Experiencing the Devotional Readings
To help you experience each day’s reading and devotion, it’s suggested that you read the Scripture passage and read it more slowly a second time. Then, read the devotion and reflect upon how God is speaking to you through the passage. Finally, take the time to pray, using the exhortation that closes each devotion. (Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture references are from the New Living Translation.)
Oct. 20, 2014 Acts 27:13-20
When we take matters into our own hands and disregard God’s leading and counsel, there are consequences to face. In yesterday’s passage, Paul, inspired by the Lord, warned the ship’s officers and crew that to sail further in the worsening weather and sea conditions would bring disaster. His godly warning was ignored by the officers and crew, and they now were being tossed about by a fierce storm, looking for a place to dock the ship. When we decide to strike out on our own, we often do strike out! The Lord lovingly allows us to suffer the consequences of our selfish actions to discipline us and hopefully turn us back toward Him and His plan for us. He knows what is best for us and will receive us back from our wayward wanderings, just like the father welcomed his prodigal son back in Jesus’ parable (Luke 15:20-21, 24). We’ve all been prodigal sons and daughters. When we return to the Lord’s side, we, like David, can say – “You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but You will restore me to life again…” (Psalm 71:20a NLT). Let’s all pray for steadfast faith in God’s leading and counsel, and for the diligence to follow the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Oct. 21, 2014 Acts 27:21-26
When Jesus walked on the water and His disciples were fearful, He told them to “Take courage! Don’t be afraid” (Matthew 14:26-27 NIV). When Jesus sent out the twelve, He told them: “So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows (Matthew 10:30-31 NIV). When the synagogue ruler was told that his daughter had died, Jesus told him: “Don’t be afraid; just believe” (Mark 5:35-36 NIV). When Jesus told His disciples about the coming Holy Spirit, he said: “Do not let you hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 5:27b NIV). Do you see a pattern developing here? The Lord doesn’t want us to be fearful and afraid. He wants us to remember how valuable we are to Him, to just believe in Him, to not let our hearts be troubled, and to take courage. “Take courage.” That’s what Paul told the ship’s officers and crew. He shared that God had a plan to save their lives, but the ship will be lost. When he told them that he believed that God would make good on that promise, he was asking them to believe that also. This reassurance enabled the crew to prepare for whatever would happen next, including a shipwreck! Don’t allow fear to rule your life. Trust the Lord always, and take courage in His promises! Meditate upon Psalm 34:4 (NLT) – “I prayed to the Lord, and He answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” Amen.
Oct. 22, 2014 Acts 27:27-32
In verses 24-25, we learned that God would save the lives of everyone on board the stricken ship – the officers and soldiers, the crew, and Paul and the rest of the prisoners. However, the crew did not believe this and tried to abandon ship. Paul announced that unless they remained aboard, they and everyone else would be lost. The NIV translates verse 31 this way – “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” Stay with the ship. The ship represented God’s plan for everyone’s survival. Paul had already said that everyone would survive, but the ship would eventually be destroyed. They would all have to endure a traumatic shipwreck, but the Lord would get them all through it. A similar situation is described in Numbers 21:4-9, when God sent poisonous snakes to punish the Hebrews for complaining against Moses and God in the wilderness. Moses prayed to the Lord, and He told him to erect a bronze snake, and anyone who had been bitten could look at it and survive. The bronze snake would not prevent people from being bitten, but would enable them to survive the bite. Sometimes, God allows trials and troubles into our lives, but He will be right there with us and help us get through it. He does this so that we might learn to totally trust Him. Will you trust Him today? Pray to the Lord for the understanding and faith to persevere with Him in all situations.
Oct. 23, 2014 Acts 27:33-38
As Christians, confessing believers in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are constantly being observed by others who don’t know the Lord. They are trying to find out if we really live according to the Bible, are we doing as Jesus did, and if we’re “walking the talk.” When we do walk the talk, God can use those times to change hearts and minds for His glory and praise. Paul was trying to encourage the crew to take some food to strengthen them after fighting the fierce storm for two weeks. He reassured them again that they would survive the ordeal, and then gave thanks and ate a piece of bread in front of them. The NLT then says that “everyone was encouraged” (v. 36) and all 276 aboard ate. Paul’s godly act of concern for their welfare, thankfulness to God, and partaking of some bread himself gave hope and encouragement to the officers and crew. When we talk to someone about matters of faith and listen to their life story and concerns about the future and whether or not they should believe the Good News, we can offer encouragement in that no matter what they’ve done, God is willing to forgive. Maybe this encouragement will lead them to turn their hearts and souls toward the Lord and His unconditional love. Let’s pray for God’s strength and willingness to be encouragers to everyone we meet.
Oct. 24, 2014 Acts 27:39-44
We see the Lord’s mighty hand at work even in the shipwreck. As the ship broke apart, the soldiers feared that the prisoners would swim to shore and escape, and wanted to execute them. However, since the commanding officer wanted to spare Paul’s life, he would not allow the prisoners to be killed. God used Paul’s presence to spare the lives of the other prisoners. Also, remember a couple days back when Paul said that the crew must stay with the ship to be saved? Well, we’re told that those who could not swim to shore used parts of that same broken ship to safely get to land! The ship truly represented God’s love and care for all those aboard and His plan for their survival. We never know when and how the Lord will act and show His mighty arm in our lives. He just asks that we trust Him to get us through any and all circumstances. Let’s be encouraged by this hope and live our lives in anticipation of God’s intervention at any time! Dear Lord, we thank You for Your unconditional love for us. Please help us rest in the hope of Your precious promises every day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Oct. 25, 2014 Acts 28:1-6
The Scriptures assure us that God doesn’t allow anything to happen in our lives without a reason and purpose – His reason and purpose (Proverbs 19:21, Romans 8:28, and Philippians 2:13). Consider Paul, for instance. After surviving the storm at sea and a shipwreck, while he’s innocently gathering wood and placing it on a fire, a viper driven out by the heat bites his arm! When the island residents saw this, they decided he was a criminal and this was justice catching up with him. But when Paul shook the snake off and showed no ill effects, they changed their minds and looked at him as a god! We might say “wait a minute, what purpose can God possibly accomplish in this situation?” Knowing Paul’s passion for evangelizing, do you think that, upon being told of his undeserved “godly” status, he used the entire scenario to tell folks the truth about the one and only living God and the Good News about His Son (see Colossians 4:5)? Let’s all trust the Lord to make the most of the good and bad circumstances in our lives, as He works things out in conformity with His good and perfect will and purpose.