An Unexpected Journey- Acts 27:13-26

In Acts 27, Paul is a prisoner on a ship, held by Roman guards and being taken to Rome to stand trial. The ship has sailed from Caeserea, encountered difficulty, and made it as far as Crete when winter begins. Not being able to sail in winter, they have arrived at a place called Fair Havens and are considering spending the winter there. There is, however, a better place to spend the winter just 40 miles away in Phoenix, and when the wind is in their favor they decide to head there. As we pick up the story in verse 13, they are heading for Phoenix and their decision to head to Phoenix turns out to be a very bad one, for a typhonikos (where we get the English word typhoon) shows up unexpectedly, and the gentle south wind they expected to take them to Phoenix suddenly becomes a violent northeast wind and drives them out to sea. In verse 14, the ship is “caught” in the storm and their efforts to resist it prove futile, they are helpless and at the mercy of the storm and the winds, being driven not toward safe harbor but farther out to sea. The wind drives them along a small island (Cauda), which has no harbor for a ship this size, but they use the cover the island provides to prepare the ship to ride out the storm (verse 16). They pull the lifeboat on board the ship (they may need it later) and wrap ropes around the hull to try and help strengthen the ship and hold it together in the storm. The picture here is of experienced sailors using all their knowledge and experience to try and weather the storm, but all their own efforts can only take them so far. This is the first principle we learn from this story, that all of our human efforts can only take us so far, and often, when those efforts are exhausted, we are left at the mercy of forces beyond our control (but not beyond God’s control). When the sailors realize what is happening, fear begins to set in, for they realize that the northeast wind will drive the ship southwest, and southwest is toward the sandbars of Syrtis, a shallow area off the coast of Africa, which for a ship that size would mean certain doom. Fear having set in, we then see it begin to increase, for in verse 18 they throw the cargo overboard. Then in verse 19 they throw the tackle overboard. Their fear then turns to hopelessness in verse 20, when they give up “all hope of being saved”. Their fear then sets in for “many days”, as seen in the fact that they do not eat on a ship full of grain (verse 20). They are now at the place where God is ready to act and they are “ready” to hear from him. They have finally given up on their efforts to “save” themselves and are now ready to hear from God and turn to Him. This story now becomes very relevant to believers at all times, for we find that many of us still do exactly the same thing, that in the storms we often act like unbelievers and rely on our own strength to weather the storms. We only call on God when we have exhausted our own efforts, when we can no longer “save” ourselves, when the storm has finally brought us to the end of our own strength. It is here that we find the main “point” of the story and its application to our lives here and now. This storm was no “coincidence”, but was sent from God and had a purpose, just as do the “storms” in our lives. Many of the storms we encounter are sent by God to bring us to the end of our own strength and self-reliance, to bring us to the “end of our ropes”. This is often when we also finally “call on” God to come save us, and maybe He merely wants to use these storms to bring us to the end of self-reliance and teach us to rely on Him (rather than our own strength and experience), not just in the storms, but in all aspects of life. In our next post, we will discover the real purpose of this storm, and also focus on the fact that they were all in God’s hands in the midst of the storm, that He was in control and was working “behind the scenes” in all that took place.

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