2 Corinthians 11: 23-28
I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.
Acts 25: 7-12
When Paul came in, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood round him. They brought many serious charges against him, but they could not prove them….
….Paul answered: ‘….. if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!’
After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: ‘You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!’
The past few Sunday evenings we have been exploring Acts 27 with a teaching series thinking about how we can live an unsinkable life in the midst of life’s inevitable storms that we all face. Over the next few weeks we’ll delve into this teaching in our daily devotions.
I’m sure you’ve heard well-meaning Christians say something along the lines of, “There’s no safer place to be than in God’s will.” I’ve probably said it myself at some stage and I get the sentiment behind such an expression. However when you read the words of the Apostle Paul to the church in Corinth detailing some of his experiences as he sought to spread the Gospel, you begin to realise that being in God’s will can be an incredibly dangerous and precarious place. Following Jesus is never a guarantee of safety and comfort. In fact, entirely the opposite. Jesus said: “In this world you will have trouble.” (Jn 16: 33)
Paul was living proof of this. He had already endured three shipwrecks, and in the story we’ll look at in the coming days, he’s about to face a fourth. We will discover some of the character traits, habits, mindsets and disciplines that made Paul unsinkable.
First of all, a little background to the story. Paul has been under house arrest in Caesarea for two years because of erroneous charges brought against him by the Jewish authorities. He’s stuck in legal limbo and has had enough. Being a Roman citizen he exercises his right to appeal his case to the highest court in the Empire and to go to Rome to plead his case before Caesar, the Emperor himself. So he’s handed over to a centurion named Julius, and along with other prisoners and a substantial cargo, they begin their journey.
Paul had actually always wanted to go to Rome. A number of years prior to this, Paul had written to the Christians there:
“I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you. I long to see you…” (Rom 1: 10-11)
Later in the same letter he says this:
“I have longed for many years to come to you.” (15: 23)
Rome was the heart of the empire, the belly of the beast. Paul’s desire and dream had been that one day he would visit there, preach the Gospel and spend some time with the church in that great city. This is now about 5 years later and Paul is eventually getting his wish – he’s going to Rome, but not in the way he thought he would get there. He’s going as a prisoner to stand trial, not as a preacher to spread the Gospel. However, as we’ll see later, he still gets to preach and lead people to Jesus, even as a prisoner.
The point is this: In life we maybe have desires and dreams, things we want to do, places we want to see, goals we’d like to accomplish, ambitions we want to achieve. And sometimes we do see our dreams fulfilled, but not in the way we would ever have imagined. We see our goals reached, but not in the way we had planned. We reach our destination, but the journey was one we never thought we would take.
The dream is free but sometimes the journey is costly. The ambition or goal is a noble one to have but reaching it takes much longer and may be more difficult than we could ever have imagined.
Perhaps today you have dreams, goals and ambitions for your life. I hope you do. But ask yourself: “How much am I willing to pay?”
Jesus told us, before beginning any significant endeavour, to count the cost:
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” (Luke 14: 28)
What are you willing to go through to reach your desired destination in life? Are you open to the possibility that God may get you there in a way you never expected? That He may use people and relationships in your life in a way you could never have anticipated? That the journey may be longer or the route more difficult than you thought? There might be obstacles, storms, even shipwrecks along the way.