Now, there’s a phrase we typically enjoy saying, but we universally hate hearing!
I love the way Paul does it, however. Here’s a quick backstory:
Falsely accused by his own countrymen, Paul has played his “I’m a Roman citizen” card and appealed to the Supreme Court, (i.e., Caesar), which gives him a one-way all expenses paid trip to the capitol. This meant a voyage by sea, which could be tricky based on the time of year. Putting in at one less-than-luxurious small town port, the sailors think they can make it to the next spot before the weather turns bad.
“Men,” he said, “I believe there is trouble ahead if we go on—shipwreck, loss of cargo, and danger to our lives as well.” But the officer in charge of the prisoners listened more to the ship’s captain and the owner than to Paul.
Oops. Needless to say, things didn’t go well when a bone-rattling nor’easter caught the crew by surprise. After fighting the storm, they gave up attempts at navigation and decided to just try and survive, letting the sea take them where it may, hoping to survive the trip.
No one had eaten for a long time. Finally, Paul called the crew together and said, “Men, you should have listened to me in the first place and not left Crete. You would have avoided all this damage and loss. But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down…So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said…But we will be shipwrecked on an island.”
BOOM—I told you so!!” But look how Paul does it:
Number one, Paul’s admonition, which was agonizingly undebatable, was immediately followed by realistic encouragement. Condemnation is destructive, but conviction always plants seeds of hope. This was possible because Paul himself had been in a state of constant communication (meaning open receptivity) to God’s “Plan B”.
Number two, the timing was right. The shipmates were in ready-state to hear words of hope with the admonishment.
“Then the sailors tried to abandon the ship; they lowered the lifeboat as though they were going to put out anchors from the front of the ship. But Paul said to the commanding officer and the soldiers, “You will all die unless the sailors stay aboard.” So the soldiers cut the ropes to the lifeboat and let it drift away.”
Number three, God demands all or nothing obedience. I have this very human tendency to grasp all “reasonable” opportunities when the ship is going down. I like our various lifeboat options that are contrary to God’s specific instructions. To save myself and those around me, however, I have to cut the ropes of all other possibilities contrary to following Christ.
Just as day was dawning, Paul urged everyone to eat. “You have been so worried that you haven’t touched food for two weeks,” he said. “Please eat something now for your own good. For not a hair of your heads will perish.” Then he took some bread, gave thanks to God before them all, and broke off a piece and ate it.”
Number four: Now here is practical faith—let’s have us picnic in the midst of the storm! Practical, because the body needs food for strength; faith, because I’m going to survive this. But it’s going to take work some work on my part as well:
After eating, the crew lightened the ship further by throwing the cargo of wheat overboard.
Number five: Let’s do what we know to do to make this ship last as long as possible. So into the raging sea go the non-essentials that are weighing me down—fear, offenses, wasted time, past regrets…we all have our own cargo. Get rid of it. Heave it overboard.
When morning dawned, they didn’t recognize the coastline, but they saw a bay with a beach.
Paul’s ship was supposed to take him to Rome, which was basically the capitol of the world at that time. Instead, he ends up shipwrecked on some wayward island that the sailors don’t even recognize!
So, number six: The Holy Spirit may wash me up may be a place that is brand new, completely unfamiliar—to me, that is. God, on the other hand, has it all mapped out. He has work for me there, in this place of unfamiliarity, even a place of obscurity. Look what happened to this island because of Paul’s shipwreck:
Then all the other sick people on the island came and were healed.
The best thing I can do to positively affect any outcome is to personally draw closer to God no matter what anyone is doing. Intimate relationship with the Almighty is marked by a consistent state of prayerful inquiry and receptivity.
With these things, Paul and his crew mates made it to their destination without losing one soul.
So can we.
Acts 27; Acts 28:9 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.