“Storm Story” – Acts 27
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This sea voyage might be thought of as Paul's fourth missionary journey.
Paul had long desired to bring the Gospel to Rome:
When these things were accomplished, Paul purposed in the Spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, "After I have been there, I must also see Rome."
He had planned to go as a preacher, not a prisoner. But God had a different plan.
The Roman government would foot the bill and God would get the glory.
Fulfilling His plan by His providence, using people to accomplish His purpose. (Acts 1:8)
Paul would later write:
...for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the Word of God is not chained.
(2 Tim. 2:9)
But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ...
In this final voyage of Paul's, as recorded by his traveling companion and eyewitness, Dr. Luke, in spite of all the difficulty, he believes he is in the will of God.
As, indeed, he was:
But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, "Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome." (Acts 23:11)
This stormy voyage is true historically and literally, but there are spiritual parallels also.
Paul's whole life, after Christ met him on the road to Damascus, was one big "storm"!
He never had it easy, he simply and with great zeal, relentlessly followed the will of God.
All of us, as we "sail through life" enter "storms." We all have our personal storm stories.
Everyone ever born faces heartache, loss, trouble and much difficulty.
It's the human condition. Job said, "As surely as man is born, he is destined for trouble." (Job 5:7, 14:1)
"...He makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust."
But as believers in Christ, we understand that much of our trouble comes from an enemy, "an enemy of our souls," who passionately hates Jesus and His cause.
As well as the Father who allows trials and tribulation for three purposes of His own:
- Our spiritual growth.
- Our discipline.
- Comfort and consolation of others from our experience.
So, as we study this chapter, let's find God's direction that helps us cope with and overcome life's "storms."
"...some other prisoners..."
* Paul was not alone a captive, most of the prisoners were destined for the Coliseum and Roman "entertainment."
Imagine the opportunity Paul had to share the Gospel with these men.
"...Julius a Centurion..."
* The Roman Officer Corp, especially Centurions, were honorable men. As shown in Scripture. (Matt. 8:5-10, Mk. 15:39, Acts 10:1-2)
* Julius was as well.
It was said of the Roman Centurions:
"They were risk takers, but they were bold and steady."
* Paul's traveling companion since Ephesus. (Acts 19:29)
* Tyre and Sidon, Phoenicia. (Acts 21:2-3)
"...go to his friends and receive care."
* Julius showed Paul kindness and trusted him to return to the ship without escape.
* Even Paul needed fellowship and encouragement.
"There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing to Italy, and he put us on board.
* A Centurion had authority to commandeer a ship for his prisoners.
* An "Alexandrian ship" would have been a cargo vessel carrying wheat to Rome.
"Now when much time had been spent, and sailing was now dangerous because the Fast was already over, Paul advised them..."
* "Sailing was now dangerous" - Sailing in the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas has always been dangerous in the fall and winter months.
* "The Fast" was the Day of Atonement in mid-October. The only day the Jews were commanded to fast. (Lev. 16:29-31, 23:27-29)
"Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster..."
* Paul was speaking from experience, not prophecy:
"...three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have been in the deep...in perils in the sea..."
(1 Cor. 11:25-26)
The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.
(Prov. 27:12 NIV)
"Nevertheless, the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman and the owner of the ship than by the things spoken by Paul."
* "Things spoken by Paul" - Why listen to a preacher when you have a ship's captain!
There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. (Prov. 14:12)
Events are going to prove Paul correct. The Centurion, Captain, sailors and soldiers are looking to men for wisdom, but Paul is looking to God alone!
"But not long after, a tempestuous head wind arose, called Euroclydon."
* Euroclydon - A Northeaster, a very strong, gale force wind from the cold land mass of Europe.
"...we secured the skiff..."
* "The skiff" was a small boat tied behind and towed by the larger ship.
"...fearing lest they should run aground on the Syrtis sands..."
* "Syrtis sands" - Sand bars and shoals off the north coast of Libya.
Notice some of the previous verses in this section:
"The winds were contrary..." (vs. 4)
" ...with difficulty..." (vs. 7)
"...we arrived with difficulty..." (vs. 8)
"...passing it with difficulty..." (vs. 9)
"...sailing was now dangerous..." (vs. 14)
"...not long after that a tempestuous head wind arose..."
The difficulties are getting greater and greater as the voyage progresses.
Often as we serve the Lord, the "storms" get more difficult as we continue.
This is God's plan, without resistance, strength is not built, nor is trust in Him.
"...they lightened the ship...we threw the ships tackle overboard..."
* Things are now getting very serious.
* They fear sinking. Without "tackle" the ship cannot operate.
This was common practice when a ship was about to sink.
"Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up."
* "...neither sun nor stars appeared" - Without the sun and stars, they could not navigate - now they were lost!
* "...no small tempest beat on us..." - Dr. Luke's use of the diminutive or sarcasm.
* "...all hope that we would be saved was finally given up."
Utter despair, they have resigned themselves to death at sea!
Now God has them right where He wants them, and us, ultimately.
Now, when all seems lost, we're ready to hear:
"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
...that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Now they will listen to Paul and let him lead.
"...Paul stood in the midst of them and said, 'Men, you should have listened to me..."
* Paul is not "rubbing it in" rather establishing his credentials for
* He steps up, it's what leaders do in difficulty, he moves up from "captive" to "Captain."
"And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship."
* The very words they wanted to hear, they're ready to listen, but where's the proof?
"For there stood by me this night an angel of God..."
* Not the first time of Paul. (Acts 18:9, 23:11)
"...to Whom I belong..."
* Paul knows God owns him, an nothing can harm or befall him that his Master doesn't allow.
When you're in a great storm of life, in danger of sinking, lift your eyes to the Lord and pray:
"God, Your property is in danger!"
Understand, Christian, who you are in Christ.
"...and whom I serve."
* Paul knew he was on a mission for God.
When we're on mission for God, in His service, we are invincible until He's finished with us.
When we've finished our task, He will bring us home.
"Do not be afraid Paul, you must be brought before Caesar."
But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, "Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome."
"God has granted you all those who sail with you."
* Do you think Paul prayed for his shipmates, for spiritual and natural salvation?
"Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me."
* In the midst of the storm, where all around was despair and potential death, Paul could say with complete confidence:
"I believe God"
The greatest character trait of leadership is being able to act rightly in the midst of chaos and turmoil, and that comes from absolute trust in God, "...that it will be just as it was told me."
I sought the LORD, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears.
"...the sailors sensed that they were drawing near some land."
* They must have heard the crashing of the surf against the shore.
"...and prayed for day to come..."
* For daylight to guide the ship by.
For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
"...unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved."
* If the ship’s crew left, who could guide the ship ashore?
"...not a hair will fall from the head of any of you."
But not a hair of your head shall be lost. By your patience possess your souls. (Lk. 21:18-19)
"...gave thanks to God in the presence of them all."
* Do you pray in a public restaurant? If not, is that denying Christ?
"...and so it was that they all escaped safely to land."
God's promises are always true!
Tragedy is no respecter of persons, neither is tribulation.
We have seen how Paul stood during the storm.
Let's look to Job for further wisdom in tragedy.
After Job lost all, through no fault of his own:
"Then Job arose, tore his robe and shaved his head..."
Some believers think it wrong to grieve over great loss. That tears show a lack of faith in God.
“Jesus wept” (Jn. 11:35), as did Abraham, David and Jeremiah, real men weep.
This is genuine sorrow
"...and he fell to the ground and worshipped."
Here is the ultimate response of the man of faith to tragedy.
The world weeps, we weep; the world gets angry, we worship.
Our sorrow is just as real as theirs, but their sorrow leads to despair, our sorrow leads to worship.
This is heartfelt worship
And Job said:
"Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return."
We leave earth the same as we came, we bring nothing with us, we leave with nothing.
All we have here on earth is given to us temporarily, we don't get to keep it.
"The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away..."
The man of faith understands that all we have we never owned in the first place.
It is all a loan from God -- what is His, He can take back anytime without asking or explaining, and often sooner than later.
"Blessed be the Name of the LORD."
Job has lost almost all that he counted dear in his life.
Yet in the deepest pain, he praises God!
Job praises God from the bitterness of suffering, not curses God.
Our deepest pain should draw us back to the goodness of God, not push us away.
Every pain is a reminder of how good God has been to us.
The greater the sorrow, the greater the joy must have been.
Can we thank God for what He gave us, if only for a while?
This is profound faith!
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