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When You Feel Like Your Ship’s Sinking & There’s Nothing to Hold On To

Post by the Husband, Pictures by A & A. Suryadi

Acts 27:35
“And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all, he broke it and began to eat.”

Acts 27:41
“But striking a reef, they ran the vessel aground. The bow stuck and remained immovable, and the stern was being broken up by the surf.”

Paul had chosen to give up his freedom to be a prisoner for the sake of fulfilling God’s calling in His life.

He was specifically called to bring the Gospel from Jerusalem to Rome.

Despite his pure intentions and complete devotion to the cause, the story of the shipwreck outlines a journey of  several long months that seems to end in calamity.

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The journey that was supposed to take Paul to Rome had had so many problems that one would genuinely wonder if indeed it was God’s will for Paul to go in the first place!

But as we see, we can’t determine if Paul was within the centre of God’s will by our own worldly measurements, our natural understanding.

We would have falsely concluded that the shipwreck was an indication that the whole journey was a big mistake, which was actually not the case.





Likewise, in hearing God’s voice for our own lives, we may be tempted to question if something is within God’s will or not by how smooth-sailing and problem-free the journey is, which is not what the Bible teaches the Christian life to be.

Many times we may measure success with indicators such as:

1. Efficiency – ie. ‘how much effort it takes to get something done’.

So the argument goes like this: ‘if the outcome seems to be taking far too much energy, surely we are going about it wrong’. For instance, if we are spending 3 hours a week to disciple one person for 1 year, that would surely seem inefficient vs spending 3 hours a week discipling 10 people.

Yet, Jesus seemed to defy all measures of efficiency.

One would have to question why He ‘wasted’ 30 years of His life before entering into ministry.

Surely he could have rounded up more than 12 disciples by the end of 33 years of life? Why not start a mega church? He could have had 12000 disciples if he had just been more efficient?

But those 12 were enough to turn the world upside down and marked the course of history altogether!

Or what about the fact that Jesus spent 40 days in the desert being tempted by the devil -why not 40 hours, we might question. Surely there could have been a quicker method?

And also, why did Jesus spend 3 years teaching Judas, who would later betray him, or why did he waste time talking to thousands of people, most of whom did not believe him?

Now Paul spent 6 months on a boat seemingly going nowhere.

He could have gotten to Rome a lot quicker to preach the gospel. Yet, God allowed months and months to pass. Had Paul really heard right? Or had God led him wrong?

Naturally, we want to measure our productiveness using human scales. Perhaps our equation would look something like this:

Effort x Time = N.
(Where N is the desired outcome, eg. Number of people saved, or some measurable increase in spirituality).

Yet the Bible is full of examples of God doing things in ways that seem rather inefficient in human standards, and yet achieve EVERYTHING God wants to achieve.

The word “difficulty” was described with phrases like “the winds were against us”, “the wind did not allow us to go farther”, and ” (we) sailed slowly” which all describe a very long, inefficient journey.

There was no smooth sailing for Paul despite his explicit obedience to God. 

This is the point: if we are to measure our obedience to God based on what is happening around us and how smooth everything is running, we could become sorely mistaken.

The path to hell is often very smooth, whereas the path to heaven may have many mountains along its way.





2. Cooperation – ie ‘if God were to tell me to do something, surely people around me would cooperate with me’.

It really was going from bad to worse.

The people on the boat refused to listen to Paul when he said that the journey was going to be dangerous and that they should not persist.

The sailors wanted to jump off the ship and the soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners, one of which was Paul.

With that much conflict, was this really God’s will? Why would God allow all this conflict?

Not only was the ship sailing slowly now and taking longer than expected to reach it’s destination, they were now dealing with the very real risk of it sinking and taking everyone down with it.

God’s calling for Paul took him to a place where his very life was now at risk, and also in the hand of one Centurion who made the wrong decision.

Sometimes we might feel helpless on the boat of life if we feel that others are making BAD decisions that are impacting us.

However, God is not unaware of what people may decide on our behalf.

God never miscalculates. He is never surprised by anyone’s reactions.

Hence we can trust Him completely even in the face of other people’s involvement. Paul was getting to Rome no matter what the Centurion decided to do!

3. Good weather – ie ‘if God directs me to something, didn’t he promise the path would be smooth?’

You know, Paul’s ship eventually ended up in a tempest. This storm was so bad that it eventually lead the boat crashing and falling into pieces. His own life was at risk.

And we can also make the same mistake to see if we are trekking well by looking at the favourable ‘weather’ around us, rather than acting out the spirit of the Word with simple trusting, whole surrendering, and full believing.

4. Financial stability- i.e. ‘God would not lead us down this path if we end up in financial ruins’

The people not the boat decided to throw away ALL the cargo on the ship.

Paul had given up his rights as a Roman citizen to be a prisoner, giving up all his income-earning potentials.

There were much losses, and how often do we want to cut our ‘losses’ quick if the money doesn’t seem to support our ’cause’?

So after all that, what was the point of the Shipwreck?

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The book of Acts does not explain exactly the purpose of the shipwreck, but there were a few striking points worthy of our considerations.

God had to strip away all the things that could have provided ‘hope’, ‘security’

He took away almost everything from the people on the boat.

There was the loss of freedom,  of convenience and comfort, of personal safety,  of money and friendship. They had nothing left to hold onto, except the words that Paul spoke to them which he had heard from an Angel in a dream!

As the people realised that their very lives were in danger, all the other things lost their meaning too.

They also recognised that Paul had something that they didn’t.

He had the peace of God and the Word of God.

Eventually, prior to the crash, Paul gave thanks to God for the food in front of all of them.

Though the ship was sinking down, the Name of Jesus was rising high.

As the ship was getting into more and more treacherous territory, the Centurion was looking up to Paul more and more. He could see that Paul had something that he needed.

Eventually Paul’s influence was so great that he was telling the Centurion what to do!

This brought glory to God as they recognised that Paul served Jesus, so through Paul, the name of Christ was being lifted up.

When there is nothing else to hold onto, and your boat is about to sink, remember that Jesus is not just the God of your calling, or the God of your ship, He’s also the God above the people around you, and ultimately, the God of the ocean that envelopes you.

Even if the water had drowned Paul, God could have raised him from the dead to fulfil His own promises!

So if you believe God has called you to do something, don’t get too caught up if the journey gets rocky. Measure the veracity of the calling by going back to His Word, not by gauging the circumstances. God will fulfil His promises, even if it’s in unexpected ways.

His bigger plan is always to lift up the name of Jesus, and to make us more like Jesus, and with that, the boat of your life can never sink you down, ever.

So whatever storms we  may face in life, remember to ask the Lord – ‘what is it that you want to change in me through this storm? And, How can your name be lifted up on high through this situation?’

Let’s pray:
“Father God, whatever my brothers and sisters in Christ are facing today, I ask that you help them to see what You see. To see beyond this world and the simplistic accounting that we humans do. Help them to recognise how you are making them more Christ-like and how You are stripping away self-reliance, until there’s only You, your wisdom, stability and peace in their life. In Your precious name, Jesus Christ, Amen”

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