In this sermon, Rev. Murray emphasizes the importance of always trusting in God, through thick and thin. He reminds his congregation that you always praise the Lord, not only when times are good. Instead of talking, listen and trust in God.
During his 27 years as the pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal Church (FAME), Rev. Cecil “Chip” Murray transformed a small congregation into a megachurch that brought jobs, housing and corporate investment into South Los Angeles neighborhoods. After the 1992 civil unrest, FAME Renaissance, the economic development arm of the church, brought more than $400 million in investments to L.A.’s minority and low-income neighborhoods. Rev. Murray remains a vibrant force in the Los Angeles faith community through his leadership of the USC Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement.
The Murray Archive preserves Rev. Murray‘s sermons and interviews in order to inspire the next generation of pastors, activists and scholars.
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Following is a lightly edited transcript of the above sermon. To quote from the sermon, please provide credit to: Rev. Cecil L. Murray, Murray Archives, USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture.
“I’m Going to Trust in the Lord”
May 23, 2004
Everybody, come on and say, “Taking the high ground.”
Congregation: Taking the high ground!
Tell your neighbor, “I’m anchored in the Lord.”
Congregation: I’m anchored in the Lord!
I’m anchored in the Lord. Anchored in the Lord! Yeah, you and I on board the old ship of Zion. To the old ship of Zion. On board the old ship of Zion, you don’t put your trust in the anchor of the ship. You put your trust in the Master of the ship. The Lord of the ship, my soul is anchored in the Lord.
On board the old ship of Zion, you know that anchors can go up and anchors can go down. But the Master of the vessel is always up. The Lord of your life and mine is always up. If you are up for the Lord, put your fist in the air, and say, “Praise the Lord!” Praise the Lord. Sometimes you get caught up in a storm.
As both choirs have been singing of our theme this morning, somebody here right now may be caught up in a storm. A woman calls her pastor by phone. She’s utterly distressed, has a bad case of nerves. The pastor hears a child in the background–he thinks the sound of a child. He says, “Is that your child I hear?” “Yes, pastor.”
“My goodness, is he as nervous and as distraught as you are?” “Of course not, pastor.” “Then why are you? Why don’t you learn something from that child?”
She says, “Well, that child trusts in me, and lets me do the worrying.” He says, “Can’t you transplant that experience? Why don’t you trust in God, and let God do the worrying?”
I trust in God. I know he cares for me. Upon the land, on the rolling sea, for whom what may, from day to day, tell your neighbor on your left, “My heavenly Father watches over me!” Then, in your pew Bibles, turn to page 894, in your green Bibles, and then page 634 in your red Bibles. We’re going to be looking at Acts 27.
Keep your seats, because there are going to be [a lot of Bible readings] this morning. Acts 27, our key verse is verse 40. They finally decided to try, cutting off from the anchors, cutting from the anchors, and leaving them in the sea. They lowered the rudders, raised the foresail and headed ashore. They just cut off the anchors. Everybody, say, “I’m going to trust in the Lord!”
Do you believe that some people really come to church and don’t trust in God?
Do you all believe that? Ask your neighbor, “Are you one of them people?” Do you trust in the Lord? I trust in God, I know He cares for me. Upon the land, on the rolling sea. How do you worship God and not trust in God? If you say really, I trust in God, tell God in a good loud voice, “I trust in God!”
Congregation: I trust in God!
I’m going to trust in the Lord. Then you’re going to find three times. One, there’s a time to listen. There’s a time to listen. Let’s begin reading here at verse 21. Acts 27, verse 21: “No one had eaten for a long time. Paul and the crew were caught up in a storm. But, finally, Paul called the crew together and said, “Men, you should have listened to me in the first place, and not left Fair Havens.”
[Paul continued], “You would have avoided all this injury and loss. But cheer up, not one of us will lose our lives, even though the ship will go down. For last night an angel of the Lord, angel of God–to whom I belong and whom I serve–stood beside me and said, “Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar. What’s more, God has granted your request and will save the lives of all those sailing with you. So, take courage, for I believe God! It will be just as God said. But we will be shipwrecked on an island.”
A time to listen. It’s no accident that God gave you and me two ears and one tongue. Is it your experience that most of us listen too little and talk too much? Two ears and one tongue. That indicates we are to listen twice as much as we talk.
Now, you remember the wise men of the testament saying that man, woman has trained every creature on earth? We’ve trained the rhinoceros, we’ve trained the lion, we’ve trained the elephant, we have trained the dog, we have trained the cat, we have trained every animal on earth, except the tongue. It’s hard to train the tongue, ’cause the tongue is too busy talking, instead of listening.
God says there’s a time to listen and there’s a time to talk. You should learn to listen twice as much as you talk. If you had been listening when your mama told you, you wouldn’t have gotten into trouble. If you would have been listening when your daddy told you, you wouldn’t have gotten into trouble. If you had been listening when the Holy Spirit told you, you wouldn’t have gotten into trouble.
How many times have you said, “My mind told me so and so.” The next time your mind tells you something, listen to it, and you may not get all caught up in a storm. Every time you talking when you should be listening, you’re going to end up in a storm. Paul is on board being taken to Rome as a prisoner. Luke is with him, and Luke writes this portion in the book of Acts.
Paul says, “Look here, captain, look here owner of the ship, I think we should stay here in Fair Havens. It’s October; winter is coming. I have sailed the Mediterranean more than most people, and I know you don’t want to go out on that ocean at this time of year. We should stay here in Fair Havens.”
But the owner of the ship is interested in profit. You know how we get when we get money. We get a little bit crazy. How when we want money, we forget to want the Word of God that will take care of everything we need. The owner of the ship says, “No, let’s go on to Phoenix.” The captain of the ship says, “Yes, let’s go on to Phoenix. Don’t stay here in Fair Haven, go on to Phoenix.”
That’s where somebody may be here right now, ‘caught between Fair Haven and Phoenix. Caught between trusting and obeying and going on and doing what you want to do. Caught between safety and security. Most of us think more of safety than we think about security. When you think about safety, you’re taking care of yourself. When you think about security, you’re thinking God will take care of you. If you go on you said to Phoenix, you will find safety and security in Phoenix.
But if you stay here in Fair Haven, Paul is saying, “God is here with you, and wherever you are, you have security. Wherever God is, you have security.” If you in prison, you have security. If you in church, you have security. If you caught the bus here this morning, you have security. If you in the choir, you have security. Wherever God is, there is security. If you believe it, say it!
They go on to Phoenix on their way to Rome, they don’t stay in Fair Haven. They just go on, and then they get caught up in a storm. Paul is so human. Paul says, “I told you so.” You know how we human beings like to say, I told you so. You all won’t listen to me when I told you. I told you so. If you’d done what I told you to do, we wouldn’t be in this storm right now. I told you so!
Paul chastises, ’cause that’s our human nature. We like to chew each other out. We like to say, “I told you so.” Every time you get a divorce, your friends say, “I told you so.” But then what, if you were so sure that it weren’t going to work, why were you my bridesmaid? Why were you my best man? Why didn’t you tell me early about it?
Yeah, my chance to wear my Tuxedo. I know it weren’t going nowhere. I told you so. Paul chastises them. Then Paul empathizes with them. He sympathizes with them. Whenever you and I put somebody down, the next step is to put them up. We put them down because we are human. We put them up, is because we are superhuman.
We put them down because we are natural. We put them up because we’re supernatural. The worst in Paul says, “I told you so.” The best in Paul says, “Cheer up, I’ve talked to an angel of the Lord. Everything’s going to be all right.”
When you trust in the Lord, the Lord sends you an angel. When you trust in the Lord, the Lord doesn’t make you an angel, but the Lord sends you an angel.
When you trust in the Lord, the Lord will give you a message and a messenger. When you trust in the Lord, even though you walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, you need fear no evil, for God is with me. When you trust in the Lord, let not your heart be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. Everybody say, “I trust in the Lord!”
Congregation: I trust in the Lord!
I tell you, you’re going to be all right. Three reasons Paul gives, and the angel told me one: Paul, you’re going to stand before the Emperor in Rome. So, I know we going to make it through. Two, the angel told me that all of you I’ve been praying for, 276 on board, everyone will be safe. Three, the ship itself will be lost on an island.
If you mess with God, you’re going to have a shipwreck sometime. If you obey God, you’re going to have a shipwreck sometime. If you disobey God, you sure enough going to have a shipwreck sometime. But the Lord has given you a free pass that will get you into the Lord’s bosom. I don’t care what you’re going through, don’t let it go through you.
I don’t care what folks are saying about you, know that I’m saying I love you, I’ll take care of you. Be not dismayed with every time, God will take care of you. But you have to learn to listen, there’s a time to listen.
This immigrant, first time to America. This immigrant is walking the railroad track in New Jersey. What a heavy load he has on his back, like a homeless man, carrying everything he has. But this time, it’s on his back, and not in that shopping cart. He passes a station, and the official comes out and says, “Sir, you get off that railroad track there. You could be arrested for trespassing.”
Man reaches into his pocket and pulls out a ticket. Lord, it is a railroad ticket.
He says, “I have the right to walk these tracks.” The agent says, “Sir, don’t you understand, that ticket is for you to ride on the train.” He explains it, and the man gets on board the train. It’s going from Jersey City to Springtown, Pennsylvania. He lays down his heavy load, and he lifts his eyes and says, “Thank you, Lord, for the ride.”
Somebody here ought to say, Thank you, Lord, for the ride! God has given every single one of us here a ticket. God has arranged a ride for every single one of us here, and some of us don’t listen to God. We’re busy walking to Scranton, instead of riding to Scranton. We’re carrying our load instead of letting God carry our load for us. If you trust in God, come on say, “There’s a time to listen!”
Congregation: There’s a time to listen!
There’s a time to listen. Secondly, there’s a time to drop anchor. There’s a time to drop anchor. Let’s look at verse 27: Acts 27, verse 27. About midnight, on the 14th night of the storm, Lord, two weeks, as we were being driven to and fro on the Adriatic Sea, the sailors suspected land was near. They sounded and found 120 feet of water below them. A little later they sounded again, found only 90 feet.
At this rate, they knew they would soon be driven ashore, and fearing rocks along the coast, they threw out four anchors from the stand, and prayed for daylight. Some of the sailors planned to abandon the ship, and lowered the emergency boat as though they were going to put out anchors from the prow. But Paul said to the soldiers and commanding officer, “You will all die unless everyone stays aboard.”
The soldiers cut the ropes and let the boat fall off. A time to drop anchor. Two weeks in a storm. And you who are in a storm or have been in a storm, and as everyone of us here, you know that two weeks seem like two months. When a storm of life is raging, all you can do is say, “Stand by me!” When the world is tossing me like a ship out on the sea, Thou who rule this wind and water, stand by me.
Anybody here ever pray that prayer, when you’ve been caught up in the storm: Stand by me, Lord! You all are [caught up] right now, tied up, tossed up, twisted up, tangled up. Don’t forget to look up! Look up, don’t forget your prayers! Some of us are so weird, we have church prayers, and then we have crisis prayers. We don’t understand that the two are one and the same.
When you’re doing all right, you ought to say, praise the Lord! And when you’re doing all wrong, you ought to say, praise the Lord! ‘Cause you know weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
Cutting off the anchors, there’s a time to drop anchor. All right, when he looks up, he gets the message, “Now son, you got two choices, you can take to the sea, the storm, you can take to the storm, or you can go to the rocks. If you go to those rocks, you’re going to be destroyed. There are sand bars out there, and as sure as you live, that storm may send you on the rocks, or you may go out and park at the sea.”
What does Paul do? He follows the wording of God. He throws out the four anchors on the back. Remember now, Paul is not the owner of the ship. Paul is not the captain of the ship. Paul is a prisoner on the ship, being taken to Rome to stand before Caesar. But in the time of trouble, people will call upon whoever they feel can get them out of trouble.
Paul says, “I’ve been up and down the Mediterranean. I’ve been on this ship before, I’ve been rebuked, I’ve been scorned, I’ve been talked about, [by everyone].” Somebody here is no novice to a storm. You’ve been on a storm before. Sometimes when the storm of life is raging, you got to choose between the storm itself and the rocky shore. Wish there was a third choice. But you need to do like Paul.
Paul says, “I know what’s going to happen if I go to the rocks.”
I know what’s going to happen in this relationship. I know what’s going to happen if I keep on drinking. I know what’s going to happen if I keep on smoking. I know what’s going to happen if I keep on lying and cheating. I know what’s going to happen there, I think I’ll take the thing I’m not so sure about. I think I’ll just go out to the storm.
So, they drop anchor. The anchor serves like a brake. It holds the ship from moving on near the rocks. Jesus helps you and me put the brakes on. If you’ve got a self-destructive habit, Jesus says, “Drop anchor.” If you got things going wrong for you, drop anchor. If the whole year has been bad, drop anchor. My anchor holds and grips the solid rock. Come on and say, praise the Lord!
Congregation: Praise the Lord!
It’s a matter of trusting in God, when you’re going to drop anchor. This little boy, so anxious to climb that apple tree. As he climbs, the rotten limbs break off beneath his feet and he grabs higher, and pulls, and that breaks. His father sees the plight and the peril, and he goes under and lifts out his arms to catch his son.
He says, “Let go, son!” His boy cries out, “Are you telling me to turn loose of everything, daddy, and trust you?” He does just that, and he falls safely into the arms of his father. Sometimes you got to let go of everything. You just got to trust God. You just got to let go of everything, especially yourself.
You got to learn how to let go of some people who are not good for you. They’re just as rotten as those limbs. I don’t care how much they hang around you, you got to learn to let go of that which is rotten. If you don’t let go of what is rotten, you’re going to fall to the ground, and your daddy may not be there to catch you.
When your daddy tells you, “I love you. I love you so much, I’ll catch you when you fall. I love you so much, I’ll catch you even in the midst of your rotten environment. I’ll catch you even though I told you not to climb that tree in the first place.”
But you got to learn when to let down your anchor. Got to learn when to drop anchor.
I’m going to trust in the Lord. Well, we’ve said there’s a time to listen, there’s a time to drop anchor. Let’s conclude, there’s a time to up anchor. Look at verse 39: Acts 27, verse 39. When it was day, they didn’t recognize the coastline, but noticed a bay with a beach, wondered whether they could get between the rocks and be driven up onto the beach.
They finally decided to try, cutting off the anchors, letting go. Leaving them in the sea, they lowered the rudders, raised the foresail and headed ashore. But the ship hit a sandbar, ran aground. The bow of the ship stuck first, while the stern was exposed to the violence of the waves and began to break apart.
The soldiers advised their commanding officer to let them kill the prisoners, lest any of them swim ashore and escape. But Julius, heading the prisoners, wanted to spare Paul, so he told them, “No.” Then he ordered all who could swim to jump overboard and make for land. And the rest to try for it on planks and debris from the broken ship.
Everyone escaped safely ashore. There’s a time to up anchor. Ask your neighbor on the right, Ain’t you sick of you? Here you are with your anchors down, a storm just tossing you and turning you and tossing you and turning you, and you sit there crying, “Oh Lord, oh Lord!” It’s time to up anchor!
It’s time to try something else. All say, Can you see by the dawn’s early light? You see you were there all night long in that storm, for two weeks in that storm. But every day brings a new dawn, brings a new light. By that dawn’s early light, you see an opening there. God will always give you a way out. God will always give you an open bay.
God will always give you a way out. God says, “If I give you a way in, I’ll give you a way out. It isn’t whether or not I give you a way, it’s whether you take the way.” That way Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the light, why don’t you take the way I’ve given to you? Why don’t you up anchor and move on?”
But we may not make it, you heard them. We may not make it. You right balcony, God doesn’t give you risk-free insurance. No way, God doesn’t give you risk-free insurance. Children, God doesn’t give you risk-free insurance. Babies, God doesn’t give you risk-free insurance. Jesus did not have risk-free insurance. Paul does not have risk-free insurance.
Luke does not have risk-free insurance. You and I will not have risk-free insurance. God does not give us risk-free insurance, God gives us blessed assurance, blessed assurance. Blessed assurance. They start moving towards the bay. But just as Paul said, the ship will be wrecked, they hit a sandbar. Now, here’s the bow, the front part of the ship stuck on a sandbar.
Here’s the stern, the back part of the ship, being tossed and driven by the wind, so the tension causes the ship to break in two. Here, you’ve got some who can swim! Paul cries, Swim! Somebody here can swim when trouble comes. Somebody here is a veteran of the Merchant Marines, of the Navy. Somebody here knows how to swim. Somebody here can swim a hundred yards, some 200 yards, some a half a mile.
Somebody here knows how to swim. But look at God, God is so good. Even when you don’t know how to swim, I trust in God, the Lord will make a way somehow. Paul says, “Cling to the pieces.” You find yourself going through this week, clinging to the pieces of your dream, clinging to the dream, clinging to the life, clinging to the relationship. Soon, everybody makes it ashore.
I trust in God. I know He cares for me. Upon the land, on the rolling sea, for come-what-may from day to day, my heavenly Father watches over me. Let pastor tell you about that man who told us about his favorite preacher. My preacher is the best preacher on Earth. My preacher is a little free Robin that comes to my window every day.
I put bread crumbs on the window sill, especially every night, I put bread crumbs for my little preacher. My little preacher will come and eat until it’s full. I never saw my preacher with a duffle bag, looking out for tomorrow. I never saw my preacher with a wagon, even a Volkswagen.
All my preacher does is say give us this day our daily bread, trusting that somehow or another, I’ll put that bread there every day, every night. Then after my preacher was filled, my preacher would hop over to a tree, climb upon the branches, lift its eyes towards heaven, and begin to sing a hymn of thanksgiving.
How many times have you heard us say, a bird is beautiful creature. Every time it takes a drink of water, it lifts its eyes toward heaven in gratitude. That bird sings its song, and then that bird lifts its wing, put its head under its wing, and goes to sleep.
I trust in God. I know He cares for me. Upon the land, on the rolling sea. Though come-what-may from day to day, my heavenly Father watches over me. If you believe it, put your hands together. Stand to your feet!