One of the most exciting stories in the Bible is in Acts 27. Take a moment to read this amazing story—a story of faith.
We find the Apostle a prisoner of Rome, dispatched to Caesar to appeal his case, as was his right as a Roman citizen. The journey to Rome was most quickly accomplished by ship, usually. A voyage of a few weeks turns into a six-month ordeal.
Even though a prisoner, Paul had access to Julius, the Centurion charged with his delivery to Rome. In verses nine through eleven we read, “Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them, and said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives. Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul.”
Put yourself in the place of the Centurion. On the one hand, you are getting counsel from the ship’s master and owner. On the other hand, the counsel is coming from a prisoner, someone whose incentive might be to delay the journey and therefore delay his judgment for crimes allegedly committed. To whom would you listen?
Paul could be perceived as an annoying guy. When things go poorly, we hear him saying in verse 21, “Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss.” I’m quite sure that the sailors were tempted to reenact the story of Jonah by casting Paul into the deep, not caring if a great fish was present or not!
As exciting as this story of danger at sea is to read, that is really just a backdrop for what really thrills my heart. Reading from verse 22, “And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.”
God had ordained for Paul an audience before Caesar, fully confident that Paul would deliver to this ruler of the world the message of God’s supreme authority and an opportunity for salvation. Nothing could stay the movement of God’s hand. As we go through life’s journey in the center of God’s will, we can know that no matter how rough our seas get, God will see that we get to our appointed destination to do the work He before ordained (Ephesians 2:10).
There is no place any safer than the center of God’s will. If that is where you are, then you are safe even in a shipwreck!
Paul’s steadfast faith and trust in God for safety had a tremendous impact on the other men that were fortunate enough to travel with Paul on that fateful journey. God had promised Paul that every one of those men would survive the ordeal. Indeed, when some of the men thought to abandon the ship verse 30, pretending to let down the anchors while really letting down the lifeboats, they listened to Paul’s admonition to stay on his course or face death.
The text does not tell us whether all or any of the sailors and soldiers that were on that ship became believers in Paul’s Saviour or not. Due to their less than desirable circumstances, I suspect that they may not have. There is another lesson for us in this as well. Whether the sailors became believers or not was not Paul’s responsibility. It was sufficient before God that Paul remained strong in the Lord, not wavering in his faith. Paul’s own testimony at other times is that he would rather be with Jesus in Heaven than on the earth being tossed around and shipwrecked—again!
We are all on a journey through life’s turbulent waters. We who possess salvation need not worry. We are safe in the shipwreck. But most of the people with whom we travel have no such comfort. We can help. We can help bring them to a peaceful shore. God never promised us smooth sailing, only a safe landing.