Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 9 2013 - Acts 27:1-20 – In the eye of the storm

Paul had been placed in charge of a Roman centurion named Julius who belonged to the Imperial Regiment. Julius was entrusted with the task of transporting Paul safely to Rome.

Paul quickly made a favourable impression upon Julius, for we read that when the ship they were travelling on put into Sidon, Julius allowed Paul to go and visit friends in the town who would feed him and provide for him. No doubt Paul was keen to visit the church in that city not just to receive provisions from them but to see how the Lord was blessing them and to encourage them to remain strong in the faith. No doubt he would also have sought their prayers for his journey to Rome and his appearance before Caesar. Julius must have known that he could trust Paul to return to his charge before the ship sailed. Like Joseph imprisoned in Egypt, Paul impressed his captors with his integrity and earned their trust.

Nevertheless, Julius did not always listen to Paul. When Paul warned that their voyage was “going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also” (Acts 27:10), Julius thought that the judgment of the ship’s captain was more to be relied upon than that of a wandering preacher when it came to decisions about when and where to sail. He must soon have regretted his decision; before long the ship was caught up in a violent storm.

The description of the storm at sea in Acts 27 reminds me in some ways of the story of Jonah. Jonah, you will remember, had run away to sea to escape from God’s call for him to preach before the Imperial power of his day. His disobedience had brought a violent storm upon him and upon all those aboard his ship. He had to be thrown overboard so that the other sailors might be saved. I am reminded of Jonah not only because of the similarities, but also the great contrast between the two stories. Paul is not running away from God but has been obedient to God’s commission at great cost to himself; he is eager and determined to preach before the Imperial power of his day. Moreover, the safety of the other sailors and passengers is guaranteed by Paul’s presence, for it is God’s purpose to bring him safe to Rome.

How does our presence influence those around us? Are we known for our integrity and trustworthy character? Are we trusted even by those who do not share our faith? Is our presence the cause of the storms that threaten to overwhelm ourselves and others or are we the source of blessing, hope and help in the midst of the storms of life?

Begone, unbelief; my Saviour is near,
and for my relief will surely appear;
by prayer let me wrestle, and he will perform;
with Christ in the vessel, I smile at the storm.

His love in time past forbids me to think
he'll leave me at last in trouble to sink;
while each Ebenezer I have in review
confirms his good pleasure to help me quite through.

Lord Jesus, thank you for those times when your disciples were caught in terrifying storms on Lake Galilee and you told them not to be afraid. You had the power to still the wind and calm the waves. You have the same power today to keep us safe in the storms of life. Help us to trust you and enable us to bring comfort, encouragement and hope to others who are ready to give up all hope in the face of a sea of troubles.

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Peter Misselbrook