Acts 27: 4-12
From there we put out to sea again and passed to the lee of Cyprus because the winds were against us. When we had sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board. We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus. When the wind did not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea.
Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Day of Atonement. So Paul warned them, ‘Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.’ But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. Since the harbour was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbour in Crete, facing both south-west and north-west.
Paul is on a journey by sea to Rome where he will appeal his case before Caesar. The crew have swapped ships but they are moving very slowly. It’s a dangerous time of the year to sail and Paul has strong concerns about the wisdom of such a journey at this time.
We need to understand that there is a huge difference between faith and foolishness. Some time before this, God had clearly spoken to Paul and told him he would get to Rome. Look at Acts 23: 11:
“The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, ‘Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.’”
So Paul had a clear word from God: ‘You will get to Rome.’ Yet he still uses common sense, looks at the circumstances and says, “I don’t think we should go now. It’s too dangerous, it too risky, it’s foolish.” He sees warning signs flashing in front of him and he doesn’t ignore them.
Faith and common sense aren’t opposite to one another. Paul here had faith that God would get him to Rome. But his common sense and practical life experience told him that now might not be the best time to travel.
Often I hear Christians use expressions like: ‘I’m just having faith it’ll be OK…’; or, ‘I’m just trusting God it will work out…’; or, ‘God told me to….’ - to justify doing something which is obviously not a wise course of action, or at least it’s not the right thing to do at that time. Then they end up in a total mess and blame God. We all make mistakes, we all make wrong choices at times but let’s not spiritualise our stupidity or blame God.
You can have complete faith in God and yet still be cautious, especially when it’s a big decision that will have a major impact on you and other people.
Paul sees warning signs flashing and doesn’t ignore them. Let’s face it, he’s been in enough storms and shipwrecks to be able to tell when things aren’t looking good. Plus I think the Holy Spirit is speaking to him at the same time. He tries to convey his concerns to those responsible for the ship.
“But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship.” (v. 11)
Let’s face it, who is Paul here? He’s a preacher and a prisoner. Who is he to tell anyone what to do? He has no authority whatsoever. And yet he carries an authority from God to speak on His behalf. In one sense Paul represents the Word of God on board the ship. The pilot and the owner of the ship represent worldly authority and popular opinion. Look at what it says:
“…the majority decided that we should sail on…” (v. 12)
So here we have Paul representing the Word of God saying one thing and the worldly experts and majority opinion saying something else. It’s God’s wisdom versus man’s wisdom. Paul says elsewhere:
“For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” (1 Cor 1: 25)
What the majority are saying makes more sense. The experts sound incredibly persuasive. Their argument is more convincing. Yet what we will see is that the majority opinion took them into a horrendous storm where they all nearly lost their lives.
Just because the majority say something doesn’t make it right or make it wise. Because something is popular opinion in our society or in the media, it doesn’t mean it is right. When popular opinion and the majority vote contradicts what God’s Word says, they are always wrong. Listening to them and following them will lead you into difficulties, storms and shipwrecks.
Proverbs 14:12 says: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (KJV)
Jesus himself said: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” (Matt 7: 13)
There are crucial times, decisive moments in our lives, that often shape our future and can even determine our destiny. If we make one decision or take a particular course of action, our lives will turn out one way. If we make a different choice, our lives will look completely different. The key question is:
Whose voice will we listen to? God’s voice or someone else’s? Will we steer our lives by the Holy Spirit or will we steer by our human senses?
Then there’s other times when the decisions are outside of our control. Others make the choices for us. The actions of others cause us to end up in the storm. Paul here could give his opinion, he could tell them what he believes the Spirit is saying. But in the end what happened next was outside of his control.
Some of you reading this have been through the worst times of your life through no fault of your own. Others have made sinful decisions and stupid choices that have affected and afflicted you.
The truth is, as Christians we can’t control the actions of others, we can only seek to do what we believe is right. We can’t always change what happens to us, but we can only determine to live according to God’s Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit.
We look forward to seeing you this Sunday. On Sunday morning we will celebrate 'Dad Day', therefore our services will look slightly different:
Worship Celebration: 9.30 am - 10.15 am / Dad Day Activities: 10.15 am - 11.45 am
Worship Celebration: 11.45 am - 12.30 pm / Dad Day Activities: 12.30 pm - 2.00 pm
The evening service will be at 7.00 pm as usual.