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"As soon as arrangements were complete for our sailing to Italy -- Paul and a few other prisoners were placed under the supervision of a centurion named Julius, a member of an elite guard. We boarded a ship from Adramyttium that was bound for Ephesus and ports west. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, went with us.
"The next day we put in at Sidon. Julius treated Paul most decently -- he let him get off the ship and enjoy the hospitality of his friends there.
"Out to sea again, we sailed north under the protection of the northeast shore of Cyprus because winds out of the west were against us, and then along westward to the port of Myra. There the centurion found an Egyptian ship headed for Italy and transferred us on board. We ran into bad weather and found it impossible to stay on course. After much difficulty, we finally made it to the southern coast of Crete and docked at Good Harbour (appropriate name)." Acts 27:1-8 (The Message).
This was no pleasure cruise for Paul and his travelling companions! The centurion could not Google "Computicket" and book a ticket to Rome, luxury class, for himself and his prisoners, and enjoy the hospitality of the captain and crew, gourmet meals and first class entertainment during the voyage!
The best he could do was to hitch a ride from port to port on cargo ships manned by rough sailors. He had to find ships that were going along the route to Rome which meant searching for another one every time they reached the next stage of their voyage. These cargo ships probably had no facilities for passengers and, worst of all, passengers would be in the way in port during the loading and offloading operations.
The favour of God was on Paul because the centurion in charge obviously realised that he was no dangerous criminal looking for an opportunity to make a break for it as soon as they hit land. He trusted him enough to allow him to disembark and spend the time in port with friends rather than remain on board in the noise and confusion of offloading cargo.
On top of that they were are the mercy of unfavourable weather. It must have been autumn, when the sailing season was almost at an end. Winter on the Mediterranean was not an appropriate time to go sailing, as they were to find out through a stubborn captain! They had to endure rough and dangerous seas in their effort to get to Rome.
Once again Paul and his company of loyal companions faced the hazards that were part of the package of life. They were not immune to the trials of living in a fallen world. God's promise was never to protect them from trouble but to be with them in trouble. They had to endure the discomfort of violent storms, howling wind, pounding waves, sea sickness, sleepless nights, hunger and thirst and the frantic efforts of the sailors to keep the ship afloat and on course while they watched - a most distressing scenario.
On top of that they were in the company of rough, crude sailors whose language and behaviour could not have been conducive to a restful time en route. It was fortunate for Paul that he was not alone. He had the comfort of like-minded travelling companions who loved the old man and were there to care for him during this trying time.
All of these circumstances were adding up to a life rich in the wisdom and experience of God's grace. Where he had been was nothing compared to where he was still to go. He could not share the preciousness of life "hidden with Christ in God" had he not been in every place in life where he found this to be true. The more adversity buffeted him, the more he mellowed in the powerful presence of his Master.
It was out of the severity of experiences like these that he could write, "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that nothing...will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:37a, 38b (NIV).
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