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The Storms of Life. Acts 27:13-25

19/02/2022

The Storms of Life 

Text: Acts 27:13-25. 

The journey to Rome has begun, and with Luke on board, providing a first hand account of the voyage, we are able to see the accuracy of his work, but we can also see here in this historical passage an interesting metaphor of every true Christian life, dealing with whatever storms life brings.  There is a precedent: Psalm 46, 

1. The Seamanship. V13-20

The winds were unpredictable at that time of the year. But when a pleasant south wind began to blow, the sailors wanted to sail on, at least 40 miles along the coast of Crete, to reach the safer harbour, and more welcoming city of Phoenix. V13  What happened next is the stuff of nightmares.

  • Meteorological accuracy. V14  The south wind was short lived.  It soon gave way to bad weather, a mighty tempest blowing from the northwest. The ESV calls it the ‘Northwesterly’ and the description and timing of the wind’s change of direction is accurate, and it proves credibility.
  • Nautical accuracy. V15  Clauda is a tiny island, off the south coast of Crete, and the ship has been driven there by the wind.  Let’s see the way the sailors tried to save the ship:-
    • Secure the boat. Every large ship needs a tender, a small boat to go ashore, when the ship was at anchor.  It would have been towed behind the ship, and in a gale it would have been easily swamped and sunk, so while they were in the shelter of Clauda, with great difficulty they dragged the boat up out of the water and onto the deck of the ship.
    • Undergird the ship. V17 The second measure was to pass thick ropes under the ship, then using winches draw those ropes together, strengthening the structure of the vessel. Sailors would need to swim under the ship to do this.
    • Lower the sail.V17 This ship had just one single, square sail.  They lowered the sail and now they are drifting, without power, and they are totally at the mercy of sea and the wind as they are blown off the coast of Clauda, and towards the perilous sinking sands off the coast of North Libya.
    • Ditch the cargo.  V18 The ship was carrying a cargo of grain, from Egypt to Rome, but now the ship needed to sit higher in the water, and the heavy sacks of grain had to go.  Bag by bag, their precious cargo of food went into the sea.
    • Jettison the tackle. V19  Every ship carried tackle, – winches, blocks, ropes, cargo handling equipment, spare sails, – all had to go overboard. Everyone had to help, as anything that would lower the ship was identified and tossed overboard.   
  • Navigational accuracy.  V20 These ships had no compass, no sextant, so they needed to see the sun ands the stars to know where they were, and for many days, there was no sign of either.  They were totally lost.

Can you imagine what it would have been like in that bleak, seemingly never-ending darkness, without sail, without steerage, huge waves crashing over the deck, the seas roaring and foaming, the ship plunging into sea, then rising up on top of the waves. Think what such a gale would be like – lost, in the darkness, sick, defeated, regretful, – they simply abandoned hope. and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.

2. The Succour. V21-25

For a long time, Paul had held his tongue! But, sooner or later he would have to speak up. V21 In an interesting turn of events, Paul demonstrates his strength of character by taking charge! A prisoner, Paul, a Christian, steps forward to encourage and direct them.  Let’s see how:-

  1. He tells them to CHEER UP! V22 Two years beforehand, he himself had been in a despairing situation. Paul was alone and depressed when the Lord Jesus stood with him, and said these very words, Acts 23:11  
  2. He witnesses of his faith and trust in Christ.  He is convinced, through the word of God that no-one on that ship will be lost.   for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you,Let’s just look at the assurance Paul had in this situation…
    1. He knew God’s presence!  V2Paul was an apostle.  But how do we know the presence of God?  We know God is present with us because he tells us so in his word, not because of our feelings!
    2. He belongs to God!  whose I am.  Paul is not his own, he belongs to God, and he simply surrenders to God’s sovereignty in his life.  Unlike the unbeliever the Christian KNOWS that he belongs to God, not only by creation but by redemption!  1 Corinthians 6:20  
    3. He is in God’s service! and whom I serve. Look again at that verse from chapter 23.  When Jesus stood beside Paul in the prison cell that awful night, when he cheered him by his presence, he gave him a task, to witness for him in Rome. for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.  God has a work for Paul to do, and he knows that God will preserve him until he does that work.  V24  
    4. He implicitly believes God and trusts His Word! V25  Paul simply believes and trusts in God.  

So Paul speaks, and gets the attention of the crew, and delivers a message of hope. Their paganism was worthless in a storm, – it drove them into deeper despair.  Paul pointed them to Christ,  Mark 4:39   Finally…

3. The Storms of Life.

Paul’s shipwreck is an historical account, but there are lessons for us in it too.  What can we learn?  Let’s use some nautical metaphors:-

  • God’s promises don’t often mean plain sailing. Paul had a firm promise and command.  He would testify at Rome. But there was no promise about a safe journey there.  That’s life for us,  We have Christ’s ultimate promise, the promise of a home in heaven and eternal life, but we may, no – we WILL travel through many storms on that journey. Perhaps next time, if time permits we will look briefly at why Christians suffer.
  • In life’s storms we have the same anchor Paul had!  We too can look to Christ, and trust his word, and lean on his promises and continue in his service, knowing that his way his always perfect. 
  • We have a safe harbour ahead of us!  Romans 8:18  

© Bob McEvoy February 2022

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