Summary: Don’t You Love A Good Storm? 1) It destroys our sense of self-importance. 2) It heightens our sense of God’s providence.
Lord of the winds! I feel thee nigh,
I know thy breath in the burning sky!
And I wait, with a thrill in every vein,
For the coming of the hurricane!
William Cullen Bryant (1854)
Do you get as excited about storms as the poet Bryant did? I don’t think little children especially enjoy storms. They’re not used to the deep crash of thunder and winds that pull at roof shingles like a giant trying to pop the lid on a tuna can. But as we grow older we learn to like storms. We like them, that is, if we’re not caught in them. Dodging lightning strikes while descending a mountain on foot is not my definition of fun, but watching that same flashing from the dry comfort of a cabin is second to none.
I’m talking about storms this morning because the Apostle Paul was caught in one that lasted fourteen days and fourteen nights – about as long as your Christmas-break from school. Having to weather such a long-lasting storm in our comfortable, well-built houses today would be trying enough. Paul, however, had to ride it out in a wooden ship in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea with no coast guard helicopter standing by to carry out a rescue. But this storm, like every storm we must weather, was a blessing. Our sermon text today gives us two reasons to love a good storm: it destroys our sense of self-importance while heightening our sense of God’s providence.
Paul was on his way to Rome to stand trial for preaching about Jesus when the storm hit. What happened was that when Paul’s ship left the coast of present-day Turkey, it was blown off course and ended up on the island of Crete. Paul said they should spend the winter there because it was already October and not a good time for sailing because of frequent and sudden storms. The pilot and owner of the ship didn’t disagree but they wanted to sail to a better port to spend the winter. The port they had in mind was only 65 kilometers away so when a gentle south wind began to blow, they went for it thinking it would be smooth sailing.
But as soon as they had gotten out into open water, a furious wind with the strength of a hurricane came avalanching down the 2,000 m-high peaks of Crete making it impossible to return to harbor but instead drove the ship into the middle of the Mediterranean. This was the beginning of the fourteen day and fourteen night barrage. Luke, who was with Paul, described the growing desperation of the sailors as they fought to keep the ship afloat. They passed stout ropes underneath the ship to keep the planks from popping apart. They threw into the water a heavy canvass funnel to slow the ship down so that it wouldn’t run aground on sand bars off the coast of North Africa. They threw overboard cargo and rigging to lighten the ship which was being swamped by water. But the storm continued and the sailors had no idea where they were. They finally despaired of all hope and thought they were done for.
But it’s here that we find the first reason to love a good storm; it destroys our sense of self-importance. The pilot and owner of the ship had been confident that they could make it to safe harbor. The seasoned sailors thought they knew all the tricks to keep a ship afloat. But they weren’t as smart or as strong as they thought. The storm exposed that truth. And now these self-important men were more likely to listen to the Apostle Paul the next time he spoke.
You may have never experienced a fourteen-day storm at sea but you may have had to endure a fourteen-hour wait in Emergency, or a fourteen thousand dollar bill for unexpected home repairs. These are often the kinds of storms we have to weather but the result is the same: they destroy our sense of self-importance. That’s a blessing because by nature we think we’re hot stuff. Oh sure, others might have car trouble on long trips but not us. We’re thorough in our pre-trip car inspections. Others might suffer from heart trouble. Not us. We eat right. Don’t we even start to think this way with spiritual matters? “Of course I’m one of God’s dearly-loved children. Look at my church attendance record, my offering total, my choice of friends…”
God certainly wants us to be circumspect with our lives but he also wants us to humbly acknowledge that if we have any success, it’s because he has blessed us. And if we live in such a way that our lives are in line with his will, it’s because he has prompted it. Since we so easily forget this, God sends storms to destroy our sense of self-importance. Just to be clear, these storms are not punishment but further evidence of God’s love for us. For these storms not only destroy our sense of self-importance, they heighten our sense of God’s providence, that is, his care for us. Let’s turn back to our text to see how this is true.