Acts 27:23-24 “Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.'”
When we think of God giving people things, we don’t often think of it in terms of people or lives. However, as this story illustrates, He sometimes does exactly that. True to what the angel said, they had a very thorough shipwreck, but with no loss of life, which was pretty remarkable, especially long before the invention of the life jacket. When God gives us people, it’s never as slaves. We use the expression, “God gave me a wife,” but a wife is not a possession in the sense of a car or even a hamburger. Some people actually treat their spouse that way, but that is tragic for everyone concerned. A Psalmist spoke prophetically, “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.” (Psalm 2:8) In those days, “nations” spoke more of people groups than of territory, which is why that verse also speaks of “the ends of the earth.” That verse is often quoted in terms of world evangelism, very appropriately, I think. However, Paul’s situation was much more immediate. I would be interested to know how many of those aboard that ship eventually came to faith in Christ. With all that followed, it could well have been 100%! However, it is clear from the context that the angel was referring to physical life, and that was certainly granted. We should not hesitate to ask God for people, for lives. In times of disaster, such as Paul faced, it is entirely appropriate. It is also appropriate to pray for workers to come alongside you as you serve the Lord. Jesus said, “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:38) (Such prayer, however, must also include willingness to be a harvest worker yourself.) It is also appropriate to pray for a spouse. In none of these situations do the people involved become property; we must remember that we are given to them as much as they are given to us.
This is very close to home for me. God gave me a wife over 49 years ago, but He also gave me to her. He has given the people of Japan to me (though I certainly haven’t seen that in fullness) but He has also given me to them. Right now I am praying for co-laborers for the harvest, but I must also remember that I am to be a mentor to whomever the Lord provides. Around 25 years ago I was in a rather intense prayer meeting and I felt the Lord saying to me, “Ask for whatever you want.” I asked for a particular individual, and in short order he made a very clear commitment to Christ that has continued to this day. Maybe I should have asked for the whole city! I’ve got to remember that what God cares about is people, and focus myself on them after first focusing on my Lord. That’s exactly what Jesus said when specifying the 1st and 2nd Commandments. (Matthew 28:37-40)
Father, thank You for this reminder. There are so many distractions! Help me indeed desire eternal life for the people around me, not to inflate myself but for their salvation and Your glory. May I seek workers, not to take the load off of me but so that many more may be brought into Your kingdom. Thank You. Hallelujah!