[Nov 22]--Shipwrecked

Acts 27:27-44

So Paul had given them a message of hope. And the best part is that they actually started listening to him instead of doing whatever they felt like doing. On his advice, they headed towards land so they could run aground. They took soundings and were approaching land, which was the safest thing they could've done.

The sailors thought they could pull at fast one. Paul had promised them that they would live through all this, but they apparently sorta half-way believed him. They wanted to lower the lifeboats and sneak off the boat when no one was looking. But Paul was way too experienced with human nature not to have anticipated that. He warned the centurion that if they did that, all bets were off. God had promised them that they would make it out alive, but obviously that was not an unconditional promise. If they didn’t follow Paul’s counsel, then they couldn’t expect the Lord’s promises to be fulfilled.

I want to commend the centurion on two counts based on today’s reading. First, he had learned his lesson and showed incredible faith. He had learned the hard way that when Paul told him something, you ignored him at your peril. So he had the soldiers cut the ropes and let the lifeboats drift away. From a natural standpoint this made no sense. I mean, even if they weren’t going to let the sailors bail out on them, they could keep them in case they became necessary later on. But to his thinking (probably on the advice of Paul again), he didn’t want the temptation left around. Paul told him that they would all make it as long as they didn’t betray and abandon each other. Therefore, they didn’t need the lifeboats. That’s a great example of smart faith. Not just faith, but eyes-wide-open faith. That’s faith that has total reliance on God but little to no reliance in human nature.

The other thing to commend him is pretty obvious: His compassion towards Paul. If one prisoner got away in the confusion of the storm and the rescue operations, then the best thing that the officer in charge could hope for would be a swift death. That’s why the Roman guard back in Philippi was willing to commit suicide upon discovering the open doors and assuming that everyone fled.

So the logical thing would be to kill everyone to make sure no one escaped. But the centurion had grown close to Paul, so he didn’t want to see him killed. Of course this did entail taking a huge risk, because the possibility that a prisoner would try to flee was pretty reasonable. And it would be his literal neck on the line if that happened.

I love the image that Luke presents for us as Paul stood up in front of everyone. He not only preached a message of a sure hope. He lived it. In front of them all he ate something to show them that they were all going to get through this. And please note that in front of all these pagans he gave thanks to the Lord of all for what he'd provided. This one act alone presented a message so powerful that everyone was moved. His proclamation of hope—as demonstrated before them--had actually caught on. You can preach until you’re blue in the face about trusting God. But when people see you actually trusting in God and not just talking about it, you can expect an impact.

So what can you carry away from this? Do you need to have the right mixture of faith in God and skepticism regarding human nature? Do you need to take practical steps to ensure you don’t fall back into sin? Is God calling you to take a risk on someone, to maybe actually pay a price for said risk? Or maybe you need to demonstrate before a watching world that you really do trust in God and his promises. Wow, all this in just seventeen verses!

Lord Jesus, it’s really easy to say I trust in you. Do I? Really? Can people see that?

No comments:

Post a Comment