A Difficult Journey -- Shipwreck
Text: Acts chapter 27
(Note: This sermon has been presented in a very different manner – by a dramatic monologue about the events recorded in chapter 27 of the book of Acts. Hope you will go along for this historical
journey as Pastor Kent shares it. via live-streaming.)
Following is the narritive of Luke, the companion of Paul on this "difficult journey. At the end of Kent's dramatic presentation,
be sure to give special attention to the questions presented.
Most of us have experienced some "difficult journey" in
life and can benefit from considering these lessons learned
"I am so glad to be with you this morning. I was enlisted to speak to you today about prayer. As I thought about what I would say to you today the Spirit has prompted me to share with you an experience when I learned much about prayer and faith.
I guess the story begins when Paul was arrested in the Temple. Jews from Asia had stirred the people up into a mob through lies and half-truths and Paul was about to be killed but word got to the commander of the Roman cohort and he came to investigate.
The commander imprisoned Paul and was preparing to have him flogged when Paul informed him that he was a Roman citizen. Paul testified before the Council in Jerusalem, and then was sent to Caesarea to testify before the governor Felix in Caesarea. Felix kept Paul imprisoned for two years until Festus replaced him as governor. Festus was approached by the Council in Jerusalem
who brought up the charges against Paul again. When Festus
arrived in Caesarea, he investigated the matter, and accepting
Paul’s appeal to Caesar, prepared to send him to Rome. Shortly
thereafter The King arrived, and Festus shared the dilemma of
Paul with him. Festus was sending Paul to Rome but did not
have any true criminal charges against him. King Agrippa agreed
to hear from Paul and having heard his testimony he agreed that
Paul had done nothing worthy of death or even imprisonment, but
he would need to go to Rome because he had appealed to Caesar.
Paul was delivered to Julius a centurion to be taken along with
some other prisoners to Rome. Aristarchus and I determined to
go with him to Rome. We boarded an Asian ship to begin our
journey, planning to sail along the coast. It was late summer,
and already the winds made sailing difficult. We sailed from
Caesarea to Sidon, then along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia,
eventually landing in Myra.
We changed ships there, joining an Alexandrian crew headed
to Italy. We sailed for several days, but the wind was strongly
against us. Eventually we made it to Cnidus. Though we had
planned to cross the Aegean Sea to Corinth, the winds were
too contrary, so we headed south to sail in the shelter of Crete.
Having passed Salmone, we came to the southern side of Crete,
to a small port town of Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea to
reprovision. The sailing had been difficult as it was already
Mid-October, and we were concerned about continuing the
journey. Paul began to discuss matter with Julius the centurion.
Paul felt that the journey at this time would be extremely
dangerous, possibly leading to the loss of the cargo and even
of lives. In those days sailing the sea after November 11 was
Nevertheless, the captain of the ship felt that further progress
was possible. (I have never met a captain of a ship that felt that
the seas were too difficult for his sailing ability. I suppose it is
just the sailor mentality.) The consensus was to make for Phoenix
further west along the coast of Crete. The port there was better
able to accommodate the ship during the winter months.
The winds had turned favorably, and we began to sail along the
coast to Phoenix. Then a violent storm poured down from the
Aegean Sea and crested the mountains of Crete and slammed
the ship. We could not turn into the wind, and eventually gave
into it and were driven south. We were barely able to control
the ship, but eventually were able to come under the shelter of
the island of Clauda. There was no port or bay that could take
us, but in the slight shelter the island offered, we began to make
serious precautionary measures.
The sailors did everything they could to strengthen the ship.
Cables were strapped from side to side to hold the ship together.
A sea anchor was set hoping to slow the ship. (A sea anchor was
often a large rock secured with long ropes that would be cast over
to provide some further drag on the ship to keep from being driven
by the storm.) Some were even fearful that we would crash on the
northern shores of Africa, so strong was the wind pushing us south.
There was no let up the next day. The waves were even greater and
the shipped was being tossed about like a child’s toy. The captain
with great reluctance began to throw some of the cargo overboard
to lighten the ship. After two more days of this, they even began to
throw over some of the ships tackle. The yardarm and mainsail
were already being drug behind the ship to slow our speed.
Worse still, we had no idea where we were, or even what direction
we were headed. We did not see the sun for days and could not
adjust our course for the storm clouds at night. We could only see
a short distance beyond the ship and had little time to react to the
great waves hitting the ship on every side.
Everyone began to give up hope. I was busy, acting as the ships
doctor. There was much dehydration as no one was able to keep
any food down. The stench within the ship was overpowering.
There were also many bruises and scrapes and even some broken
bones so violent was the tossing about. The manifest of the ship
was 276 people, and the fear was pervasive. When you are
powerless against the forces of nature around you, and you can
do nothing to change your present circumstances, despair presses
into your heart.
After several days, the food stores were getting low, and people
were getting restless. Paul spoke, saying “You should have listened
to me, and we would not have incurred this loss, nevertheless,
keep up your courage! God will spare every life, even though the
ship will be lost. God has sent a messenger to me tonight and told
me not to be afraid. God has destined me to speak before Caesar,
and He has granted that all those with whom I travel will survive.
Keep up your courage, I believe God will accomplish this, just as
He told me, though assuredly we will run aground. After two
weeks of being stranded at sea with no sight of land or sky, the
sailors felt that we were approaching land. They took depth
measurements and found that the depth was decreasing. They
cast four anchors off the stern hoping to keep the ship from
crashing, and they prayed for daylight.
I had to ask myself, “to whom were they praying?” These men were not of the faith. Their god was not the true God. I found the
contrast notable. Here were men who had been storm tossed
for many days, and now as they approached land they prayed
for daybreak. It occurred to me that this is often the human
response when circumstances are beyond our control. When
we are overwhelmed and powerless to affect our situation,
we cry out in desperation. Yet little attention is given to our
God when things are peaceable, and circumstances are
manageable. Is God only a god of the crisis? Is it fear alone
which drives us to our sovereign?
In contrast I watched as Paul spoke with confidence of personally
hearing from God through an angel. He shared with candor the
message that God had delivered to him, that God would save all 276 of us.
These sailors were not men of faith, their prayers were mere wishful hoping. (In fact, in the NASB 1995 edition and in the KJV it says that they were wishing for daybreak…it is not even translated as praying!) In evidence of their lack of faith, several of the sailors believing land was near, sought to escape the ship. Under the pretense of attaching anchors to the bow they began to let down the ships boat. Paul approached Julius the centurion
and warned that unless the sailorsremained on the ship, even the centurion and his soldiers would not survive. So, the soldiers cut away the ropes of the boat, scuttling the plans of the sailors to escape.
I must tell you that when the sailors try to sneak off a boat, it does not inspire confidence in the remaining passengers. There was much fear. Our rations had been extremely limited for many days because we did not know how long we would be lost at sea. Now Paul began to encourage us to eat because |we would need our strength to survive. He even took bread and publicly thanked God for His provision and broke the
bread and we began to eat. Everyone was encouraged. As our
spirits rose, we began to lighten the ship, throwing off what
wheat we had remaining.
We finally saw land as day began to break. There appeared to
be a bay with a beach and the sailors made plans to drive the
ship onto shore. Fearing the shoals, we lightened the boat as
much as possible, even to cutting away the anchors from the
stern. This was our last chance. The sail was hoisted, and we
made for the beach. But before we made landfall the ship
struck a reef. The bow was held fast, but the waves began to
crush the stern. The ship began to break up. Several of the
soldiers decided to kill the prisoners so that they would not escape, but Julius stopped them. The command was given
that all who could swim should jump overboard and make for the beach. Those who remained should grab a plank, a board,
or anything that was afloat, and make for the shore. Thus, God
delivered all of us safely to land, though the ship and all that
was on it was lost to the sea.
That night huddled on the shore; my innards still felt at sea. After so long being tossed by the waves, my body felt unsteady
on the land. I began to reflect on our journey and prayed with
thanksgiving to God for being spared. As I bowed in prayer,
I reflected on the prayer of the sailors who wished for daybreak.
My heart grieved for them. So muchof the world’s prayers are
wishing for something to be so, though they have no under-
standing of the One who is sovereign over all things. I was encouraged by Paul on this journey. God had given him a word
of what He was going to do, and Paul never doubted it. Paul was not praying constantly for safety, or deliverance. God had
spoken and he trusted God.
I learned much about prayer on this journey.
I need not continually pray for that which God has already promised. If He says it will be, then it will be. I need not pray or plead for Him to do that which He has said He will do.
I need just have faith and confidence that what He has spoken will be.
I need to be careful that my prayers do not come from fear
or doubt. God knows my circumstances He has promised
to always be with me through all things. He will not forsake
me or abandon me.
I also learned to be mindful of what I pray for. God knows
my needs. If I am uncertain of what He may be doing in my
circumstances, I must trust that He is acting for His glory.
If that is for my earthly good, I am grateful. If it is for my
heavenly good, I rejoice. In all things therefore I am trusting
Him and thankful.
I end with a few questions for you:
To whom are you praying?
What are you seeking/asking for?
Do you trust God to do as He says He will do?