Knowing the End from the Beginning Means What?
As far as exciting, dangerous adventure stories go you can hardly improve on the shipwreck account of the Apostle Paul on the way to Rome (told in Acts 27) when 276 people on board an ancient sea galley with sails fought for their lives in the onslaught of a horrific storm that by all measures should have resulted in the loss of every life on board. It would make a great movie, except that all who have read the story know how it comes out, and we prefer to be on the edge of our seats not knowing the outcome. How we hate it when someone tells us the ending before we see a movie we are anxious to see, when the ending is still in doubt in our minds. In this story one ship passenger knew the ending before the storm could destroy the boat and all aboard: Paul. Acts 27:21-26 tells us that Paul knew that that not one person’s life would be lost in this maelstrom; a message from God by His holy messenger who appeared only to Paul. Yet all other factors were against the truth of this message coming to pass. Only Paul’s absolute faith in God and the wise direction that this knowledge compelled in him in this grave danger preserved these sailors, Roman soldiers, and passengers from being drowned in the angry sea. Paul had the courage of his convictions based on this word from God, and he tackled the matter with great vigor.
Knowing the outcome in advance did not cause Paul to become lazy and go to sleep. Nor had similar advance knowledge of a deadly ambush planned for Paul’s demise (Acts 23:11) keep him from common sense actions and godly pro-activity in concert with God’s promise. So here with the knowledge that God would keep all souls on board alive, Paul was as busy as a bee giving advice, pitching in with gritty labor, telling the soldiers that they better keep the sailors on board or all would die, and leading the effort to keep the ship afloat until they could get close enough to some shore to allow all to be saved. God’s sovereign promises do not give us license to sit back and do nothing. They rather should drive us to godly, courageous action and obedient service to bring His goals for you and others to fruition.
God has not given each of us such specific, detailed information as He did Paul in these events; but He has given you a specific promise regarding the presence of salvation and the Holy Spirit in your life; a work of salvation which He begins, and which He finishes. It is up to you to seek His means of assurance of your personal salvation by faith alone, and then working also by faith see God’s promises completed in you. If you believe Him, you will work in His direction, not the world’s. Your assurance only grows stronger as you pursue the outcome of what He began in you. This is the practical application of a true understanding of God’s sovereignty. It always includes your work in God’s enterprise. If it is to be a missionary to take the gospel to a primitive native in the jungles of New Guinea, you do it with the courage and risk that it involves. If it is to love your neighbor as yourself wherever you are now, you do it with a cheerful, uncomplaining attitude, with joyful gratefulness to God. God’s sovereignty always integrates your service into His plan and purposes. Turn away from the heresy that believes God will accomplish it all without your labors. Such thinking is a denial of what God’s Word calls you to do.
You do know the end from the beginning in the most important matter: your salvation. And you know from beginning to end He will never forsake you (Hebrews 13:5-6). If you knew more specifics you wouldn’t get on the boat. Trust Him and do; awake from your sleep. You will put your foot on that far shore!
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