Today’s mini-sermon is the third in a short series based upon Acts 27.
“Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the “northeaster,” swept down from the island. The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind . . . we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure. When the men had hoisted it aboard, they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together . . . We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved. After the men had gone a long time without food . . .” (Acts 27:14-21)
The setting is somewhere off the coast of Greece. Paul and 276 others are stranded on a tiny ship in the midst of a one of the worst types of storms seen on the Mediterranean. Prior to this, Paul had warned the centurion in charge of him to NOT set sail, but the centurion didn’t listen, and now the ship is being battered by hurricane force winds and walls of ferocious water. There was no way the ship could navigate in the storm, so instead it remained at the mercy of the elements. Early on, they feared the boat wouldn’t hold together, so they bound it together with ropes. On the second day of the storm, they realized that if they didn’t lighten the load, there would be no chance of survival. The cargo went first. But as the fierce storm continued to pound and beat the ship, their very survival required them to throw out the ship’s tackle. Now, if they survived the storm, they wouldn’t be able to navigate! But still the storm continued. Stress was high, so high that for fourteen days, the men refused to even eat.
But let’s break away from the story line for a moment. Why would God allow this to happen? What had these men done that would merit all of these trials? Was God angry because they didn’t heed the warning sent to them through Paul? And what about Paul? He was aboard the ship too! It wasn’t his fault that God’s warning wasn’t heeded. At this time, he was a prisoner. His life was not his own! Even if God was upset that the men hadn’t heeded his counsel to not sail, shouldn’t he, at least, have done something to save Paul?
But no. Acts 27:27 states that even on the fourteenth day, the storm continued to rage! We all know that God could have calmed the storm! Why did He choose to let it rage, to toss and batter the boat until 276 lives, including the life of His faithful servant, were all endangered?
Haven’t you ever been in this kind of a storm? Maybe you knowingly went against the advice of the Lord, or maybe you didn’t! Regardless, you find yourself in the midst of such turmoil that you don’t see any way out. And just when you think you can’t go on for another moment, the storm worsens! You cry out to God, but He doesn’t seem to be listening, for the storm rages on. Why would God allow this to happen to you? Why doesn’t he do something to stop the storm? Why? Why? Why?
Well, let’s get back to the story of Paul. If we jump ahead to verses 43, 44, we see that the ship ran aground off the coast of a small island. Those who could, swam to shore. The others used pieces of wood from the wreck of the ship as floatation devices in order to float to shore. And in the end, verse 44 records: “In this way everyone reached land in safety.” Just when things seemed more hopeless than ever, God provided a way of escape, and all 276 of those passengers made it safely to shore.
This reminds me of the story Lazarus’ death and resurrection. Jesus knew His dear friend was ill, but He didn’t go and heal him. Instead, He waited until Lazarus had been dead for 4 days! I can only imagine that for Lazarus’ family, those must have been four of the stormiest days of their lives! But by waiting those four days, they were able to witness THE MOST wonderful miracle Jesus had done, a miracle which served to give testimony to many who might not have been touched by Jesus otherwise.
My friends, I would like to propose that all of the pounding and raging of the storm was all part of God’s plan! 2 Cor 12:9 tell us that God’s power “. . . is made perfect in weakness.” The weaker we are, the more desperate our situation, the more God shines when He gets us out of our messes! It was this very fact that inspired Paul to write: “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:10)
The next time you find yourself right in the middle of the worst “storm” of the century, when you feel that you are at the mercy of the enemy, remember this story. Remember that no matter how bad things look circumstantially, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28-29). Simply hand your problems over to Jesus, and don’t take them back! Trust Him to get you through. Never doubt His power to deliver you from the enemy, but bear in mind, in the face of what appears to be unanswered prayers, that God may wait so that you and others may experience Him in a different, more wonderful way.
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.)