Skip Heitzig - Acts 27:39-28:16
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I have a couple of friends who absolutely love the weather. You know, a lot of people say, well, what's the weather like? It's like the weather, that's like such a shallow topic. But to them, it's like their favorite topic. In fact, their favorite thing to watch on television is the Weather Channel. I kid you not. I remember hearing this, I go, I don't get it. I mean, OK, it's like you hear it once a day, move on. But then, I started watching the Weather Channel and I thought this was kind of addicting. You know, I kind of like it.
And there was a special segment on there called Storm Stories, I don't even know if it's still on. I've sort of been weaned off the Weather Channel since then. But Storm Stories, so they fascinate me how storms generate and what happens and how the people survive them, et cetera. Acts 27 is the Storm Stories of the New Testament. And by the way, my friends that I talked to you about? Their favorite chapter in the Bible is Act 27.
It is the last voyage of Paul the Apostle, last recorded voyage, of Paul the Apostle. We believe after this he will travel again and be re-arrested. But this is the last recorded in scripture voyage of the Apostle Paul. It lasts all of Chapter 27, which is 44 verses long I believe, and into Chapter 28, down to about verse 15 or 16, so a chapter and a half. Luke gives the details of this voyage. It
Is one of the most famous stories in ancient history of seagoing and a shipwreck. There are many stories that are told in antiquity, but this is one of the most famous. And, of all ancient stories of shipwrecks, this happens to be the most detailed. And because of that fact, scholars, for years, have studied Acts 27 just to get an idea of how boats were built, how people traveled, and what the facts were concerning seagoing voyages. So that is what is before us in Acts 27.
Now I don't know if you have traveled much on the ocean. Chances are, where we live, many of you have not. But if you have been in the Navy or you have gone fishing on boats or spent much time in the sea, you'll be able to sympathize a little bit with the people who are a part of this voyage. I've never had the experiences of Paul the Apostle, though I was involved in a small shipwreck at one time, not on any capacity like this. But my first memory of a tough time at the ocean is going over to Catalina Island from Southern California. My dad would take us over to Catalina.
But one time he took us deep sea fishing. And I just could not wait to get on that boat and fish out in the open ocean, until I got on the boat. And as a kid, you just got to picture a kid who is out there for two days. And the first day, he was basically just feeding the fish. I mean he was just hanging his head overboard, green in color, and just chucking up a storm. It was horrible for me.
And then years later, I had another experiences of going across the English Channel from England over to France, over to Belgium I think it was at the time. And it was before the Chunnel was built. And we were just on the ship. And it was a little humorous, I have to admit, for me to see these well-mannered, well-dressed British citizens just hanging their heads over the deck feeding the fish. I don't know why, it just struck me as funny, but it did.
In Chapter 27, as Paul is going now to Rome, he is, he believes, and I believe with him, right in the middle of the will of God. He always wanted to go to Rome. It was a heart desire that he had. He even wrote about it. He spoke about it. And back in Chapter 19, he says I'm going to Macedonia and the areas of Achaia, then I have to go to Jerusalem for the feast. And then he said this, then, I must see Rome. It's got to happen. I've got to do it. I must see Rome.
Well, people warned him not to go to Jerusalem because bad things would happen. He would get arrested. He said, quit bothering me about that. I'm ready not only to get arrested, I'm ready to die if that's what the Lord wants. Sure enough, he gets arrested, taken to Caesarea spends two years there. Goes through three different trials before Felix, a governor of Judea, Festus, another governor who succeeded him, and then King Agrippa, Herod Agrippa II. He appealed to Caesar, because he felt he was getting the run around. And so Agrippa said, well, you could have escaped all this, because we can't find that you have done anything wrong, but you appealed to Caesar, so you're going to Caesar.
But Paul believed, even though he was beaten, even though he was arrested, even though he had several mistrials with poor evidence, he believed he was in the will of God. And the reason he felt so sure is that when he was arrested in Jerusalem and then taken to Caesarea, the Lord appeared to him at night in a vision and said be of good cheer Paul, cheer up, man. Even as you have testified of me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome. The Lord told him you're going to Rome. So he's on a ship, beginning in verse one of Chapter 27, in what he believes is the will of God.
Now, we're going to look at a boat trip, a storm story. But while we look at this literally, let's just keep something tucked in the back of our little minds. And that is as true as this is historically and literally, there are some parallels spiritually, because Paul's whole life really was a storm. He'd never had it easy. He followed relentlessly the will of God, but it never came simply. He fought, it seems, at every turn.
And all of us, as we sail through life, we go through storms. We have our own storm stories. And this chapter shows us how to cope with it, how to deal with it. So we're going to look at it historically, literally, but then also make some applications of us going through trials, difficult times, storms, and what to do as we do.
Every human being faces heartache, trouble, difficulty, every single one of them. Job said, as surely man is born, he is destined to trouble. As the sparks fly upward, man is born to trouble. In other words, you can count on it. It's a fact of life, just like the fire and the heat ascends and the little sparks of fire would go upward, ascend upward. A fact of life, it's a fact of life, that you're going to go through trouble. Jesus said the rain falls on the just and unjust alike. But though all people experience trouble, we experience a very unique kind of trouble. Because if you passionately love Jesus, you are also aware that we have an enemy of our souls who passionately hates Jesus and His cause.
And Paul understood this. Paul understood that as he traveled to Lystra, and Derbe, Iconium, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, he understood that he wasn't going to a playground, but a battleground, that he was doing warfare. He had an enemy who was trying to stop him. And so he kept that in perspective. No matter what happened here, he believes he's in the will of God.
So the end of Chapter 26, Agrippa said to Festus, last verse, verse 32, "This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar." And when it was determined, verse 1, Chapter 27, "when it was decided that we should sail to Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to one named Julius, a centurion of the Augustine regiment." Paul is not alone. There are other prisoners with him.
Now we're going to discover just how many as we continue reading, if by God's good grace we make it through this chapter tonight. We'll understand that the total number of persons aboard the ship were 276, crew members, people who watched the cargo, the captain and his small group crew, and prisoners, 276 altogether. So Paul and all of them are given under the direction of Julius a centurion of the Augustine regiment.
Now, in the Roman army, the backbone of the Roman army was a centurion. It's amazing to me, and I'll get to this in a second, it's amazing to me the quality of character that shows up in the Roman military ranks, especially among centurions. They were really great at picking leaders in the military. They were not so good at choosing leaders in politics. Their Caesars, their governors, were wacky. But what's new? I mean in politics, it's different than in the military. It's a difficult field, the political field. I admire, prayerfully, any Christian who says I want to get involved in politics. I want to pray them up, because it's so difficult to do a political dance.
A soldier's different. And so the kind of people that rose to the top in the Roman military were amazing. I said they were the backbone of the Roman army. A centurion was over a century, a hundred men. There were 60 centuries in a legion. So 6,000 men in a legion divided by 60 centuries, so you had 60 centurions in a Roman legion. They were risk takers. They were bold, but they were steady, usually, in personality. And I mentioned that they are noteworthy. In the New Testament, there is an incredible quality about them even when it comes to understanding the principle of faith, especially faith in God.
For example, one day Jesus is up around near Capernaum, where his headquarters was up in the Galilee, and a centurion came to him and implored him that he would heal his servant. And Jesus said, sure, man, I'll come to your house. Let's go. I'll follow you. And the centurion said, oh, no, no. I'm not worthy that you should even step into my roof, into my home. You could just from here at a distance, speak a word and I know my servant will be healed, because I'm a man under authority and I'm a man of authority.
Being under authority, I know what it is to take orders. Being a man of authority, I know what it is to give orders. I say to one do this. He does it. To another do that, he does it. So I know that you can speak and you have the authority from a distance. You don't even have to touch him. You don't have to sully your feet by coming into my house. Just speak the word, man, and he'll be healed. And Jesus marveled, and said, I haven't found this kind of faith even in all of Israel. So high marks for a centurion.
At the cross, when Jesus was crucified, there was a storm. The sky darkened. There was an earthquake. And after Jesus died, the centurion presiding over that said, surely, truly, this man is the Son of God. What a statement of faith. Then we read about in Chapter 10 of the Book of Acts, a guy named Cornelius, a centurion. He was in Caesarea. He summoned Peter to come and tell him about the gospel. And it says, Cornelius was a man who feared God, gave alms to the people, and prayed always. That's a Roman centurion. You say, well, that sounds like a pastor. That sounds like a reverend. That sounds like a New Testament Christian. It's a Roman centurion pre-conversion.
So this one is named Julius, that's just his name, a very common name, a centurion of the Augustine regiment. "And so entering a ship of Adramyttium, we put to sea meaning to sail along the coast of Asia, Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, was with us."
Now let's just pause here and consider Paul on this trip. It's going to be a tough trip. His whole life's been tough. This journey is tough. Nothing comes easy. If you think, if I'm in God's will, things are just going to run smooth, banish that thought. Yes, the Lord may open doors, create opportunities for you, confirm His will by doing so. But it doesn't mean that the path is going to be smooth and problem free. Au, contraire. You now walk around with a bullseye. And the enemy will do everything he can, though God is ultimately in control.
So Paul is getting what he always wanted, sort of. He wanted to go to Rome. But he didn't just think he was going to go like this. He thought he would go as a missionary, as a clergyman. But he's not going as a clergyman, he's going as a convict.
He wanted to go to Rome. God said, absolutely. I'll let you go to Rome. And I'll have Rome pick up the town. The catch is you got to be a prisoner. To get a free ride, you got to be a prisoner. You've got to be in this prison ship.
The Jews used to have a saying, it's still famous in some Yiddish and Jewish circles. Man makes plans and God laughs. Paul had it all planned out in his head probably of how it was going to go down. He did not quite expect the way it did go down. But the Lord is superintending his steps all the way along.
Now you'll notice that "we entered a ship," verse 2. "We put to sea meaning to sail along the coast of Asia." So the plan is to go and hug the coast. You'll see soon that we're entering the fall time of the year. It's dangerous to sail in the Mediterranean in the winter, always has been. Sailors know that. So this ship is going to hug the coast going up north along the coast of Lebanon and then Asia Minor and then going to cut across and stay along the coast.
Now you'll notice that Paul has traveling companions. This is weird. It's unheard of. Prisoners don't get to bring traveling companions with them. The only way a traveling companion could come along with a prisoner is if they were slaves of that prisoner. So Aristarchus, the Macedonian brother, and Dr. Luke would have said we are Paul's slaves.
Or, number two, and this is probably it, Agrippa, as well as Festus, must have known Paul was innocent, and because he was a Roman citizen granted him certain leeway, certain favors. Because it was just unheard of that a slave could bring traveling companions. Paul was allowed to do that. And he was able to bring Luke, who was part of this trip. He's writing about it.
So verse 3, "The next day we landed at Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly." This is also interesting. "And gave him liberty to go to his friends and receive care." Again, it's sort of weird that somebody of Roman notoriety who's in charge of prisoners would say, well, Paul, listen, you've got friends here? Go for a couple days. Enjoy fellowship with them. Go hang out at the church you guys started. And then come back and get on the prison ship again and we'll keep going.
It's weird because if a Roman centurion, a soldier, a guardsman who had charge of the prisoners, if a prisoner escaped his control, that soldier would incur the punishment that that prisoner should have gotten. All I can think of is that Paul was able to win his heart rather quickly. Maybe there was just something about Paul where this centurion said I know people, I know men. I've been around a lot of different people. And I know I can trust him.
So, it happen. They were at Sidon. I happened to go to Sidon. You know, I've always wanted to go to Sidon. I flew into Beirut. And for years, my buddy who's a pastor of a church up there, I said, hey, let me go to Sidon. And he always says, no, no. It's too dangerous. It's a radical Islamic city. You can't go there. You'll stand out like a banana among figs. They're going to hunt you down.
So I talked to one of his assistants without him knowing. I said, hey, can you drive me to Sidon? And he goes, sure, man, I'll take you to Sidon if you want to risk it. I said I want to risk it.
Well, when Sammy, my buddy, found out about it, he goes, oh no, no, no, you can't go. And so he prevented me. But the next day, he put me himself in his car. And a couple of us, Murray you were there with us, and we drove down to Sidon. So I was able to get out of the car and take a picture of this cool crusader fortress. I had always wanted to see it. And then Sammy and the gang said, get in the car quick, because they saw a gang, a local gang, kind of coming in my way.
I stood out like a sore thumb. So anyway, we face that. Paul got there and had a welcoming committee when he was there, because there were believers at that time.
Verse 4, "When we had put to sea, from there we sailed under the shelter of Cyprus", that large island where Barnabas was from, if you remember, "because the winds were contrary. And when we had sailed over the sea, which is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia. And there, the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing to Italy. And he put us on board."
So they take the prisoners off one boat and put them all on this boat. This boat is from Alexandria, Egypt. It's an Egyptian grain vessel. Rome got most of its wheat and bread supplies from Egypt. They had a contract with that nation. So there were shipments regularly going over. And we know this was a grain ship, because when we get down to verse 38, God willing by tonight, maybe not, but God willing, we find out that there was grain aboard that they threw out to be able to survive the storm. So it's a grain ship going from Egypt to Italy.
In those days, there were no passenger ships. There were no Disney cruises. There was no Love Boat Princess Cruise of the Mediterranean, Footsteps of Paul the Apostle first class, second class, third class. There were just cargo ships and prisoners or people, certain amounts of people were allowed on board. So it was always in a combination.
Now, something about this ship. We have discovered, since this was written, what these ships looked like. They were about 180 feet long, 50 feet across or wide. And the hull was 44 feet deep. It was a very sturdy ship to withstand Mediterranean Sea travel.
However, it had some distinct disadvantages. Number one, it had no rudder. It was controlled by two large oars at the stern, the back, the rear, of the ship. It only had one mast, not multiple masts. It had one solid mast with one sail that was square, a very rudimentary, basic sailing vessel.
And because of that, though it was sturdy, the disadvantage was you couldn't take it into the wind. You couldn't tack easily with that. So it could end up just about anywhere. It was sturdy. It was strong it was slow moving. And it could not easily be controlled in problem situations.
So that's where we're going with this. Verse 7, "When we had sailed slowly many days, I don't know how many days, but a lot, "and traveled with difficulty off Cnidus, the wind not permitting us to proceed, we sailed under the shelter of Crete off Salmone. Passing it with difficulty, we came to a place called fair havens near the city of Lasea. Now when much time had been spent and sailing was now dangerous because the fast was already over, Paul advised them..."
Now before we read what Paul advised, the fast was the Day of Atonement. The one day of the year Jews were required by Jewish law, Mosaic law, to fast, to afflict their souls, literally. They took that to mean fasting. So the fast is over. The Feast of Tabernacles is over. The Day of Atonement is over, which means we're dealing with a time frame of mid October, just when the weather changes. And it becomes very difficult to sail in the Mediterranean.
So because of that, "Paul advised them saying, men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives." So Paul speaks up. Paul is a leader. Paul is not the captain of the ship. He's just an apostle. But he has an opinion. And he goes, men, not a good idea. This is going to be a problem.
Now before you dismiss Paul, yes, he was a preacher. But he had a lot of experience in sea travel. He had done already three missionary journeys. He had been on that sea, on those islands. He knew it well.
In fact, do you remember what he said in 2 Corinthians 11? He said three times I was shipwrecked. And I spent an entire night and a day adrift in the sea. So he knew the ocean. He knew the seasons of the sea. He had experience at sea. So he's giving a learned opinion that it's going to be problematic.
There are at a place known as called fair havens. Sounds like a good place, doesn't it? It sounds sweet.
It was boring. It was small. It wasn't a great place for sailors to spend a winter in. So they want a bigger town. They're thinking, look, the preacher wants to stay here. I mean, you know, this is good for a preacher, but not for a group of sailors. We need a bigger place to hang for the winter.
So nevertheless, verse 11, "The centurion was more persuaded by the helmsmen and the owner of the ship than by the things spoken by Paul. And because the harbor was not suitable to winter in, the majority advised to set sail from there also. If by any means, they could reach Phenice", So you know, why not go to Phenice in the wintertime, right?
Of course, it's not that Phoenix. It's not our Phoenix. It's the Phenice which was a seacoast town on this island of Crete. "...a harbor of Crete opening toward the southwest and the northwest and winter there. When the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their desire", ooh, the breeze is good, "putting out to sea, they sailed close to Crete. But not long after, a tempestuous headwind arose called Euroclydon", or Euroclydon, depending on how you would want to pronounce it. "So when the ship was caught and could not head into the wind, we let her drive."
Now I want you to notice some phrases that we have read so far. Look at them again and notice them together about this particular voyage and this storm that they are heading into. Notice in verse 4, it says "the winds were contrary." And then, in verse 7, notice the word "with difficulty," "we arrived with difficulty," verse 8, "passing it with difficulty," verse 9, "sailing was now dangerous." Verse 14, "not long after that, a tempestuous headwind arose."
Something about storms, we know this to be a fact. Trials we go through. Stormy problems in our life. We know this to be true, storms change our comfort. That's why we hate them. No, I like it just the way it is, thank you. I don't want any change in my comfort zone. I don't want you to take me out of my comfort zone. But storms always do.
It brings difficulty. It brings danger. It brings headwind. You think, man, I've been serving the Lord, this gets tougher and tougher and tougher as I go. Remember, the Lord spoke to Paul and confirmed he is in the will of God. And yet, though in the will of God, danger, headwind, difficulty, trial.
Some of us say, self included, I've said this, man, I love change. I hate when things are just boring all the time. I love change. I've discovered when people say that, self included, what we mean is I love change as long as I initiate that change. I don't like it if somebody else initiates it and changes my comfort in the process. I don't want to get out of my comfort zone. Yeah, I like change as long as I'm the one doing it.
This is a difficult situation that Paul is in. However, it's needed.
You and I need, from time to time, in the will of God, to get our comfort challenged. Look how flabby we get if we don't keep working out, if we eat whatever we want, and just don't do any exercise, if there's no resistance in our life. And we can get into a rut psychologically, spiritually, as well as physically.
When the United States was being settled years ago, there weren't roads, there weren't freeways. There was not even railway at the time. But it was being settled by covered wagon with wooden wheels with a band of metal. So the wagon wheel was very narrow. And it would cut grooves, especially after it would rain on the soil and it was soft. If a stagecoach went, it would sink down and create a deep groove. And then, when it would dry, they would keep going and going. And it would just kind of go, it would be a rut.
And if you're in that kind of a rut with that kind of a wheel, it's impossible to get out. So there was a sign, when our country was being settled, that said avoid this rut or you'll be in it for the next 25 miles.
Some of us get in ruts. We're just used to things a certain way. And then when our storm comes and we change our comfort, we flip out. We freak out.
But could it be that God has something so much better than what you're already experiencing right now? And this is why this storm is coming? Example, you get the dream job. Man, this is awesome. I don't want things to change I love it just the way it is. I've been looking for this a long time. We just get settled.
Then, you walk into work one day. And the boss says, sorry, we have to make cutbacks. We're laying you off. You go, Lord, why would you do that? Why would you allow that?
Well, perhaps, the Lord has a better job in mind and in store for you. But you weren't looking for it before. You were happy the way things were. But God has something better for you. But you wouldn't have looked for it. You wouldn't have cared about it. But now you are looking for it. You've been shaken from that place.
The prophet Jeremiah, the Lord was speaking about Moab, and He said, "Moab has been at ease from his youth." This is Jeremiah, I believe Chapter 48 or 49. "Moab has been at ease from his youth. He has settled on his dregs. And he has not been poured or emptied from vessel to vessel."
It's an illustration from the world of wine in antiquity. When they would ferment wine, the dregs, the sledge, would collect at the bottom. And that would affect the taste. It would have to be agitated regularly and poured from one vessel into another. And as it was poured, it would mix things up and it would keep the taste and keep the wine better.
So what a picture. Moab has been at ease from his youth. He has not been poured from vessel to vessel. He has settled down in his dregs, the sludge.
Some of us have sludge in our lives. Just gunk, man, just junk. We just got so used to this. And God starts shaking things up. And before you shake your fist at God, just think that God might have something better for you down the road. So storms change comfort. Headwinds all the way.
So verse 15, "When the ship was caught and could not head into the wind, we just let it go", let her drive. Remember, there is no rudder on this baby. There's just some oars. And pick those babies up, just let it go. "And running under the shelter of an island called Clauda, we secured the skiff", that's the small ship, the dinghy, "with difficulty. And when they had taken it on board", they brought that little ship that usually hangs off the end, brought it on the hull, "they used cables to undergird the ship fearing lest they should run aground on the Syrtis sands. They struck sail and were so driven. And because we were exceedingly tempest tossed, the next day they lightened the ship. And on the third day, we threw the ship's tackle overboard with our own hands."
Now in those days, they navigated by the stars. They didn't have a compass. They didn't have radar, sonar. They didn't even have a compass. They would navigate by the stars. You're going to see that they won't be able to do that because it's cloudy, as we go on.
So what they were afraid of, when they said the Syrtis sands, these are probably the shoals, the sandbars, off the coast of Libya in Northern Africa. They don't know where they're at. They don't have a radar screen or a computer. They just know they're going in that direction. And they're afraid, because it's a legendary place where ships can get caught. And so they did a common practice. They put ropes underneath it, cables, tightened it up, so that that sturdy wood wouldn't come apart in the strong storm.
But then it's interesting, in verse 18 and 19, they start throwing things overboard. So in verse 18, they lightened the ship. This is a grain ship. They're throwing grain overboard, probably. We know they do that down in verse 38 when it was day. Didn't recognize the land, but they observed a bay with a beach, oh, that's verse 39. "So when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship and threw out the wheat into the sea."
Then, in verse 19, they're not just throwing the cargo, but they're throwing the ship's tackle. That's a generalized term, a broad term, for things like beds, tables, any kind of furnishings at all. They'll just throw it overboard. OK.
What kind of a ship is it? What are they bringing to Rome? Grain. They wouldn't get paid unless they delivered the full amount of grain. It's a grain ship. Its duty, its sole purpose, is to bring grain from Egypt to Rome. But now, they're throwing it overboard.
And there is a second principle in storms. They don't just change your comfort zone, they change your values. When you have a storm suddenly, that grain that is so important, man, that's my paycheck. You kidding? I'm not going to throw that overboard. When it comes to the paycheck or your life, throw the grain overboard. Throw the tackle overboard. It changes your values.
Suddenly, other things are more important to you than just that. And storms will do that. It's one of the refining ways that the Lord uses them in your life. It changes your value system. It turns salesmen into survivors. It changes entrepreneurs into endurers. These people are just hanging on for their life as this storm gets worse and worse.
There's a great story. And I've read it before. And I confirmed it on a couple of different sources this week. But years ago, there was this famous European wrestler from Turkey. His name was Yusuf Ismail. And Yusuf was nicknamed the Terrible Turk, Yusuf the Terrible Turk. He was 305 pounds.
He won all the championships in all of Europe in wrestling. He came to America to go up against a guy named Strangler Lewis. You know wrestlers had like gangster names in those days. So you got Yusuf the Turk against Strangler Lewis. And Yusuf the Turk won on American soil the title, international title.
He was paid $5,000. He demanded that the payment be given to him in gold coin. And he wore a belt around his pack, around his body, where he put his money. He kept a gold coin. And he had between $8,000 and $10,000 of gold coin, including the $5,000 that he won in America around his body.
Now you think, well, that's dangerous. Not for him, you know, nobody's going to come at Yusuf the Terrible Turk. So he kind of bore around quite proudly. Well, he is going back to Europe on the USS Burgoyne, a ship that was taking him back home. Got into a storm. The ship began to sink. He was tossed overboard. But because he had that gold around him, it was an anchor. He was trapped. He sunk to the bottom to his death.
And that reminds us of one of the Proverbs that says riches do not help in the day of wrath. Caught by his own greed, so to speak. Pinned by it. Storms will change your value.
I bet if you could interview Yusuf as he's going down, he'd say take this stupid money belt off. I just want to breathe, man. I just want to live.
Now, verse 20, "When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days", remember, no compass. They're navigating by stars. They can't see any, "and no small tempest beat on us", that's the diminutive way of saying it was a big, old storm, "all hope that we would be saved was finally given up."
You just have to picture utter despair. They have fought headwinds. They have fought this massive nor'easter called the Euroclydon. They can't see to navigate. They're afraid. They can't control the ship. They're throwing stuff overboard. They still can't see the stars.
We're dead. We resign ourselves to a death at sea.
But after long abstinence from food. Now, they're fasting. Not because they're holy, but because they're sick to their stomach. Nobody wants to eat, they want to just survive.
It says, "Then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, men, you should have listened to me", Don't you hate it when somebody says that to you? And Paul said, let me tell you what to do. I think you ought to stay here in fair haven. They said, oh, no. You're just a preacher, what do you know? Well, now the preacher was right.
And so he says, well, you should have listened to me. But he didn't do that to rub it in as much as to give them better counsel now.
"...and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. And now I urge you take heart, cheer up, for there will be no loss of life among you but only of the ship. For there stood by me this night an angel of God to whom I belong and whom I serve saying, do not be afraid, Paul. You must be brought before Caesar. Indeed, God has granted you all those who sail with you. Therefore, take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me. However, we must run aground on a certain island."
Now you notice that Paul starting to take charge. It's what leaders do. When there is difficulties and everybody is burned out and there is no way out, a leader arises. And he moves now from captive to captain. He said you should have listened to me, but don't despair. Take heart. Cheer up. The Lord appeared to me through a messenger. And he gave a message of God.
Now storms will do this to you. They'll bring out the best in you or they'll bring out the worst in you. And the metal of a man or a woman is tested in difficulty. If you want to find out who a person really is, listen to them, watch them, observe them in a trial. That's who they are. And Paul rises to the top.
Now, as we go through this, I want you to notice something of what we just read. What kept Paul so calm? What kept him so tethered where he could say cheer up? Everybody's saying, we're dead. Cheer up, man. What are you a nut case?
No. Listen. Paul had three anchors. Three anchors that kept his faith strong that he let down. He let down three anchors. First of all, he let down the anchor of ownership. Ownership. Notice what he says. Verse 23, "For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong." Do you belong to Him? Have you given Him your life? Have you turned your life over to Him? As I like to tell young believers, you're turning the pink slip of your life over to Him. You're not saying, God is my copilot. Man, you're getting in the back seat and letting him drive.
Do you belong to Him? Because if you belong to Him in a storm, that gives you an anchor, you see.
There was an old man who was asked by a younger group. Hey, what do you do in trials? What do you do in temptations? What do you do when life goes crazy? He said, simple. I lift my head toward heaven. I say God, your property is in danger. It's a good perspective.
If you're the Lord's, then you're His property. Then you're His responsibility. Well, I've got this disease, this problem, that's his responsibility. You belong to Him. That's an anchor of ownership.
Second is the anchor of service. "The Lord to whom I belong and whom I serve", Paul is saying I'm on this boat because I'm on a mission from God. And if you're on a mission from God, do you know that you're invincible till God's done with you in that mission?
Oh, he died such an untimely death. He died before his time. No, he didn't. He died right on time. You don't know his time. God knows his time. It is appointed to every man to die once. You don't know that date. You have a shelf life. You don't know the end date. God does.
But if you're serving the Lord, you're on a mission. Like the two witnesses in Revelation, and when they had finished their testimony, then, power was given to the beast, the false prophet to kill them. Only when they finished their testimony. So that's an anchor.
The anchor of ownership, the anchor of service. Third is the anchor of trust. He says, verse 25, "for I believe God." That it's going to be just like God said. Man, I want to hang out with Paul. What faith.
Dude, you're in a storm. We all think we're going to die. Aah. I've got three anchors down, man. And one of them is I believe what God told me. I trust His word. He's a promise keeper all the way. I believe God.
When Abraham Lincoln was president during the worst time of our nation's history, the Civil War, he kept a Bible on his desk or on his table. And after he died, it was discovered that in one particular Psalm it was this smudge mark which indicated that that long, bony finger of his was laying across that scripture for many days over a lifetime.
And it was Psalm 34:4. "I sought the Lord, and He heard me and delivered me from all my fears." It's a great thing for a leader during a difficult time to remember. I sought the Lord, and He heard me. I believe God. I sought the Lord. He heard me. He delivered me from all my fears.
So take heart. "I believe God. It will be just as He told me. However, we must run aground on a certain island. Now when the 14th night had come", two stinking weeks later. One hour must have seemed like a week, but two full weeks after this. Problem after problem.
"As we were driven up and down the Adriatic Sea, about midnight, the sailors sensed that they were drawing near some land", they must have heard surf crashing. Breakers going off, "and they took soundings and found it to be 20 fathoms. And when they had gone a little further, they took soundings again and found it to be 15 fathoms." Now soundings, the Greek word is hearing the land, hearing the land.
What they would do, the sailors would take a weight and tie it to a rope that was marked. They threw it overboard. And it would sink to the bottom. They'd hear it, feel it hit. They could then measure it, bring it out, and see how deep the water was. A fathom is six feet. So we have 120 feet. Now a little shallower, 90 feet, as they took these soundings as they are hearing the land.
"Then fearing, lest we should run aground on the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern." Now remember Paul had his own anchors in his heart. But they're dropping these anchors, four anchors, from the stern and prayed for day to come.
Next, we don't have the time now, but they have done some interesting archeology of the area. And some believe they have actually found these four anchors. For another time, don't have time to get into it. Sorry. Preview of coming attractions.
"And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, when they had let down the skiff into the sea, under the pretense of putting anchors out from the prow, Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved." They're trying to get on the dinghy. They're trying to navigate a smaller ship instead of the bigger one. "Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the skiff and they let it fall off." Now they're listening to the preacher.
"As it was day about to dawn, Paul implored them to take food saying today is the 14th day that you have waited and continued without food and eaten nothing." Now, I have an interesting question. If Paul has just said, verse 24, God told me that we're going to make it. Everybody's going to make it. God is foreordained that we should all make it through this storm and we're all going to live. We're all going to be delivered.
If that's true, then here he says, wait, don't get in that boat. Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved. Now, the captain, if he were a strict Calvinist, could have said what difference does it make if it's all in the will of God that we survive? It makes no difference at all whether we're in this boat or that boat. Paul says, no, don't get in that boat, you won't live. He just said you will live. But you'll live as long as you stay in this ship.
So you have on one sense, one hand, God foreordaining an outcome. And Paul states that. But then he says, wait, wait, you have to make the right choice about which boat you're going to get into. Now, this is just an interesting thing to note that both of these are here. Because it's funny, and I don't have a lot of patience for either side of this argument, people who are really ardent in one little camp or another, because I don't think they're thinking well.
But the Calvinists will say, with or without human cooperation, God is sovereign, will get His will done. The Armenian side of it will say, well, the response of man is so crucial. I contend it's quite simple. Both of them are true.
One is given from a divine perspective. One is seen from a human perspective. From a human perspective, we are implored to make the right choice. From a divine perspective, we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. It's two spokes in the same wheel. I have no problem with it.
So Paul says, yep, God foreordained it. But don't get in that boat or it ain't going to work. So again, Paul's taking charge. And he's just so practical, man. He says, look, here's what we need, guys. You haven't eaten for a while, so what we need is prayer and a good breakfast. So practical.
"And when he said these things, he took bread and he gave thanks in the presence of them all." Interesting. If you wonder should I pray in a restaurant like in front of people out loud? I mean I don't want to, why not? Paul did it in front of all these 276 people, including the centurion and the helmsmen.
I was in the DMV, or excuse me, we call it here, MVD, right, getting something registered on Monday. And it was great, because it's a packed house. You know these things are packed. And people are waiting. And somebody recognized me there and asked me a Bible question about death and resurrection.
I thought, oh, this is great. So they asked it out loud. I answered it out loud. Another guy said, oh, I recognize you. So we all start having this three-way discussion about the promises of God. And nobody's going to leave, because they're in line, man. They want to be next and get that license or something. It's like perfect setup.
He prayed in the presence of them all. "Then they were all encouraged and they took food themselves. And we were 276 persons on the ship. So when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship and threw out the wheat into the sea.
When it was day, they did not recognize the land, but they observed a bay with the beach unto which they planned to run the ship if possible. They let go the anchors, left them in the sea, meanwhile, loosing the rudder ropes. And they hoisted the main sail to the wind and made for shore. But striking a place were two seas met, they ran the ship aground. And the prow stuck fast, remained immovable. But the stern was being broken up by the violence of the waves.
And the soldiers' plan was to kill the prisoners lest any of them should swim away and escape. But the centurion, wanting to save Paul, kept them from their purpose and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to the land. And the rest, some on boards, and some on the ship, and on parts of the ship. And so it was that they all escaped safely to land."
Now next time we're going to finish the book. We'll be in Chapter 28. We'll easily finish the book. And I'll mop up and drag out a few points from this chapter as we go, because the storm continues. The drama continues before Paul does get to Rome.
But, it says the ship was broken up and they got on board. So I've always just had this thought, could they maybe have stood up? The Bible doesn't say they did not. There's no evidence in scripture that says they just held on to them in the ocean. Maybe, we have the first instance in the Bible of somebody surfing to the land. I mean, I would have tried that. It's like you're on the board, just stand up now, because it could really be awesome. I doubt it.
Father, we want to thank You that in the midst of storms, in the midst of change, in the midst of difficulties, we are being refined as our values are being changed, as our comfort is being challenged. That we can be anchored, we can be tethered, by the fact that You own us. We serve You. And we trust Your promises. We can live boldly, publicly, being undaunted by the storms that come our way, because You always provide boards, parts of a ship that will take us safely to Your desired port. Strengthen us, Lord, those of us who are dealing with difficulties. Pray for brothers and sisters in this flock, those listening, Lord, on the airwaves, by television, or their computer, Lord. You know where they are. You know what kind of situations they are facing right now. Some very dark and difficult. They can't see the stars. They can't navigate. But like Job said, You know the way that I take. And I will come forth as gold after I am tested. Lord, if you are driving some to a closer relationship with You, I pray we would embrace You with all of our hearts. And I just simply want to pray, Lord, right now for anybody who hasn't committed their life to Christ. They are going through storms, but they don't know Your fellowship with them. They don't have the anchors like Paul had. They don't know You personally enough to trust You with their lives. I pray they would turn to You, that they would surrender. Maybe it is that You are just driving them back to Jesus.
So as we close this service with heads bowed, if you don't know the Lord yet, but you feel like the Lord has been trying to get your attention and taking you to Him, would you just respond to Him and say, yes, I want to give my life to Jesus tonight or I want to come back to the Lord tonight. Just raise your hand in the air if that describes you. If you want to give your life to God for the first time or come back to Him, would you just raise your hand so I can acknowledge you and pray for you as we close? Anybody at all? Raise it up high enough so that I can see it.
Well, Father, just keep us all close to Your side for Your purpose, for Your pleasure, for Your will. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.