“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
“Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt 16:24,25).
As many of you may know, I was an atheist before coming to Nigeria in 1980, as a young wife with my husband, Dr. Richmond Leigh. In other words, I did not believe in the existence of God. It was in Nigeria that for the first time in my life, I saw a Bible with my eyes. I never attended a church. I never prayed. It was in Warri, Nigeria, in March 1986 that I became born again thru a crisis conversion. A month later I became Spirit filled. It was a miracle of grace! The rest is history…
I still remember how surprised I was when reading the Lord’s command about the cross, to die to self, to lose my life for His sake, that I may find it. It made no sense to me… I thought that my death will be in the future, when I am ninety or so… I did not know that in Christ I have to die NOW. I was ignorant of this spiritual law: in the Spirit’ realm death produces life, resurrection LIFE!
One day, I made my choice. I said: ‘Yes, Lord Jesus! Help me to die so that I may live and gain You!’ By faith I died to sin. This happened more than 30 years ago. Since then, I learned to die daily to self and to the world. I learned to live in Him. This was another big surprise: The power of resurrection started manifesting in me. I became spiritually fruitful. This is the mark of a mature Christian, one who can endure all things without complaining, and he can rejoice in all things in life. Selah!
Dear child of God, as you take you cross and follow Jesus, He rewards you with power, with an increased authority to be practiced in His name. Not only that you learn to trust Him more, but The Lord Himself will trust you with His Word and with His wealth. Your ministry shall influence nations. In all things, thru pain and joy, Christ will be visibly glorified in your life and that is all that matters. Halleluiah!
In Christ I declare:
I died (in the past) to self, to sin, and to the world!
I no longer live, but Christ lives in me!
I endure persecution for His sake!
I reign with Him!
I am spiritually fruitful!
To the glory of God!
In Jesus’ name
“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God” (Ps 42: 11)
These few weeks I observed passivity in the hearts of many believers. It is a type of discouragement, an apathy, a strange affliction that makes their faith weak; like a soldier that does not buttons his coat, forgets his cap and drags his weapon on the ground…
Warning! It is an infection! It is a virus from the powers of darkness! It is an evil spirit! Dear Child of God, put on your full armor of God and fight back! Jehovah Sabaoth (The Lord of Hosts) is with you! May your testimony increase! Let the devil be disgraced! Let the saints be encouraged!
Sing: “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow! Because He lives, all fear is gone! Because I know that He holds my future! My life is worth the living just because Christ lives!”
In Christ I declare:
I am a child of God! God is the strength of my heart and my confidence for-ever! My hope is not in men or circumstances, but in God! I trust God who is the Lifter of my head! Sickness and sorrow are not my gods; they are not my counselors! I shall not listen to their words! I believe the Word of God and His Promises! Jesus is my Savior and my Lord! I will fear no man, no virus, no demon! I am free to praise God! I will praise God! Hear me say out loud; “Praise the Lord!”
In Jesus’ name,
THRU THE EYES OF JOSEPH OF NAZARETH
Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled ‘The doctrine of incarnation’ (1). Her main text was taken from the Book of Isaiah 7:10-15; and Isaiah 9:2-7, Matt 1:1, 13-25; 19:23, and John 1:14.
THE DOCTRINE OF INCARNATION – DEFINED
The doctrine of incarnation is central to Christianity. We believe that the second Person of the Holy Trinity, the eternal Son of God took human nature and became man. He did this to become our Savior. “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God” (C. S. Lewis). The virgin Mary became pregnant with the Son of God. In other words, God became Man in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. The Latin root of the word ‘incarnation’ is ‘carne’ which means ‘flesh’. Therefore, Incarnation means to become flesh. The eternal Word of God came to earth and got wrapped in a body of flesh in the Person of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God. Jesus Christ is One Person with two natures: divine and human. There is mystery concerning this union of divine and human. We believe the revelation of the Bible. If Jesus is not divine, then He cannot be God. If Jesus is not Man, then He cannot be our savior. Incarnation is described in John 1:14: ‘And the Word became flesh’. The Son of God is the Eternal Word of God. The Word was from the beginning. The Word was always with God and the Word was God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it… 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (Jn 1:1-5, 14, 15). To believe these words you must be born again!
We do not have any picture or statue of Jesus. We do not know how tall He as Man was. All we know about Jesus is in the Word! Faith in this doctrine is essential for our salvation. We may not understand everything about the conception of Jesus in the womb of the virgin Mary, but we must believe this truth to be saved. The doctrine of Incarnation is unique to Christianity. No other religion, including the monotheistic religions like Judaism and Islam, believes in the incarnation. For example, Muslims accept the virgin birth of Jesus through the Holy Spirit, though the Qur’an says his mother Mary/Mariam is the sister of Moses and Aaron. However, Islam rejects any notion of the incarnation. They say that Jesus was not God. They say that He was a great man, a prophet, but only a man. This idea is of course anti-Biblical.
The eternal Son of God has always existed as God, even before the manger. But He became Man thru the Incarnation. His conception in Mary’s womb was an act in time. He was born as a baby in a moment of time. The eternal entered time and separated it into BC and AD. The invisible became visible. The limitless became limited. The Creator became the creature. The Almighty became the weak Baby Jesus. God became Man. This is the mystery of incarnation, the mystery of godliness. “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory” (1 Tim 3:16).
SOME POINTS CONCERNING THE DOCTRINE OF INCARNATION
*The Incarnation is part of God’s eternal plan and will for the salvation of man. God the Father planned it. God the Son executed it. God the Holy Spirit reveals it to men so that they can believe to be saved. Part of this work includes the Incarnation.
*The incarnation is connected with the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are in an eternal loving relationship. The Father sent His Son to become a Man, to die for men, to save them from the curse of sin. The incarnation proves the intimate relationship between Father and Son. You need to believe that Jesus, was begotten by God the Father and was conceived in Mary’s womb by God the Holy Spirit. The doctrines of the Holy Trinity and Incarnation are essential to your salvation. If you do not believe in the Trinity, you cannot believe in the Incarnation. Therefore, you are not a child of God! You are not saved! It is not enough ‘to believe in Christmas’. For you to have eternal life and go to heaven, you must believe in the Holy Trinity and Incarnation. Selah!
*In the Incarnation, it is only the second Person of the Trinity, God, the Son, who became flesh. God the Father and God the Holy Spirit participated in the process of Incarnation but were never incarnated.
*When the Son of God became incarnated, He still remained the eternal Son of God. His divine personality, authority and rule over the universe continued uninterrupted. Baby Jesus in the manger, as God the Son, continued “upholding and maintaining and propelling all things [the entire physical and spiritual universe] by His powerful word [carrying the universe along to its predetermined goal]” (Heb 1:3; AMP). Selah!
*At the Incarnation, the Son of God took a complete human nature. He is 100% God and 100% Man. He did not just add a human body the way you dress with a jacket. He became a complete Man, body, soul, and spirit. Jesus did not bring a special human nature ‘made in heaven’ with Him. He took His human nature from the resources available on earth. He did not import His humanity from heaven. In particular, He took His human nature from Mary, His mother. That is the only way Jesus could be from the seed of His human ancestors Abraham and David, according to the prophesy about the Messiah (Matt 1:1). He could only be our Savior if He was truly a Man who lives and dies like us. “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb 2:14, 15). As a Man, Jesus ‘shared in the same’ flesh and blood like us. That was necessary to become our Savior!
* In the Incarnation we have the revelation that God is interested in human beings. He takes the initiative to become a Man so that He can dwell among men. Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man in one person and will be so forever. Jesus is 100% God and 100% Man. Jesus never stopped being God. He took human flesh upon Himself and became Man. These two natures, the divine and the human, are separate and united at the same time. This is a mystery. Jesus is divine. In the core of His being, in the center of His personality, Jesus is always God. As a Man, Jesus was always aware of His divine identity and His intimate unique relationship with God the Father. It is this doctrine that Jesus is God and Man that explains Him being our Savior and Redeemer. Jesus kept these two natures, divine and human, even after His death and resurrection. He is in heaven now and intercedes for us as God and Man. He will come back again to judge and reward all men as God and Man. Jesus took our humanity never to relinquish it again! Halleluiah!
*The Incarnation is a miracle. To believe in the Incarnation, you must be born again, and Spirit filled. You must believe in the supernatural, in miracles. The Incarnation cannot be scientifically explained. We believe because it is the revelation of God’s Word. The same Holy Spirit that made possible for Mary to be pregnant with Jesus, is the same Spirit that will lead you into all the truth. Halleluiah!
HOW WAS JESUS CONCEIVED IN MARY’S WOMB?
Even today, there are many people, even among the Christians, who reject the doctrine of the virgin birth of our Savior. The scientists argue that a virgin woman cannot get pregnant without the sperm of a man. In particular, a woman cannot be pregnant with a boy, a son. Why? When a baby is conceived, he takes his DNA from the father and the mother. The sex of the child is determined by special chromosomes. Genetically speaking, all women have XX chromosomes, and all men have XY chromosomes. A woman cannot have a son without the Y chromosome given to her by the man. Scientifically, it was impossible for Mary to conceive a son. It was humanly impossible for Mary to conceive a boy by herself. She had no Y chromosome to give to him. Yet, the angel Gabriel told her that she would conceive a son.
How was Jesus ‘conceived’? The first thing to know is that He was not conceived in the natural way, thru sexual contact between a man and a woman. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary. This statement is taken from the Apostles’ Creed in the 5th century: “We believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary”. Conception requires a male seed and a female seed united to make ‘an egg’. Strictly speaking, Jesus was not ‘conceived’. The exact Biblical word is ‘begotten’. Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. To begat it means to become the father of someone, to bring life into existence by a father, to procreate as a father. Jesus is the eternal Son of God. When Jesus was incarnated, God the Father declared that Jesus is His ‘only begotten Son’. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (Jn 3:16, 17). Technically, it was not Jesus who was conceived. Mary conceived Jesus. The angel told Mary: “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son and shall call His name Jesus” (Lk 1:31).
The word ‘conceive’ means to receive or to form a baby in the womb of a woman. It means that a woman becomes pregnant. When the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary ‘she conceived Jesus’ in her womb. In other words, she became pregnant with Jesus. A new life was formed and received in her womb. As God, Jesus is eternal. But as the Son of Man, Jesus has a beginning. Both the conception and Mary’s delivery in Bethlehem are real events and moments in time. A mother conceives and a father begets. Within Mary’s womb, baby Jesus was not merely conceived but He was begotten by the Father, thru the power of the Holy Spirit. Some people are confused about the Incarnation. Please note that Jesus is not just a word, a philosophy, a teaching, or an idea. Jesus is a Man! A real Man! The Word became flesh! Jesus is God and Man at the same time! “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (Jn 1:18). Here you see the same word ‘the only begotten Son’. Nobody has seen God the Father. He was never incarnated. God the Son became Man to openly declare who God the Father is. So, Jesus was not created by God, He was God, He is God, and He always will be God. Jesus is the one and only begotten Son of God. Please note that as children of God we are not begotten. We are adopted by God the Father thru Christ (Eph 1:5). These things may be hard to understand. God uses names as Father and Son to help us understand something of the relationship in the Trinity.
THE SINLESS SON OF MAN
As a Man, Jesus was sinless. The God Man Jesus is our High Priest and eternal Intercessor in heaven. “He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. 26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens” (Heb 7:25, 26). The word “holy” refers to a person committed to obedience to God. The word translated “harmless” signifies one who has done no evil. The word “undefiled” describes a person who is not defiled by rebellion. Just as the Levitical high priest was required to separate himself from all ritual defilement for seven days before the Day of Atonement, so Jesus was permanently (perfect tense) “separate from sinners” throughout His life before He made the perfect atonement for sin through His sacrificial death. When Jesus came, He took not just the flesh as it was in the innocent Adam, but as our flesh, corrupted by sin. “3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom 8:3). The flesh of Jesus was ‘in the likeness of sinful flesh’. It means that His flesh had weakness and pains that were not found in Adam before the fall. That is why Jesus knows and understands our weaknesses. And yet, without sin! He lived among sinners, ate with sinners, was known as ‘the friend of sinners’, yet He was separate from sinners in the sense that He Himself never sinned. As a Man, Jesus went to the Temple frequently, but there is no record of His ever bringing a sin offering for Himself!!!
In the incarnation, the Son did not lose any of His divine identity. Incarnation is an addition and not a subtraction. As a Man Jesus did not lose His deity. He added the human body and soul to His divine nature. He now has two natures, being fully God and fully Man. Jesus’ human nature was sinless. He did not share in man’s sins. As He lived among men, He knew the power of sin but He was not stained by it. As our High Priest, He is merciful with those who fall into sin. “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:14-16).
The incarnation is the supernatural work of the Trinity. God the Father sent God the Son into the womb of the virgin Mary. It is hard to explain. Let me try… God the Holy Spirit added ‘the male seed’ that could have been given by Joseph. That holy ‘seed’ impregnated Mary’s seed. There was a secondary miracle here because Mary’s seed was cleansed from the effects of sin. In this way, Jesus was truly Divine and truly human. Genetically, Jesus was Mary’s son but not the son of Joseph. That is the only explanation why Jesus was sinless. This is a mystery and a miracle.
Job asked: “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one! … How then can man be righteous before God? Or how can he be pure who is born of a woman?” (Job 14:4; 25:4). Mary got pregnant with the Holy seed in the cloud of the Holy Spirit. “The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (Lk 1:35). At the point of conception, the Holy Spirit fused two materials: the divine and the human. This is how ‘the Holy One’ called Jesus was formed in Mary’s womb. “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth” (Ps 139:13-15). God ‘forms’ the child in the mother’s womb. In Hebrew, the word ‘formed’ is the same as ‘created’. God ‘covered’ the baby in the womb ‘as with a screen’ to protect him. The picture of God’s protecting lovingkindness applies to all babies in their mothers’ wombs, but in particular it applies to baby Jesus showing how the Holy Spirit covered and protected Him from the sin found in Mary’s genes. Selah!
THE INCARNATION PROPHECY IN ISAIAH 7:9-16
King Ahaz of Judah was an ungodly king. His father and grandfather were godly kings. He became king when he was 20 years old. He did evil in the sight of God and carried Judah into great spiritual darkness. His story is told in 2 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28. These are some of the sins he committed: he introduced the worship of the Canaanite god Molech, and he sacrificed his own sons for it. He closed down the Temple in Jerusalem so that the people cannot worship Jehovah God. He removed the gold and silver from the Temple and gave it as a gift (bribe) to the King of Assyria so that he will not attack Judah. He copied a pagan altar he saw in Damascus and placed it in the courtyard of the temple of Solomon. He removed the burnt offerings bronze altar that Solomon made and relocated it at the back. He used the bronze altar for personal ‘inquires’. This word describes the pagan practice of reading the future, fortune telling, by analyzing the organs of the sacrificed animals. Therefore, King Ahaz introduced witchcraft into the temple in Jerusalem. He corrupted the priests by forcing them to serve at the pagan altar. He appointed himself as a priest by offering sacrifices himself. Because King Ahaz provoked God to anger by doing so many evils, God handed him to his enemies, who were his neighbors, Aram, and Ephraim (the Northern Israel). These two countries attacked Judah and took part of the territories. King Ahaz was afraid that even Jerusalem will fall to the neighbors. He planned to make a political pact with the great empire of Assyria, to become its vasal. He took the silver and the gold from Solomon’s temple and sent it to the King of Assyria to bribe him to attack his neighbors. Assyria complied. They attacked and conquered Damascus, the capital of Aram. Ahaz went there to celebrate the victory with the king of Assyria. Not long after that, Assyria attacked and conquered the Northern Israel and some of the cities in Judah.
In the midst of this spiritual darkness, God sent the prophet Isaiah to speak to King Ahaz. He tells Ahaz that he should not trust his political ideas, and not make political alliances with Assyria for the sake of peace. He should only trust God who will destroy Assyria. Isaiah warns Ahaz not to mix politics with religion. If he has faith in God, he will be ‘established’ as king. If he rejects God’s Word, he will perish. Ahaz rejected the Word of God and ‘perished’. He died when he was only 36 and because of his many sins, they did not bury him in the royal tombs. Isaiah told him that he should repent and put all his trust in Jehovah God. That he should not be afraid. He should stand firm in the faith. God can destroy his enemies in a second. The prophet also told him that if he rejects this word, if he has no faith in God’s plan, he will not be established as a king. To help him make up his mind, Isaiah told him that he should ask for a supernatural sign from God. Because in his heart, Ahaz has rejected God’s Word, he said that he does not need any sign. Then Isaiah told him that God insists to give him a sign. Christmas is that sign! Selah!
Asking for a sign is not always a proof of unbelief but a desire to be strengthened to move on in faith. For example, when Gideon asked the angel for a sign of victory, it is because he wanted to believe and obey God (Jdg 6:36). But Ahaz rejected the sign. He rejected Christmas! It means he did not want to obey the prophet’s word. This was a willful sin of unbelief. There is no forgiveness for this sin.
After Ahaz died, his son Hezekiah was attacked by the same Assyrians who forgot the bribe given to them by his father, Ahaz. The Assyrians wanted to conquer Jerusalem. The same prophet Isaiah went to see King Hezekiah to encourage him to have faith in God. Hezekiah believed the prophet and his word. God fought the battle, and 185,000 Assyrian soldiers were killed by an angel (Is 37:36). What his father refused to do, Hezekiah did! When Ahaz refuses to ask for a sign to help his unbelief, God gives him a prophetic word, which is a sign of His punishment. The prophesy of a virgin girl pregnant with a son called Immanuel is God’s sign of His anger against sin. Immanuel means ‘God is with us’. This boy is born to ‘the house of David’. He is an extraordinary boy. He will eat curds (or yogurt) and honey. This is not the same as the promised land of milk and honey. It is the food of poverty in a desolate land. It means that the boy will be born into a poor family. Ahaz rejected the blessing of the Messiah who was to come thru his family line. Here you see the grace of God. Because Ahaz was a descendant of King David, God extended much grace to him. Ahaz is listed in the genealogy of Jesus (Matt 1:9). Lesson: men and their unbelief cannot stop God’s plan and purpose.
THE INCARNATION STORY THRU THE EYES OF JOSEPH OF NAZARETH (Matt 1:18-25; 2:13-15; 19:23)
Here we see the story of Incarnation mostly thru the eyes of Joseph. He was from the lineage of King David. He could have been King Joseph but after the exile in Babylon, his royalty status was lost. He was a humble man. It is not easy to work as a carpenter knowing you could have been the King of Judah in the place of King Herod the Great. Like his namesake in the Old Testament, Joseph was a dreamer of dreams.
Joseph was a just man. It means that he had a godly character. He feared God and obeyed His commandments. When Joseph discovered that his fiancée was pregnant, I am sure that he was disappointed, angry, and sad. But Joseph was a man of faith. Immediately the angel revealed the truth to him, he did not complain. Like Mary, he immediately obeyed the words of the angel. He was a spiritual man. He took responsibility for his future wife and baby in her womb. He was a hardworking man. Joseph worked as a carpenter to provide for his family. These are all good qualities that any man or husband should imitate. We are not told where Joseph was from the time Jesus started His public ministry. It is possible that he died. On the Cross, Jesus handed His mother Mary over to John. This is another proof that Joseph was dead by then.
Mary got pregnant with Jesus. Like any other woman, just imagine that she had morning sickness, stretch marks, kicking a baby in her belly, heaviness on her legs. She was heavily pregnant when together with Joseph, they went to Jerusalem to register according to the Roman law. She had labor pains like any other woman. Joseph was by her side, encouraging her all the way.
Joseph does not utter any word in the Bible. But he plays an important role in the Nativity drama. By law, he had the right to divorce his betroth who was pregnant but not by him. The law said that a girl who still lives in her father’s house and is engaged to a man, if she is found pregnant, she should be stoned to death. For a girl to be found not a virgin on her wedding day, that was called ‘a disgraceful, evil thing’. The punishment was death. “But if the thing is true, and evidences of virginity are not found for the young woman, 21 then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done a disgraceful thing in Israel, to play the harlot in her father’s house. So, you shall put away the evil from among you” (Deut 22:20, 21). In the first century, the Jews did not always obey this law to kill the girl. But her life was in danger and her reputation completely ruined. Mary needed a husband to protect her and her baby. Joseph’s role as a husband to Mary and father to Jesus was extremely important. Joseph knew his responsibility and acted on it. Without the marriage to Joseph, her parents may not want to share in her shame. The only way for Mary was to become a prostitute to feed herself and her baby. Please think of Joseph, of his feelings… As a man, to accept that his fiancée is pregnant by the Holy Spirit was not an easy thing to do. It was a form of rejection. God rejected his contribution to his future wife’s first pregnancy. Joseph was a man who obeyed God. He was led by the Holy Spirit. His actions spoke louder than words. He is the silent hero of the incarnation story. Joseph laid down his life for Jesus!
In the incarnation, God needed a woman’s seed but not a man’s seed. Judging by our human wisdom, this is strange. God’s ways seem confusing to us. In the Garden of Eden, Eve was the leader in rebellion. God judged her and placed her to submit under her husband. Even in the Christian marriage, the wife submits to her husband. But in incarnation, God only needed the consent of the woman, the weaker vessel. This is a proof that God does not need man’s power to create anything. Jesus was not born by the will of man, or by the desire of the flesh. He was born of God! All glory to God for the incarnation!
This is the Gospel according to the prophecy given by God in the Garden of Eden. God told the serpent, the devil: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Gen 3:15). Christ is the Seed of the woman who will crush the head of the devil’s seed. Therefore, Christ must be born of a woman (Galatians 4:4). At the incarnation, Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb without any help from man (Joseph). This is a strange thing, but God is sovereign and His ways, though mysterious, are perfect. Joseph’s genes were not imparted to baby Jesus. Jesus did not have a human father, but Joseph humbly adopted Him as His own. As an adult, Jesus was known as Joseph’s son (Luke 4:22; John 1:45; 6:42). This is a great reward for this humble man called Joseph.
What is the true purpose for Christmas? It is to prepare the way for the Cross. The Word became flesh so that it will be crucified and die on behalf of sinners like you and me! This baby was born to die! Behind the Christmas lights and decorations, there is the shadow of death. Only death could have killed death. Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem. Thirty-three years later, few miles from where He was born, He was crucified on Calvary tree. Three days later He rose from the dead to give us life! What a life! What a story! We see that everything about Jesus is mysterious, not only His conception, His whole life and death. He is God and He is Man. He is the most extraordinary Person, from beginning to the end. He was born to die for others. “Oh, come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!” Worship the Lord!
This is a page from my life story… When I came to Nigeria with my husband in 1980, I was surprised how ‘hot and dusty’ December can be. In my native country, Christmas is always cold, clean and white with snow. For many years I missed that. After I became saved, God changed my heart. I was able to forget the past and embrace the unknown future with a grateful and excited heart. I now love the dry heat mixed with the ‘harmattan’. I forgot the roasted turkey and mashed potatoes and now I love jolof rice, fried chicken with dodo. There is a season for everything in this life. Things come and things go. But there is a name above all names that stands forever, in all times and all places! His name is Jesus!!!!
“Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever!” (Heb 13:8).
Happy Christmas from me in advance!
(This yellow flower greeted me this morning in my garden)
Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh continued preaching the series The Early Church. The title for the sermon today was: ‘Strength in the storm’ . Her main text was taken from the Book of Acts, chapters 27 and 28.
PAUL’S JOURNEY TO ROME
We shall study Paul’s journey to the great city of Rome. We learn from him how to behave during a big storm that caused a shipwreck. This is the story… He was arrested in Jerusalem for causing a riot. The Religious leaders accused him of telling other Jews not to obey the Law of Moses; that they should not circumcise their sons. They also said that Paul brought Gentiles into the Temple to defile it. These accusations were false, but the Jews attacked him and almost killed him. The Roman soldiers arrested him to save his life. When they heard that Paul was a Roman citizen, they removed his chains but kept him with them in the barracks. They called the Sanhedrin, the religious supreme court, to decide Paul’s case. Paul made his defense, and the religious rulers were divided in their verdict about him. “But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome” (Ac 23:11). Paul now knows that he must arrive in Rome to testify about Jesus. Hearing that some Jews want to kill him, the commander of the Roman soldiers in Jerusalem sends Paul with an escort to Caesarea. In that city, Paul boldly testified before two governors, Felix, and Festus and before two royal figures, King Agrippa, and Bernice. This is according to God’s Word: “I will speak of Your testimonies also before kings and will not be ashamed” (Ps 119:46). It is also according to the promise of Jesus: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore, be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you” (Matt 10:16-20).
*Lesson: God will open doors where we shall testify before ‘great men’ of the world. God the Holy Spirit shall help us to be strong, bold, wise, not shy, not worried, or foolish. God will supply the necessary words that will minister life to them. Paul witnessed to them about Jesus. He shared with them his testimony, how the resurrected Christ appeared to him on the way to Damascus and changed his life completely. None of these rulers could free him. Paul then uses his right as a Roman citizen. He asked to go to Rome to see Caesar who shall decide his case. From Caesarea, Paul goes by sea to Rome. The story is described in the last two chapters of the Book of Acts.
The trip starts from Caesarea and ends in Rome. Paul is now a prisoner of the Roman empire. He is handed over to Julius, a Roman Centurion from the elite group of soldiers called the Augustan Regimen, under the direct authority of Caesar. Together with Paul, there were other prisoners who were sent to Rome. It is possible, that these prisoners were violent men. But Julius treated Paul with special kindness. This is God’s favor on Paul and according to His promise: “When a man’s ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him” (PV 16:7). Paul is accompanied by two close friends. This is a miracle. Prisoners were not allowed to invite others on the ship. It is possible that Festus, the governor, was touched by Paul’s testimony and told Julius, the centurion, to allow Paul to have two helpers. One is Dr Luke who has been Paul’s physician and co-laborer since they met in Troas during Paul’s second missionary trip. The other friend is Aristarchus, a convert from Thessalonica, who followed Paul as a disciple and a servant, to help him. At that time, the only way for Luke and Aristarchus to follow Paul on a ship is to agree to be his slaves. Paul calls Aristarchus ‘my fellow prisoner’ (Col 4:10). Both Luke and Aristarchus served Paul in Rome, until the end of his life. They were “not ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but shared with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God” (2Tim 1:8). See how devoted they were to their leader! Paul nurtured close friendships among the brethren. “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (PV 18:24).
*Lesson: A Christian leader is not proud, lonely, or selfish. He is humble, accessible, and friendly. He invests his life in godly friendships. By doing that, Jesus, the true ‘Friend that sticks closer than brother’, will always be his companion.
From Caesarea they take a ship and stop the next day at the port of Sidon. Julius trusts Paul and gives him the freedom to go into the town to visit some Christian friends. This is another great favor. It is possible that Julius was a witness to Paul’s trial and saw that Paul was innocent of the charges. Paul has fellowship with the brethren. They encourage each other. Never underestimate the power of Christian fellowship, the power of prayer and of agreement. This is another way to encounter the Lord Jesus Christ. “Again, I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matt 18:19, 20). Please observe that Paul is a man of honor. He could have taken advantage of this freedom and run away. But he did not. At the end of the day, he came back to his imprisonment in the ship. Paul proved to be trustworthy. This honesty was a seed planted in the heart of Julius and the others in the ship. Later, when Paul becomes the pastor of the ship, they trust him and his words. “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much” (Lk 16:10).
*Lesson: Trust in men is not forced, it is not demanded. It is earned over time. From showing himself trustworthy ‘in least’, Paul prepared his platform to be trusted ‘in much’. In all things, Paul proved himself as a true ambassador of Jesus Christ who alone is ‘worthy’ of all our trust!
From Sidon they sailed close to the Island of Cyprus, and landed at the port of Myra, in present day Turkey. Here, they take another ship that was coming from Alexandria. At that time, Alexandria was the biggest city in Egypt. Ships loaded with corn and wheat go to Rome. From Myra they go towards the island of Crete. They arrive at a place called Fair Heavens, on the Southern part of Crete. This is a naturally beautiful harbor. The journey to this point was simple but slow. They wasted too much time along the way. The owner of the ship was in a hurry to go to Rome to discharge his load and to make money. The time was now ‘after the fast’ (Ac 27:9). The fast refers to the Day of Atonement, the only time in the year when the Jews fast. That tells us that it is the beginning of October. From now on, the weather is bad for ships in the Mediterranean Sea. When Paul saw that they wasted time he advised that they should not proceed further. That they should wait. This was not a prophesy. It was a wise advice based on experience. He said: “three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea” (2 Cor 11:25; NIV). Paul has been to Crete Island and preached the Gospel there (Tit 1:5). He knew the weather well. He knew that after the middle of September, no ship can sail safely because of the strong winds coming from the north. He advised the owner and Julius, the centurion, that they should stop the trip and wait for the springtime when the winds cease. But the centurion did not listen to Paul. He respected him but did not want to submit to his advice. He listened to the Captain and the Owner of the ship, and they decided to sail on. That was a mistake!
Paul experienced rejection like the prophet Ezekiel: “As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you beside the walls and in the doors of the houses; and they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, ‘Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.’ So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. Indeed, you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them. And when this comes to pass—surely it will come—then they will know that a prophet has been among them” (Ezekiel 33:30-33).
*Lesson: we preach the Word of God. If people listen to it or not, that is not our responsibility. God will judge each man according to his response to God’s Word. Also, God will justify His servant even when men reject his words.
The captain decided to continue the journey trying to go to Phenix, which is a bigger safer harbor in Crete, only 12 miles away. But they never arrived there. Initially, the wind was gentle, and they thought that they got what they wanted. Many people assume that God is with them even when they walk in disobedience. But soon, a hurricane wind from the northeast called Euroclydon started blowing. They lost control of the ship. The seamen could not use neither sails nor oars. From this Fair Heavens the hurricane wind drove them 600 miles to the Island of Malta. Selah!
*Lesson: human strength always fails in the trials of life. Trying to be ‘wiser’ than God, you fall into bigger problems!
This storm was sent by God. It was like the one that Jonah encountered when he was running away from God. But here, Paul was not running from God. He was in the middle of God’s plan for him to go and preach the Gospel in Rome. Why then did God send the storm? To prove that Paul was a true prophet! God, thru Paul, revealed to him the danger ahead. But the people did not listen to him. Julius trusted the words of the captain more than the words of the man of God. He trusted human wisdom more than God’s wisdom. They almost had a shipwreck into a small island. They had to raise the sails so that they go away from the island. They could not ‘land’ safely. They had to continue in the storm.
*Lesson: If God has not opened the door of safety for you, then pray for grace in the midst of the trial.
In the storm, they apply emergency measures. The seamen ‘undergirded’ the ship. This is a dangerous and difficult operation called ‘frapping’. They carry long cables under the belly of the ship so that it will not scatter under pressure. Then, they all threw the grain overboard. That was a great loss. Then, they threw overboard ‘the ship’s tackle’. This word describes furniture and equipment. Apostle Paul, Luke, and Aristarchus helped throwing the things in the sea. They threw their beds, their personal possessions, and the ship navigational equipment but not the anchors. This is human wisdom. But it did not work for the storm continued to batter the ship.
*Lesson: No man can win against God! There are men who love money more than they love God. They make a shipwreck of their faith and their conscience, and they backslide. “Having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck” (1 Tim 1:19). For the love of money, they perish with their material goods. Lesson: if you have to lose something to save your life, then do it! Chose to live poor than to die rich! It is better to shipwreck your finances than to shipwreck your faith in God and your conscience!
We see that even with all that sacrifice and loss, the storm did not stop. The ship ‘was caught’ in the wind. The word describes something seized and dragged by force. This proves that God sent the wind and arrested the ship. The word ‘wind’ describes a stormy powerful movement of air. In Greek, the word also refers to false doctrines. Jesus sent His Word, His Spirit, and His Gifts to men to protect them against the storm of false doctrines and to help them grow in peace. “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Eph 4:11-16).
*Lesson: Preaching truth is safety! Preaching falsehood is trouble! Be careful to attend a living church where the Gospel of Christ crucified and resurrected is preached. Doctrine determines behavior! Be careful about what you hear and who leads you spiritually!
With all their efforts, the ship was still led by the storm. They did not see the sun or the stars for many days. It was dark and cold. They could not read the directions using the sun or the stars. They were completely lost at the sea. They worked without rest. All this time, they did not even eat. The fear of death came in. They finally lost all hope to survive and gave up the courage to live. At this time, Paul stands and speaks again. He has been praying for a word form God. He knew that he has to arrive at Rome. But the situation was hopeless. He knew that only Jesus can them. In the middle of despair, God sent an angel with a great message of hope to Paul. “But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of 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. However, we must run aground on a certain island” (Ac 27:21-26). God sent the storm and God sent the Angel to Paul. This is the effect of the storms of life. The wicked become silent and the children of God speak with resurrection power. “When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever” (PV 10:25).
*Lesson: Fear not! Pray! Wait for God’s Word in the middle of the storm. His Word is your strength and courage to stand as a servant of God!
From this moment on, Paul takes charge of the ship. He is now the leader and the pastor of the ship. Julius, the captain, the owner of the ship, and all the seamen have lost hope to survive this storm. They also lost their pride. They cannot argue with Paul, who alone has the Word of Life! Defeated, they are all humbled, like fishes in Paul’s net of ministry. At the point of total surrender, God intervenes and saves man!
*Lesson: The preparation work of the Holy Spirit to bring a sinner to the point of salvation is difficult and painful. Godly sorrow is a real spiritual emotion. God is the Helper not of them who can help themselves, but to the weak and the helpless. “For He will deliver the needy when he cries, the poor also, and him who has no helper. He will spare the poor and needy and will save the souls of the needy” (Psalm 72:12, 13). God allows a sinner to come to the point of despair before He will save him.
Just imagine the scenes. The storm goes on and on. There are 276 souls in that battered ship. These are the owner and the captain, the seamen, businessmen, Julius, the centurion and other Roman soldiers, the prisoners, including Paul, Luke, and Aristarchus. They need a miracle to survive. We do not know if all these people had time to pray to their gods like the seamen traveling with Jonah. But we know that Jesus was there in that boat in the middle of the storm. At this point in time, these people did not know that God has granted a miracle. God has given Paul all these souls as a reward for his intercession. The angel could have saved Paul alone and let these stubborn unbelievers perish in the watery grave. But God decided to save all these souls for the sake of Paul who prayed for them. Paul declares that he has complete faith in the promise of God. He encourages them to eat something, as a prophetic sign that they will all live.
*Lesson: The world does not appreciate the believers. They persecute them. They do not know that as salt preserves the meat, God blesses the unbelievers for the sake of His children. God told Abraham: “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes” (Gen 18:26). “Laban said to him, “Please stay, if I have found favor in your eyes, for I have learned by experience that the Lord has blessed me for your sake” (Gen 30:27). God blessed Potiphar and the Keeper of the prison in Egypt, because of Joseph. “So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had in the house and in the field” (Gen 39:5). “The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper” (Gen 39:23). God rewards our intercession and our faith in Him. God blesses others for our sake. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb 11:6). Never give up praying, no matter the situation in life!
Paul stands and speaks! He brings light in the darkness and hope in despair. It is the power of resurrection thru God’s Word! The tables are overturned. The prisoner becomes the captain and the comforter of the ship. First, he rebukes them for rejecting his God given wise counsel. If they obeyed his word, they could have been spared this stress and loss. Paul then shows compassion. He tells them that God sent an angel who assured him that though the ship will be destroyed, none will die. Paul speaks with faith and boldness. There is no fear in his voice! All will be saved because of Paul. “Even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear; do not be shaken” (1 Pet 3:14).
*Lesson: Men must repent of their sins so that they can be encouraged. Leadership emerges thru the trials of life. No storm can change God’s will for His people. Grace removes the fear of death from your heart. Grace gives you the strength to stand and preach when all others faint from fear. This supernatural boldness is a great tool for evangelism and gives God all the glory!
Paul introduces himself as a servant of God. In the midst of the storm, among stubborn proud unbelievers, Paul continues to commune with God. Paul never stops praying! The angel came on the ship to encourage Paul. No other man saw the angel, except Paul. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; 3 Though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah” (Ps 46:1-3).
*Lesson: Pray! Nothing stops God from answering your prayer! No storm is too great for God. “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17). Your life is in God’s hands! For as long as God desires to use you for His work, you cannot die! It is a privilege to serve God! It is possible that Jesus called His apostles from among fishermen because they were used to hard life, to the storms of life. “Endure hardship as discipline!” (Heb 12:7).
Paul tells everybody that they will be cast on an island. At this time, they are totally lost in that great Sea. The captain has abandoned his post. They have no idea if there is any island close by. But Paul’s words come to pass. In the darkness, as the storm is still blowing, by faith in Paul’s words, the sailors measure the depth of the sea and discover that it is getting shallower. They now know that they are getting closer to the shore. At this point they drop four anchors from the stern and pray for daylight to come (Ac 27:29). They now totally surrender to Paul’s God.
*Lesson: Spiritually, what are these four anchors? What can strengthen my soul in the midst of trials? These anchors are Faith, Hope, Peace, and Joy in the Holy Ghost! The first anchor is faith in God’s eternal Word and His promises! “Therefore, whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock” (Matt 7:24, 25). The second anchor is the hope of glory! “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil” (Heb 6:19). The third anchor is the peace of God that passes all understanding! “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7). The fourth anchor is joy in the midst of trials! “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:6, 7). These anchors never fail! To the glory of God!
Paul encourages the others with the encouragement he has received from God. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor 1:3, 4).
*Lesson: Do not be selfish! Be generous with your hope! Encourage others with the encouragement you have received from the Holy Spirit!
The storm goes on. They are going towards the land. It was the island of Malta. Suddenly, there was another danger: rebellion! The sea men decided to lower the skiff (the lifeboats) and run away leaving the rest to die. They did not believe Paul’s word and wanted to save themselves. Paul said that God granted life to all the passengers but with the condition that they remain in the ship. For example, it was only Noah’s family inside the ark that survived the flood (Gen 6:18). Rahab and her household were saved with the condition that all stay together in her house (Josh 6:17). The rebellion of the seamen may have happened suddenly. Paul was very attentive. This is a mark of a true leader. When Paul told Julius and the soldiers that their deliverance will happen only if they stay together in the ship, the soldiers acted immediately. They cut the ropes of the lifeboats and let them loose. It was a loss to them, but it shows how much faith the soldiers have in Paul’s word now. Paul encourages Julius and the soldiers to continue to do their work, to keep the law and order on the ship, even during the storm.
*Lesson: your salvation depends on another. You cannot be saved by running away from death. You are saved because of the merit of our Lord Jesus Christ who died that you may live, united with Him. In all situations, abide in the center of God’s will and you’ll be safe! Watch and pray!
In the navy, there is a law saying: ‘the captain goes down with his ship’. The captain of a sinking ship has to do his best to save all the passengers and his crew before he can save himself. In a sinking ship, it is the women and the children that are saved first. This is a matter of honor, of helping the weak. This same law applies to the senior pilot of a plane or leaders of military units during war. Desertion is defined as abandonment of a military post without permission and done with no intention of coming back. Decimation was a form of punishment in the Roman Empire army by which, one out of ten soldiers was killed when many rebelled against their commander. The tenth soldier in a unit of ten was selected by lots. His nine colleagues must kill him by stoning or by stabbing. This was done to maintain order and discipline in the army.
The seamen who tried to run away are like the hirelings. They are not faithful friends. “Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a bad tooth and a foot out of joint” (PV 25:19). You cannot eat with a bad tooth, and you cannot walk with a dislocated foot. The unfaithful friend will disappoint you when you need him the most. Jesus is the good shepherd. He died to protect His sheep. But the false brethren run away during danger and abandon the flock. Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep” (Jn 10:11-13).
*Lesson: No matter the trial, the leader cannot abandon his responsibility to his followers. The shepherd cannot abandon his flock. The parents cannot abandon their children. Pray before you make friends. Test them not only when things are good, but especially during the trials of life!
Paul now strongly encourages everybody to eat. For the last 14 days they worked and worked trying to save the ship. But their worked in vain. Now, once God’s Word was spoken, by faith, they should stop all work and eat. They need the strength to survive. Paul leads by example. He took bread and gave thanks to God for it. He then eats in the presence of them all. “To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam 16:22). To refuse to eat is rebellion. To commit suicide by starving is sin. They all obeyed Paul. They eat by faith. Labor is connected with good appetite. Lazy people should not eat. “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thess 3:10). But a laborer should eat. “Every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor; it is the gift of God (Ecc 3:13)”. The angel told Elijah to eat to have strength for the journey ahead (1Kg 19:5-8).
*Lesson: God is interested in all things about you. Work hard! Eat and sleep taking care of your body, the temple of the Holy Spirit! Give thanks!
Paul speaks by faith that they will not lose even a hair from their head. This is the strong faith and prophetic confidence of a true leader. See how far God has brought Paul, from a prisoner who entered the ship in chains, when none listened to his advice, to this point of true spiritual leadership manifested in the storm. Like the earthquake in Philippi, the storm only broke the chains! Paul is now the pastor of the ship!
*Lesson: There are two storms that reveal the truth in your heart: personal trials and witnessing God’s grace blessing another you think is less worthy than you! It is the danger of discouragement and jealousy! In Christ, your testimony and faith will shine like gold purified in the fire!
Finally, after 14 days of darkness, ‘it was day’. They saw the land. They lifted the anchors and the ship got stuck in the sand. This was the breakthrough they were all hoping for. Then, another danger came. The devil does not rest. The soldiers became afraid that the prisoners will escape, and they wanted to kill them all. But Julius, trying to save Paul, stopped the soldiers from killing them. Clearly, during this difficult journey, Paul has gained his respect. All were free to jump into the sea and swim to the shore. All Roman soldiers were good swimmers. It was part of their training. Maybe Julius told the soldiers to jump first, to go to the shore and wait for the prisoners so that none will escape. As Paul told them, all had survived! This is a miracle indeed! In this hurricane of more than 14 days, during this total shipwreck, all 276 men got saved.
This was their testimony: “Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters, They see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep. For He commands and raises the stormy wind, which lifts up the waves of the sea. They mount up to the heavens, they go down again to the depths; their soul melts because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end. 28 Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses. He calms the storm, so that its waves are still. Then they are glad because they are quiet; So, He guides them to their desired haven. Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!” (Ps 107:23-31). Halleluiah!
*Lesson: trust the Lord Jesus, who is the Master of every storm in life! But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” (Matt 8:26, 27). Remember to give thanks to God, before, during, and after the storm! Praise the Lord!
TRUE GODLY LEADERSHIP
In this world there are few good mature godly leaders. It is not easy to be a spiritual leader, a mentor, a pastor, a husband, or a parent. Leaders take responsibility for all things, on behalf of their followers, even if they are good or bad. God delegates His authority to human vessels. God uses people to reveal Himself as the Leader of His people. This is the story of Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Deborah, Paul, Peter, and others. Many people take pleasure in criticizing leaders. That is a bad habit. Pray for all people in authority, for your pastors and leaders in the church!
Based on this story in Acts 27, and observing Apostle Paul, these are some of the godly qualities of a true leader:
A true leader is spiritually strong. He can handle the stress of life more than the others. He solves difficult problems. He can be trusted in crisis.
A leader is loved by the people he leads. “Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Amen” (Titus 3:15).
A leader is strong and flexible at the same time. He rebukes and he encourages!
A true leader obeys God’s Word, and he always prays!
A true leader is faithful to God who appointed him. He is not a hireling. He does not oppress or manipulate his followers. He leads them to God!
A leader does not give up. He perseveres against all hindrances unto the end. Paul suffered so much in his life yet, he never gave up on Jesus!
A leader is wise, theoretically, and practically. He is not foolish. He preaches the right doctrines and their correct application!
A leader is bold and speaks with authority. He knows that God is backing his words. “Where the word of the King is, there is power” (Ecc 8:4).
A true leader is compassionate and encourages others. Paul ate first. He led by example.
A leader is strengthened by God, and he strengthens others. Paul was encouraged by the angel of God, and he encouraged others.
A true leader has an established faith. Like Abraham, the leader does not stagger in unbelief but gives glory to God (Rom 4:20).
A true leader demands obedience. Paul told the people to stay in the ship so that they can be saved! He was right! His grace covered them!
Finally, let Paul have the last word: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1Cor 11:1; NIV). Worship the Lord!