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"We came under the lee of a small island named Clauda, and managed to get a lifeboat ready and reef the sails. But the rocky shoals prevented us from getting close. We only managed to avoid them by throwing out drift anchors.
"Next day, out to sea and badly damaged by the storm, we dumped the cargo overboard. The third day the sailors lightened the ship further by throwing off all the tackle and provisions. It had been many days since we had seen either sun or stars. Wind and waves were battering us unmercifully, and we lost all hope of rescue.
"With our appetite for both food and life long gone, Paul took his place in our midst and said, "Friends, you really should have listened to me back in Crete. We could have avoided all this trouble and trial. But there's no need to dwell on that now. From now on, things are looking up! I can assure you there'll be not a single drowning among us, although I can't say as much for the ship -- the ship itself is doomed." Acts 27:16-22 (The Message).
Who are the "we" in this story? No doubt it was "all hands on deck" for everyone on the ship including the centurion and the prisoners. Every pair of hands was necessary to save the ship from being dashed to pieces on the island's jagged rocks. Once they were past that peril there was no letting up because the ship was in danger of sinking in the violence of the wind and waves.
Everyone worked frantically to lighten the ship. No thought now of saving the cargo! There goes all the money they were supposed to be earning, by the foolish chance the captain took! They stripped the ship to the bare bones in the hopes that they could keep it afloat until they hit land somewhere.
All their values shifted in the peril they were in. It was no longer about business. Now it was about lives. It's a pity the powers-that-be had not considered that in the first place. But it was too late now -- a good lesson learned if they ever survived!
Where was Paul in this spell of furious activity? Stripped to the waist hauling cargo? No, Paul had his own work to do. Somewhere on the ship, out of the way of the toiling men, Paul was praying. His work was just as vital as that of the sailors. It took time and effort to engage with the Father for the lives of the people on board. Paul took nothing for granted. Like Moses centuries before, he stood before the Lord in intercession for men who did not deserve His mercy. They were all in it together and together they would live or die.
Some may have looked upon Paul as a shirker. His hands were needed to get the job done as quickly as possible. Some may have even felt resentful towards him. But Paul turned his face towards the Father and, in the midst of the fury of the storm, he grew quiet inside as he focussed on God. Deliberately shutting out every other sound, he listened for the inner voice that would give him clear instruction for the moment.
Since God is everywhere, he knew that God was there. In his heart there echoed the many promises of His word. "When you pass through the waters I will be with you..." Isaiah 43:3a NIV); "...He will never leave you or forsake you." Deuteronomy 31:6c (NIV). In his prayer he appealed to the mercy of God, that attribute that was heaviest in Him. Perhaps he recalled how Moses pleaded for the lives of God's unfaithful people, undeserving as they were, and prayed for the lives of everyone on board.
The Father graciously heard the passionate cries of His child, and into Paul's heart stole the peace that transcends all understanding, the sure confirmation that his prayer had been answered. With confident steps he returned to the toiling men with the reassurance, "No-one will be lost." Would they believe him this time?
Once again, God was there to thwart the murderous plot of the enemy to sacrifice the entire crew in order to destroy Paul. His overshadowing protection in spite of the danger, would prove to all on board that there is no other God and that He is powerful and full of compassion.
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