TiO 45 – Grit – The Centred Life (Week 5)
The Main Idea
What allowed Paul to be calm and confident in the face of extreme danger while at sea in Acts? What allowed him to be confident when he evangelized both Jews and Greeks? He was not a prayer warrior in the way that we would envision such a person: no where in the New Testament does it talk about Paul spending large blocks of time in prayer nor do we see great prayers of Paul written down in his writings. Paul’s life, however, was characterized as one centred in prayer, and this came out in this ideas and his actions.
Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)
Q1: In what ways do you or the people around you use the word, or the idea of, centre? Eg., “City Centre”.
Q2: Wheels are an example of something with a centre. In what way would our society be changed if we removed all wheels and other objects consisting of round exterior rotating around a central axis?
Q3: What kinds of things do you do by habit, without much thought?
Dig a Little Deeper
In his message, Todd used an example from Acts to illustrate a teaching of Paul from 1 Thessalonians. Begin by reading Paul’s teaching about prayer as the centre of life:
Read 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22
This passage speaks of the values that Paul holds to be central to the Christian life.
Q1: List all the values that you see coming out of 1 Thess. 5:12-22
Now read the passage in Acts that Todd taught from
Read Acts 27
With reference to the passage in Acts:
Q2: How does Paul show the attributes he described in 1 Thess. 5:12-22, specifically making peace, encouragement, showing patience, doing good, rejoicing, praying always, give thanks, embrace good and reject evil?
In his message Todd talked about “pray without ceasing” and made a parallel to the idea of a chronic cough: it is not really 24/7 it just feels like that. So, you could say that someone who takes Paul’s command to heart may be a “chronic prayer” or perhaps an “habitual prayer”. This is not necessarily a prayer warrior who spends hours at a time in prayer but simply someone who makes prayer, however long, a habit.
To review, Todd first talked of the paybacks of a life with prayer at the centre:
- Your dynamic link to God is strengthened
- You are better prepared for the next storm in life
- You are better prepared for God to use you in any given moment and a moment’s notice
Finally, Todd talked of using the time at your disposal to pray.
- Pray while walking
- Pray while exercising
- Pray while commuting or doing vehicle-based errands
- Pray while waiting in lines or for appointments
Q3: Talk together about how you do (or could) use circumstances like these to make prayer a habit in your life.
Q4: What kind of preparation would you need to use these times most effectively?
If prayer, and the value that it brings to our lives and our relationship with God is to be effective, it must be regular. What we need is to become chronic or habitual prayers. And any habit requires some discipline. It is like exercise, you do not need to run a marathon every day for it to be effective, you just need to find a time and a mode that works for you. Then, you do it.
Q1: Do you pray regularly? If not, what prevents you?
Q2: How can you, and will you, work prayer into the everyday parts of life?
The Depth (for optional study)
In this section we are providing an in-depth look into the scriptures that the message came out of. There are two critical steps in good interpretation of the Bible. First, we try to understand what the author meant when he wrote the words and how that would have been applied by the original audience. Second, we then take the principles that the original author was trying to get across to his audience and we apply those principles to our own lives. You may want to read some of these passages yourself and/or have people in your group read them together.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-22
12But we appeal to you, brothers and sisters, to respect those who labor among you, and have charge of you in the Lord and admonish you; 13esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. 15See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. 16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not despise the words of prophets, 21but test everything; hold fast to what is good; 22abstain from every form of evil.
Note: This section comes at the end of Paul’s first letter to the church at Thessalonica. He ends his letter with a list of actions and attitudes that he wants them to cultivate. It is interesting to see that there are actually three commands together that talk about continuous action, verses 16-18: rejoice, pray, give thanks.
When it was decided that we were to sail for Italy, they transferred Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort, named Julius. Embarking on a ship of Adramyttium that was about to set sail to the ports along the coast of Asia, we put to sea, accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica. The next day we put in at Sidon; and Julius treated Paul kindly, and allowed him to go to his friends to be cared for. Putting out to sea from there, we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were against us. After we had sailed across the sea that is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship bound for Italy and put us on board. We sailed slowly for a number of days and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, and as the wind was against us, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone. Sailing past it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea.
Since much time had been lost and sailing was now dangerous, because even the Fast had already gone by, Paul advised them, saying, “Sirs, I can see that the voyage will be with danger and much heavy loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. Since the harbor was not suitable for spending the winter, the majority was in favor of putting to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, where they could spend the winter. It was a harbor of Crete, facing southwest and northwest.
When a moderate south wind began to blow, they thought they could achieve their purpose; so they weighed anchor and began to sail past Crete, close to the shore. But soon a violent wind, called the northeaster, rushed down from Crete. Since the ship was caught and could not be turned head-on into the wind, we gave way to it and were driven. By running under the lee of a small island called Cauda we were scarcely able to get the ship’s boat under control. After hoisting it up they took measures to undergird the ship; then, fearing that they would run on the Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and so were driven. We were being pounded by the storm so violently that on the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard, and on the third day with their own hands they threw the ship’s tackle overboard. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest raged, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.
Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul then stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and thereby avoided this damage and loss. I urge you now to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For last night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before the emperor; and indeed, God has granted safety to all those who are sailing with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we will have to run aground on some island.”
When the fourteenth night had come, as we were drifting across the sea of Adria, about midnight the sailors suspected that they were nearing land. So they took soundings and found twenty fathoms; a little farther on they took soundings again and found fifteen fathoms. Fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let down four anchors from the stern and prayed for day to come. But when the sailors tried to escape from the ship and had lowered the boat into the sea, on the pretext of putting out anchors from the bow, Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the boat and set it adrift.
Just before daybreak, Paul urged all of them to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have been in suspense and remaining without food, having eaten nothing. Therefore I urge you to take some food, for it will help you survive; for none of you will lose a hair from your heads.” After he had said this, he took bread; and giving thanks to God in the presence of all, he broke it and began to eat. Then all of them were encouraged and took food for themselves. (We were in all two hundred seventy-six persons in the ship.) After they had satisfied their hunger, they lightened the ship by throwing the wheat into the sea.
In the morning they did not recognize the land, but they noticed a bay with a beach, on which they planned to run the ship ashore, if they could. So they cast off the anchors and left them in the sea. At the same time they loosened the ropes that tied the steering-oars; then hoisting the foresail to the wind, they made for the beach. But striking a reef, they ran the ship aground; the bow stuck and remained immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the force of the waves. The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, so that none might swim away and escape; but the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, and the rest to follow, some on planks and others on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.
Note: This story comes very near the end of Acts. Paul is a prisoner at this point. He is on his way to Rome to meet with the Emperor, which was his right as a Roman citizen. It is important to note not only this particular story but also that it happens in the context of the end of Paul’s trial and near the end of his life. Tradition tells us that he was executed while in prison in Rome.