1 When it was decided that we were to sail to Italy, they handed over Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion named Julius, of the Imperial Regiment. 2 So when we had boarded a ship of Adramyttium, we put to sea, intending to sail to ports along the coast of Asia. Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, was with us. 3 The next day we put in at Sidon, and Julius treated Paul kindly and allowed him to go to his friends to receive their care. 4 When we had put out to sea from there, we sailed along the northern coast of Cyprus because the winds were against us. 5 After sailing through the open sea off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we reached Myra in Lycia. 6 There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board. 7 Sailing slowly for many days, we came with difficulty as far as Cnidus. Since the wind did not allow us to approach it, we sailed along the south side of Crete off Salmone. 8 With yet more difficulty we sailed along the coast and came to a place called Fair Havens near the city of Lasea.
9 By now much time had passed, and the voyage was already dangerous. Since the Fastwas already over, Paul gave his advice 10 and told them, “Men, I can see that this voyage is headed toward damage and heavy loss, not only of the cargo and the ship but also of our lives.” 11 But the centurion paid attention to the captain and the owner of the ship rather than to what Paul said. 12 Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided to set sail from there, hoping somehow to reach Phoenix, a harbor on Crete open to the southwest and northwest, and to winter there.
13 When a gentle south wind sprang up, they thought they had achieved their purpose. They weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. 14 But not long afterward, a fierce wind called the “northeaster” rushed down from the island. 15 Since the ship was caught and was unable to head into the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along. 16 After running under the shelter of a little island called Cauda, we were barely able to get control of the skiff. 17 After hoisting it up, they used ropes and tackle and girded the ship. Then, fearing they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the drift-anchor, and in this way they were driven along. 18 Because we were being severely battered by the storm, they began to jettison the cargo the next day. 19 On the third day, they threw the ship’s gear overboard with their own hands.
20 For many days neither sun nor stars appeared, and the severe storm kept raging. Finally all hope that we would be saved was disappearing. 21 Since many were going without food, Paul stood up among them and said, “You men should have followed my advice not to sail from Crete and sustain this damage and loss. 22 Now I urge you to take courage, because there will be no loss of any of your lives, but only of the ship. 23 For this night an angel of the God I belong to and serve stood by me, 24 and said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul. You must stand before Caesar. And, look! God has graciously given you all those who are sailing with you.’ 25 Therefore, take courage, men, because I believe God that it will be just the way it was told to me. 26 However, we must run aground on a certain island.”
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
Therefore, take courage, men, because I believe God that it will be just the way it was told to me. However, we must run aground on a certain island.
As Paul continued on his journey toward Rome, Luke invites us to join with them on a perilous leg of the trip. It was the wrong time of the year for such a sea journey. The winds were bad and the weather unpredictable. At one point, Paul even warned them about the journey and suggested they should delay departure (verse 10).
Yet, they continued on their voyage. If you pull out a map of the ancient world, the detailed description of the trip outlines their journey toward Crete. They stayed close to the islands in hopes of avoiding the worst of the winds. Soon however, they found themselves in the thick of a terrible storm that lasted for days and days.
The storm pounded on them and they could make no progress. They laid down sea anchors to control being blown by the winds. The storm was unrelenting and they began to throw cargo overboard. Then they threw their tackle overboard as well. There was nothing left to do but wait for the end. The Scripture says they lost all hope of being saved (verse 20).
The ocean holds unimaginable power. I lived in south Florida for many years, and I’d often go out into the big water to fish with friends. In a boat powered, not by wind, but big engines, we’d head 20-30 miles off shore to catch mahi-mahi. We’d start off with the dawn. By midday, as the summer rains approached, we’d head to shore.
“Lilly pond slick” waters, as my friends used to call them, would turn to 6-8 foot seas in what seemed like a heartbeat. The water was thousands of feet deep and we were miles from shore. I’ve never felt so small and powerless.
We can look to the horizon and learn a good life lesson from this story about Paul and his companions fighting for their lives in the Mediterranean. Paul shows us how to live into the plan God has for our lives.
When the storm seems at its worse Paul tells them he has been visited by an angel during the night and the angel told him he would stand before the emperor and everyone on the boat would be saved (verse 24). He says, “Have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told (verse 25).
We seldom find ourselves in a raging two-week storm on the Mediterranean, but life does push plenty of storms into our lives. Even when we feel we can’t survive, it’s good to remember this story from Scripture.
Paul was headed toward trial before the emperor in Rome. His eventual fate was uncertain even as he traveled from his opponents in Jerusalem toward the judgment that awaited him. Despite weathering a life-threatening storm and knowing he was facing trial in Rome, Paul still believed God was in control of his life.
Life throws us many storms and challenges and we have a choice. We can panic, as everyone on the ship seemed to be doing, we can abandon ship, as the sailors try to do in the verses that follow our text for today, or we can wait on God.
Waiting on God means staring into the face of the wind and claiming the sovereignty of God in our lives. It means clinging to the side of the ship beyond all reason. It means believing God has plans for the larger story of our lives.
Such faith in the storms of life can be terrifying and exhilarating. It will ask of us to reach down deep into who we’ve been made to be in Christ Jesus. It will ask us to pick up our cross and follow Him all the way to the end of the journey. It will mean having us believe that God is at work in all things in our lives.
Without regard to how high the waves become or how hard the wind blows, it’s the only way to live.
- Do you every feel overwhelmed in your life? Think about how you respond when you feel overwhelmed. What do you do first? When do you truly give everything over to God?
- Take some time to look through your Bible and note all the times God's people were placed in peril by the weather or the elements. How did God act? What do these biblical stories suggest about how God will act in your life today?
- Does the end of the journey frighten you? Which concerns you more—the trials of the present or the unknown of the future? How might you change the way you trust God for your life to give you strength and vision for whatever you face or may face in your life?