Acts 27: 13-15
When a gentle south wind began to blow, they saw their opportunity; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the ‘North-Easter’, swept down from the island. The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along.
Last week we left Paul on a journey by sea to Rome where he will appeal his case before Caesar. Paul sees warning signs that the voyage will be treacherous. He tries to convey his concerns to those responsible for the ship but, since he has no worldly authority or status, he is ignored.
At first it seems like the majority were right and Paul was wrong. A gentle wind helps them move towards their preferred destination. In a similar way, I’ve found that when I do my own thing and disobey God, often at the start everything seems fine. It can even be a lot of fun, it feels liberating. Perhaps even God is blessing me. But look at the next few verses:
“Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the ‘North-Easter’, swept down from the island. The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along.” (vv 14-15)
The gentle breeze very quickly has become a hurricane force wind called the ‘North-Easter’. I’m no expert, but I know when you give a particular wind a name, it’s never a good thing. Just think Hurricane Katrina. The force of the wind coming against them is so strong, look at what it says:
“…we gave way to it and were driven along.”
They just gave up all control to the forces around them.
There’s a huge difference between driving and being driven. When ‘driven’ you might still be moving, but it’s because you are being pushed around uncontrollably by the wind of circumstances surrounding you. You aren’t in control – the conditions control you.
At different times in my life, I’ve found myself asking this question: Am I driving or am I being driven? Am I still in control of this area of my life or is it controlling me?
If you’re not yet married, it could maybe in certain dating relationships. You find yourself in a place where you just give up self-control emotionally or physically to another person. You’re so besotted with them and afraid of losing them that you’re willing to do anything or go through anything to keep them in your life.
Maybe it’s with a habit or something else you’re drawn to. It could be shopping, prescription medication, pornography, alcohol, gambling, gossiping, dishonesty, overeating. At the beginning it’s all seems like harmless good fun. You’re in control. You can stop any time you choose. But over time you give more and more of yourself to it. It becomes more regular. Habitual. You convince yourself that you’re fine, you can still stop. You just choose not to. You will soon. However when you try, you discover that you no longer control it, it controls you. Call it addiction, compulsion or whatever you want, but you’re no longer driving – you’re being driven.
What started looking good and feeling harmless now doesn’t feel so great anymore. In fact, it feels frightening to be out of control. To be pulled in a direction you no longer want to go.
Proverbs 25: 28 says:
“Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.”
In other words, self-control isn’t restrictive, it’s protective. The walls of self-discipline aren’t there to stop you having freedom but rather to stop you being attacked and destroyed by the enemy.
Peter the Great of Russia is quoted as saying, "I have been able to conquer an empire, but I have not been able to conquer myself."
One of the fruit of the Holy Spirit is self-control. That means we have the power to choose to do the right thing, we can decide our thoughts, words and behaviour. We’re not simply at the mercy of our emotions or desires.
Titus 2 says this:
“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…” (vv 11-12)
God’s grace isn’t an excuse to sin. Grace is the Holy Spirit’s empowerment and divine enablement to be able to say ‘no’ to the wrong things and ‘yes’ to the best things.
Ask yourself honestly: Right now in my life in any particular area – am I driving or am I being driven?
You are not powerless. If you find yourself driven in some area of your life, get whatever help you need: prayer, counselling, accountability. Remove yourself from a situation if you need to. Choose today to be controlled by the Spirit as you surrender to His will and draw on His enabling power.