18 We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. 19 On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. 20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.
21 After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. 22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. 26 Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”
… 42 The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. 43 But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. 44 The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.
Here in this story we find a group of men who are in the midst of a raging storm. The violent battering has caused much to be lost. It’s dark. The sun, although there, hasn’t shown itself for days due to the thick darkness of the clouds and the rain. All this damage and loss due to a detour that they were advised against by the believer on board. Yet in the thick of the storm, God sends a messenger, an angel, to remind Paul that there is still a purpose to fulfill and that he’s going to make it through this storm. Not only that, but he’s graciously been given the lives of all the men on board. ALL the men on board, including the slaves, are going to make it out alive. The ship will be lost, but what’s of value will make it out. The cargo didn’t make it. The method of travel didn’t make it. What they had put their trust in didn’t make it. What they had packed as provision didn’t make it. But their lives made it. Even the lives of the slaves were of value to God. (One of them happened to write most of the New Testament) But there was still a wreck. Those who knew how to swim were the first off. Then those who didn’t had to find something to take hold of so they wouldn’t drown.
This is a picture of our country today. We are in a ship that has believers, non-believers, agnostics, atheists, and slaves. Leaders of the ship have decided to take a turn totally against the advice of the believers. Totally against God’s direction and instruction, we’ve found ourselves in the midst of a storm. It’s raging. It’s causing damage and it’s causing loss. Yet there’s still hope because there’s still purpose. The promises of the Lord are still going to be fulfilled. The salvation of God isn’t about the ship, nor is it about the cargo… it’s about the lives. It’s about the free man and the slaves. He doesn’t want anyone to be lost. And just like it was with Paul, we’ve graciously been given the lives of those around to keep them from death… to help them to shore. We may know how to swim because we’re trained and we’ve been in these deep waters before, but others are going to be looking for something to hold on to. There’s only one thing that can keep them from drowning! That’s faith in Christ Jesus. He’s the only way to life! He is the life. Focus on the lives, not the ship. Part of our purpose is to make known what God has declared. Speak hope and life so that those in the grip of fear and on the edge of death have something (Someone!) to trust in.