When times are good, we tend to lower our guard and leave things in the hands of fate. In the process, we are exposed to all kinds of vulnerability. It is often too late when we realize that we are in real danger of sliding down in the faith. This is the scenario that the apostle Paul was warning Timothy to avoid when he said, “Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith” (1 Tim. 1:18-19).
The reality of life is that we are on a journey. In this journey, we are crossing a great divide. No effort on our part is enough to be able to bring us to the other side. We must have Jesus to lead us as the Captain of our ship. There will be storms and typhoons that will come along the way and these will waylay many. But as long as we are sailing with Jesus, we are safe and secure. This was the experience of the disciples when they were crossing the Sea of Galilee. Because of the squall that came to challenge their boat, they cried out to Jesus for help. “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm” (Mark 4:39). Jesus saved the disciples from possible shipwreck.
In the case of the apostle Paul, he testified, “Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea” (2 Cor. 11:25). The worst shipwreck he was in was on his voyage to Rome. They started off well but as they made their way, they encountered a severe storm. In the end, the ship was completely destroyed but all the passengers were saved. There are great lessons that can be learned through his experience. The first lesson is listen to advice. Earlier, when the apostle Paul perceived that the journey ahead would be dangerous, he warned against moving forward. He said, “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” (Acts 27:10). Rather than listening to Paul, the centurion decided to follow the advice of the pilot, the owner of the ship and the majority of the passengers. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”
The second lesson is stand firm in the faith. In the midst of the storm, hold on to your faith in the Lord and be strong. In this case, the Lord assured Paul saying, “Do not be afraid. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you” (Acts 27:24). It is useless to struggle on your own, as the rest of the passengers and crew did. In their panic, they threw everything overboard and did not eat for days. They were in constant suspense. They tried to save the ship but to no avail. Therefore, listen to Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.”
The third lesson is do not jump ship. The sailors attempted to escape from the sea using a lifeboat. But Paul said to the centurion and soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved” (Acts 27:31). There are those who believe that they can save themselves in their own way, apart from the Lord. But Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). To ensure that we can fully trust the Lord and remain in him, we need to cut off everything that we are holding on to as our lifesaver. In this case, the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it fall away so that they can only trust in the Lord.
The fourth lesson is trust God’s provision. When the ship struck a sandbar, it was pounded by strong waves and it was broken to pieces. With no more lifeboat to depend on, each one used whatever skill they had. Some got to the land by swimming while others got there on planks or pieces of the boat. They all reached land safely just as the apostle Paul said – “Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head” (Acts 27:34). God’s provision of Jesus Christ is enough because Jesus “is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Heb 7:25).
The fifth lesson is believe God’s plan to save. Even from the beginning, the angel of the Lord already assured the salvation of everyone in the ship. He told Paul, “God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you” (Acts 27:24). Indeed, God’s plan is to save because he “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Glory to God!