Life is a journey. As it has been said, “Some days are diamonds. Some days are stones.” Life isn’t always a beach. Sometimes, and often times, life is like being lost at sea during a raging storm.
In the book of Acts we learn how the Apostle Paul was literally fighting for his life in the middle of nothing short of a category five hurricane!
Things started out okay. The sun was out and the seagulls were cackling as Paul and his sojourners boarded the ship. As Paul put it, “When the time came, we set sail.” Key point. When the time came. Put another way, when the time was right.
Timing is everything and when the time is right and we are ready there is nothing like being in the right place at the right time. It seemed right. It felt right. It was right. They pulled out of the harbor with eyes on the horizon as the wind filled their sails. Smooth sailing waited ahead. Or so they thought.
We all experience those times when everything seems to be going our way. Life is good. The bank account is fat. Our bellies are full. Friends abound. The sun is shining and our tan line starts to appear. But not too far off shore we begin to experience a few headwinds. They come as a slight breeze at first. Refreshing in fact but before long, our hat is blown into the rising waves. We sense things are changing as dark clouds roll in.
Headwinds mount. The sails are pulled. We batten down the hatches and prepare for what we hope is a passing storm. One night of lost sleep turns into many. Riding the waves puts our head into a spin. The loss of appetite? A mere symptom of life at sea.
Like life, life at sea can change in an instant. The headwinds we face not only pound the vessel they play with our attitude as well. We hold fast to anything that brings comfort as the winds that now roar in our minds bring new meaning to fighting the storm from within. Headwinds are now impacting our thought life.
The struggle is real. An expected joy ride has turned into a fight for survival. As the planks creak beneath and loosen around us, we can’t but wonder; Will it hold? Can I make it through this? Do I have what it takes to face these headwinds from within and from without? Will the boat hold or blow apart as trials, tribulations, setbacks and difficulties linger as more trouble lies ahead?
The beautiful sunset that once danced on the horizon has now been consumed by a dark evil that looms and hisses on a violent sea and is mirrored in the skies above. We look up and can’t help but wonder; “What were we thinking? How did we end up here? Why didn’t we see this coming? Where is God in all of this? Is it time to abandon ship? Will my faith get me through this?
The right time, even God’s timing, doesn’t guarantee life at sea will be easy. Life is a journey and the paths we take are often full of twists and turns. Ups and downs. Change and pains. Hurts and hang ups. Disappointments, misunderstandings, lies, betrayals, bumps and bruises are all part of the cruise we call life.
Listen up mate. Let’s face it, life isn’t always pretty. Some days are better than others and some are worse than all the others combined. Life is a challenge. At times giving up appears to be the only option as we consider a permanent solution to a temporary typhoon that has overwhelmed and swamped the bow.
The storm has now become internal. The battle rages from within. The storm is relentless. We wonder if we will soon go down with the ship. But then we remember. This ship is equipped with a lifeboat. It is exactly what we need. Someone has thrown us a lifeline. God has put the key to survival within reach. We can do this. With His help, we take courage. We regain hope and even start to feel hunger pains. Not just for food but for life itself. If we can hang on for just a little while longer we can make it to the break in the clouds as a glimmer of hope shines through the darkness that has engulfed every part of our being.
As what remains of our former life drifts away, broken and in shambles, we let loose of the anchors and debris that have held us back. We now find ourselves navigating calmer waters and brighter days as the shoreline begins to appear on the not so distant skyline. It looks like we will make it! Our sea legs have strengthened as we shake off the fear that has gripped our hearts. We pushed through the pain and overcame unmet expectations only to discover that we have what it takes. We didn’t know what it took but when the time came, we possessed the moral fiber, grit and stamina to see it through.
Our ship has come in and we were on it. Our little vessel might look a lot different than the robust ship we once boarded with glee, but we have arrived. We have survived. We made it! What a ride! We conquered the challenges, the highs, the lows, the doubts, the concerns and the crisis! We were headstrong in the headwind and lived to tell about!
Storms come and storms go as tranquil seas turn turbulent in no time. Nonetheless we are not satisfied to remain at bay. We must face our fears, raise our sails and push off into the great unknown where the clouds kiss the sea. Life was meant to be lived between and on top of the waves!
(For more on the storm Paul faced, turn to Acts 27 and 28.)
Are you called to live a life worth following?
A challenge for those who desire to lead:
Are our lives scalable and duplicatable?
“You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.” 2 Timothy 2:2
We are called to produce reproducers.
Classes produces classes.
Lectures produce lecturers.
Disciples produce disciples.
Faithful men produce faithful men.
Purpose-driven leaders produce purpose-driven leaders.
A life worth following is caught more than taught.
It requires life on life.
One on one interaction as we are called to duplicate ourselves.
Are we worth duplicating?
Would we want others to model our lives?
If they really knew us, what would they discover? What dark realities linger in the shadows of our lives?
Are we leaders worth following?
You can’t share what you don’t have.
What do we have to share?
Are we who we say we are?
Are we able to say as Paul, “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ.”
We have been forewarned.
“Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.” James 3:1
We must take our calling very seriously and ask ourselves in silence before the Lord, are we leaders worth following?
What makes us creditable?
What well of experience are we drawing from?
Are we walking the talk?
How close is our mouth to our feet?
Faking it until we make it is not an option when aspiring to lead others into battle. The risk of casualty remains forever an unmeasurable reality.
“You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.” 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7 NIV
What example are we setting? Are our lives models for other believers?
Does doing so require perfection? Are we capable of living without fault, error or mistake? What criteria disqualifies us from leading?
We are called according to His purpose, to be filled with the Spirit and led by His word.
Without this daily commitment we have become derelict of our duties and deemed unfit to serve.
We would do well to take seriously the roles we play in the lives of others as we practice spiritual disciplines essential for living a life worth following.
“So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.” 2 Thessalonians 1:11
There is an old saying, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”
There is something to be said about this advice. It assumes you know how to not only accomplish the task appropriately but it also assumes you are the right person for the job.
You might know the right way but are you the right person?
A good filter for determining the answer is to ask yourself another question, “Is this the highest and best use of my time?
Like any start-up organization, the Apostles found themselves trying to manage the challenges of a thriving movement. Good things were happening and fast. In the process, some of the finer details were starting to slip through the cracks.
Rumblings and grumblings were starting to appear as growing pains were sign of growth. Truth is, progress comes with a few stretch marks! The team was being stretched and it was starting to show in their countenance and cooperation toward a common goal.
What leadership lessons can we learn from Acts 6:1-5?
I call it the 3D Operating System
1. Duplicate yourself
2. Delegate your duties
3. Do your job
The Apostles were at their personal limits. There is only so much time in the day. You can only do so much. Solution? Clone a “mini-me”! Duplicate yourself! You can’t do it all! You need help!
Look for leaders who are well respected for their core competencies, are led by strong values and are known for making wise decisions.
Delegate your duties. Everyone has different gifts and abilities. What are the things you are great at and are most suited for your strengths? Are there things you care doing that can be accomplished by other highly competent people? Who, if we are honest, might actually do an even better job? Stay in your lane! Operate from your sweet spot and determine what constitutes the highest and best use of your time and talents. Quite simply, delegate!
Finally, do your job. Stay focused on what you have to contribute to the team and trust others to do the same as you divide and conquer!
God has given you certain gifts, talents and abilities that are unique to you. The same is true for others on your team. The key is in having everyone operate from their strengths. Highly functioning teams not only work well together, they find great satisfaction in knowing they contributed to the greater good. There is something special about knowing we did more together than we ever could alone.
I love the last line from Acts 6:5, “Everyone liked this idea.”
When we duplicate ourselves, delegate duties and do our job according to the highest possible good, great things start to happen and everybody likes the idea!
Try the 3D Operating System and you might just be surprised what gets done without you!
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
Satan and his demons are very powerful and active. We live in a multidimensional world.
There is more to this life than what is seen. The life we live is not a game. We aren’t playing around. This is serious warfare. We must live with a sense of urgency and gravity.
We are at war. Everyday is a battle. The enemy is real and seeks to devour, defeat and destroy us.
We are on the front lines of the battlefield. The enemy is a schemer and isn’t messing around. We are to gear up and put on “the whole armor of God, that we may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11)
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:8)
Fight the good fight, finish the race. Keep the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)
Notice it says fight not play, finish not quit.
It says keep the faith. Do not lose heart.
We are not called to sit on the sideline.
We are not commissioned to watch passively as the wolf runs wild among the sheep.
No, we are called to fight. To finish and to win.
We are called to be warriors. Soldiers of God. Knights in the Lord’s army.
We are called to be people of valor, dignity and honor.
Our commander is anything but apathetic. He is a force to be reckoned with.
May those who oppose him feel the weight of his presence and may we be found among those who take a stand with our leader as the enemy stands down!
We are called to fight not flight, dignity not debauchery, purity not perversion, virtue not vulgarity, decency not deceit, accountability not atrocity, peace not pain, family not freaks, facts not fantasy, compassion not collusion, deliberation not deception, liberation not loathfulness, hope not hate, faith not fear, and love not lies.
The stakes are to high and the battle to fierce to lay low, hide out and wait for the danger to pass us by. We are called to lock arms, step into the fray and lead the way to a better way of life.
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. (John 10:10-13)
In a fight between a sheep and a wolf the sheep doesn’t stand a chance, unless there is a shepherd. We must trust the Good Shepherd is tending his sheep and remember, he is on our side!
“Stay alert. This is hazardous work I’m assigning you. You’re going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack, so don’t call attention to yourselves. Be as cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove.”
“Don’t be naive. Some people will impugn your motives, others will smear your reputation—just because you believe in me. Don’t be upset when they haul you before the civil authorities. Without knowing it, they’ve done you—and me—a favor, given you a platform for preaching the kingdom news! And don’t worry about what you’ll say or how you’ll say it. The right words will be there; the Spirit of your Father will supply the words.”
“When people realize it is the living God you are presenting and not some idol that makes them feel good, they are going to turn on you, even people in your own family. There is a great irony here: proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate! But don’t quit. Don’t cave in. It is all well worth it in the end. It is not success you are after in such times but survival. Be survivors! Before you’ve run out of options, the Son of Man will have arrived.” (Matthew 10:16-23 MSG)
“Don’t be intimidated. Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are. So don’t hesitate to go public now.”
“Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands.” (Matthew 10:26-28 MSG)
Wow! I am blown away by Ellicott’s Commentary on Luke 7:18-22
Are you the Messiah?
Had mists of doubt crept over John’s clear conviction that Jesus was the Messiah?
John wanted the lightning; Christ told him that the silent sunshine exerts energy, to which the fiercest flash is weak.
We need the lesson, for we are tempted to exalt force above love, if not in our thoughts of God, yet in looking at and dealing with men; and we are slow to apprehend the teaching of Bethlehem and Calvary, that the divinest thing in God, and the strongest power among men, is gentle, pitying, self-sacrificing love.
The deepest meaning of the answer is that love, pity, healing, are the true signs, not judicial, retributive, destructive energy.
What a wonderful observation and transformation we see in the lives of James and John, the Sons of Thunder!
Oh how I can relate!
The Website, GotQuestions.org does a great job giving insight behind the nickname! Here is their post on subject.
Why did Jesus refer to James and John as the sons of thunder?
In Mark 3, Jesus calls twelve men to be His apostles. Among them are “James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder)” (Mark 3:17). This is the only place in Scripture that mentions the designation of the sons of Zebedee as the Sons of Thunder, and there is no stated explanation as to why Jesus named them this.
However, Jesus has a purpose for everything He does, so He must have had a good reason for dubbing James and John as “Sons of Thunder.” “Jesus . . . knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man” (John 2:24-25). In other words, Jesus knew the brothers’ nature when He first met them, and He chose “Boanerges” as a fitting nickname.
In one vivid incident, we see that James and John possessed some truly thunder-like qualities. Jesus and His disciples were traveling through Samaria on their way to Jerusalem when they ran into trouble. Jesus attempted to find accommodations for the night in one place but was met with opposition from the villagers, simply because His destination was Jerusalem—a result of Jew-Samaritan prejudice. “When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?’” (Luke 9:54). Jesus rebuked the brothers, and they all went to another village. James and John’s response to the Samaritans reveals a fervency, impetuosity, and anger that could properly be called “thunderous”—and we can be sure that there were other times when James and John lived up to their nickname.
James and John were two of Jesus’ closest friends, being two of the “inner three” disciples (see Matthew 17:1). As the church age began, James was the first apostle to be killed (Acts 12:2), while John was the last to die, although of old age. John’s epistles, written late in his life, hint that he still possessed a fervency of spirit, especially in his denunciations of apostates and deceivers (1 John 2:22; 2 John 7; 3 John 10).
However, it is a fervency tempered by love. In fact, in 1 John the word “love” and its relatives occur over 40 times. When he first met Jesus, John was one of the “Boanerges.” But after walking with Jesus for a lifetime, the “Son of Thunder” earned a new nickname: the “Apostle of Love.”