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Acts 28:1-24

God’s Favor Even in the Storm

  • Rich Jones
  • Weekend Messages
  • January 12, 2020

In Acts chapter 28, we pick up the story just after they made it safely to shore. They found themselves on the island of Malta; cold, wet, beaten down, weak from exhaustion and being seasick for two weeks. But then we see the favor of God on Paul and therefore on all of them.

What do you do when your ship is broken, and you’ve come to the end of yourself?

First, thank God for what you have, and then, begin to rebuild your life on the foundation of God’s heart for you. God is not finished with you. Press on knowing that His favor is still on your life, even if there are shipwrecks and storms. He is the one who brings beauty out of ashes; He will rebuild your life on this sure foundation.

  • Sermon Notes
  • Transcription
  • Scripture

God’s Favor Even in the Storm

Acts 28:1-24                                               

The favor of God is a beautiful part of our relationship to Him. But what does it mean? What does God’s favor look like? For some people it means that God always gives them a parking place near the entrance. Or if their lane of traffic is the fastest one; or when they get a raise or a promotion at work.

But here’s what many people miss, God’s hand of blessing and favor often comes to those who suffer greatly. David was anointed the future king of Israel. That was God’s favor on his life, and that was also when the difficulties began. It was when David was willing to take on that Philistine giant that he again saw the favor of God on his life.

Daniel was one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament. He was given the gift of interpreting dreams. That was God’s favor on his life. He was given a position of stature and authority in the Babylonian kingdom. That was God’s favor on his life. But others plotted against him and when he stood faithful in God, he was thrown into a den of lions. That was when the favor of God was once again seen in his life.

Do you know where the church is growing the fastest and strongest? In Iran. The church there is heavily persecuted and it’s there that the favor of God is powerfully seen.

Paul was given the privilege of being one of the greatest apostles in the New Testament. More of the New Testament scriptures were written by Paul than any other Apostle. Yet Paul suffered greatly. Five times he received from the Jews 39 lashes. Three times he was beaten with rods, once he was stoned and left for dead, three times he was shipwrecked and a night and a day he spent in the deep. Yet, clearly, the favor of God is on his life.

After hearing all that you might say, “I’m not sure I want God’s favor on my life if it means going through difficulties and troubles.” Here’s the thing, this world is filled with difficulties and troubles. I would rather be in the will of God and have the favor of God than anything else in my life.

Last week we journeyed with Paul as he was on a ship in a raging storm in the middle of the Mediterranean for two full weeks and then was shipwrecked on an island. This week we join him on that island we come to know is Malta.

This is a story of the favor of God even in the midst of suffering. There are many principles for us in these verses.

As they battled the storm for two full weeks, all hope was gradually lost. But Paul stood in their midst and urged them to take courage because an angel of God had assured him that he would stand before Caesar and that God had granted safety to those sailing with him.

Paul said, “Keep up your courage, men, for I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told. But first we must run aground on a certain island.”

About midnight on the fourteenth day, the sailors began to surmise that they were approaching some land. Fearing they might run aground somewhere on the rocks, they cast four anchors from the stern and wished for daybreak. When day came, they observed a certain bay with a beach and decided to drive the ship onto it if they could. Casting off their anchors, they hoisted the foresail to the wind and headed for the beach, but they struck a reef and the prow of the vessel stuck fast. Soon, the force of the waves began to break up the stern of the ship, so they commanded those that could swim to jump overboard and get to land and the rest followed, some on planks, and others on various things from the ship.

Storms and even shipwrecks come in everyone’s life, but storms and shipwrecks don’t have to shipwreck your faith. You can trust God through every stormy gale; you have an anchor for your soul. In fact, it’s often in the stormy gale that God’s favor will be seen in your life.

In Acts chapter 28, we pick up the story just after they made it safely to shore. They found themselves on the island of Malta; cold, wet, beaten down, weak from exhaustion and being seasick for two weeks. But then we see the favor of God on Paul and therefore on all of them.

What do you do when your ship is broken, and you’ve come to the end of yourself?

First, thank God for what you have, and then, begin to rebuild your life on the foundation of God’s heart for you. God is not finished with you. Press on knowing that His favor is still on your life, even if there are shipwrecks and storms. He is the one who brings beauty out of ashes; He will rebuild your life on this sure foundation.

I.  You Need a Better Perspective

  • The natives were exceptionally kind to them and because of the cold, they kindled a fire. Paul was also gathering sticks.
  • I love Paul’s helpful, servant heart here.
  • But while he was gathering sticks and laying them on the fire, a viper fastened on his hand.

A.  Respond with faith when troubles come

  • How you respond to trouble has a lot to do with your faith. It has to do with your perspective, how do you see this thing that is happening?
  • There are a lot of people that would respond with exasperation to yet another peril.
  • “All right, Lord, I’ve had just about enough. I’ve had all I can take. Here I am, serving You, and I get attacked by a crowd, there’s a plot to kill me, I sit in prison for two years in Caesarea, I go through a raging storm for two weeks, I get shipwrecked on this island, and now this, I get bitten by a viper? How much can a man take?”
  • That’s not Paul’s response. He gets bitten by the viper and he calmly shakes it off into the fire. When you’ve been through as many storms as Paul, it begins to change your perspective. But that’s the point, it’s about changing your perspective.

Illus – I think a lot of people would have panicked; snakes and vipers have a tendency to do that. I myself can’t stand snakes. I mentioned before that one time when I was 15 and we were visiting relatives in Arkansas, I saw a baby water moccasin. I took out all my hidden aggression and smashed the water moccasin until it was viper soup.

  • Not Paul, he was told he was to stand before Caesar, and he trusts God to keep His word.
  • This is where the troubles of life actually strengthen faith. When you’ve been through many troubles and have seen God’s favor in the midst of them, you come to learn that both things are true. Troubles will come in life, but so will God’s favor. In fact, that’s when you will see God’s favor the most.
  • Troubles and favor; troubles and favor, troubles and favor. It changes your perspective. It strengthens your faith. The more troubles you’ve been through, and the more you’ve seen God’s favor in the midst of the trouble, the greater the problems and troubles you can face.
  • There’s an old saying that the measure of a man is the size of the problems he can face.

Illus – When the storm raged against the ship, they set down the sea anchor. This is an underwater sail that keeps the ship steady and it keeps the bow of the ship facing the waves and wind. It’s a great point, don’t run from troubles face them straight on.

Psalm 138:3, 7-8, You made me bold with strength in my soul… Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; and Your right hand will save me. The Lord will accomplish what concerns me; your loving kindness, O Lord, is everlasting.

B.  Nothing can separate us from God’s love

  • That is the foundation of Paul’s faith, he knows that God’s love is everlasting and that nothing can separate him from God’s love.

Romans 8:35, 37-39, Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …In all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  • What a powerful perspective; no matter what tribulation, or distress or peril Paul is going through, he has every assurance that he is in God’s love and therefore, God’s favor.
  • What’s the worst that can happen? That you can lose your life? That’s the worst? You need a different view of this thing. Death is not the end, it’s a glorious beginning. It’s graduation day.
  • The favor of God is seen even as Paul is going through these storms and troubles. There’s beauty out of ashes.

Illus – Going through Bible school was a difficult time. I had a full load of classes, would often only get four or five hours of sleep, I had two jobs and our children were just babies, but I kept seeing God revealing His favor.

           Then my former partner came and asked me to take some time off from school so I could help open a new restaurant. Hmm; I could save money and life would be easier. But was this what God wanted? I went to the man God was using to pay my way through bible college. He gave me great advice. “Maybe God doesn’t want your life to be easier.”

  • The people on this island had never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ, and God gave attesting miracles as Paul was kept from harm from the viper and many people are healed.
  • I also imagine what’s going on in the heart of the centurion, Julius.
  • Keep looking for God’s favor and trust completely in God’s love over you no matter what trouble you’re going through.

Illus – When Israel entered the land God promised them, at first there was a great victory at Jericho, but then a shocking defeat when they came up against just the small village of Ai. But there were some who had turned their back on God and brought trouble on Israel. Later, they called it the valley of Achor, or the “Valley of Trouble.”

         But again, you see the grace of God over them…

Hosea 2:15, “I will give the valley of Achor as a door of hope; and she will sing there as in the days of her youth.”

  • I have seen the grace of God and the favor of God over my life through the troubles and trials and even over some of the troubles that came from my own stupidity.

C.  The curse of sin is broken

  • It’s interesting that it was a viper that latched itself on to Paul’s hand. The viper, or serpent, has represented the enemy since the beginning.
  • The enemy of our soul has his grip on many people’s lives and many people have been destroyed by it.

Jeremiah 17:9, The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?

  • But the curse of sin is broken, and the grip and power of the enemy has been defeated, so that we can confidently say…

1 Corinthians 15:55, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

  • When the viper took hold of Paul, they concluded he had to be a murderer and that justice had found him.
  • Many still think this way, and there is some truth to it in that there will come a day when God will settle all accounts, but the great truth for believers is that we have been set free by the blood of Jesus.
  • This is why the favor of God is on your life.

Romans 8:1-2, There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law sin and death.

Illus – I was using an extension ladder and lowering the top ladder with the rope when it came loose and came crashing down, smashing my left hand that was holding the lower ladder. It should have broken my fingers, but amazingly it didn’t even hurt. Why? My wedding ring took it all and I was saved.

            Jesus took it all and what we deserved fell on Him and we are saved. The curse of sin is broken.

II.  Faith Must be Your Own

  • Each person is on their own journey with their own set of troubles and God wants to meet you on this journey and walk with you in it. God wants to strengthen you in your faith that you would make this personal.
  • When Paul arrived in Rome, he was allowed to stay by himself, with a soldier guarding him. He then called together the leading men of the Jews.
  • He wanted to persuade them; he wanted them to take hold of God’s word, God’s truth and be changed.

A.  God’s word is personal

  • Three years earlier Paul had written what we call today the book of Romans. He mentions people by name and sends it with his heart for them.
  • But Paul wrote that letter by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and today we call it the word of God.
  • It was personal for them and it’s personal for us.

Illus – Our daughter, Nicole, wrote a journal to her daughter Aviah shortly after she was born. She continued writing to her daughter for many years. How absolutely precious that journal is to her and to know her mother’s heart toward her.

  • In a similar way, God wrote His word to us and it’s personal, God wants us to take hold of it and be transformed by understanding His love for us.

Isaiah 43:1-5, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you… For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior… You are precious in My sight; you are honored, and I love you… Do not fear, for I am with you.”

  • I think about these Roman soldiers that were chained to Paul and wonder how many of them came to faith in Jesus Christ. No doubt they listened as Paul spoke about Jesus Christ to everyone who came to visit, but I’m sure there were many times Paul would speak to them individually. Can you imagine being chained to Paul all day long?
  • But who was chained to whom? As far as Paul was concerned, Rome was chained to him and couldn’t get away.

B.  Have faith with full conviction

  • Paul sat with this group of Jewish men all day explaining the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning until evening.
  • What an amazing Bible study! Some were persuaded… But others would not believe. It doesn’t say that they could not believe, it says that they would not It was their choice.
  • This is an issue of the heart, not just the mind.

Luke 8:15, “The seed that fell on the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.”

  • To those who would not believe Paul quoted Isaiah…
  • In other words, it’s about the heart. The heart makes a convert of the mind. It’s the heart that opens the ears to hear and the eyes to see.

God’s Favor Even in the Storm
Acts 28:1-24
January 11-12, 2020

The favor of God is a very beautiful aspect of our relationship to the Lord. When you think about the favor of God, what does that actually mean? I think for a lot of people, when you think of a favor of God, it means, oh yes, they get the best parking place next to the entry or the lane that they're in is the lane is actually moving, or they get a raise or they get a promotion. A lot of times people think of the favor of God in this way, but this is why many people miss, God's hand of favor and blessing often comes in the midst of suffering, in the midst of the storm, in the midst of the difficulties of life.
I can give you many examples. David was anointed King of Israel, now this is clearly the favor of God on his life, but then the troubles began to come into his life, but through those troubles, he saw the favor of God. It was when he faced that Philistine giant that yet again he saw God's hand of favor. Daniel, Daniel was one of the greatest prophets in the Old Testament and was given the gift of interpreting dreams, clearly the favor of God is on his life. He's given the position of power and the authority in the Babylonian kingdom. Clearly the hand of God, the favor of God is on his life. But then persecution arises and he is cast into a den of lions.
Talk about trouble, but there again, he saw the favor of God in his life. You want to think about a modern example of this. Do you know where- in the all the world today, do you know where the church is growing the fastest and strongest? In Iran. Here in Iran, the church is heavily persecuted, heavily going through trouble and there is revival like they have never seen before. As many of you know, we have an Iranian pastor on our staff and we have an Iranian church and many have come to faith out of Islam through that.
So they understand what's happening and there's revival in the midst of persecution. Then you look at Paul. Paul clearly had the favor of God on his life. He had the privilege of being one of the greatest apostles in the New Testament. Most of the New Testament scriptures were written by Paul more than any other apostle. Yes, he suffered greatly, perhaps more than any of the other apostles. He writes and describes some of the challenges and difficulties. He says five times he received from the Jews 39 lashes, three times he says he was beaten with rods, once he was stoned and left for dead, three times he was shipwrecked, he spent a day and a night in the deep, yet clearly, unequivocally, the favor of God was on his life.
Now, after hearing all that, you might say, “Oh, I'm not sure I want God's favor on my life if that's what it means,” but here's the thing, this world is filled with difficulties and troubles. You're going to encounter troubles and difficulties no matter where you are. I would rather go through difficulties and trials with the favor of God revealed than any other place to be. Anybody else agree with me? See, Paul's story is a story of the favor of God. I want us to look at this in Acts chapter 28, it’s the favor of God even in the midst of the storm. Last week we journeyed with Paul as he was on this ship in a raging storm in the middle of the Mediterranean for a full two weeks.
Can you imagine being on a sailing vessel in the middle of the Mediterranean in a raging storm for two full weeks. Then they're shipwrecked on an Island. We know that Island is Malta, two or three journeys ago when we did the footsteps of Paul journey, we went there and it was so amazing, because of all of the days- I mentioned this before, of all the days that we were there, the one time we had a storm was when we went to Malta and everyone was so excited that we were actually experiencing a storm on Malta. It's like, this is just like Paul, except we were on a cruise ship. Here you see in this story the favor of God even in the midst of the storm, there's a lot of principles out of this.
Remember what had happened, they had battled this storm for two weeks and it says all hope was lost. Paul stood up in their midst and he urged them, he gave them courage, which is to say Paul had strength of faith to encourage them. “Keep up your courage men, for I believe God.” See, this is the key. “I believe God, it will turn out exactly as I've been told but first we must run aground on a certain Island.” So about midnight on the 14th day, it says, the sailors began to surmise that they were approaching land.
Fearing they might run aground somewhere on the rocks, they cast four anchors from the stern and wished for daybreak. When daybreak finally came, they observed a certain bay with a beach and they decided to drive the ship onto that beach if they could do it. So casting off their anchors, hoisting the foresail to the wind, they headed for the beach, but they struck a reef and the power of the vessel stuck fast, and soon the force of the waves began to break up the ship at the stern.
So they commanded those who could swim to jump overboard and make it to land and the rest would follow on planks or various things from the ship. They again then to the Island of Malta, which is where we pick up the story. Now, storms come in life. There's a big difference between going through a storm and shipwrecking your faith. There's a big difference between going through an actual ship wreck and ship wrecking your faith. It's all about what God is showing us here. The favor of God can be seen and oftentimes is more seen in the midst of the storm.
Let's pick up the story. We are in chapter 28 verse 1. When they had been brought safely through, we found out that the Island was called Malta and the natives showed us extraordinary kindness, for because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they kindled the fire and received us all. But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and latched onto his hand. Here's Paul, now, a viper is hanging off of his hand.
Now, when the natives saw this creature hanging from Paul's hand, they began saying to one another, “Undoubtedly this man is a murderer. For though he has been saved from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” However, Paul shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm. They were expecting that he was about to swell up suddenly or to suddenly fall down dead. But after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to Paul, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a God.
Now, in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the leading man of the Island named Publius who welcomed us and entertained us courteously three days. It came about that the father of Publius was lying in bed afflicted with recurrent fever and dysentery and Paul went in to see him, and after he had prayed, he laid his hands on him and healed him. This is the favor of God. He's gone through a raging storm for two full weeks, shipwrecked on an island, having to swim to make it to shore, and he's helping with the fire, a viper latches onto his hand and now the favor of God in the healing aspect of the Holy Spirit.
After this happened, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases were coming to Paul and getting healed. This is the favor of God in the midst of it. And so they honored us with many marks of respect, and when we were setting sail, they supplied us with all we needed. At the end of three months, we set sail on an Alexandrian ship, which had wintered at the island and which had the twin brothers for its figurehead. After we put in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. From there, we sailed around and arrived at Rhegium. A day later a south wind sprang up and on the second day we came to Puteoli.
You know you're getting close to Italy when you come to Puteoli. There we found some brethren, in other words, Christian brothers and we were invited to stay with them for seven days, and thus we came to Rome. The grand Rome that Paul has so long to come to, he finally arrives, though he's a prisoner. The brethren, when they heard about us, came from there as far as the market of Appius and Three Inns to meet us. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage. When he entered Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself with the soldier who was guarding him, he is chain to a Roman guard.
It happened that after three days, he called together those who were the leading men of the Jews. When they had come together, he began to say to them, “Brethren, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans, and when they had examined me, they were willing to release me because there was no ground for putting me to death. When the Jews objected, I was forced to appeal to Caesar, not that I hide any accusation against my nation.
For this reason therefore, I requested to see you and to speak with you, for I am wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel." They said to him, "We have neither received the letters from Judea concerning you nor have any of the brethren come here and reported or spoken anything bad about you, but we desire to hear from you what your views are for concerning this sect." Now, remember in those days that Christianity was considered to be a sect of Judaism. "We want to hear from you, for it is known to us that it is spoken against everywhere."
When they had set a day for him, they came to him in his lodging in large numbers. He was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the Kingdom of God, now, listen to this part, trying to persuade them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the prophets. In other words, he was speaking to them out of the Jewish Scriptures in the Old Testament proving to them that Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah. He said he did this from morning until evening. I would love to have been in that Bible study. Now, it says, verse 24 that some were persuaded by this. Some came to Christ through this, but others would not believe.

I. You Need a Better Perspective
This is a really key part of the history of Paul's journey and the Gospel itself. I want us to look at this because there is so much to apply to our lives. Starting with this, you need a better perspective. It's all about how you see the thing. How do you interpret the events of life? What is the perspective? How do you see it? See, the natives are exceptionally kind, and because of the cold, they kindle the fire and Paul is gathering sticks. I love this part about Paul because he's being so helpful.
I like that because I tend to be maybe sometimes even a little too helpful. Anyone who knows me knows I can be a little too helpful, but I love this, Paul is being helpful, he grabs the sticks and he throws them in them into the fire and that's when a viper comes out and latches, fastens onto his hand. How do you respond when troubles come? I suggest it's all about the perspective. It's all about how you see the thing. Therefore, I suggest, respond with faith when troubles come. See, how you respond, how you see the thing, your perspective has everything to do with your faith. It has to do with how you see it.

A. Respond with faith when troubles come
A lot of people, I think that at this point in all of the troubles that have amassed in his life, I think there is a lot of people frankly that would've been upset, they would've been exasperated and they would have accused God. I think a lot of people would give a speech like this, "All right Lord, I've had just about enough. I've had all I can take. Here I am, I’m serving you and then I get attacked by a crowd and then there is a plot to kill me. I sit in prison for two years and then a raging storm I go through for two full weeks, then I get shipwrecked on an island, and now this, I get bitten by a viper. How much can a man take? I've had it. That's it Lord."
That's not Paul's response at all. He gets bitten by a viper and he calmly shakes it off into the fire. So when you've been through as many storms as Paul, it begins to change your view, it begins to change your perspective, but that's the point. It's about changing your perspective. It's about changing how you see it. I think a lot of people at this point would've panicked. I think snakes and vipers have a tendency to bring that out in people. I, being one of them, I cannot stand snakes and vipers.
In fact, I mentioned this story, when we were visiting our family when I was 15, we were in Arkansas, we went down to the Buffalo River, and there was a baby water moccasin and something arose in me. Some kind of hidden anger and aggression just came out of me. I'm a nice guy, then all of a sudden, I see this waby- waby, I made that word up, a baby water moccasin and something arises and I take a stone and I throw it. Everybody else just walks past it, "Oh, look, it is a water moccasin." Not me, I take a stone and I throw it at the thing and I hit it, then I take another stone and I just keep hitting it until I've got viper soup. It's like something arises me.
This is not Paul. Paul knew that God had made a promise to him that he was going to stand before Caesar and he was going to speak the Gospel in Rome and he believed God. He knew that God will be true to His word. You see, this is where troubles and difficulties of life actually can strengthen faith. When you've been through many troubles and have seen God's favor in the midst of those troubles, you come to learn that both things are true, that there will be many troubles.
The longer you live, the more you'll understand that is an aspect of life. You will have many troubles. But when you've been through those storms and then seen the favor of God, you know that that is true also, troubles will come, but so will God's favor. In fact, that's when you will see God's favor most. Trouble, favor. Trouble, God's favor. Trouble, God's favor. It begins to change your view. It begins to change your perspective. It begins to strengthen your faith. Because the more troubles you've been through and the more you've seen God's favor in the midst of that trouble, the greater the problems and troubles that you can face.
There is an old saying, I don't know where I first heard it, maybe it was in the men’s discipleship book, The Measure Of A Man. I'm not sure where I read it. There is an old saying that, "A measure of a man can be measured in the size of the problems that he can face and face with strength and face with faith." I mentioned last week that when they were in the midst of the storm, the storm is raging against the ship, they sat down a sea anchor. Now, a sea anchor is not an anchor that drags along the bottom, far too deep for that.
It's a underwater sail and it has the effect of keeping the ship upright and stable in the midst of the storm, but the second effect is that it keeps the bow directly in the face of the wind and directly facing the waves. I love that part because I think it makes such a great point. If you're in a raging storm, you want to be facing the wind, you want to be facing the waves. A lot of people, they want to run. They want to run from trouble. I just love this point, no, you face it straightforwardly. You face it believing that God's favor will be seen in the midst of it and that God will be with you in it.
Let me give you a great verse. 1:38, verse 3 and then verses 7 to 8, notice what he says, "You God, you made me bold with strength in my soul." Now that's a great word, because it's describing a faith that is victorious. It's describing a person who has a better perspective. He can understand that God's favor will be seen in the midst of the trouble. "You made me bold. You made me bold with strength in the soul." Notice what he says, "Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you will revive me. I know this. I know my God. I know how He is. I know that you will revive me though I walk in the midst of trouble and your right hand will save me. I know this."
See, it's perspective. The Lord will accomplish what concerns me today. I know this. It's perspective. "Your love and kindness, oh Lord, is everlasting." It's how he sees it. It's the perspective of faith in the midst of the trouble. We can learn a lot from Paul. One of the things we can learn to apply to our lives is this, nothing can separate us from God's love. This is the foundation of Paul's faith. This is the foundation of the way he sees it, his perspective. He knows that God's love is everlasting and that nothing can separate him from the love of God.


B. Nothing can separate us from God’s love
He writes that to us so boldly and clearly in Romans 8. I love Romans 8. It's one of the most powerful chapters in the Bible. It's one of my favorite chapters in the New Testament. Here in Romans 8, verse 35 and verses 37 to 39, he writes it this way, "Who will separate us from the love of Christ?" It's like an open declaration. It's like an open challenge. You tell me, who can separate us from the love of Christ, tribulation? Will tribulation separate us from the love of Christ? Will distress? See, will distress separate us from the love of Christ?
You tell me, he says. Will distress separate us? This is important perspective, isn't it? Because I think a lot of people going through distresses, a lot of people going through tribulation will be convinced that, that's proof that God does not love them. "Oh, you say you love me, you say you love me, now, look I'm going through distresses. I'm going through tribulations and trials and snares. Oh, you say you love me, this proves it God, you don't." Wrong view. Paul would never have that view.
His perspective is quite different. Nothing, I know this, nothing can separate us from the love of God. Tribulation? No. Distresses? No. Persecution, famine, nakedness, peril or sword? Nothing. In all of these things, now get this, this is a great verse, in all of these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. It's that love. It's that faith that He understands, we can overwhelmingly conquer, which is to say that your faith is the victory in the midst of it because you know and believe that God's with you. He never said that He would keep you from trouble, He said, "I'll be with you in it."
We can overwhelmingly conquer for I am convinced, that's perspective. I am persuaded that nothing, neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord. That is victory. That is perspective. No matter what tribulation or distress or peril Paul is going through, he has every assurance that he is in God's love, and if he's in God's love, then he most assuredly is convinced that he is in God's favor.
For it is oftentimes in the midst of the storm that you see the favor of God most abundantly. One of the perspectives I think is-- from Paul is like, "Well, what's the worst that can happen?" That's a great question. What's the worst that can happen? Well, I could die. That's the worst. That's the worst, that you could die. We need a different view of the thing, that's the worst? See, many people think of death as a tragic end. It's not a tragic end, it's a glorious beginning. That's what that is. It's a graduation day. It's a coronation day. It's the day to enter into the joy of your master.
We needed a different view of the thing. The favor of God is seen even as Paul is going through the storms and the trouble, he brings beauty out of ashes. I face the storm, set your face in the midst of it, press into the storm. That's when you're going to see the favor of God. I was thinking of a personal illustration. Many of you know that when we were wanting to go into ministry that God miraculously provided, the favor of God was so amazingly evident in all of it. I'd been in the restaurant business and even though I had left my position as a manager, I was still part owner, and so I had this idea, because we felt that if we're going to be serious about ministry, we need a good solid Bible education, yet we couldn't afford it.
I had this idea that we were going to sell one of the restaurants and now it's going to make this profit and then I can make my way through Bible College, but on this particular Friday, I found the whole thing just fell apart. Like, "No, that's not going to happen." This Friday night, I remember very clearly, Saturday, I'm praying, all day Saturday, pressing in, pressing in, "God, I need you, reveal your hand to me. I need a miracle. I'm asking, I'm pressing in now. I'm asking, I need a miracle here."
Sunday morning, literally from Friday night to Sunday morning, I get to church and a man comes up to me and he said, "God has put it on my heart that I'm supposed to pay your way through Bible College." Like, "Okay, God, your way is way better," and he meant every word of it. Favor of God so clear. Now we're in Bible College and it was a difficult time. A full load of classes and we had two babies in the house and I was getting like four or five hours sleep every night. I know, and it's like, "This is really hard."
Then my partner-- I had gotten out of my partnership just for what I owed on it, so I made nothing, but my partner came to me and he said, "Listen, I need you to do me a favor. I need you to take a year off of school and I need you to help me open this restaurant, a new restaurant." Like, "Okay, something finally came together for-" "I need you to open this restaurant for me. Take a year off of school. You know all our systems, you know all the whole thing. I need you to open this restaurant, get it all going, and then you can go back to school. I'll pay you well for a year."
I thought, “Hmm.” We were managing apartments at that point, so we had basic costs covered and I thought I could save almost all of that money and the life would be easier. I don't really have to have two jobs and all this stuff that goes with all their pressures, life would easier. Then I thought, I better get some counsel from the man who was paying my way through Bible College. We got together and I was giving my grades because I wanted him to see like, "Hey, if God is doing this for me, I'm going to pour myself into this." I did it just to be thankful. "Oh God, I am so thankful for what you did. I'm going to sit in the front, I'm going to take notes, I'm going to-- I want to learn everything I can learn because you did so much for me."
I met with him and I said, "I want to run something by you. My former partner has asked me to take a year off. He's going to pay me well. I could save this money and life would be easier. What do you say?" He said, "Let me make sure I understand this. Did I hear you say that this was about money?" "Well, yes." He said, "Then you don't understand. You need money? I'll make sure you have what you need. Your car breaks, I'll fix it. You need groceries, I'll pay it. No, you press in. God has allowed this door to be opened, press in. Secondly, did I hear you say that life would be easier?" "Yes, I did say that." Although I was regretting saying it at that moment. "Yes, I did say that."
He said, "Did it ever occur to you that may be God doesn't want life easier for you?" "Actually, no, it had not occurred to me." He said, "You want to be a pastor? You think that's easy? You think that's easy? God is using the difficulties of this, it's part of the preparing you for what God has in store for you. No, God doesn't want life easy for you. You press in. In fact, I suggest to you that you make it even harder. Don't even take the summers off. Press in, take two Greek classes at once, press in." "You know what? You're right." That's exactly what I did. "You're right. Thank you for the wisdom of God in it. You're right."
See, because so many people-- He showed me a great truth. So many people, they want the easy, they want the easy, want life to be easy and they think that's the favor of God make it easy. Maybe God doesn't want it to be easy. It's oftentimes the trouble, press into the troubles, press in to the difficulties, face them straight on, face them with faith, and know that God's favor is oftentimes revealed in the midst of the storm, in the midst of the difficulty.
The people on this island had never heard of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and here, after Paul had a viper latch his hand and he shakes it off into the fire, nothing comes of it, clearly the favor of God. He then is given the power of the testing miracles as he then begins to lay hands and heal these people. That's the favor of God.
In the midst of the storm the favor of God is amazingly revealed and then I think about this, about the Centurion Julius who was watching this whole thing, what must be going through his mind? What is this? I'm convinced that Julius has got to have been saved out of seeing all that God was doing. The favor of God was revealed. Here's another example, back when Israel had entered into the Promised Land, at first, there was a great victory at Jericho, many know this, we'll study it soon, but then immediately after there's a shocking defeat when they come against a small little village named Ai.
What had happened was that there were some in Israel who had turned her back on God and they brought trouble in Israel, so they called it the Valley of Achor, the valley of trouble. Here's something interesting, for many years later, in the prophet Hosea, he says something, he connects this to a great truth. He says, Hosea chapter 2 verse 15, “I will give a Valley of Achor as a door of hope.” That's a great verse. I will give the valley of trouble as a door of hope. It's the door that opens to hope. Trouble is the door that opens the hope of God. It is often in the midst of the trouble and the storm that God's favor is most revealed. It's a door, and she will sing there as in the days of her youth. They will sing there.


C. The curse of sin is broken
When they see the door of hope opened in the Valley of Trouble, they will sing. God will bring the favor of God. I've seen the grace of God and the favor of God over my life through the troubles and the trials and snares, even some of the troubles of my own making. For what we have come to understand and see is it's because the curse of sin is broken that the favor of God is on your life. It's interesting that this viper, it's a viper that latches onto his hand because a viper or serpent has represented the enemy from the beginning.
It's the enemy of the soul that wants to latch onto you and bring destruction and death to your life, but the curse of sin is broken. The grip and the power of the enemy has been defeated so that we can confidently say, this is First Corinthians 15 verse 55, Paul says, “Oh, death, where is your victory? There is no victory. Death cannot have victory over me. Oh, death, where is your sting? There is no sting of death. The sting of death is sin,” see, that's been broken.
The power of sin is the law, but it's been gloriously nailed to the cross, but thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ, when the viper takes hold of Paul's hand, they conclude he's a murderer. Many still think this way, but the truth for believers is that the curse of sin has been broken and that's why the favor of God is on your life. Notice Romans chapter eight, speaking of my favorite chapter, Romans eight verses one to two, “There is therefore now no condemnation, literally no damnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Are you in Christ Jesus? He says there is no damnation for those who are in Christ Jesus for the law of the spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death. You've been set free from this because He has taken it all upon himself. It's the glorious Gospel. He took what we deserved. I was thinking of an illustration and I was thinking this one, many years ago, we were doing some work here in the sanctuary, way up in the lights there, so we needed this super long extension ladder that we have.
It's really heavy duty so you can reach way up there, and it's basically two ladders in one, the other one slides up way, way, way even latches on the other one. So we finished our work and I was putting the ladder away. So I'm standing at the base of this thing and you pull a rope, which unlatches it and then you let it down on a pulley. So I'm holding this thing way, way up there and I pull with the rope and then something happens and it slips out of my hand and the whole top ladder comes flying down and smashes my hand. That should have broken my hand, but it didn't even hurt.
You say, “How's that even possible?” That's what I thought. How is that even possible? Then I looked and realized what had happened. I was gripping the rung of the lower ladder and it pushed my ring up like this, and the ladder came down and smashed right on that ring. The ring took the whole thing. Her love took the whole thing.
[laughter]
II. Faith Must be Your Own

I realized I had to take it to the jeweler to get it straightened, but oh was I thankful, oh was I thankful that that ring took it all because oh my, I should have broke my hand. It took it. What a picture. I just immediately realized, this is a powerful picture. He took what we deserve, the brokenness that we deserved and the sin that we brought about, He took it all. What a powerful statement. Then, what we recognize then when we look at Acts chapter 28, is that God wants to make this personal with you. In other words, faith must be your own.
Each person is on his own journey with their own set of troubles, their own set of trials and snares. Everyone has their own journey, but God wants to walk with you in this journey. God wants to strengthen you in your faith on this journey. God wants to make it personal with you, and what we recognize when we see it is that God's Word is personal. He's speaking to you and it's personal. Three years earlier, Paul had written the letter that we call today the book of Romans, he wrote it to them and he'll name names of people he wanted to bring greetings to that he's praying for, very personal.
A. God’s word is personal
The point is, actually, the whole of the Word of God is personal. Let me give you a great verse that's so powerfully shows it. Isaiah 43 verses 1 to 5, “Do not fear, don't have anxiety, worry, don't be afraid for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. I know your name.” If you're here this morning, be assured of this, He knows your name. This is very personal to him. He says, “Child, you are mine. Let this be personal with you.” When you pass through the waters, and He means here the waters of trouble, when you pass through the waters, I will be with you. He never ever said that He would keep us from all troubles.
This world is filled with troubles, but when you pass through the waters of trouble, I will be with you, for I am the Lord, your God, the Holy one of Israel, your Savior, and then he says, “You are precious in my sight and you are honored.” See, this is the key. Do you know who you are? Do you know who you are in Christ? You know God's heart for you. You are honored. You are precious in my sight. I gave my Son for you.
You are honored. Can you imagine the honor of that? I gave my Son for you. I sent my Son to die on the cross for you. I know you by name. You are honored. What an honor, the Son of the living God gave his life for you. That's an honor, and He says, “And I love you. I love you.” Do not fear. Don't be afraid. Don't have anxiety in life. Face this storm. Put your face to it. Press in. That's when the favor of God will be revealed to you. I am with you. I think of these Roman soldiers chained to Paul, wonder how many of them came to faith in Christ. Can you imagine?


B. Have faith with full conviction
Now, Paul spoke to many people, but don't you imagine they're chained to a prisoner at some point it's going to turn to that soldier and say, “Sir, what is your name? Tell me your story. Let me tell you about a God who loves you, who sent his Son to die on the cross for the payment of your sin.” How many soldiers do you think came to faith in Christ? Maybe the question is, who is chained to whom? Paul would say, “Yes, chain the whole city of Rome to me,” because you know what happens? A revival broke out in Rome. You might know this.
After Paul arrived, a revival broke out in Rome, and eventually the empire took hold of the faith of Jesus Christ. God's favor is seen in the midst of the trouble and the trials and the snares of life. Don’t run, face them. Face them with faith, believing that that's when the favor of God will be seen most.
Father, thank you so much for your word, your power on our lives. We give you thanks and honor for all that you’ve done in us. God, I pray today that we will understand how personal this is. Church today, as you are before the Lord, would you know He says, "I know you by name. Child, you are mine. I have redeemed you. Don't be afraid. I'll be with you." Do you believe this?
Would you say to the Lord this morning, "I believe, God. I believe. You are my hope. You are the door of hope. I'll trust you with the trials, the troubles, the snares, the difficulties. I'll face them straight head-on because I believe that my God is with me. I trust you. I trust you." Church today, would you say that to the Lord? "I trust you. I believe you. You are my God and I want to walk with you in this journey. Walk with me. Reveal your favor to me. God, make your way known to me. Make your Spirit known to me. I want to know your ways. Order my way. I trust you."
Would you say that to the Lord? Would you say it by just raising your hand to the Lord this morning? Just raise your hand in a bold way, I want to just say it, I want to just declare it, I say to you, I'll trust you. You are my God, I believe you, Lord. Thank you for all that you’re doing in my life. We give you honor and praise and glory in Jesus' name, and everyone said-- Can we give the Lord praise this morning, and honor and glory, amen?
[applause]
Amen.
[00:42:49] [END OF AUDIO]

Acts 28:1-24    NASB

 When they had been brought safely through, then we found out that the island was called [a]Malta. 2 The [b]natives showed us extraordinary kindness; for because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they kindled a fire and received us all. 3 But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out [c]because of the heat and fastened itself on his hand. 4 When the [d]natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they began saying to one another, “Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, and though he has been saved from the sea, [e]justice has not allowed him to live.” 5 However he shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm. 6 But they were expecting that he was about to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god.
7 Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the leading man of the island, named Publius, who welcomed us and entertained us courteously three days. 8 And it happened that the father of Publius was lying in bed afflicted with recurrent fever and dysentery; and Paul went in to see him and after he had prayed, he laid his hands on him and healed him. 9 After this had happened, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases were coming to him and getting cured. 10 They also honored us with many [f]marks of respect; and when we were setting sail, they [g]supplied us with [h]all we needed.
11 At the end of three months we set sail on an Alexandrian ship which had wintered at the island, and which had [i]the Twin Brothers for its figurehead. 12 After we put in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. 13 From there we sailed around and arrived at Rhegium, and a day later a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. 14 [j]There we found some brethren, and were invited to stay with them for seven days; and thus we came to Rome. 15 And the brethren, when they heard about us, came from there as far as the [k]Market of Appius and [l]Three Inns to meet us; and when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.
16 When we entered Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him.
17 After three days [m]Paul called together those who were the leading men of the Jews, and when they came together, he began saying to them, “Brethren, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our [n]fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. 18 And when they had examined me, they were willing to release me because there was no ground [o]for putting me to death. 19 But when the Jews [p]objected, I was forced to appeal to Caesar, not that I had any accusation against my nation. 20 For this reason, therefore, I [q]requested to see you and to speak with you, for I am wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel.” 21 They said to him, “We have neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren come here and reported or spoken anything bad about you. 22 But we desire to hear from you what [r]your views are; for concerning this sect, it is known to us that it is spoken against everywhere.”
23 When they had set a day for Paul, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening. 24 Some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe.

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