Skip to content

Faithful, Calm, Proactive. Acts 27:13-25


Faithful, Calm, Proactive. 

Text: Acts 27:13-25.

The ship is at sea, being blown off course, backwards and forwards across the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, well off the coast of Malta. God had a plan for Paul, – he had already spoken about it… V25  Now, to prove his word, God will give them a short-term sign, in V26 …we must be cast upon a certain island. Let’s see how this works out…

1. Sheer Panic and Prayer. V27-29  

In the middle of the storm, at midnight, the sailors heard a distinctly different sound. Perhaps surf, waves breaking upon a distant shore.  They were near land.  You’d think that was good news, but there was always a danger.  This was a huge ship, – READ V37 it could never get anywhere near a beach, – it needed to properly berth at a quayside, but that wasn’t going to happen. The crew tried to slow the ship down, so they threw out four anchors at the stern – trying to ‘put on the brakes.’  

Of course this was in darkness.  If only they could see what was ahead- but with the rain and the tossing seas, no moonlight or starlight was lighting up the water.  If only it was day!  The AV says, “They wished for the day.”  εὔχομαι (euchomai) could equally be translated as the NKJ, ESV, NIV, ‘PRAYED’ for day/daylight.  It is often in times of great danger, or illness or when facing death, for example, in mortal combat, that the hearts of the ungodly turns to prayer.  We are not told to which god, if any these pagan sailors were praying.  I doubt if any of them were praying to the God who made heaven and earth, and I’m sure their prayers were born out of terror and fear of a cruel, drowning death, rather than of humble repentance.  But strangely, there is within every human being an understanding that there is a god, an unknown god, to whom, in extremis, they will turn in a futile hope of protection.  

2. How to Deal with Deserters. V30-32  

It’s often said that rats desert a sinking ship! The sailors, hearing the breakers ahead of the ship decided to make their move.  They went forward, under the pretence that they would let down more anchors at the bows of the ship and further slow her drift towards the rocks, but with a different plan altogether. They were going to try to save themselves, to lower the boat, stowed now on the ship’s forecastle, and abandon ship, leaving the prisoners, the soldiers and the slaves and the passengers to their watery fate.  They would have got away with it too, had not Paul stepped forward and taken command.  See here how to deal with deserters from the cause:-

  • Expose them.V31 Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.  Then…
  • Challenge them. V32 Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off.   

There may be some general principles there for us, for use when Christians are not being faithful to the gospel or to the scriptures, – instead of remaining faithful, and weathering the storms that come against God’s people in this world.    Paul warned in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 Perhaps it is right for others in the ship, faithful travellers, in the storms of derision and discomfort in this world, to call out those who are being unfaithful – to expose them for the deserters that they are, and embarrass them, and force them to take their stand, to remain at their post, and work for the Master.  

3. Practical Ministry. V33-38.

Paul’s absolute trust in God and His word, and his sense of God’s purpose being worked out in his life outworks itself in Paul taking the initiative and he becomes an inspiration for the others on the ship, and motivates them for service. 

  1. Physical strengthening.  Paul wants these men to eat. V33   That’s practical!  No-one can eat in a gale at sea! But men weakened by hunger are useless in a crisis, – these men need to eat something and strengthen themselves physically and Paul knows this.
  2. Mental strengthening.  Paul doesn’t simply urge them to eat, he calms their fears. These people were afraid in the face of death.  He reminded the people on the ship of the words of Jesus.  He said, for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you.  cf Luke 12:7 He gave them HOPE! 
  3. Spiritual strengthening.  See what Paul does now. He doesn’t just tell the people to eat, – he turns this simple meal into a sacrament!  To point them to Christ.  V35  Calmly, and with deliberation, Paul lifts bread, and breaks it and thanks God for it, and he does it publicly.  It’s a little similar to the Lord’s Supper – pointing us to Christ’s body, broken for us. We don’t have the content of Paul’s prayer – but I wonder just how Christ exalting was that prayer, how evangelistic, how much a thanksgiving for the broken and wounded and slaughtered body of God the Son, dying on the cross for our sins.  

We may not know Paul’s exact words when he prayed, but we do know the response of the people who were there.  They have been fearful and terrified of a certain death, but after this simple act, after their meal, see the difference…

  1. They had a better more positive attitude!  V36  They cheered up!  The effects of bringing good news, and Gospel hope to dying men brings cheer!  To cheer people facing death, we must bring them Christ, the gospel message of sins atoned for!
  2. They pulled together to rescue each other!  V38 They had eaten, they felt better with something in their stomach and hope in their hearts. They went to work, and began the practical task of lightening the ship further, letting the cargo go into the sea, to lift the ship higher and so when the shipwreck occurred, it would be closer to the shore.  

Now, have you noticed, that all of this is due to Paul’s presence of mind.  And that positive attitude that he has doesn’t come from his own strength, it comes from his abiding faith and trust in God.  He simply takes God at his word.  Somehow in the midst of danger, the presence of a Christian believer, with an open testimony and simple faith in God, is an encouragement and a blessing to the others on board.  

May we be like him.  Calm in the midst of a storm, doing God’s will, simply trusting in him, being faithful in everything, witnessing for the Lord in a worried world.

© Bob McEvoy February 2022

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: