By Joseph Ametepe
"For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me, saying, 'Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you.' Therefore, keep up your courage, men,for I believe God, that it will turn out exactly as I have been told" (Acts 27:23-25).
The third and final lesson that is vividly illustrated in this passage is this: God's believing servant must take God at His word. Believers in Jesus Christ must be known as people who take God at His word.
Having received the encouragement of God in a dark and difficult time of his life, Paul, in turn, encouraged his fellow voyagers on the storm-tossed ship. He understood that God's encouragement of him in his dark and difficult time was to flow through him to others who were in desperate need of encouragement in their time of crisis. Paul was God's instrument of cheering up the spirits of others who were feeling discouraged and hopeless in their distress and darkness.
While encouraging his fellow travelers, Paul did something very special. You ask: what is that? The special thing he did is his personal expression of trust in God and in His word to him. Paul demonstrated unshakable faith in God and in His word to him. Paul took God at His word. Paul counted on God and His promise. Please notice Paul's resolve to take God at His word. Speaking with great confidence, certainty and conviction of heart, Paul declares, "I believe God, that it will be exactly as I have been told." Literally, this reads, "for I believe God that thus it will be in the way in which it has been spoken to me." Please notice that there was no doubt or distrust in Paul's heart as he spoke to the men on board, who were weary, hopeless and discouraged. He didn't say, "Maybe, what I have been told will come to pass. Let's just cross our fingers and see what happens." Paul knew that God is trustworthy. He knew that God is always reliable. He knew that God is dependable. He knew that God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Paul was convinced that what God says, He always does. He was confident that what God speaks, He always makes it good (Numbers 23:19). The Greek word used here for "believe" is "pisteuo." It means "to adhere to, to cleave to; to trust, to have faith in; to rely on." Consequently, the words, "I believe God..." really mean "I have an absolute personal trust in God." Paul is saying, "I have unshakable faith in my God that His word to me will not fail. I am certain that God's word to me will not fall to the ground. I have confidence in my God that His promise to me will not falter. I am convinced that He will fulfill the message His angelic messenger delivered to me. I know my God is faithful to His word."
You see, Paul knew that it's altogether useless for God to give him a promise if he's not going to believe Him to carry it out in his life. Please think of this! What use will it be for God to give His believing people His precious and magnificent promises (1 Peter 1:4) if they won't believe Him to perform them in their lives? There will be no point in giving us promises if God's people are not going to commit themselves to trusting Him to accomplish them in their lives. It will be a complete waste of time for God. It will make no sense at all for God to invest Himself in our lives in such an unworthy manner. You see, the storm was God's way of strengthening Paul's faith and confidence in His ability to perform His word. It was a faith-building test for Paul. Paul allowed the Holy Spirit to sustain as well as strengthen his faith in the storm-to the point of standing before over two hundred and seventy people to express his confident faith in God to do exactly as He had spoken. Now please put yourself in Paul's shoes! Is that something you would do? Would you be able to stand before hundreds of people in a deadly storm and confidently tell them that they would all be safe on the basis of the word God had spoken to you? Would you trust God that much? Or would you shrink back in fear, thinking that you would make a fool of yourself? I believe most of us would not want to make a fool of ourselves in such a life-threatening situation. We would choose the easy path of silence, not sticking out our neck.
Please I want you to understand that Paul had a track record of taking God at His word. Writing to the church of Corinth about the hardships he and his fellow-workers experienced in the west coast province of Asia (that is, modern Turkey), Paul reveals some of the precious lessons God taught them. The most notable being-trusting in God. He writes :"Indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will deliver us" (2 Corinthians 1:9-10). Notice Paul's overflowing confidence in God. He looked back to the past. God had delivered them. Then, he looked forward to the future with certainty that God would deliver them again. Twice he wrote "He will deliver us." My brothers and sisters in Christ, that's confidence in God. That's counting on God. That's demonstrating absolute certainty and conviction in God's ability to do what He's promised. Later in this second letter to the Corinthians, Paul discloses a secret to the Corinthians. What's the secret? He's learned from others to take God at His word. "But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, 'I believed, therefore I spoke,' we also believe, therefore also we speak" (2 Corinthians 4:13). Paul had learned from the psalmist the importance of trusting God and taking Him at His word. In fact, the verb translated "believe" in this verse is the same as the one in Acts 27:25, that is, "pisteuo," which speaks of absolute reliance o God.
Let me share one more example of Paul's track record of taking God at His word. Before embarking on this voyage that was fraught with danger and damage, Paul testified before King Agrippa and Governor Festus. After sharing that Jesus had appeared to him and appointed him a minister and witness, with the mandate to carry His message to Jews and Gentiles-to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God (Acts 26:16-18), Paul let his hearers know that he is a man who takes God at His word. Please take careful note of his words: "Consequently, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance" (Acts 26:19-20). You see, Paul took God at His word and did exactly what He ordered him to do. He believed the words which were spoken to him by the Risen Lord on the road to Damascus. He acted on God's word to him. With this past record of taking God at His word, when God called upon Paul once more to take Him at His word in one of the darkest moments of his life, he did not falter. Paul rose to the occasion and expressed bold, confident, and conquering faith in God, bringing glory to Him.
I believe one of the greatest needs in the church today, is believing men and women who exhibit a track record of taking God at His word. The world has not seen such men and women of God for a long time. I believe God is waiting to raise up godly men and women who will confidently take God at His word. He is longing for committed believers who will be willing to trust Him wholeheartedly, not half-heartedly. He is desiring Spirit-filled Christians who will declare with certainty, "I believe God, that it will be exactly as I have been told." God is looking for believers who will say with great conviction of heart, "I believe, therefore I also speak." My heart's desire is to allow the Holy Spirit to strengthen my faith in my trials to count on God. To be confident in the Lord my God. To be convinced that God's word to me will not fail. To be certain that God's promise to me will not fall to the ground. But that, He will fulfill every promise of His to me. What about you?