Because of You
“God hath given thee all them that sail with thee” Acts 27:24
Many of you will have read the story of the “shipwreck” of the apostle Paul in Acts Chapter 27. To recap, Paul the apostle had been arrested and because of his Roman Citizenship, he was entitled to appeal to Caesar, and was now heading for Rome as a prisoner on board this vessel nearing Phenice a haven of Crete; but he had been given a premonition, a vision or a Godly Discernment that the journey would be disastrous, both for the ship, the cargo, and their lives.
And Paul said unto them, (Acts 27:10) “Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also for our lives”.
In spite of Paul’s warnings the ship sailed on and as we read earlier in the Service from Acts 27, you will remember how a fierce storm suddenly engulfed them, and the ship was broken up, – yet no lives were lost. Some clung to boards and broken pieces of the ship, (v 44) but all escaped safe. This of course was the result of a promise which God made to Paul in an Angelic Visit on board ship. We read in verse 23 “For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me“. Because of Paul, Gods Child, Gods Servant, Gods Minister, Gods Apostle, call him what you will, – but because of Him, Gods favour and grace rested on all those around him and with him on that occasion.
My Sermon today entitled “Because of You” examines the doctrine of Divine favour, and why its effects regularly reach further than ourselves, to those around us.
God does not want his Children to live from Crisis to Crisis and then from Miracle to Miracle, for often miracles are necessary to get us out of crisis? Rather God has promised a Blessing to rest on his children, and God wants us to live in that Blessing, rather than to live in need of constant miracles. Of course the miraculous will be available when events merit it, but I have discovered more recently that while I live under the Blessing, miracles are the extra fruit of that blessing for those around me!
Just a few days ago my friend Joe underwent surgery in a Dublin Hospital, and a few days later he phoned me and asked for prayer as was bleeding continuously, and had also added internal infections to fight. That’s when I needed a miracle, not for myself, but for my friend, so I asked God for his healing. The next evening, Joe called me from his home to say that the bleeding had stopped completely and he had been discharged, and was right there at home and on his computer booking a holiday. Today as I speak to you he is in Italy on that Holiday. Praise God.
Gods Favour, Gods Blessing rested on the apostle Paul, and because he and those around him were in need of rescue from the shipwreck, God gave them all the miracle of deliverance.
Now you and I live in a world heading for major changes, and the Bible shows us that everything in it will eventually be folded up and remade by the Creator. There is nothing here on this planet that is permanent, apart from our lives; for man is designed for eternity, not just for time. God wants our lives and our living to have the same impact for good on others around us that we see here in the life of the apostle Paul.
We are given the blueprint of this principle of Blessing in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, which means the “book of two laws”. A Blessing for Obedience, that’s the first, and a Cursing for Disobedience is the second! we read…
“And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee,
if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God”.
Deut 28:v2. God cannot wait to bless us as we obey his word; and the principle carries over into New Testament Theology, that in Jesus Christ, we are truly blessed! Paul could say later
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places
in Christ:” Eph 1:3
Yet Favour, or Blessing is not residing or resting on all of us, for
my dear friends there is a rot at the heart of our Church. A poisonous spirit has crept in and is blocking the blessing that should be resting on the Church and it is destroying the testimony of many? Some of Gods children have fallen victim to the spirit of pride, the spirit of jealousy, the spirit of gossip and back-biting, and the spirit of bitterness, resentment and criticism. The only way that these folk can look Holy themselves is by attacking anyone who appears to have a God Given Life, those truly Blessed and Favoured.
Bad feelings, argumentative personalities, and selfish motives have destroyed and are destroying any work or witness they might have had, and they no longer have any witness of the Spirit within, and no outworking of the Spirit without. They are ineffective in the world around them, and have led no-one to Christ for ages. Jesus warned that “the branch that bears no fruit, will be taken away” ( John 15:2 ) They walk too close to the world, and have become like the world, intoxicated by her pleasures and infected by her plagues. In my experience, such folk are not found amongst the newly converted, but rather, amongst those who have flocked to Church and filled the pews for years. They have a “form of godliness, but deny the power thereof” (2 Tim 3:5 ) and we need to discipline or disciple them once again.
As Christians, we should be different from others, for in us we carry the “presence and power of God”. ( at least we ought to) The world should notice us, they should take a second look when we walk by, there should be something about us that brings a change of atmosphere into a room as soon as we walk in to it. There should be an awareness of Christ in everything we do, and in everything we are. I have been challenged recently about things in my regular schedule that do not always “line up with Gods preference.” As I say regularly in these broadcasts, God may permit things that he does not prefer in our lives. Anything that “smacks” of the world, any thing that could be “misconstrued” or “misunderstood” or could become a “stumbling block” is best avoided. These things could rob us of the Blessing that rests on our lives. (and usually they do!)
We must be careful that when we carry the “presence and power of God” not to pick up anything that could force us to lay that down, even for a minute!
In the 13th Chapter of the first book of the Chronicles, we read that King David did something remarkable with the “ark of the covenant”, this ark, symbolised the Presence of God with his people. Look with me at 1st Chronicles 13, verses 13 & 14 which read…
“So David brought not the ark home to himself, to the city of David; but carried it aside into the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. And the ark of God remained with the family of Obed-edom in his house three months. And (as a result) the LORD blessed the house of Obed-edom, and all that he had”.
We see here that without question, Gods presence brought a great blessing on the whole household of Obed-edom, for those three months. Without doubt, “Where Jesus is, ’tis heaven there” as the Hymn writer so succinctly put it.
Paul’s “ship-mates” were truly blessed Because of him, their lives were preserved, they were saved because He carried within him, the Presence, Protection and Power of God.
Daniel the prophet refused to lay down his principles, and pray to some other god, and was thrown into the lions den for it!
But God preserved him from the Hungry Lions! …and more than this, God prospered and blessed Daniel as a result of his obedience: we read…
“So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian”. Dan 6:28
Again when Jacob was fleeing from his brother Esau, and went to live and work with his uncle Laban, and encountered the Lord at “Peniel” you remember that God blessed him there, in that wrestling match, and that blessing followed him every day so that when he came to leave his Uncles employ, we read …
“And Laban said unto Jacob, I pray thee, if I have found favour in thine eyes, tarry: (or stay) for I have learned by experience that the LORD hath blessed me for thy sake”.Gen 30:27
Oh what a blessing it can be, when you know that God is blessing others, “Because of You.” Did you know that if you are a Christian, your neighbourhood is actually blessed because you live in it, your work-place is blessed because you work there, your work or tasks are blessed because you do them, your family is blessed because you are one amongst them, your Church is blessed by your gifts, your Sunday school class is blessed by your presence, and if you are a preacher, then your people or congregation are blessed by your anointing? Every true Christian carries within, an Excellent Spirit. There is excellence in everything you attempt. Excellence in everything you set your hand to do, and your involvement should mean it
Unless by sinful disobedience you are “quenching” the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in your life, then you will be a success everywhere you go, and in everything you do. There are many things for which I was never trained or schooled, and at which I excel because of the anointing that rests on my life. God taught me things that others couldn’t teach me. We owe all this do Jesus Christ, who enables and empowers us for the tasks he gives us. God will never ask his children to do anything that he does not equip them so to do. Every Christian can go out to work in the morning knowing that whatever is around the corner, Gods Favour rests upon them, and Gods Blessing runs ahead of them.
Remember the words of our text, “God hath given thee all them that sail with thee” the blessing on you will rub off on them. God might just rescue that failing business because you work there. Don’t overlook the awesome power of God to do the impossible or the miraculous, even if you don’t need it yourself, your friends might? Keep smiling, keep looking up, God is still God, – Blessing and Favour are without limit or end!
The closing verses of the Chapter tell us that 276 souls were saved in that ship-wreck, (v37) and as I planned this sermon, I wanted to set my focus also on the souls in your arena of blessing. I mean that I want to ask you about the souls in your “SHIP”, in your street, in your factory, in your apartment block, in your office, in your house: – the souls who could come into great blessing and even into Salvation
“because of You”?
First of all, I want you to Ask God for them
Look around you at those in your “ship” those with you in the world. It may be those who live in your street or cul-de-sac,
those who work with you in your office and so on, so ask God today to give them to you, to give you the Harvest of their souls. The Bible speaks of those who will come home to God at the last “bringing their sheaves with them.” ( Psalm 126:6 ) God has made us responsible for the souls in our individual arena of contacts. I am not responsible for your neighbourhood, but you are. I don’t live there, but you do. I don’t rub shoulders with those in your office, but you do. I don’t eat in your school canteen but you do. I don’t sit in on your University lectures but you do. The folks we mix with and move with week by week and day by day are our responsibility. God wants to speak to them, as you speak to them. They might never meet another Christian in all of their lives, but you? So are you the kind of Christian, that attracts others to Jesus, or are you the kind of Christian that keeps others from Jesus? So then ask God to give them to you as sheaves for the great harvest to come.
Secondly, begin to Thank God for them.
Every time you meet or greet these people, in your heart offer up to God a silent prayer. Thank God for the opportunity to be a help and a witness to such people. Thank God for bringing them across your path, and for every chance you have to love them. Remember God doesn’t want you to “bully” them into faith, nor to “bombard” them with the Scriptures. This may only create a distance between you, and may become a barrier to the blessing that can flow from your life into theirs. I firmly believe that if you are sensitive to the Holy Spirit, and thankful for the opportunity to witness, then God will prompt you to both say and do the right things that will bring results in their lives.
Sometimes both in conversation, and while I am preaching, God will prompt me to say something, I would have never dreamt of saying? But I have discovered that a word or two from God is
worth more than a sermon or two from any man or minister!
There are many Christians asking God for opportunities in service and ministry, and who cannot see that all around them are a multitude of opportunities just waiting to be grasped.
There are people, hurting people who might just have been moved into your street, or your block, or your office, because of You – because God knew you could be of help to them someday. So then as you Pray for them, and Thank God for them,
you should Live for them.
Now of course as Christians, we should always be Living for God, but living for God means living for one another. It means walking and living in LOVE towards one another. We simply cannot walk in Love without God. This is one of the evidences that we have passed from Death to Life in Jesus, because we LOVE! (1 John 3:14 ) Those whose lives are not characterized by love, cannot know God, for God is love. When I suggest that we “live for them” I mean of course that we should “love them”.
We cannot tell God that we love him, and be out of love with those around us. We may not always agree with others, we may not always see eye to eye, for we are all even as believers, at different points in the process of our spiritual maturity. But this does not give us any excuse in the measure of love. God expects us to love our neighbour as ourselves, and indeed that we should love them above ourselves. (As Jesus showed us by HIS example) This means that we should gladly and willingly be always available to them, to help and support them along life’s journey, and to protect them from the evils that could easily trip them up and pull them down. We need never compromise our beliefs or principles in order to win their confidence or their compliance, for our strength is only strength, when it holds firmly to Gods word.
When our friends might demand what God forbids, or forbid what God demands, then we should refuse to submit to them as friends, and submit only to God. It is better to lose the smile of a friend, than to lose the smile of God. But when a mans ways please God he will make even his enemies to be at peace with him! ( Prov. 16:7)
NOW THIS FINAL WORD.
During his days as President, Thomas Jefferson and a group of companions were travelling across the country on horseback. They came to a river which had swollen its banks because of a recent downpour. The swollen river had washed the bridge away. Each rider was forced to ford the river on horseback, fighting for his life against the rapid currents.
The very real possibility of death threatened each rider, which caused one traveller who was not part of their group to step aside and watch. After several had plunged in and made it to the other side, the stranger asked President Jefferson if he would ferry him across the river. The President agreed without hesitation; and the man climbed on, and shortly thereafter the two of them made it safely to the other side.
As the stranger slid off the back of the saddle onto dry ground, one in the group asked him, “Tell me, why did you select the president to ask this favour of?” The man was shocked, admitting he had no idea it was the President who had helped him. “All I know,” he said, “Is that on some of your faces was written the answer ‘No’ and on some of them was the answer ‘Yes’… His was a ‘Yes’ face.”
Because of You, some may hitch a ride that could change their lives on earth for ever, and change their eternal destiny.
And if you are ever tempted to think that
‘Nobody likes you.’ Don’t say that … because everybody hasn’t met you yet?
Amen. And may Almighty God grant us all the favour and blessing that will impact on our world into this new week, for His great Glory.