“The winds were against us… we made slow headway for many days and had difficulty… much time had been lost and sailing had become dangerous.” (Acts 27:4,7,9)
One of the most important things that we learn in the book of Acts is that God’s people frequently run into tremendous difficulties in doing God’s work. While many Christians believe that life should be plain sailing, the Bible tells us otherwise. It reminds us of the important principle that we must expect suffering and adversity at the precise moment that we are doing God’s will.
Take Paul’s journey to Rome, for instance. While the idea first arose in his own mind, we also discover in Acts 23:11 that the Lord appeared to him personally and told him that it was also His plan for Paul to go to Rome. Again, in Acts 27:24, we read that the Lord sent an angel to Paul to confirm the message.
Nevertheless, as Paul set out on his journey, he encountered huge obstacles from the moment he set sail. First, he experienced unfavourable winds. Next, he found himself in the midst of a hurricane. While it was crystal clear that God wanted him to preach the Gospel in Rome, he struggled at every stage of his journey.
The difficulties that Paul experienced on his trip to Rome remind us that many of the setbacks that we experience in life actually arise as a result of our obedience to God. Paul’s troubled sea voyage reminds us of another story in the Gospels, where the disciples found themselves in a life-threatening storm in the middle of the night. We are told in Mark 6:45 ff that Jesus made his disciples get into a boat and sail across the Sea of Galilee. Although the disciples were reluctant to go, Jesus insisted. Then in the middle of the night, they encountered a gale force wind in the middle of the sea. They were terrified – and all as a result of obeying Jesus.
The story of Paul’s sea voyage and the troubles that the disciples experienced on Galilee should remind us that Christians are not exempt from suffering simply because they are obeying Jesus. If you submit your life to Christ, then you are not promised immunity from troubles. Indeed, seeking to serve Christ may actually open the door to a life of trial.
These two accounts of Paul striking trouble at sea and the disciples running into danger on Galilee remind us that following Christ does not give us an insurance policy against suffering. God does not promise that if we obey Him that we will get a magic carpet ride through life. He does promise us, however, that we will at last receive the kingdom, albeit through many tribulations (Acts 14:22).