The Storm at Sea
13When a gentle wind from the south started blowing, the men thought it was a good time to do what they had planned. So they pulled up the anchor, and we sailed along the coast of Crete. 14But soon a strong wind called “The Northeaster” blew against us from the island. 15The wind struck the ship, and we could not sail against it. So we let the wind carry the ship.
16We went along the island of Cauda on the side that was protected from the wind. We had a hard time holding the lifeboat in place, 17but finally we got it where it belonged. Then the sailors wrapped ropes around the ship to hold it together. They lowered the sail and let the ship drift along, because they were afraid it might hit the sandbanks in the gulf of Syrtis.
18The storm was so fierce that the next day they threw some of the ship's cargo overboard. 19Then on the third day, with their bare hands they threw overboard some of the ship's gear. 20For several days we could not see either the sun or the stars. A strong wind kept blowing, and we finally gave up all hope of being saved.
21Since none of us had eaten anything for a long time, Paul stood up and told the men:
You should have listened to me! If you had stayed on in Crete, you would not have had this damage and loss. 22But now I beg you to cheer up, because you will be safe. Only the ship will be lost.
23I belong to God, and I worship him. Last night he sent an angel 24to tell me, “Paul, don't be afraid! You will stand trial before the Emperor. And because of you, God will save the lives of everyone on the ship.” 25Cheer up! I am sure that God will do exactly what he promised. 26But we will first be shipwrecked on some island.
The Irish author Derek Landy said that “plans are invitation to disappointment.” That’s more than true concerning the plans that most of Paul’s shipmates made to sail onto Phoenix (v.12).
At first the wind blew gently and the journey progressed as planned (v13). But their early progress wasn’t a guarantee of smooth sailing. A Northeaster sprang up that quickly blew them miles off course (v.14). Caught in the grip of the storm they could no longer control the ship or hold it together, so ropes had to be wrapped around it (vv.15-17). The violent battering continued. To stay afloat the cargo was jettisoned (vv.18-19), but still the storm persisted until all hope was lost and death loomed near (v.20).
In the midst of a desperate situation there’s a glaring contrast. There’s the imminent peril of drowning and loss of life because of the recklessness of men and the persistent good sense and strength of Paul. Why was he strong? Because he knew God’s plan (to be a witness in Rome) and was confident in God’s power (to get him to Rome despite the storm).
Then a word from the Lord: Paul assures the 275 other people on the ship that despite the fact that they’d spurned his advice to not set sail from Fair Havens (vv.8-9), they would all survive (vv.21-22). The reason why they’d be saved is fascinating. It wasn’t because they deserved to be saved. It was because God’s plan was for Paul to witness to Caesar (v.24). Isn’t that remarkable? Because Paul was part of God’s plan, God promised to save everyone.
Here are the biblical principles embedded in the narrative: Plans made without God may lead to disappointment or disaster. Plans made in harmony with God will lead to fulfillment. So plan to make no plans other than joining in on God’s plan. Because ultimately “the Lord will do what he has decided” Proverbs 19:21.
Lord, thank you that in the midst of the difficulties, distress and darkness in this world you care for, command and comfort me through the storms of life when I stick to your plan. Amen.