offer this needed support to others during their dark times? It makes a world of difference in the outcome of our faith!
Paul gave the crew enough confidence to trust in God enough to throw the remaining food overboard (v. 38). After that, they had to run the ship aground just as Paul had told them. All 276 lives were spared thanks to Paul (vs. 39-44). The apostle was leading and directing…but God was in control. So many times control of the situation was out of the crews’ hands, but they continued to believe in God’s Word, spoken through Paul.
I truly believe there are times when we all feel that our faith is shipwrecked. It could be a situation out of our control, a problem with another Christian, sickness, depression, or a host of other things which come up in this life. If it becomes such an issue that we “quit church,” our faith was misplaced. It was placed more in people than in God.
All of us need to read Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 11:25-28. Being shipwrecked was only one of the vast amounts of hardships which this man endured for Christ, His church, and ultimately for God. Since we do not endure anything close to these types of events, it should make our faith easier to sustain. Our faith is something which no one can take away from us. We are the ones who decide to grow spiritually, stay spiritually idle where we are, or fade away. Our faith should describe who we are, how we live, and every aspect of our lives. Don’t get me wrong. We all fail. Sometimes we fall flat on our faces in our spiritual walk. This is where our faith is tested. It helps us overcome, repent, and then lean on God’s grace and mercy to continue walking down the narrow path.
Friends, I do not even feel worthy to write these words to you. Because of two loving brothers that encouraged me to do so, it has helped to edify me and build my own faith. I hope and pray this has been helpful and encouraging to you, and that it will get you even more motivated about wanting to grow in your own personal faith. God bless you all!