Today let’s look at how we can overcome difficulties.
I. A wind of hurricane force, called the Northeaster (vs.1-20)
First let’s look at the cause of difficulties. Let’s look at verses 1 and 2 first.
2 years have passed since Paul was arrested in Jerusalem and sent to Cesarea. For Paul who had during this time waited patiently but earnestly wanting to go to Rome, this day has finally come. At last the door for him going to Rome was opened. In verse 1 for the first time since chapter 21, the word “we” reappears. This is because Luke who wrote Acts has now joined up with Paul again. In addition, “Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica” (2) went with them. Paul’s trip to Rome was not a lonely one, but traveled in encouragement through the fellowship and prayers of fellow workers in the Lord. The ship that Paul got on went from Cesarea to Sidon to Cilicia and Pamphylia and then to Lycia. There they “found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and “(6) got on board. The seasons were just changing from fall to winter. The Mediterranean Sea was known for storms at that time of the year. Therefore, there were no boats heading for Rome. Therefore they had planned to go to the port of Myra in Lycia and from there to Italy by way of Alexandria in Northern Africa and then from there on to Rome. The ship that is recorded in, verse 6 was a cargo ship that went back and forth between Alexandria in North Africa and the islands of Italy carrying grain. It was a big ship that could carry 276 passengers and crew. However, the weather on the Mediterranean Sea was already beginning to change to the stormy winter weather. The ship was not making progress like they expected. Finally they came to an island in the Mediterranean called Fair Heavens and stopped there. They spent a lot of time there so “that sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Day of Atonement.” (9) Therefore, Paul warned them in verse 10, “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our lives also.” The Day of Atonement is in the beginning of October. It was past that so it may have already been close to November. From the middle of September until the middle of November the Mediterranean Sea is very dangerous. After that until the end of winter, the ships do not sail at all. Paul thought of this and warned them, but the ship’s crew did not pay attention to Paul’s warning and set sail. Let’s look at verses 11-13.
Here 3 causes of problems in our lives can be seen.
1. Relying on the advice of specialists rather than the Word of God (vs. 11) Even though Paul warned them that if they continued to sail that they would regret it and it would be dangerous for their lives too, “the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot.and of the owner of the ship.” (11) That might be the usual thing to do. The pilot and the owner of the ship were professionals so they had a deeper knowledge and were full of experience. It is natural to trust in what such people say. However, not all professionals are right
In this world there are lots of different ways of thinking. Almost every week someone announces a new psychological therapy or starts a new religion. One person says that the secret to a powerful life is eating bananas and yogurt. The next day the answer is stretching. Stretching helps with your circulation and makes you healthy. You think that’s right and the next day someone says that the secret is buying their seminar tapes. All people have their own way of thinking and it seems like they have professional opinions. However in reality, in a lot of cases their professional understanding is wrong. There are a lot of people who go from specialist to specialist looking for someone who has the same opinion as theirs. However, if they get a wrong opinion, they will run into trouble, and will have difficulties. The only thing we can really trust is God who has the perfect opinion.
2. Following the majority (vs. 13).
Since the harbor they were at was unsuitable to winter in, the majority thought that they should sail on. They hoped to reach Phoenix in Crete and winter there. Decisions like this that are made by the majority aren’t always correct. The problem with decisions made by the majority is that the majority isn’t always right. When Moses sent the 12 spies into Canaan to spy out the land, the majority of them said that they should return to Egypt. This is a good example of the majority being wrong. By taking on popular opinions faddish thinking sometimes causes us to run into trouble. However, if we listen to what God has to say, we can move on the correct road.
3. Trusting in the circumstances (vs.13)
In verse 13 it says, “When a gentle South wind began to blow, they saw their opportunity” and set sail. When there was a gentle south wind, the crew thought that what they had been hoping for had happened. This was their chance and so set sail without even thinking about it. No matter how good the situation is, how good it looks, anything that ignores God’s warning is a stupid thing to do. Even if the circumstances seem good now, it may mean putting the ship out into a storm. Some people think, “This decision can’t be wrong because I feel good about it.” However, sometimes our emotions deceive us. If God says “wait”, then we should wait at the port. If not, after we leave the port, the situation may change to the bad.
Look at verses 14 and 15. Just as was feared, not long after they set sail, “a wind of hurricane force called the Northeastern swept down from the island.” (14) They got caught up in it and couldn’t make any progress. They “gave way to it and were driven along.” (15) Then “they began to throw the cargo overboard.” (18) “They threw the ship’s tackle overboard.” (19) and they “finally gave up all hope of being saved.” (20)
They lost all hope because they didn’t put hope in God. We may be facing circumstances that have caused us to lose hope too but there is no need to lose all hope because our hope is in Christ. God controls all things. God gives us hope when we are in situations where it seems like there is no hope. Therefore, when we are discouraged we need to keep our eyes on God and trust in Him and our discouragement will be changed to hope.
II. Keep up your courage (vs.21-26)
Secondly, let’s look at what we should do when we are in a discouraging situation. Let’s look at verses 21-26.
In this dangerous situation Paul responded exactly in an opposite manner from the ship’s crew. When the ship’s crew became discouraged and lost all hope, Paul encouraged them saying, “keep up your courage”. (22) Paul was able to remain calm and have unshaken confidence in the midst of the heavy winds and the ship being driven away by the winds. Even in the midst of danger, he didn’t lose courage. There was nothing that shook his heart or upset him. There are three reasons why he was able be so dignified.
1. He had confidence that God was with him. (vs. 23, 24)
This passage teaches us that in every kind of storm we can’t hide out of God’s sight. Even if we can’t see God, God sees us. Even if God seems far away, in reality, God is with us and he is watching over us. God’s said to Paul through the angel, “Do not be afraid Paul.” (24) In the Bible there are many examples of such promises.
The Bible repeats over and over again that no matter where we go, Jesus will be right there with us. Also because God is always with us there is never a time when we have to weather something by ourselves. No matter what painful thing we have to go through, God is with us. He will never leave us or forsake us. Therefore, we need to trust in him with all our hearts.
2. Paul had confidence in God’s purposes (vs. 24)
In verse 24 the angel said to Paul, “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.” In other words God is saying that he has a plan for Paul’s life. It isn’t by chance that Paul got on this ship. God put him on the ship for a purpose. The plans that God has for Paul’s life is greater than what he is experiencing in this storm.
Christians believe somewhat in fate. We are all born for some reason. Therefore, even if a person experiences a storm with huge winds, it is just one stop on the road to God’s purpose. There is nothing that we can do to change the plans of God. It is the Lord’s will that we overcome the difficulties that we are facing now. Therefore, we need to look not at the problems that we are facing now, but at the plans of God. If we don’t then we will be like the crew throwing everything into the water. In the end we will have only discouragement. If we lose our goal, we don’t know why we are living and we are lost.
3. He held on to the promises of God with all his might (vs. 25)
In verse 25 Paul says, “So keep up your courage, men for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.” What God told him is in the verse before, verse 24. “You must stand trial before Caesar” This is the same promise that the Lord gave him in 23:11.
Paul hung on to the promises of God with all his might so when he was in a discouraging situation of the boat drifting away, he was able to say to his fears anxieties, “Don’t fear” “Take courage”. For sure God’s promises will never be broken. Even if there’s a huge storm and the boat drifts, the promises will not disappear. For sure they will be fulfilled.
For Christians, to live in this world is an important calling. No matter how dangerous a situation we are in, we need to believe in God’s presence, God’s purpose and in God’s promises and continue to have hope.
We need to not only confess this hope, but stand in this hope. We must encourage others who are in the storms of discouragement with “Take courage”. This is not just empty courage because there is no base for it. Also it is not just a temporary flattery, but the encouragement is based upon the promises of God that we have confidence in. We have this kind of hope and strength.
III. Overcome the difficulties of life (vs. 27-44)
First let’s look at verses 27-29 The results of drifting is recorded here. On the 14th night they were still drifting, but “the sailors sensed they were approaching land.” (27) Therefore, “They took soundings and found that the water was 120 feet deep. A short time later they took sounding again and found that it was ninety feet deep.” This meant a way of escape from a dangerous situation. However, the fact that the water was getting more and more shallow caused another worry to rise. That was that they might be “dashed against the rocks” (29) Therefore, “they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight.” (29) They are different than before. As a result of Paul’s encouragement filled with confidence, they were able to think calmly about what they should do. They did appropriate things. They put down the anchor and waited until daybreak. If you look at verse 39, you can see that they had made a wise decision. Because it was dark they didn’t know there was a beach there. However, when it became light they realized that there was a beach there. They thought they could run the ship aground there, but it “struck a sandbar and ran aground.” (41) Even so they were close enough to land that “everyone reached land safely.” (44) What God had promised actually happened.
There are times in our life when the wind blows really strong but we need to overcome it and put our anchors down. When we are drifting, the safest thing to do is to put our anchors on Jesus.
We need to trust in God, put our anchor on him, In every kind of storm we need to have confidence. We can’t put a blockade between God and ourselves. We need to believe that God is with us and that He has a plan for our lives. Also we need to remember that God has given us promises in the Word of God. Perhaps God has given you “a wind of hurricane force, called the Northeaster” in your life. However no matter what kind of wind it is, you can overcome it. You will be able to reach the land safely. Let’s believe in God and overcome the wind.