And not only this, but we exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
There are different types of natural storms in life. Everything from thunderstorms, to hail storms, to tornadoes, to tropical storms, and hurricanes. All of them vary in strength, size, and destructive power. In the most powerful of storms, there can be life-changing destruction left in its wake.
The storms of life much like weather-related storms can cause damage to varying levels leaving behind scars. There are 2 basic types of storms that can come to the Christian:
1. Storms for our testing.
2. Storms as a result of our obedience to Christ.
Notice that these did not include consequences for our sin. Too often we see Christians in an attempt to justify or vindicate themselves over their sin they make it out like the consequences they are facing are just a trial or tribulation they are going through.
It also does not include those things that happen in the normal course of events that just do not go favorably for us. For example, if we do not get our way on something at work or at church this does not mean we are going through a storm in life, it just means we did not get our way and sometimes the best remedy for that is to get over it and move on.
The storms of life that come for our testing and as a result of our obedience are real, pressure-filled times when our faith, our perseverance, and character are truly tested to see what we are truly made of.
In Romans chapter 5 it talks about how we exult (boast, head held high) in our tribulations. Why would any normal, sane person do such a thing? Because the mature and hope-filled Christian knows that our tribulations produce perseverance.
I was recently told that these things that we go through increase our capacity to handle similar things like it. So, when we go through certain pressures and trials, it increases our capacity to handle those situations and so that when we face them again we face them with a higher confidence and readiness that was not there previously.
This perseverance also produces proven character and this proven character fuels our hope. How is this possible?
BECAUSE IN THE STORMS OF LIFE, WE LEARN FAR MORE ABOUT GOD THAN WE DO ABOUT OURSELVES. THE STORMS OF LIFE SHOW US JUST HOW STRONG AND STEADFAST OUR ANCHOR IS.
As we have our character tested and proved and it grows we also see how God sustains us and brings us through it and that produces a hope and a confidence in God that would not be there otherwise. The best testimonies on planet earth are not those Christians who have it easy. No, it is from those who have been through the fire and have come out every time stronger in their faith and confidence not in themselves but IN GOD!!! And in those cases, if a particular trial or affliction is what takes us out of this world then we are all the better for it because we will be face to face with our Savior.
So, what do the storms of life teach us?
1. Storms teach us to always be ready. (Acts 16:16-18)
It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling. Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation. She continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!" And it came out that very moment. (Acts 16:16-18 NASB)
The storms of life can and more often than not come at times in our life when everything is business as usual. The apostles here were going around doing their daily work proclaiming the gospel and making disciples no different than what we do in our daily lives each and every day. They are obeying Christ and obeying the Spirit's prompting and they encounter this slave-girl and cause the demon to come out of her.
The fact that they were so consistent in their obedience demonstrates that they were constantly ready for satanic opposition. Just because Paul demonstrated patience and did not cast out the spirit immediately the first time the spirit caused them issues does not mean that Paul was not ready to do so immediately. The key issue is the obedience of Paul and Silas and those that were with them. They were constantly ready in obedience. The storms of life are going to come. Nothing can change that. They will either come for our testing or they will come as a result of our obedience to God. In either case, the one thing we can ensure is that our obedience is constant. In that way, we are always ready for whatever comes.
2. Storms teach us just how fast everything can change. (v.19-24)
But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities, and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, "These men are throwing our city into confusion, being Jews, and are proclaiming customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans."
Sometimes in life, you can see storms coming and sometimes you have zero warning. This can be true of weather-related storms and is true of spiritual storms. The reason I call them "spiritual storms" is because after all, we are in a spiritual war between the forces of God and the forces of Satan. Satan is the "god" of this world and while the world that he currently governs may think it is winning, Satan's time is short and he will be thrown into the lake of fire at the judgment. Just like a tornado if the conditions are right can pop up seemingly out of nowhere, sometimes a spiritual storm can do the same.
In the case of Paul and Silas, this is exactly the case. While their obedience was constant to God, and while their faith was rock-solid and no doubt always expected the unexpected in the early church, this does not make it any easier or any less shocking to a human being when these storms come violently out of nowhere. In their case, and in large part due to mob mentality, it seems like one second they are casting out a spirit and then 5 minutes later they have been beaten and are thrown in the inner prison.
There are those who may think they can navigate the waters of life better by making the choice to withhold their obedience at times to avoid certain consequences or to achieve better consequences in their estimation. However, there is not one place in Scripture where we are allowed to disobey God for any reason. It is said particularly in the book of Acts that we are allowed to disobey man if what man requires would cause us to disobey God but the reverse where we would have a supposed reason to disobey God is not found in Scripture.
3. Storms teach us that in the midst of the storm we have great opportunity to witness for Christ (v.25)
But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. (Acts 16:25 NASB)
Paul and Silas were right in the middle of a storm as a direct result of their obedience to God. Whereas some might give up or throw in the towel or even go to great lengths to avoid the consequences of obedience or just simply not obey at all, Paul and Silas not only obeyed but remained faithful even in the middle of the spiritual storm they were facing. They were even singing and praising God in the midst of their storm.
The prisoners were listening to them! This is because the world is watching us! The world knows we are different and while the world does hate us, it is also filled with people who God could call to Himself and regenerate and place into the body of Christ and sometimes our best opportunity to witness for Christ is right in the middle of a storm.
If you go back and read chapter 1 of the book of Acts you will read how Christ told His disciples that they would be His witnesses in the surrounding areas and all around the world. This task is still being carried out today as we are all witnesses for Christ who have been saved by His grace and just like Paul and Silas we have great opportunity to witness for Christ in the midst of the storms that we face.
The prisoners listening to them is a huge product of God's power and their faithfulness. We are not told if any of the prisoners are saved as a result but I think I would not be stretching too far to at least suggest that the text implies a great possibility that some if not all were saved and I base this on their actions. When the earthquake occurs, nobody leaves! Now, granted this could be due to the stark fear of experiencing the earthquake, but it also could be due to the influence of two of God's most obedience bond-servants.
4. Storms teach us that God has purpose in every storm. (v.26-34)
And suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were unfastened. When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!" And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household. (Acts 16:26-34 NASB)
So much in life, we tend to see everything in reference to how it affects us. We are tempted to see these storms as God "doing something to us" instead of seeing them as opportunities to serve God and to be faithful to God even in the middle of the storm. We lose sight of the fact that God is completely sovereign and He has a purpose in everything that happens, even the storms of life.
God wasn't allowing this storm to harm Paul and Silas. No, he was using this storm to chase after a jailer's heart!
No matter what happens in this life we know we are promised to inherit it all in the next life. In eternity, everything that belongs to Christ, He will give to us. For now, as we live in this life, we must serve Christ with all that we are and all that we have. We do this while remaining in sinful humanness. Imaging what eternity will be like when we can love and serve God without sin to affect us!
We need to be reminded that no matter what we face, Romans 8:28 is still in the Bible!
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28 NASB)
The reason that we can trust that all things work together for good and that there is a purpose in everything including storms is that the verse says that it is God who works all these things together for good. If it were up to man I would not have much faith that things would or even could work out for good and with purpose.
The good news is that the Bible says that it is, in fact, God who works all things together for good and it is done for His purposes which not only means that He has purpose for everything but that the purposes can be trusted because of who it is that works out that purpose in everything.