From the Storm to the Shipwreck by Andy Stoddard
Today’s reading is from Acts 27: 13-38:
When a moderate south wind began to blow, they thought they could achieve their purpose; so they weighed anchor and began to sail past Crete, close to the shore. But soon a violent wind, called the northeaster, rushed down from Crete. Since the ship was caught and could not be turned head-on into the wind, we gave way to it and were driven. By running under the lee of a small island called Cauda we were scarcely able to get the ship’s boat under control. After hoisting it up they took measures to undergird the ship; then, fearing that they would run on the Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and so were driven. We were being pounded by the storm so violently that on the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard, and on the third day with their own hands they threw the ship’s tackle overboard. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest raged, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.
Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul then stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and thereby avoided this damage and loss. I urge you now to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For last night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before the emperor; and indeed, God has granted safety to all those who are sailing with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we will have to run aground on some island.”
When the fourteenth night had come, as we were drifting across the sea of Adria, about midnight the sailors suspected that they were nearing land. So they took soundings and found twenty fathoms; a little farther on they took soundings again and found fifteen fathoms. Fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let down four anchors from the stern and prayed for day to come. But when the sailors tried to escape from the ship and had lowered the boat into the sea, on the pretext of putting out anchors from the bow, Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the boat and set it adrift.
Just before daybreak, Paul urged all of them to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have been in suspense and remaining without food, having eaten nothing. Therefore I urge you to take some food, for it will help you survive; for none of you will lose a hair from your heads.” After he had said this, he took bread; and giving thanks to God in the presence of all, he broke it and began to eat. Then all of them were encouraged and took food for themselves.(We were in all two hundred seventy-six persons in the ship.) After they had satisfied their hunger, they lightened the ship by throwing the wheat into the sea.
We see Paul’s encouragement to his shipmates: don’t lose heart. God has a plan, and Paul must get to Rome. As bad as it may look or appear right now, God is not done with Paul; God wants Paul to take the Good News to all the world. So Paul keeps encouraging, keeps pushing, keeps working; Paul keeps at it. He trusts in what God has told him. And he uses that knowledge to encourage others.
That is good for us to hear and think about today. We know that in the end, God wins. We know that in the end, the storm will pass, that God has a plan, that all will be well. We know it and we really believe it. Even if we struggle to understand or hold onto it, we know it to be true.
And if we know it to be true, let’s encourage each other. Let’s encourage those in the storm. Paul knew it would be okay because God had promised him that it would be. He has promised us the exact same thing. Let’s have faith. Let’s trust. And just like Paul, let’s encourage each other, no matter how bad the storm.
What follows encouraging each other through the storm?
In the morning they did not recognize the land, but they noticed a bay with a beach, on which they planned to run the ship ashore, if they could. So they cast off the anchors and left them in the sea. At the same time they loosened the ropes that tied the steering-oars; then hoisting the foresail to the wind, they made for the beach. But striking a reef, they ran the ship aground; the bow stuck and remained immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the force of the waves. The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, so that none might swim away and escape; but the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, and the rest to follow, some on planks and others on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land. – Acts 27:39-44
We see that God’s word to Paul was brought true. There were no casualties: all the people on the ship survived. Now, they were stranded in this moment; but they were alive. They had made it through the storm. This was not the end of their journey and their trip was not complete. But they had made it this far. God had kept his word.
You are not yet who you will be.
You are still on a journey. Your trip is not complete. There is work left to do in your life. There is work that God still has to do with you and through you. Your journey is not yet complete. As long as you are still breathing and living, God is still at work on you.
Paul had many miles yet to go, but he was in still in the middle of God’s plan. Today, seek after God’s plan and God’s way. Even if it leaves you shipwrecked for a moment, God has bigger plans. Trust in him always; always.