27 When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment. 2 We boarded a ship from Adramyttium about to sail for ports along the coast of the province of Asia, and we put out to sea. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with us.
3 The next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius, in kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs. 4 From there we put out to sea again and passed to the lee of Cyprus because the winds were against us.5 When we had sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia. 6 There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board. 7 We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus. When the wind did not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. 8 We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea.
9 Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Day of Atonement.[a] So Paul warned them, 10 “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.” 11 But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. 12 Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest.
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[b] 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.”
Do you remember back in Acts 23:11 when the Lord “stood near” Paul and told him he would testify about Jesus in Rome as he had in Jerusalem? This was an exceptional moment, both because God revealed a plan to Paul and because the Lord was so near to Paul. He was instructed to have courage because of this plan. Actually, it was less of a plan and more of an outcome. God did not reveal how Paul would get to Rome, or when. He simply came to him, during a dark time in prison and told him that he would somehow, someway, make it to Rome to testify about Jesus. That was over 2 years ago. And Paul has spent almost all of that time in confinement.
Yet, here we are in Chapter 27, with Paul and the narrator, Luke, on their way to Rome. Paul was still technically in custody, but by the final verses of our reading today, he is the one offering hope, once again to those around him. The text doesn't explicitly tell us, but seemingly Paul has heard from God again. He now takes the leadership role and tells his shipmates to take courage. He explains that as God would have it, Paul must make it to Rome to stand trial before Caesar, and lucky them, God has graciously spared all of their lives as well. I can imagine the crew standing there (or swaying about) with their mouths open, wondering who this wacko really was. And still, they believed him and took Paul’s advice.
I pray with a lot of people going through very difficult circumstances - some not as bad as Paul’s, and some much worse. And what I have noticed is that there are those who can see God at work, over and over, in big and small ways, right in the midst of their struggle and pain. And then there are those who cannot see God at work in the midst of difficulty. But here’s the deal - God is at work in both situations, always. It is us who see it, or don’t. It is the individual who looks for God or doesn’t. Paul had every reason to doubt God. His circumstances were bad. But I know he kept seeing God work, even in the midst of suffering. Those glimpses of God allowed Paul to keep hope. And lead him to offer hope to those around him.
Are you looking for God? Are you acknowledging the glimpses of God in the midst of every day stuff? I promise you God is with you right now, revealing himself in various ways. Look around and notice!
Dear Lord, Open my eyes and ears to your work around me. Let me see the big and small ways you are answering prayers. Guide me to be a light in the darkness, proclaiming your beautiful and magnificent ways. Make me an instrument of grace and peace in the world. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.