Today’s Reading: Acts 27
Today, we’ll take a boat ride on some rough waters in Acts 27. This boat has 276 on board, most of them prisoners. The apostle Paul is below deck in shackles and on his way to Rome. At one point the most famous prisoner on the boat tells the professional seafarers, “I wouldn’t go that direction.” And his advice is rejected vehemently:
Paul began to admonish them, and said to them, “Men, I perceive that the voyage will certainly be with damage and great loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” But the centurion was more persuaded by the pilot and the captain of the ship than by what was being said by Paul. (Acts 27:9-11)
Paul warned that if they continued on the journey, they would experience damage and great loss. The other passengers were probably thinking, “What does a religious man know about sailing?”
They do not listen to the Christian and this is what happens:
Before very long there rushed down from the land a violent wind, called Euraquilo; and when the ship was caught in it and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and let ourselves be driven along. . . . The next day as we were being violently storm-tossed, they began to jettison the cargo; and on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. Since neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small storm was assailing us, from then on all hope of our being saved was gradually abandoned. When they had gone a long time without food, then Paul stood up in their midst. (Acts 27:14-21)
At some point, some “Einstein” on the crew said, “Where is the guy who told us not to go on this journey? Maybe we should listen to him?”
They pull the prisoner up on deck. They wanted to hear from Paul; they had an awakening.
That story is an example of what at an awakening looks like in our country. It’s when people want to hear from God again—not the professionals: not the politicians, not the news reporters, not Hollywood celebrities, or athletes. It’s when people declare, “Let’s hear what God has to say.”
The sailors are at that place of desperation when they want to hear from Paul. This is what he tells them:
Men, you ought to have followed my advice and not to have set sail from Crete and incurred this damage and loss. Yet now I urge you to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me, saying, “Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you.” Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told. But we must run aground on a certain island. (Acts 27:21-26)
When Paul says, “An angel of . . . God . . . stood before me,” that means God gave Paul a word for the ship. The captive is now the captain! The sailors listened to the one they had in the bowel of the ship. Wait until you hear Paul teach them how to survive! In verse 44, Paul tells them that when the ship breaks up, they are to grab hold of a plank and float to shore.
Holding on to a piece of wood is going to get you through your storm. I have a sneaky suspicion you may have caught where I’m going with this. The only chance for America and the impending storm we will face is still a piece of wood—a two-thousand-year-old piece of wood on which the Son of God died—the cross.
There’s enough wood for everybody. Paul is speaking to his enemies. He is helping the sailors survive who made him a prisoner. All 276 make it to shore during a terrible storm. The storm allows the captive to become captain. Paul guides the ship and those on board to safety. How?
It is like two men who are on a beach gazing out at sea. One man says, “I see a ship.” The friend replies that he doesn’t see anything. The first man persists in saying he sees a ship. The friend says, “Well, I have 20/20 vision and I don’t see anything.” To which the first man says, “Yes, but I have binoculars. And there is a ship.”
The godly have binoculars. They know what is coming.
Many times the world won’t listen to the church until the storm comes and until hope is lost. And then we listen as we stand up with the Word from God. The world won’t listen to us sitting in our church seats. They did listen to Paul, however, when they were drenched on the deck of a boat being battered by a storm.
God has a way of using storms to bring us to places in our lives and in our hearts that we would not have gotten to on our own. It’s called providence. God uses circumstances and directs our steps. When hope is lost in our society, there is wood that can get us to safety. Grab a plank. It is the cross of Jesus.