The Gathering Storm
A while ago when I was in Australia, and staying in a house right on the beach, night time storms were frequent, and at the time, it seemed strange to me that there were rarely storms during the daylight hours, they came almost always in the dark hours of the night?
It soon became clear that we were in for trouble, for dark clouds gathered on the horizon and one could see frequent flashes of lightning in the far distance, long before the winds picked up speed and the storm hit the shores. Those ominous clouds warned us to stay indoors, to batten down the hatches and to prepare for a sleepless or restless night.
My Sermon today entitled “The Gathering Storm” is about some of clouds I can see looming large on the horizon of our world right row. These clouds are warnings that a storm is on the way. Not a natural storm, or a weather storm, but something unnatural, unheard of, and even unimagined is coming our way, – the likes of which none of us have ever experienced before. Its time to prepare ourselves and our churches to be ready to help in the coming crisis. The fact that the crisis is on its way, is both undeniable and unmistakable, for the Bible warns us of this time of shaking, and calls it “the beginnings of sorrows” ( Matthew 24:8) As they did with Noah, before the flood, many laugh. They laugh at me, they criticise me for “scare-mongering”- they condemn me for creating fear and not relying on God. But God is bringing the storm, God is the one doing the shaking, and it is in fulfilment of His word and the Church should be ready … we have a role to play in it all.
It is becoming evident that a spiritual awakening is our only lasting hope for the future of our world. This land, and these islands were once given great favour by God and although our history has not been perfect, the essence of our law was founded on the Judeo-Christian ethic. We had at least a measure of respect for the Word of God and an understanding of His ways of dealing with those who had gone before us. Yet over more recent years, we began to ignore the warnings of God and embarked on a journey led by our own senses and our own reasoning. And now we are facing a Gathering Storm?
We find a similar stormy situation in the book of Acts: Lets read from Acts 27 at verse 9 (we read) …“and when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them, and said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives. Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul… and when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete”
Paul had warned the captain and crew from the onset that this journey would end in disaster, only to be ignored and relegated to the bottom of the ship. Similarly, we have disregarded the Preachers, and the revealed knowledge of Almighty God – and casting off most of the moral restraints, we have proceeded to set sail in our own direction. We’ve turned to praise the gods of silver and gold, wood and stone—those originating from the minds of men.
If that were not tragedy enough, the Church in large measure has followed the course of society and became attached to the value system of this world. This has left us with theological perspectives focusing on prosperity and success that have tremendously weakened the testimony of Christ in our generation. Just like those on the ship with Paul, we arrogantly set our course against the ways of God and now we find ourselves in a brewing storm, facing circumstances beyond our control. We are being driven by the wind with seemingly no direction and no compass. There is no human mind, no human wisdom that can rescue us. Our own efforts, sincere as they may be, will not work this time. Mark my words!
Verse 17 says: “Which when they had taken up, they used helps, undergirding the ship; and, fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands, strake sail, and so were driven. And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship; and the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship” (17–19).
For years we have done our best to hold this country together. Now, out of desperation, we are beginning to cast overboard the tackling of the ship. The tackling represents certain standards that were once bedrock, foundational to our whole way of life, such as the sacred right of unborn children in the womb to live.
I am not a doctor, and I am not suggesting there may not at times be circumstances that need to be considered. But when we begin to murder our unborn children for the sake of convenience, we have crossed a line, which is terrifying to say the least.
Not only that, there are moves afoot to cast out the sanctity of marriage as defined by God from the beginning of time.
God designed one man and one woman to be joined and to be fruitful in the earth. Yet now it appears that our designs are better than Gods ways. It doesn’t matter if the Bible calls it evil; we are now calling it good. I listened last week to a house of Lords select committee, debate same sex marriage, and was shocked to learn that most courts nowadays do not consider the term “adultery” rather that has been replaced with the phrase
Very soon we might even have to deal with the throwing overboard of the right of free speech and self-government, all in favour of a new morality. In the ferocity of a storm, people are willing to do things that they wouldn’t do under normal circumstances. When they have already lost their spiritual moorings and fear begins to set in, they will throw almost anything overboard in favour of what is believed to be safety
and security. This is precisely why the role of the Church is so pivotal at this juncture in our history. We have before us a window of opportunity to be a guiding voice in the storm. It is a window that I feel will be open for only a short season, which is why we must be prepared now, and why I must preach as I do.
Paul was ready when the call came to him. He had been in the bottom of the ship, praying in the midst of his own struggles and fighting through his own belly of hell. All along, Paul knew that he was being carried on this journey by the spiritual ignorance of those who refused to heed the Word of God. Imagine the taunting of the enemy that he had to fight. “This is hopeless, Paul! Your life is not going to amount to anything. How are you ever going to affect this journey or this generation? Do you really think that anyone on this ship will listen to you?
Just go ahead and get bitter Paul. Get revenge on those who have caused this frightful journey!” Yet, despite the hardship and the battles Paul faced in the belly of that ship, he chose to pray. Suddenly, in the midst of all the difficulty, a window opened. He was called up to the deck of the ship, and the people were ready to listen.
What would have happened if Paul had not been ready when the call came? What if he had been down there grumbling with the rest of the prisoners – if his whole focus had been on himself and his own security? If that had been so, Paul probably would have stood on the deck with no more hope or encouragement than anybody else around him. He may have had some ideas, but he would not have had the wisdom or the word of God for those who desperately needed it. That is why it is so essential that you and I be in prayer now. We must get a word from God!
He will speak if we are willing to listen and set aside our own ideas about what our future should be.
Paul was willing to listen, and as a result, the Lord gave him this word of exhortation for those on the ship: “For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me” Acts 27:23–25.
Although the lives of all 276 on board would be spared, notice that it was not an entirely pleasant word that God gave to Paul. God was essentially saying to him, “You are going to go through the storm. You are going to remain in chains and be brought before Caesar, a man who thinks he is god. But you will stand before him and testify of the one true God in heaven and in earth.”
Paul embraced this call on his life, despite what it would cost him personally. He was intent on living to glorify Christ and reach the lost. This, of course, is where it gets hard. We all love to come into the Lord’s presence to receive something -perhaps peace, deliverance, direction, a word of encouragement. But what happens when the Lord says, “I want you to embrace my burden for a lost society and yield your body as a living sacrifice to my plan, even though it may cost you personally?”
It is a battle that we all have to go through, for not one of us wants to be inconvenienced. We do not particularly like the thought of following the journey of Paul – the hardship and the difficulty that often results from choosing to fully embrace Christ. However, I want to suggest to you today, that nothing else will make a difference in this generation. We have had seminars, radio shows, television programs, conferences – yet our society is on its way to Hell in a hurry. What we have presented to this country has not worked. In fact, it has sent this generation in an entirely adverse direction. It is time to put aside these things and return to prayer and to surrender ourselves to the will of God for our lives.
As he stood on the deck of that ship, Paul’s life was a compelling testimony to the keeping power of God. He clearly possessed an inner strength that was supernatural, and he was filled with the absolute joy of being fully surrendered to Jesus Christ. It must have provoked those travelling on that vessel with him to stand in amazement and wonder, “What makes this man so confident? He is in the same predicament we are, yet he seems to be so full of hope! Why does he see a future – when we see destruction? What is inside this man that makes him different from us?”
Paul’s life moved those around him to consider the ways and the works of God; Does Yours?
That is what the Church is supposed to be—a compelling testimony to the world. Jesus once used a parable to illustrate this idea: “Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: and sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse” (Luke 14:16–18). Most historians relate this initial group of people to Israel—the Jewish people. We know from the Scriptures that they will respond eventually, but for a season they will refuse to come to the Lord at His invitation.
The master then said to the servant, “Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind” (Luke 14:21). This is thought to represent the three years of Jesus Christ’s public ministry on the earth. He focused on the lame, the poor, the maimed and the blind, inviting them into the house of God. In those days, such people would not have had access to any holy place. But through Jesus Christ, an entrance was made for all people to come into the presence of God.
“And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:22–23). Most historians agree that this represents our present church age. This means that your life and mine should be a compelling testimony.
We ought to present to this generation irrefutable evidence of the reality of Christ, alive within us. This is exactly what happened in the second chapter of the book of Acts. Ordinary people went into the presence of God and prayed in one accord, even though it was an unpopular time. Jesus had just been crucified, and the crowd outside was intent on killing all the followers of Christ. The 120 in that Upper Room would have known the dangers of identifying themselves as His disciples. Nevertheless, they chose to pray and obey as God began to unfold to them a plan for each of their lives—not their plan, but His plan. And so they came out of that Upper Room just as Paul had come out of the belly of that ship—completely gripped by God. Their lives, their hearts, and their speech were all undeniable evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit to transcend the natural borders of their humanity.
They stood in the midst of that society, boldly declaring that there is a God who did die, who did rise from the dead and who does inhabit, indwell His people. As a result, thousands in that anti-Christ crowd stood in amazement and asked, “What must we do to have that kind of relationship with God? – what must we do to be saved?”
Note that a casual Christianity will not elicit this kind of response, as has been made evident in our generation. We have tried putting coffeemakers in the back of our churches. We have done surveys, built bowling alleys and swimming pools, and held parties and potluck suppers, assuming that this would bring people into the kingdom of God. But in reality, it is the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit alone who draws people!
Oh, the foolishness of this church age who think its about Manpower, when its really about Gods Power!
Do we have the courage to examine ourselves in this hour; to admit that our ways may not be God’s ways; that our plans might not be God’s plans? Do we have the courage, as Daniel did, to open the window, face Jerusalem, and pray in humility? Daniel 6:10 “Lord, we have done a disservice to Your testimony in the earth. We have not brought about deliverance, because we have dealt casually with the Holy things of God. We have failed to come into Your presence and seek Your will, to walk in the Holiness that You require of Your people.” This is how we must come to God.
Despite our foolishness as a church age, the window to Jerusalem is still open, just as it was in Daniel’s day. The window to God’s power, provision, and mercy is still open if He can find a people who are willing to get on their knees and say, “Lord, whatever it costs, I am asking You to use my life for Your glory. Help me to walk righteously, for I know that You do not answer the prayers of people who regard iniquity in their heart. Help me to turn from sin and to do what is right. Help me to stand in the marketplace, not as a coward, but as a believer filled with your Holy Spirit, standing and making an open declaration of what is right and what is true. Help me to walk in the supernatural, that I might be a guiding voice in the gathering storm.” Is this your prayer … is it mine?
God is calling His Church everywhere to go back to prayer; to have a willingness to stand no matter what may come. And here is where it starts: Get the victory now! Paul got his victory before he appeared on that deck, for he had been at the bottom of the ship, praying. He had found victory—not from his situation, but rather in his situation. His situation did not necessarily change, but his heart, his mind and his perspective did. Remember that when he was brought up on deck, he was still a captive. He was still in chains, still being led on the journey to stand before Caesar. Nevertheless, he stood in absolute victory!
Likewise, you and I must get the victory now. Get the victory over whatever sin is captivating you; get the victory over a divided heart. Get the victory now so that you will have the courage to go all the way with God, with a single focus on glorifying Christ and saving the lost. Be prepared to hear from God, and be willing to yield to His plan for your life. As you do so, the Lord will be faithful to provide you with all that you need to finish the journey in a manner that will bring glory to Him alone. He will give you hope when those around you are in despair, and He will cause you to become a guiding and calming voice in the storm.
May God Bless You with the Courage and the Compassion
that you’ll need.