By Bruce VerSteeg, Grace Chapel Elder
In Acts Chapter 27, Paul is on his way to Rome where he expects to face the Emperor of Rome and testify to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, just as he had before Festus and Felix. He is loaded onto a boat from Alexandria in the town of Myra, along with 275 people who do not know him but also need to get to Rome. They move along the shore a couple days and then follow favorable winds to the shelter of Crete. Here Paul says to the skipper “Listen! I predict problems so maybe we should stay.” The skipper ignores him, he is a prisoner after all, and decides to winter in Phoenix, just like many of your friends and relatives. (Well, I guess that is a different Phoenix). Phoenix is just up the coast a day or two, so they set out and a nor’easter (windstorm) comes out of nowhere and blows them off course to the north. Please read Acts 27. After days of struggle and hardship where they throw everything overboard, Paul lets everybody know that he has seen a vision from God and they will not die. He doesn’t say this part, but they all clearly understand that they are going to get very wet and really cold and hungry. God is in control and he lets them know that they will make it. At one point he needs to remind them that they will make it, but only if they follow though the way God told him to.
They had set out on a 2-day trip to Phoenix, but after 14 days of rudderless terror, they end up crashing on an Island that is just 8 miles wide by 16 miles long called Malta. That was lucky, right? No, it was God-ordained! Paul is sitting around the fire getting to know the natives when a snake or viper comes out of the fire and attaches to his hand the Bible says. Now, Paul is standing there with a snake attached to his hand. I like to think he was thinking, “Really God? A snake? Is what these people need to see?” First these native people say he is evil because of this calamity, and then they change their mind and say he is a God because he did not die. Paul, I have no doubt, testified to the resurrection of the living Christ again and again. He also took care of the leader’s father’s physical needs and spent the next 3 months healing people and explaining the gospel.
We also now find ourselves blown into uncharted territory with people we do not yet know and some that we do know. We understand who is in control of the outcome and we know that “greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world.” We need to stand ready to testify about Jesus and His resurrection to any people who are struggling on the boat with us. We also need to be strong and steady, always pointing out the right way to deal with this crisis we find ourselves in. Please remember that Paul got cold, wet and hungry along with everybody else. He also got bit by a viper, that had to hurt, right?
People of God, our world has blown into chaos, people are hurting and some may die. We have the message that will bring calm in a storm and, more importantly, eternal life. Some of you will feel the discomfort that Paul was feeling and you will feel the uncertainty that everybody on that ship was feeling. GOD WILL PREVAIL AND HIS WORK HERE ON EARTH IS GOING FORWARD! We get the privilege to participate.