UNESCO or the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization estimates that there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 million shipwrecks scattered across the ocean floor of our planet. Many were lost in times of battle and many in times of storm. The most famous recorded shipwreck found in the Bible is found in Acts 27. The text follows the events of the previous chapters. The apostle Paul, when standing on trial, had appealed his case to Caesar, so now he is on his way to Rome. The first three verses give details of the early events of the voyage. He was placed in the hands of a kind Roman centurion named Julius and things seemed to go smoothly and uneventfully for a while. Paul was even given shore liberty at Sidon to visit with some friends and refresh himself. From that point, things begin to change.
After leaving Sidon they had to sail up and around Cyprus, rather than straight toward Italy in the west, because the winds were contrary, vs 4. Finally landing in Asia Minor, the centurion transferred Paul and the other prisoners onto a large Egyptian ship. Departing from a place called Myra, they reached nearby Cnidus only with great difficulty, vs 7. They were forced from there to sail south under the shelter of Crete, and they reached Crete’s small southern port of Fair Havens, vs 8. According to vs 9-10, Paul warned the centurion that they should stay in Fair Havens because it was after Passover, which made it mid-October, and everyone knew it was dangerous to make the voyage at that time of year. However, because Fair Havens was not commodious or, in other words, a rather boring port, and the harbor was not ideal for wintering in, plus an enticing south wind began to blow, the captain decided to take a chance and set sail for the much nicer port of Phenice or Phoenix, about forty miles away, vs 11-13. (Preaching the Word – Acts: The Church Afire) That’s when everything began to fall apart.
It wasn’t long until the warm southern breeze gave way to a stormy, tempestuous wind called Euroclydon (some have likened it to typhoon or hurricane type winds). They were suddenly facing the kind of storm that wasn’t just another storm. We all know how suddenly things in our lives can change. Possibly through a doctor visit; through a phone call about a tragic event; from a knock on the door. No matter how it comes or when it comes, it suddenly turns our world upside down like a tornadic wind has blown through our house.
You can see their great distress in vs 15. They were being driven by the storm or in other words, things out were out of control. The storm was greater than they could handle. They surely had seen many storms before and knew they needed help, vs 16-17. So, they took cables and wrapped (called frapping) around the ship, winching them tight to hold her together. Finally, they just dropped the sails and let her drive. The next day they began to lighten the ship and the following day, Paul said that with his own hands he helped cast overboard the tackling (furniture, apparatus, or other items) of the ship, vs 18-19. Things that were so important when they started the trip weren’t nearly as important now. (You know? It’s amazing how storms detach us from things. Suddenly things we thought were important just aren’t as important as they one-time were.) Finally, after days of seeing neither sun nor stars, all hope of being saved seemed gone, vs 20. From vs 27-29 things went from bad to worse, so they cast out four anchors, which were used to help steady the ship in the storm, and wished for the day (longing for this long dark night of their life would come to an end).
Someone once said about our Christian life that you are either going into a storm, coming out of a storm or you’re in a storm right now. It seems that’s just how life is for us. I made the statement earlier and maybe you missed it, but it is my thought from this passage—when it’s not just another storm. Storms can come in a variety of ways. Often, they come, and they hit, and they’re gone. Sometimes they dump a lot of rain on us. Sometimes they shake us with some wind and thunder. Sometimes it’s not much pop at all, but they come. But then there are those times when it’s not just another storm. It’s the kind that isn’t like what we expect; not like we thought it might be and its damage is far worse. So, for a few studies, I want to think about how we deal with those things, spiritually speaking, when it’s not just another storm.
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