In the midst of life’s storms we can trust in God’s care.
13 When a gentle south wind began to blow, they saw their opportunity; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. 14 Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the Northeaster, swept down from the island. 15 The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. 16 As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure, 17 so the men hoisted it aboard. Then they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Because they were afraid they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along. 18 We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. 19 On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. 20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.
21 After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss.22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. 26 Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”
27 On the fourteenth night we were still being driven across the Adriatic Sea, when about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land. 28 They took soundings and found that the water was a hundred and twenty feet deep. A short time later they took soundings again and found it was ninety feet deep. 29 Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. 30 In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. 31 Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.”32 So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it drift away.
33 Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. “For the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything. 34 Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” 35 After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat.36 They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 Altogether there were 276 of us on board. 38 When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea.
39 When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could. 40 Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach. 41 But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf.
42 The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. 43 But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. 44 The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.
The beautiful hymn “It is Well” makes me mist up every time I think of how it came to be written. Imagine a grieving father crossing the waters where his four daughters perished in a shipwreck. It would appear that it was not very well with his soul at all. Yet in spite of the heartache and tragedy, he puts his trust in God that through all the pain; it could still be well with his soul.
There are a few storms at sea in the Bible. Luke himself wrote about the time when Jesus calmed the storm. He did this when he was in the boat with the disciples, or when he came walking to them on the stormy seas.
But what about when we can’t see Him, when the storm rages for many days and you can’t even see daylight? As Luke writes here, you give up all hope of being saved.
Finally, a word comes to Paul through an angel. He would survive this trip, as would all those with him. It would indeed take great courage to believe in this word. Some attempt to save themselves in the lifeboat, but that is not how God’s plan was to be played out.
Sometimes we too need to cut our lifeboats free. We have all kinds of storm insurance that we depend on. Now, it isn’t doubting God’s care to have insurance, to have something set aside for when things go wrong, but when He has given us instructions for how to live, it is doubting Him to have our own Plan B stowed away.
Paul himself has some practical insurance to offer his fellows: to have something to eat, to get their strength up, so that they can endure what lies ahead.
And so everyone come safe to land.
‘God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you’. I wonder how Paul’s fellow sailors felt after their storm experience. I’d like to think some of them may have started to enquire about this God whom Paul said he belonged to and served.
I wonder if they found out that Christ has ‘regarded their helpless estate and had shed His own blood for their souls.’
Head: Are you going through any storms at the moment? What about them causes you to lose sight of day?
Heart: How does it feel knowing you both belong to God and serve Him? How does this give you comfort and assurance in the midst of storms?
Hands: Are there some lifeboats you need to cut loose, or some practical strength building you need to undertake in order to carry out God’s plan?
Prayer: Dear God, even when it is hard to see your plan in the storms of life, please help me find a way to say it is well with my soul. Thank you that I belong to you and regardless of how bad thing seem, I can still trust in You. Amen
A song to listen to: It Is Well
Nicole Davenport- Creek Road Presbyterian Church- Carina