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"Some of the sailors tried to jump ship. They let down the lifeboat, pretending they were going to set out more anchors from the bow. Paul saw through their guise and told the centurion and his soldiers, 'If these sailors don't stay with the ship, we're all going down.' So the soldiers cut the lines of the lifeboat and let it drift off. With dawn about to break, Paul called everyone together and proposed breakfast:
'This is the fourteenth day we've gone without food. None of us has felt like eating! But I urge you to eat something now. You're going to come out of this without even a scratch.'" Acts 27:30-34 (The Message).
Amazing, isn't it, how there are always the few who want to rock the boat! God's reassurance, through Paul, that they would all survive this ordeal depended on them all staying together and working together. But there were the few who didn't care about the others. They were only interested in saving their own skin.
They hatched a plot to launch the lifeboat and try to save themselves but Paul was quick to realise what was up, and took charge. Have you noticed how the authority on the ship changed? In this crisis the captain had done everything he could but nothing was working. Where was he at this stage? Paul took over as the one with the hotline to the throne of God.
First step: Make sure that everyone pulled together. He quickly nipped the splinter group's plot in the bud. His sixth sense warned him that these men were up to something. By this time the centurion had complete confidence in Paul. He was not the usual sort of prisoner and his word carried authority. The soldiers ditched the lifeboat, cutting off any possibility of escape and forcing everyone to stand together and wait for instructions.
Second step: Breakfast! No one had eaten since the storm began. Fear and the frantic attempts to save the ship had taken their appetites away. Paul knew that they would not survive a swim in the raging sea without the reserves of strength from a good meal. Even the suggestion of food must have put new heart into everyone on board.
"He broke the bread, gave thanks to God, passed it around, and they all ate heartily -- two hundred and seventy-six of us, all told! With the meal finished and everyone full, the ship was further lightened by dumping the grain overboard.'' Acts 27:35-38 (The Message).
Now they were ready for the next step. By this time the ship was just a shell -- cargo, tackle and food gone. There could be no going back. In spite of the fact that their plight was the outcome of foolish decisions and poor judgement, God had not abandoned them. Paul was their lifeline -- bringing the hope of salvation from a watery grave if they believed him and heeded his instructions.
How often we land in equally tight corners in life through our own stubbornness and bad decisions. We deserve to be left to find our own way out because we got ourselves into it, but we have a loving Father who is more interested in getting us out than in how we got there in the first place. Every sticky situation is God's opportunity to reveal His love and His goodness. It's not about us. It's about Him.
Jesus showed us how this works. He used every human condition to put His Father's glory on display. On one occasion He and His disciples met a blind man on the road. Their question to Him was: 'Whose fault is it that this man was born blind?' His reply startled them. 'You're asking the wrong question. Don't look for someone to blame. Let's see what God can do.'
Every crisis is God's opportunity if we have the right attitude. Paul listened, followed and used his common sense to steer the entire complement of people on board the doomed ship to a safe conclusion. The captain had run out of options but Paul was in touch with a covenant God who promised always to be with him. He is the same God for us as He was for Paul and his companions.
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