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Truth for Tempest Times

by Julius Hovan

Hovans(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program.)

We welcome you, again, to the broadcast of Words of Life.   Many of you listening today are long time listeners and, my, how we appreciate your faithfulness to listen to us. Maybe you can call a friend up that doesn’t listen and they can tune in and receive a blessing and maybe you are a first time listener. Maybe you are traveling in your car. Maybe you are just sitting, relaxing at home, whatever. We thank you for joining us and we pray the message will be a blessing to you.

Many years ago I heard an individual talk from this passage in the book of Acts chapter 27. And his points were well made and they brought a great blessing to me. And one statement especially just stuck with me and provided an outline for the message that we are going to share. In Acts chapter 27 you recognize this as the picture of Paul. He is on a vessel. He is being sent to Rome and they have been caught in a terrible storm and the ship is being torn apart and Paul says in verse 23 the message that will be the heart of our talk.

You remember how terrible the storm is. He says in verse 22: I exhort you to be of good cheer. Now they are in a terrible storm. Be of good cheer? Well, how could Paul say that? For there shall be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. How did Paul know that? Well, he tells us in verse 23. For there stood by me this night an angel of the God whose I am whom also I serve. And he said: Fear not, Paul. You must stand before Caesar and God has granted all of them that sail with thee. And so God has told Paul that they will be saved. The ship will be destroyed, but the people and Paul will be saved.

I am impressed with the statement in verse 23 when Paul says: The God whose I am and the God whom I serve. Here is the confession of the apostle Paul in an hour of crisis. What about today? Do you see and hear the same news reports that I do? There is crisis all over the world. In the United States of America there are many things producing crisis. Government is simply inadequate, it appears, to do anything about it. I read of the wars that go on all over the world, people killing each other, killing their own people, the horrible situations of finances and hunger. Crisis? Oh, we are indeed in a crisis.

The situation that Paul is in on this ship about to be wrecked is similar to our day today. There were 276 passengers aboard this vessel. And so, today, as they are caught in that storm, we are caught in the winds of change that are going on around us. There is a current of rebellion against God and his Word. There is tremendous turmoil of all kinds and we are being born along to wreck and ruin if God does not intervene. How can we kill our unborn? How can we allow and promote perversion in this world? How can we have no value of human life? We are in a present plight of chaos and crisis because we have refused to listen. Paul had told them before this voyage started: But we better not go. It is the season of the year for storms. And we will not be safe. But they would not listen, Paul said. And, as a result, they are in the storm.

And so Paul’s situation aboard this vessel resembles our situation. In times like these only a firm conviction and a faithful confession will solve the problem. How could Paul stand in the midst of this and say what he said? And so in our day this is not a day for guessing and for doubts and for theories and experiments. We need a faith that is rooted in a proven being, this proven being God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Who is going to stand up in our day and make such a proclamation as Paul? Oh, everything is going to be ok.

The politicians certainly do not do that. Educators can’t do it. Scientists are not able to do it. In times like these it is we who are Christians who need to be on deck sharing the message of hope and salvation and assurance. And too many are like Jonah in the sleep, fast asleep.

And so in our day I think we need to stress the same thing that Paul stressed. The God whose I am, that is ownership, God owns me, Paul says, not what I own, but who owns me. And the God whom I serve. I have an occupation and that occupation is to serve God. Not what do I do for living, but what am I living for. Would you think of these two things with me in this broadcast today? Paul addresses ownership by God.

Conversion to Christ, becoming a Christian involves and includes a change of ownership. In the book of 1 Corinthians chapter six Paul reminds them: Don’t you know you were bought with a price? You are not your own. We are now as Christians owned by God. Have you given any thought as to what that might mean? Listen to the words of Paul in the sixth chapter of the book of Romans beginning at verse 16. Don’t you know that to whom you present yourself as servants unto obedience, his servants you are whom you obey?

Now you have two choices. You can obey sin which results in death or obedience to God and that results in righteousness. But thanks be to God that whereas you were servants of sin you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching which was delivered to you. You have now been made free from sin and become servants of righteousness.

I love the prayer of a man named B. H. Carroll. He prayed: Lord, write your name on my head that I may think like you, on my lips that I might speak like you, on my feet that I may walk where you would have me walk, on my hands that they would work for you, on my ears that they would listen to your voice, on my heart that I can love like you love and on my shoulders that I can bear the loads of life all over me. I want to be totally thine.

Are all of your powers under the dominion of God? Will you let him provide you that power? And then what about our possessions? Are they at disposal of God? Slaves have nothing that they can call their own. And if we belong to God we are, as Paul called himself, a bond servant, a bond slave. All we have does, in truth, belong to him. David Livingstone put it this way. I will place no value on anything I possess except in relation to the kingdom of God. Oh today everything we own is ours. Everything we possess we have gained by hard work and the sweat of our brow and working that job and we have a right to it. No, my friends, it is really God’s, if you are a Christian. We are not doing God a favor. What an attitude this would be that Mr. Livingstone had and what that would mean if the Church had that attitude. All my power is under the dominion of God. All my possessions are at his disposal and all of my plans at his direction. A slave does the bidding of the master. We must understand that. We come to God and we want him to bless our plans. We want him to fulfill our will.

And you know the fact of the matter about that. It would be tragic if God gave us all the things we wanted and did things that we wanted them to be done. Rather than asking God to get in on our plans, let’s ask him to help us get in on what he wants to do.

 

The illustration given by my friend who shared this message with me told about a man in Huttersfield, England. A man saw a great potential in a little piece of property and he bought all of that property except one small plot on which there was the cottage of this little Quaker. And so he sent his agents to buy this little piece of property.

Now get the picture. Mr. Ramesdan has purchased everything all around it except this little plot of ground with this little small cottage in which the Quaker lived. But the Quaker refused to sell. He tried everything. He himself came to visit with no availability of this property. Finally he said: I will cover every inch of this ground with gold sovereigns. And the answer of the little Quaker was this: Not unless you will set them on edge. While beaten, Mr. Ramesdan left and as he left he heard the little Quaker say: Remember, sir John, Huttersfield belongs to thee and to me.
How many of us can it be said: I belong to God and to Satan? Is that a possibility? This man, this woman, this boy, this girl belong to God and to the devil at the same time? Oh, what an impossibility that is. God’s design is that his children belong to him exclusively. There are powers under his dominion. They are possessions at his disposal, their plans under his direction, ownership by God. Have you considered that if you are a Christian listening today that you don’t belong to yourself? You belong to God. And would you thought about who does own you? Is it the person that you work for or a mate or your children or some horrible habit that possesses you and dominates you and controls you? What owns you today?
But Paul goes a step further when he begins now to talk about occupation for God. A very basic part of our Christian witness today is our basic relationship to God. We belong to him, the God whose I am. But this second part is of equal importance. We serve God. The word Paul uses, as we have said, is the Word for the worship of a God. Worship and service are inseparable. Service and worship go together. It is a bond servant relationship.

So what might we mean when we think about being occupied, being busy working for God? First of all it means simply separation to God. That is what the religious word sanctification means, to be set apart to God, to be holy people, to do what is right and to know and do the will of God. Too often in this regard we emphasize the negative. We can’t do this and we can’t do that and we certainly want to be separated from evil and error.

There is a positive side. We are separated to God. We are given over to truth. We have a goal of holiness. And we are aware that no man can serve two masters. Choose you this day, the Scriptures say, whom you will serve.

Lilias Trotters of England had great potential as an artist and she had already proven that. Sir John Ruskin, an art critic, promised that if she would cooperate with him he would make her England’s leading painter. A Christian woman, she wrote this in her diary. I saw that I could not give myself to art in the way he asked and still seek first the kingdom of God. She went to North Africa to work among the Muslims. What a difference. Separated to God.

How sad when one allows their personal will, their personal plans to keep them from being in God’s place of service. Oh, for many of us adults, we cannot ever go back. We can never make that decision to follow where we should have followed. Our life is behind us. But, oh, young people, teenagers, children, young adults, choose carefully what you will do. What about your dreams, your purpose, you life? They may have to be sacrificed for the reality of God’s unfailing plan and purpose. But, oh, what a swap it is to get the will of God in place of your personal will? And so it is that you must be separated to God if you are going to be in occupation for him.

And we certainly know that it involves submission to God, saying yes to every desire of God. What does God want me to do today? This week? This month? This year? As we think about that, we search for that, we seek that and God provides the knowledge of what he would have us to do.

The story is told that during the American Civil War General Lee sent a message to Stonewall Jackson requesting: The next time you are in the area, stop by to see me. As soon as Mr. Jackson got the message he rode eight miles on horseback in a heavy snow storm. When he got there Mr. Lee said: I did not send for you. I know that, Jackson replied, but you said you wanted to see me. And your slightest wish is a command to me.

What would it mean to the success of the Church? What would it mean to the evangelization of the world if every Christian or most Christians or most churches has this attitude? God, what is your will? God, your command is there for me to follow and to follow immediately. And let’s remind ourselves that when we say no, when we delay, we are rejecting the command of God. And when we follow God and when we follow his will and his Word and his commands, we will find that they are not grievous. In obedience there is tremendous joy.

A friend of mine in Texas says: Remember, God will never do you dirty. Oh, my friends, if he wants you to do it, if he leads you in a certain way it is going to be the best for you. Here we are, then, in occupation for God. In order to do that I have to be separated to God, set aside for him. I have to be willing, then, also to be submissive to his will.

This concluding point is one that is really hard for all of us. I know it is for me. It involves sacrifice for God. You are familiar with the words of Romans 12. I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present you bodies a living sacrifice holy, acceptable to God which is your reasonable or spiritual service. And do not be fashioned according to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you can prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Sacrifice, oh, not many of us like to think about giving up what is ours, giving up our money, our will, our lives, our time, our bodies, but God wants us to present ourselves as living sacrifices. And Paul says this is a logical response to the mercy of God.

When I look back and think how God’s mercy has been given to me, how his grace has been showered upon me, instead of receiving judgment and condemnation and being sent into a devil’s hell, I have been saved and been put in a position to enjoy eternity with a holy God, oh, what a difference that makes when I look at what God has promised to me. Over and over the Scriptures say and exhort: Be though faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life.

Oh, we can think of Stephen, that first Christian martyr, stoned to death as he preached the truth of the Word of God. Or we can think of those many in the Old Testament such as those three Hebrew children who would refuse to bow down to the image and would be thrown into the fiery furnace caring not. If they were consumed, that was the will of God. If they were delivered, that was the will of God. They were willing to make a sacrifice for God. I confess to you today that is a difficult decision for me to make. I am selfish. That is our nature. But, oh, that we can learn somehow to sacrifice for God.

 

You have probably heard the battle of Marathon between the Persians and the Greeks. You remember the Greeks won. They wanted to get word to Athens very quickly of their victory. Miltiades, the victorious general, called one of his soldiers, Pheidippides, and he said: You run with this message of victory. It was a 26 mile trip over the mountains and he had already been in battle all day, but he went. He got there in record time, broke the good news and dropped dead, so the story goes. We now run marathons, many people do, that 26 mile trip. Well, this man ran it willing to sacrifice even his very life.

We have a hymn in our hymnals that says, “Go, labor on, spend and be spent. Thy joy to do the Father’s will. It is the way the master went. Should not the servant tread it still?”

A poet has written: Men die in darkness at your side without a hope to cheer the tomb. Take up the torch and wave it wide, the torch that lights time’s thickest gloom. That is why we broadcast Words of Life, because there is darkness. There is death. There is tragedy. And we bring the Word of life, a message of hope.

The Hebrew writer put it this way: Wherefore you receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken and so let us have grace whereby we may offer service well pleasing to God with reverence and awe for our God is a consuming fire.

As we close this broadcast for you and for me in the fury and the frenzy of our day, the Christian needs to sound in no uncertain terms the testimony of Paul. I am owned by God and I am busy for him. And, oh, lost one, who is not a Christian, who has not come to this great God and Lord Jesus, don’t be content with being a slave of the devil. He is not interested in your welfare, only in your eternal destruction. Give yourself to God. Accept his love and grace and avoid his wrath and judgment. We will be glad to help you make that and you will hear the words: Be still, peace, be still in the midst of your turmoil.
                                     Julius Hovan is minister of the Bohon Church of Christ, Bohon, KY.




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