“For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake… all this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:5,15)
In the account of the shipwreck in Acts 27, which involved the apostle Paul and 275 others, we learn that God sometimes puts believers through trials for the sake of others. We read that the storm had such a powerful effect on the crew that, “they gave up all hope of being saved.”
But “man’s extremity is God’s opportunity,” and so it was here. When these men gave up all hope of survival, God thrust Paul forward. In the Greek, the words are literally, “he stood forth”, that is, he stood out among them with a different attitude and point of view. This is Luke’s way of reminding us that sometimes God’s plan requires that Christians pass through life’s storms for the sake of others who are unsaved.
It is clear in this story that Paul is on a ship, carrying criminals and other prisoners, as well as some fairly rough seamen, to bring about their salvation. From this specific incident, we learn that God often puts believers in places that they wouldn’t ordinarily choose, but nonetheless are for the blessing of others.
Now such a teaching runs counter to prosperity theology, which says that if you are in the will of God you can expect a trouble-free life. However, Paul reminds us in several places that Christians not only carry the life of Jesus but also experience his trials in their own mortal bodies. This means that when we face suffering, one of the reasons may be for the salvation of others.
If this seems strange to us, we should ask the question, why was Christ on earth? Was it not for the sake of sinners? Why does He eat with sinners? Why does He touch lepers? Why does He go into a cemetery and meet with a deranged man? None of these are pleasant encounters. Indeed, they are jarring – even shocking. But Christ came as a Great Physician to heal the sick and preach the Gospel to needy people. And He wants us to be partakers of his life and ministry by dying to ourselves and involving ourselves in costly service, which is why Paul found himself on board this ship in a storm at sea.
It is for the sake of other that God often puts Christians in life’s storms. When others have abandoned all hope of being saved, it is good to have a Christian nearby who can bring hope and blessing into their lives through sharing the Gospel.