“When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment. We boarded a ship from Adramyttium about to sail for ports along the coast of the province of Asia, and we put out to sea. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with us. The next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius, in kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs. From there we put out to sea again and passed to the lee of Cyprus because the winds were against us. When we had sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board. We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus. When the wind did not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea.” Acts (27:1-8).
Bear this in mind, Paul is following God’s will, He is in God’s perfect will. As we read pass these 8 verses, we see how that’s so different than what we understand being in God’s will looks like. Because we have this perception that it’s always comfortable, it’s always easy, the doors are open, we get what we want, we do great things for God, everybody applauds us, this is what we think God’s will is. Paul is in God’s will and he is in prison. So, it’s way different than what you and I understand God’s will to be. Paul was following God’s will and we can trace that all the way back throughout the book of Acts, beginning in Acts 1 verse 8, which is the theme of the entire book, all of the book really just revolves around that one verse there, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). The word “witnesses” here means in Greek, “martures”, which means you will bear witness to the truthfulness of who Jesus Christ is, even to the point of dying for the privilege of saying that. It’s a long definition but it’s where we get our word for “martyr”. The first martyr was Stephen, first thing he was doing was talking about Jesus, and because he was talking about Jesus they murdered him. And so, when Jesus use this word, it resonated with all those people, they understood exactly what it meant, it wasn’t just, ‘you going to tell people that Jesus has a great plan for your life and if they offend you, you going to scary away in fear.’ No. It meant that you are going to boldly proclaim this anywhere, anytime and to anyone and possibly at the cost of your life. So, that’s really the understanding right there at the beginning of the book. And this is God’s will, not only for Paul but for all Christians. And Paul is certainly living this out, it wasn’t given to Paul directly, but it was given to disciples and ultimately to the entire church including Paul.
Now we see Paul living with this attitude, ‘I am living for the privilege of dying to myself and literally for Christ.’ He is taking that to the end of the earth and now we are looking at Rome, he is in God’s will. And then, we see it further in Acts 9, this is his testimony, this is how he was saved. He was not seeking after God, he was persecuting and killing Christians. Paul was all about that. He was the one who was enforcing those Jewish laws; he was capturing Christians, prosecuting them, having them put to death and Jesus was seeking him, not the other way around. After Paul had been saved, Lord says to this man Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:15-16). God’s perfect will for Paul’s life and it includes this word ‘suffering’, it’s a word that when we see it and experience it, we reject it as the will of God. Many of us think that this Christian walk is supposed to be easy, and we think that suffering is not the part of God’s will. Lord’s will for Paul, “you going to go share the Gospel and you going to suffer.”
“The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, ‘Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.’” (Acts 23:11). Here is the third insight into God’s will for Paul. He is in prison, no hope of getting out, he is very discouraged, and Lord tells him that, “Take courage, for as you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome”. This is really the third time Holy Spirit or Lord Himself has shown up and told Paul, not only you going to be the witness of me to the ends of the earth, not only you going to witness before kings and gentiles and suffer for my name but you going to do so specifically in Rome. And now Paul is on a boat and he is going to Rome, he is already witnessed Christ in front of Jewish kings, gentiles, he is living out God’s will, he is suffering. If you read 2 Corinthians chapter 11 and you get this list of everything that happen to him during the course of his ministry and you understand very quickly that he was indeed living in God’s will, because we see it plainly in scripture and then he writes about it; I was shipwrecked, I was left for dead, I was stoned, they hated me, etc. And God had told him that you are going to suffer for my name’s sake, that’s my will for your life, that’s your mission. When we hear it, we say, anybody but me, that’s for super Christians, guys like Paul not us. Now we see him going to Rome (the seat of earthy power) to do God’s will, to fulfill His mission and that is to open his mouth and share boldly, the blessings, and the beauties, and the perfections of Jesus Christ. This is God’s will for Paul.
Are you really living God’s will? Let’s look at these signs that you are indeed living God’s will:
The first sign that you are in God’s will is when you experience instances of extreme fear:
Let’s see if this is true in case of Paul, especially of his voyage on the Mediterranean Sea in Acts 27:9-10, “Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them, and said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives.” Paul is thinking that it is his game over, we are all going to die, that’s essentially what he said there. We truly have this misconception about God’s will, we think that if I am in God’s will there is no fear, no storms, there are no challenges to overcome, it supposed to be smooth sailing, it supposed to be nice fair winds taking us all the way to Rome, some good fishing, some whales, etc. But think about this, following God’s will on those terms; ease, comfort, success, etc. requires no faith. When you are challenged, when you are feared, you are devoid of yourself and you have nothing but God. And that does something to a man, that does something to a woman, that’s what changes us.
The second sign that you are in God’s will is when you endure immense trials:
We see this throughout Paul’s life. In Acts 27:13-20 painted a vivid picture of what being in God’s will often look like. These storms are equivalent of category 1 hurricane. They were in the eye of the storm, they were in fear and Paul was in God’s will. That endeavor led him to face one of the most grueling trials, fearful trials of his life. This storm reminds us how insignificant, how utterly powerless and fragile we are, it reminds us how incredibly powerful God is beyond our imagination and how insignificant and powerless we truly are. It put things in perspective in our relationship with God. This is the purpose of storm in your life to rob you of yourself and to magnify God in your sight. It is not to crush you, it is not so that you get lost in this sea of desperation and depression. It’s intended for you to finally come to the end of yourself and there in the midst of it to see God in His majesty and in His power. The storm is God’s will.
The third sign that you are in God’s will is when you receive encouragement from the Lord:
We can see this in Acts 27:21-38. In the midst of fear and the storm, finally Paul receives a word of encouragement. “Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So, keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.” (verses 23-28).
Look at the Scripture, look at the lives of the men like Paul, have you ever thought- maybe it’s God’s will for me to have challenges, big fights, spiritually in my life. Maybe it’s God’s will to sacrifice my time, my energy, my finances, my everything for the sake of God’s will. Maybe it’s God’s will for me to suffer in pursuit of Him doing what He wants instead of what I want. That’s the real definition of God’s will. We need to embrace our fears and our storms, so that we can become more like Christ.