Monday, November 24, 2014

Feeding the Horse, and Other Near Disasters

Disasters (submitted by Kerry Patton)
“But striking a reef where two seas met, they ran the vessel aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern began to be broken up by the force of the waves.” Acts 27:41  
I told you so…
In Acts 27, we find the Apostle Paul in big trouble.  He is a prisoner and is being sailed with some 276 other prisoners up to Italy.  However, well on their way…several days under sail in fact, their ship is overtaken by severe weather.  Apparently, it was very, very bad.  At some point, Paul is trying to convince his captors to turn around and get away from the storm: “Men, I perceive that the voyage will certainly be with damage and great loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” (Acts 27:10) Lacking better judgment however, the centurion and the ship’s pilot make the decision to put out to sea and wait out the storm.  Well, having already read verse 41 above, we know how that ultimately turns out, right?  Paul was a smart man.  He did the math, so to speak, and figured out that they were all pretty well doomed.  But there is more to the story, God wasn’t done with Paul yet, and He had a plan. More about that later...
A Horse Tale
Pushing thirty years ago now, an acquaintance of mine was taking a business trip for the weekend and needed someone to feed and medicate his horse that was ill with a minor affliction.  His usual ‘horse-sitter’ was out of town and he was in a fix, needing someone to care for the recovering pony until he returned.  He asked me.  The problem was I knew nothing about caring for horses.  “Just follow my instructions, I’ll put it all in the instructions and tape it inside the door of the cabinet across from his stall.” he said to reassure me.
Reluctantly, I consented to the commitment and promised my friend I would feed and medicate the horse.  Now, a thunderstorm had moved through the area during the night.  The following morning I drove out to the stable where the horse was kept in its stall.  But arriving, I couldn’t help but notice that the cabinet door across from the stall was opened.  The wind from the storm must have blown it opened during the night.  I stepped closer to the stall and looked for the instructions that my friend had taped to the inside of the door.  What I found were four torn corners of a missing page.  The instructions page was gone!  I felt a nudge against my shoulder.  It was the horse.  My heart was racing!  My worst nightmare was coming into reality.  I had NO IDEA how to care for the recovering horse.  Not knowing the proper amount, I could not administer the medication it needed.  I had no means to contact my out of town friend…for his phone numbers were on the bottom of the missing page!  I was moving now into full panic mode.  What was I going to do??  This poor animal seemed very much…doomed.  I was going to fail in my commitment to help my friend.
Looking down however, I found a curious sight.  There on the ground were a few pieces of mostly chewed pieces of white paper.  It didn’t take long for me to realize what had happened: The wind had blown the door open.  With the door opened, the horse could reach the inside of the door from its stall and had somehow torn off the page of instructions and tried to eat it.  There wasn’t much left.  Still, these pieces were all I had…they were my hope. 
Placing the bits of paper on a table top, I began to try to un-wad the soggy bits.  Most were a total loss.  The ink had blurred and smeared from the horse’s saliva.  But amazingly… there were two surviving pieces.  One told only the information of how much of the medicine to administer, and the other told the amount of food.  I began to praise God!  What seemed like a complete disaster had turned into a lesson on trusting the Lord.  He preserved exactly what I needed…nothing more, and nothing less.  I medicated and fed the horse for those three days and had no further problems.  Everything was fine.  The storm was passed and God had everything under control the whole time.
Back to Paul…
With his fellow prisoners and captors, the Apostle Paul endured a pummeling storm and near starvation for over two weeks!  After fourteen days, Paul stood and gave his captors an ‘I-told-you-so’ speech, but encouraged them to take heart and eat something because God had revealed to him that they were all going to survive.  Eventually, they saw land but didn’t know where they were, and a decision was made to try to run the ship aground there.  Before reaching the shore, the ship struck a coral reef and began to break apart!  The soldiers were discussing putting the prisoners to death to keep them from swimming away and escaping, but the Centurion wanted to keep Paul alive, so their plan was discouraged.  Ultimately, and just as Paul had predicted, everyone made shore alive, safe and sound. Contrary to what the situation might have seemed, God was not finished with Paul, and had plans to bring him just what he needed, just in the nick of time!
No Smilin’ Joel Sermon
It is not my intent to render a biblical account into a “happy-go-lucky, God’s-surely-gonna-bless-you” message of inflated hope. Sometimes tragedy happens in the life of the Christ follower!  Loved ones suffer and die, faithful servants of God experience inexpressible loss; and from our perspective here on Earth, it can seem like God’s timing and plan must be seriously flawed.  But from the position of faith, we hold fast to the belief that whatever befalls us, we cannot be separated from the Love of Almighty God. 
Paul and the rest of the 276 prisoners were delivered from starvation and near drowning!  But they remained in custody as prisoners. While they endured this, God was with them. They were delivered into the hands of Maltans who sheltered and cared for them…and while there, Paul suffers a severe snake bite that everyone expected him to die from.  He survives the snake bite, and while he remained a prisoner, he goes on to perform many healings. God was with him
Sometimes the miracles happen and the dying are delivered.  Sometimes our hearts are broken and torn with loss.  Sometimes, things seem so out of control and beyond our ability to fix that we just have to hold on tight as best as we can and enjoy (translate: endure) the ride.  We don’t know how it’s going to all work out, but what we DO know… is that God loves us.  God is with us.  God will provide what we need, in what fashion we need it, according to his will and plan for our eternal benefit…to the honor and Glory of His name.

Almighty God, you know my heart and that I trust you…no matter what. You also know that I want life to always work out MY way.  But you know what is best.  Help me always to trust you and to look to you when hardship and suffering come my way.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

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