I want to give you an example of laying hold of the presence of Christ from the life of Paul. Unlike the 12 disciples, Paul never walked with Jesus when He was on the earth. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, Paul (then known as Saul) opposed Jesus and the other disciples. Therefore, Paul never had the precious memories and stories to reflect back on like the 12 disciples had. In Acts 27, we find the apostle Paul taken as a prisoner of the Gospel and on his way by ship to stand before Caesar. The ship he has been aboard for many weeks, along with others, has suffered an awful storm, with winds of hurricane force. The storm has continued for days, and for fear the ship would sink, all cargo has been tossed overboard. But still, things were not looking good; the storm continued to rage on. In Acts 27:20 (NIV), it says, “When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.” This is when Paul stands before everyone and says,
“Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 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.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me” (Acts 27:21–25, NIV, emphasis mine).
The New King James Version says, “the God to whom I belong and whom I serve.” And it is that statement that has such incredible strength. It’s as if Paul doesn’t realize what they had been experiencing for the past week, being tossed all around by this storm and things getting worse each moment. How could Paul have the nerve to stand before these men, who have given up all hope of being saved, and basically say, “Don’t worry about it guys. My God told me it’s gonna be alright”? This sounds ridiculous! But within that statement, “the God to whom I belong and whom I serve” we find the reason for Paul’s assurance, the strength of his testimony: his constant awareness of the unseen Christ.