“By this time we had lost a lot of time. We had passed the autumn equinox, so it would be stormy weather from now on through the winter, too dangerous for sailing. Paul warned, ‘I see only disaster ahead for cargo and ship — to say nothing of our lives! — if we put out to sea now.’

“But it was not the best harbour for staying the winter. Phoenix, a few miles further on, was more suitable. The centurion set Paul’s warning aside and let the ship captain and the ship-owner talk him into trying for the next harbour.

“When a gentle southerly breeze came up, they weighed anchor, thinking it would be smooth sailing. But they were no sooner out to sea than a gale-force wind, the infamous nor’easter, struck. They lost all control of the ship. It was a cork on the storm.” Acts 27:9-15 (The Message).

It would be natural and easy for us to read this account of Paul’s voyage from a purely human point of view. Winter on the Mediterranean was storm season and to venture out in a sailing ship was madness. The ship captain, ship owner and sailors all knew that. The centurion also knew it, although he was not a seasoned sailor. So why did they try to defy the natural order of things to continue their journey, knowing that disaster was inevitable?

Was it greed that drove them on? To get their cargo to its market meant more money for everyone. That’s logical. To remain in dock for the winter would mean less money — and extra expense for the centurion who had prisoners to feed and accommodate for several months.

Although they knew the conditions of the sea very well, the captain and the ship-owner were fooled into believing that the gentle breeze that was blowing at that moment was the foretaste of a smooth and uneventful voyage. They ignored Paul’s warning. After all, what did he know? He was a preacher, not a mariner! They had yet to learn that he had a hot-line that was prophetic and accurate because God was intimately involved in the destiny of His son, Paul. He had a date in Rome and it was up to the centurion and the ship to get him there safely.

But, as always, there was an enemy with his own agenda, at work in the situation. It was Satan’s plot, no doubt, to send the ship, its contents and it passengers to the bottom of the sea to prevent Paul from ever delivering his message in Rome. Like his Master Jesus, when He was on a mission to deliver a demon-possessed man in the Gentile territory of the Gadarenes, a storm was a good way to get rid of the opposition. It did not matter that a few others not involved in Paul’s mission would perish with him.

It does not necessarily mean that Satan was responsible for creating the storm. Did he have the power to do that? But it does mean that he could easily influence men who did not have the Spirit of God to go against experience and their better judgement for the sake of money. It was not in their heart to heed the warning of a man of God. They chose to press on regardless, playing right into the hands of an unseen enemy.

But not only did the enemy have an agenda. God had one too. He had safely navigated Paul through the stormy seas of Jewish hatred, murderous plots, unjust trials, and vacillating Roman indecision. This was His opportunity to reveal His goodness to godless sailors and even to a heathen island tribe in spite of adverse weather and foolish decisions.

  • Does this not give us hope for ourselves as well? Through and because of these experiences Paul was able to write, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

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Luella Campbell

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