Today’s mini-sermon is the first in a short series based upon Acts 27.
“Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Fast. So Paul warned them, ‘Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.’ But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship.” (Acts 27:9-11)
The setting is the Mediterranean, in a small place called “Fair Havens” on the island of Crete. The merchant ship, carrying Paul, a prisoner bound for Rome, had been facing numerous delays due to weather concerns. Paul is given a prophetic message that the “Voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo . . .” Having the well-being of the ship’s crew and passengers in mind, Paul shares the message he has been given with the Roman centurion who is in charge of him. But the centurion, ” . . . instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and the owner of the ship.” And just what kind of advice did the pilot and the ship’s owner give? “. . . the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there.” (Acts 27:12). They wouldn’t listen to Paul, and in refusing to do so, they were also refusing to listen to God who had given this revelation to Paul! Well, we’re all familiar with the story. The ship ran aground after days of being battered by a terrible storm. The ship was wrecked, the cargo lost, and the crew and the entire passenger list were forced to winter on the island of Malta!
It would be so easy to criticize the centurion for his decision. After all, Paul had received a message from God. Why would such an important message go completely ignored? But we must keep in mind that we all know Paul well from the writings of the New Testament, and we also have the advantage of knowing the “rest of the story”! Though in the end the centurion made a poor decision, at the moment, logic seemed to dictate that it was the only viable decision! After all, he didn’t know the God of Heaven. He was only coming to know Paul, and perhaps he had never yet seen the kinds of miracles that Paul was able to perform. Besides, Paul was a prisoner, bound for Rome! Surely his “advice” shouldn’t be taken seriously! Besides, all of the “experts” said they should sail on!
I would like to propose that in the same situation, you and I might have done the same! Why do I say this? Because I would like to propose that you and I find ourselves in the same “boat” as the Roman centurion nearly every day of our lives! We are bombarded by “advice”. It’s everywhere. On the TV., on the radio, our friends lavish it upon us, our co-workers hand it out for free, and our families–our families never seem to run dry of “advice”. How can we weed out the bad advice from the good? Like the centurion on the ship, don’t we also often see what the “majority” is doing and follow along? (and how often don’t we regret it afterwards, too!)
As God’s children, this predicament should be a bit easier, don’t you think? After all, we have the “omniscient” one to advise us! But how often do we recognize which piece of advice is from God amidst all of the other advice? How often do we really seek God’s advice? And if what we receive is not in line with what the “majority” is saying, how often do we discard it? What if what we think God is telling us differs from what our pastors are telling us? Or what if we don’t stop to seek God’s advice, but instead, follow blindly after our pastors and church leaders? And how often do we, like the centurion pull innocent people along with us, headed straight for sure doom?
But wait a minute! Surely we can trust our church leaders and our pastors! Or can we? Jeremiah 50:6: “My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray and caused them to roam on the mountains. They wandered over mountain and hill and forgot their own resting place.” In this Old Testament prophecy, Jeremiah is saying that the leaders of the people are responsible for leading the people astray–are responsible for the trouble they now find themselves in!
My friends, we must NEVER trust the word of the majority, we must NEVER trust the word of our pastors and leaders, unless we have checked it out with God first!
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Moderator, The Nugget, Scriptural Nuggets ( www.scripturalnuggets.org ), Answers2Prayer Ministries, www.Answers2Prayer.org
(To access the entire “Shipwrecked!!!” mini-series, please click here.)