I would encourage you to read the full story of this event in the book of Acts. It is written in great detail and actually makes for some great reading. What I want us to do today is learn how Paul dealt with this situation so that we can learn how to better handle the storms and shipwrecks in our own lives.
We all face storms in life. There are times we all feel shipwrecked because everything that supported us and made our lives stable has been pulled away. Storms come in forms of sickness and disease in our bodies or in those we love. Storms come when we hear the diagnosis of cancer, face sudden heart problems or diabetes or disabilities that will significantly change our lives.
Shipwrecks come when jobs are downsized or the business closes. They come when our financial world collapses because of sudden changes in the market and investments or needs among our family increases. Shipwrecks come when we come home to find that our spouse has moved out and the note says things are over. When friends we had trusted suddenly let us down and those we love have died. In all these situations we feel like life as we know it might be forever changed and maybe over.
How we handle these situations makes all the difference. Being able to move forward with faith and trust doesn’t just happen, finding the strength and courage to keep going doesn’t just come we have to work to make it happen and we learn from Paul some key lessons to help us not just survive but thrive.
The first lesson we need to learn from Paul is to expect the unexpected. The storm that suddenly struck the boat Paul was sailing on was not something unexpected, in fact Paul knew that a storm was coming. For several months the ship Paul had been sailing on had been battling rough seas. Acts 27:7-11.
Paul knew that danger was a real possibility. Paul knew that things were not going to be smooth sailing (no pun intended) and he warned the sailors to take note. They didn’t listen to Paul and sailed forward anyway without taking all the necessary precautions. Being prepared isn’t just a motto for the scouts – it is how we need to approach life. Have we taken the time to look at the situations around us and identify potential problems and pitfalls? Have we prepared ourselves for the storms that will come by making sure we have resources and support for when the wind starts to blow?
Let’s just look at this from a financial standpoint for a moment. Financial experts say that we should have enough money on hand to cover 3-6 months’ worth of household expenses in case of an emergency but a recent survey said that 69% of US households had less than $1,000 in their checking or savings account. If we go through life assuming that we will never have a financial problem – then the smallest set back creates a big storm.
Let’s look at this in relationships. If we are content going through life alone and don’t work to develop solid relationships with our family and friends then when we are in need of support or encouragement – there is no one around. We feel shipwrecked and are left asking ourselves, how did we end up here all alone? About 15 years ago I faced knee surgery and assumed I could handle all my needs after surgery alone so turned down all offers of help. Then I found out that I would be on crutches and not able to drive for six weeks. Suddenly I was shipwrecked and had to pick up the phone and start contacting all the people who had offered help to see if they were still available and willing. They graciously were but I learned a lesson. Expect the unexpected and be prepared in relationships to have support and help when needed.
Being prepared is perhaps most important, however, when we look at our faith. The only way that we can make sense of the trials, disappointments and even tragedies of life is to have a solid relationship with God where our faith helps us make sense out of what we see happening around us. All too often I hear people say, Why me and why has God allowed this to happen and where is God in the midst of this tragedy and while I try to offer encouragement and support I also realize that without the foundation of a strong faith it is hard to make sense of the storms of life. It is only in building a relationship of love and trust with God that we are able to say with the apostle Paul, I know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) It is only those who know they have been called, who have the solid foundation of faith that are slowly able to make sense out of life’s storms.
Being prepared for the unexpected is important if we want to make it through the storms so I encourage you to first and foremost, develop a strong and vital relationship with God so that the unexpected moments in life can be managed and God’s hand can be seen as a source of strength and support. Spend time with God in reading the Bible, commit to being in worship and join a small group where together you can learn how God helps us through triumphs and tragedies, joys and sorrows, successes and shipwrecks.
The second thing we learn from Paul when facing a storm is to remember God’s purpose. While storms and setbacks come in life, God does have a larger purpose for us that God will work to accomplish. Paul was reminded of this when during the storm an angel came to him in a dream. Acts 27:23-25
God had a purpose for Paul, he was to stand before Caesar in Rome and talk about Jesus being the Messiah and Savior of the world. God reminded Paul of this purpose which helped Paul not lose hope but stay focused. God has a purpose for all of us in life. The purpose may be specific, like a call to a unique task or plan, but it might also be general – like the call to be a good parent, faithful child or supportive friend. When sickness strikes someone in our family can we remember our purpose to be a support and encouragement to those around us? Whether that means walking with our parents through a period of loss or decline or supporting our children through periods of disappointment and pain, we need to remember God’s purpose for our lives.
When we ourselves experience a loss that unsettles us we need to remember that God has made this promise to us Jeremiah 29:18. It is important for us to remember that this promise was given to the people not when things were going well but when they were completely shipwrecked. The people of God had been defeated and were living as captives and slaves in a foreign land and it was then God told them, I have a purpose and plan for you so don’t lose hope and don’t lose heart. Whatever storm we are going through – God still has a purpose and plan for us that we need to remember and use as our focus and as a motivation for us to keep going.
The third lesson we learn from Paul during the storms and shipwrecks of life is to act. Do something. Paul had noticed that during the weeks of the storms at sea the people had not been eating. Maybe they were too busy or too afraid or maybe they just weren’t able to keep anything in their stomachs because of all the movement, but Paul could see that the people were weak and so he told them do something – eat. Acts 27:33-38.
While they were not able to do anything to control the boat or keep it grounded or going in the direction they wanted it to go – they could eat. They could keep up their strength. So it is Paul who tells them to do something. Sometimes during the midst of chaotic times it is important for us to just act and do something. Choosing to do something does give us a sense of control and it can help us to feel secure.
When my mom was battling cancer many years ago she was not able to work and she was not able to go to church or be around people. For a very social person this was devastating to her but she didn’t lose heart or hope because she did something. She started to do puzzles. My Grandmother had just died before my mom’s battle with cancer and so many of the puzzles my grandmother did were at our house so my Mom started doing them. She realized that when everything else was out of her control and she saw no progress from day to day – the puzzles kept her focused. Doing something gave her a sense of mission and she could see not only progress but completion. She acted.
I’ll be honest, when I’m stressed I clean and organize and sort through things. A friend in seminary heard about me doing this and she laughed saying, you are doing that Andy because everything else is out of your control but you control what your apartment looks like and where you put things. I have to confess – she was right and I’ve learned to embrace it. I can act on something. I can do something to move myself forward.
Doing something gives us a sense of control – not that we want to take control away from God but we need to know that the circumstances of life have not overwhelmed us to the point of hopelessness and inaction. Every positive act that moves us forward gives us strength to face the unexpected and uncertain moments that will come. Paul told the people to eat and get strong which was good advice because the next day their ship broke apart and people had to swim to shore. Acts 27 tells us that those who could swim were told to jump in and swim to shore while those who couldn’t swim were to find pieces of the boat and make their way to shore. They did this and everyone reached land safely.
These three lessons from Paul can help us make it through the storms and shipwrecks of life. We need to be prepared for the unexpected, remember the purpose God has for us and then act. This process just needs to be repeated over and over again.
When Paul got to shore they continued to expect the unexpected and be prepared. They gathered wood and built a fire to keep themselves safe and warm. Paul remembered his purpose, not only to get to Rome but also to share the gospel with the gentiles so he started to preach and teach on Malta and healed many people who lived there. Paul acted. He worked and served and led the people which got them through the winter until a ship arrived and took them to Rome.
So be prepared in life and especially in faith. Remember God’s purpose and plan for your life and who God has called you to be as his child and servant and act. Do something. Keep moving forward trusting that God will see you through all the storms and shipwrecks of life.
Shipwrecked – Lessons from the Apostle Paul
Read about Paul’s journey through the storm and shipwreck at sea – Acts 27:1-28:11
1. Expect the Unexpected. Where in your life do you need to prepare for emergencies?
• Finances. Do you have adequate savings to handle an emergency?
o Set aside money each pay period to establish an emergency fund for unexpected expenses and problems.
• Friends and Family. Are your relationships with family and friends strong?
o What relationships do you need to work to improve so you have support for the future?
• Faith. How has your faith helped you in a past emergency or crisis?
o Faith is developed through consistent Bible reading, worship, prayer, small group discussions and serving.
o Which of these areas can be a focus for you in the months to come?
2. Remember God’s Purpose.
• Identify all the purposes God has for your life. Some may be as simple as being a good parent, child, sibling and friend while other might be specific to your gifts, talents and jobs.
• Keep this list handy to help keep you moving forward.
3. Act. Do Something.
• What activity helps you feel grounded and secure?
• Commit to doing one thing this week that will move you forward in one of the above areas.