Emphasis on through.
Acts 27 records the shipwreck saga that marked the next leg of Paul’s God given mission to Rome. A mission that thus far has been totally out of his control, yet keeps moving forward despite a seemingly concerted effort by the devil to stop it. How frustrating it must be to be the devil and have every one of your best evil schemes turned against you.
So, Good news for Paul, he’s finally getting out of the basement of the governor’s’ house in Caesarea where he has been imprisoned for two years. Bad news, he’s about to sail right into a hurricane. Good news, Paul survives the hurricane, bad news, the ship doesn’t.
When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment. . . . a wind of hurricane force, called the Northeaster, swept down from the island. 15 The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. . . . the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf. . . . He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely. Acts 27:1, 14-15, 41,44
–Good news, they survive to continue their journey.
You ever feel like you’ve just jumped from the frying pan and into the fire? Or like you’re just in survival mode and have no control over where you are going? That’s pretty much what this chapter is about. Again, it may look to the rest of the world, and to Paul in his weak moments as well, that his life is totally out of control, and certainly out of his control.
Paul goes from what was probably at times a mind numbingly boring captivity—where every day is just like the day before, and none of them are what he would have chosen— straight into a weeks long storm of epic proportions on a ship that is totally out of control and in constant danger of being swamped or dashed to pieces. Neither Paul, nor anyone else on this ship, even knows where they are anymore. Sheer terror for sailors, guards, and prisoners alike. But once again, Paul, the mad ex Pharisee turned Jesus freak, is the only one who seems to have a grip, who knows where he is going, even if the day to day is totally out of control—or so it seems.
We all love and claim for our own, the promise the Lord gave through Jeremiah, that the Lord knows the plans he has for us, “plans to prosper us and not to harm us”, “to give us a hope and a future.”
The part of reality that catches us off guard, not because we aren’t warned by God’s word, but because we don’t want to hear it and because preachers don’t fill churches by preaching it, is that there are often storms, big storms, on the way to our future of prosperity, and that prospering is not always what we might imagine.
Dollars, and the things they buy, are our idea of prosperity. But the Lord measures wealth much differently, and in the end his idea of wealth is what makes us happy. And I’ll take that hope and future any day—storms and all.
The real blessings of health, family, love and peace of mind, in truth they all can be threatened and tossed by the storms, but when we get to the other side of the storms, those riches are beyond compare.
Sorry if that doesn’t square with your prosperity message— refrigerator magnet, Facebook meme—theology, but that’s our present reality as citizens of Heaven living in the realm of this present darkness. But do not fear, for our Lord has overcome the darkness and no matter how overwhelming it may seem, there is always a light shining to see us through, to whisper to the storms in our hearts, Peace, be still. This storm around you, that’s just temporary and cannot touch your soul.
The calm in your soul is the one that matters. How can I be calm when all Hell is breaking loose? Well, that’s the beauty of our God, that’s the gift of grace and the manifestation of the Holy Spirit, that we would have a peace that passes understanding.
let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:6—7
You may feel totally out of control—but you are not supposed to be in control. That’s the whole point of the Bible from start to finish. God had a plan for Paul, he has a plan for all of us. And God’s plans cannot be thwarted.