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Acts 27:1-44: The Impact of Faith Print E-mail

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The manner in which we live out our faith in Jesus will impact the lives of those around us.  Your family, your friends, your neighbors, your coworkers will all be impacted by how your faith in Christ determines the choices that you make.  For example, your faith in Christ will lead you to spend the holidays focusing more on the birth of your Savior than the difficulties of shopping and spending time with extended family (which can be challenging).  Belief in Jesus changes the way that we approach Christmas and other times in our lives.  Faith is not just something we do on the weekends, it is who we are and what drives our lives.  As live such lives of faith, the lives of those around us will be impacted.

We see this truth on display in Paulís voyage to Rome.  Jesus had promised Paul that he would testify in the great city (23:11).  Yet, it had been over two years since He had made that promise.  Paul has spent the majority of that time in prison, appearing before Governors and Kings for His belief in the resurrection of Jesus.  I am sure that he was tempted to doubt that promise during those difficult days.  But Paulís belief in that promise will be put to the greatest test as he makes his way to the city by sea.  Lukeís telling of this voyage is captivating.  It seems as if it will end in tragedy between every port.  The drama is real and it is told from a firsthand witness who experienced the wind and the waves and the fear.  Yet, in all of this, we see Godís hand of providence guiding the circumstances and Paulís belief in Godís promise encouraging him and those around him.  The impact of his faith is obvious.  So how do we see it in the story?  Letís consider five difficulties that they faced and consider the impact of Paulís faith.

Difficult sailing (v. 1-8) 

Luke begins the account by relating who all were traveling with Paul.  Paul was a prisoner and he was not the only one heading to Rome.  Two individuals are mentioned: Julius, the centurion in charge, and Aristarchus, one of Paulís companions (see Colossians 4:10).  Luke notes from the beginning that Julius showed favor to Paul.  Look at verse 3.  He does not tell us why he showed Paul favor, only that he did.  Perhaps even at this point, Julius notes something different in Paul.  Perhaps Paulís faith is already making an impact.

Soon after the trip began, Luke notes that the winds were against us.  After they change ships, Luke again mentions the difficulty of the sailing.  Look at verses 7-8.  In just a few verses, Luke notes the difficulty of the travel no less than four times.  Some might take this as a sign indicating that God did not approve of what was happening.  But Luke never draws this conclusion because he knows that it was indeed Godís plan to get Paul to Rome.  The truth is, sometimes the winds come against us.  Sometimes even nature itself makes life difficult.  The Lord sends the wind and the rains on the just and the unjust alike.  We must be careful and not draw too many hard and fast conclusions from such circumstances.  Sailing in Enemy-occupied territory will be hard at times, even for Paul and Luke.  The question is what will we do when such difficulties come.

Difficult decision (v. 9-12)

The slow sailing forces Julius to make a difficult decision.  They had made it to the island of Crete, but spending the winter in Fair Havens was not ideal since the harbor was not suitable.  So they had to make a decision about where they would spend the winter.  Luke tells us Paulís advice in verses 9-10.  Look at those with me.  This is not Paulís first trip on the Mediterranean Sea.  His travels had taught him the importance of avoiding the Sea in winter.  Thus, he advises those in charge to winter in Fair Havens (sounds like a good place to winter to me).  But they do not listen to Paul and decide to keep going.  Paulís influence and experience was not enough to keep the men from trying to make it to a more suitable harbor. 

We might conclude from this that Paulís faith did not impact them that much and in one sense that would be true.  But it is this unheeded advice that will later give Paul credibility with the crew.  Even though he is wrong about the decision costing them their lives, he is right to caution them against going further.  They will need to heed his advice later and their wrong decision at this point will help them do just that.  Paul has no choice but to continue with them, trusting in the Lordís protection.

Difficult desperation (v13-26)

All desperation is difficult by definition.  But it is one thing to be desperate for a new cell phone or even a new job, and quite another to be lost at Sea.  Luke tells us that as soon as they left Fair Havens, the ship was struck by a northeaster, which drove them away the island and out to the open Sea.  They did everything they could to fight against the wind, but such effort was futile.  Luke notes the steps they took to stay afloat: they hauled in the shipís boat (like a dinghy), undergirded the ship with cables, and lowered the gear.  As things got worse, they began to throw out the cargo and the shipís tackle.  The storm continued for several days, driving them further and further out to sea.  And since they could not see the sun or the stars, they had no way of determining where they were or where they were going.  They were truly lost at sea.  Luke describes their desperate state in verse 20.  Look at that with me.  These men were desperate.

It is at this point that we truly begin to see the impact of Paulís faith.  Look at what he says to them in verses 21-24.  Paul reminds them that he had warned against further sailing.  This is not the Apostle saying, ĎI told you so,í as much as it is him reminding them of the wisdom of his advice so that they would listen to him at this point.  And what does he tell them now?  What is Paulís message to these desperate men?  He tells them about His faith in the Lord.  In particular, he tells them that an angel had appeared to him and told him that even though they would lose the ship, all the people would survive.  The angel affirms the promise that Jesus had given to Paul that he would testify in Rome.  But not only that, Paulís petition for the lives of his fellow sailors had been granted.  Paul had apparently been crying out to God to spare these men and God was going to give him that request. 

He concludes by encouraging the men with a statement of faith: So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.  In about as desperate a situation as a man can be, Paul tells them to take heart and he bases that encouragement on his faith in God to keep His promises.  One of my commentators writes: ďOne of the most powerful messages we can give to the world is that God is sovereign and that there is therefore hope amidst the gloom that may temporarily engulf us.Ē  Paul trusted in Godís promises and in Godís power to carry out those promises.  He encouraged these men with His faith in Godís sovereignty over their circumstances.  But would they listen?

Desperate survival (v. 27-44)

Three events indicate that Paulís statement of faith was received positively by at least some, including Julius.  First, Paul warns the sailors against abandoning the ship and they listen.  As they get closer to land, the sailors decide to take the dinghy and head for safety.  But Paul warns Julius that such an action will be costly.  Look at verse 31.  How do they respond to this prisoner?  Look at verse 32.  Paul did not actually tell them to cut away the boat (it might have come in helpful later), but it powerfully illustrates their belief in what Paul told them.  At his word, they did not abandon the ship.

Second, Paul encourages them to eat for strength and they listen.  These men had gone without food for several days.  But Paul believes that they will soon be heading for shore and he knows that they will need their strength to make it.  Thus, he tells them to eat.  Look at verses 33-35.  How will they respond to Paul?  It could be risky to eat the last of their food.  Look at verse 36.  Paulís faith in the Lordís promise to save them encouraged him to eat and it encouraged the others on the ship to eat as well.

A third indication that Paulís statement of faith was received positively is that Paul is saved by the intervention of Julius.  When daybreak comes and they try to make it to the beach, the ship gets caught on a reef and begins to break up.  The soldiers decide that it would be better to kill the prisoners than let them escape on the island.  Yet, Julius intervenes for the sake of Paul.  Look at verse 43a.  Paulís wisdom and character and faith had impacted Julius so much that he was not going to let the soldiers kill him and the other prisoners.  Rather, he has them all swim for shore.  Look at verses 43b-44.  God had promised Paul that they would lose the ship, but that all of the people would be saved.  Luke lets us know that that is exactly what happened.  The ship was wrecked on the reef, but all were brought safely to land.  Paulís faith in Godís promise not ensured his own survival, but also the survival of all those on board.  His faith impacted the life of every individual on the ship.

So how does your faith impact those around you?  How does your belief in the sovereign God determine how you will act and how you will respond to difficult circumstances?  Of course, you might be thinking: ĎGod has not given me any specific promises like he gave Paul on the ship.í  Yet, if you are a believer in Jesus, if you have turned from your sins and placed your faith in Him for your salvation, then God has given you some specific promises.  First, He has promised you that every difficult circumstance, every ounce of suffering, every hardship you face will be used for your good in making you more like Christ (Romans 8:28-30).  Not only that, but second, He has promised you that through faith in Christ your sins will be forgiven and one Day you will dwell with Him forever.  God has promised us Heaven through faith in Jesus. 

Those are two great promises that God has given all believers.  So then, how does your faith in those promises impact the lives of those around you?  Our belief that God uses suffering to make us more like Christ can give us hope and even joy on the darkest of days.  We can use such rejoicing to point others to the hope that we have in Christ.  Our belief that God will keep His promise to take us to be with Him forever will encourage us to have hope even in the face of death.  Like Paul, we can say to the watching world: ďThe God to whom I belong has promised to use my suffering for my good and to grant me glory when I die.  Thus, even in the worst of storms, I will put my trust in Him.  And so should you!Ē  May our faith impact the lives of others like that.  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 24 December 2014 )

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