Acts 27:27-37 is our passage today.
As I write, we have marked the tenth anniversary of the 7/7 attacks this week. It was one of the worst terrorist atrocities in the UK where four young men carried out suicide attacks in London. There has been much reflection as some of those caught up in the events have spoken of their experiences. Martine Wright who lost both of her legs in the Aldgate Underground explosion was interviewed and spoke very movingly of her memories of the day. She said the event had revealed the very worst but also the very best of humanity. The worst of humanity is obvious in these senseless attacks but some of the best was there too. Martine spoke of one woman, a complete stranger at the time, who had saved her life and refused to be evacuated until Martine was removed from the wreckage and carried to safety, an ordinary person showing extraordinary courage.
Some people believe the Bible to be largely irrelevant because it is such an ancient book but when we read it, we see that the Bible deals with God and human beings. We know God doesn’t change, that’s part of his character but human beings are no different today than they were when the Bible was written. Ok we have the internet and all of the trappings of the 21st century but deep down we are still the same. In today’s reading, we can see the worst and best of humanity during a crisis.
The worst of humanity is seen in the actions of the sailors. The ship has been battered for two weeks and the experienced seamen can sense that they are approaching land. This is borne out by the soundings when the depth of water was checked and probably by the change in the motion of the ship and perhaps the sound of breaking waves. This is both good news and bad news. Of course everyone on board is desperate to get to land but they could easily be smashed against rocks and drowned within sight of land. Some of the crew have a solution. Pretend to need to use the lifeboat to release more anchors but really once in the boat they will try to make land themselves leaving everyone else to the mercy of the waves. It was a pretty callous thing to do and completely selfish. I think they would have fitted right in with our society where selfishness is often praised. ‘as long as you’re happy’. ‘just be true to yourself’.
The best of humanity is seen in Paul. He is concerned for the ship’s company; note, he doesn’t say; ‘Unless these men stay with the ship, we cannot be saved.’ He said; “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” Paul knew that he would testify for his Lord in Rome because his Lord had told him (23:11). He knew he would make it through the storm but he wanted the crew and passengers to make it through as well. Paul had been largely passive up to this point but now it was time to act and he did three things;
- He showed common sense. It strikes me that common sense is actually fairly uncommon but Paul acted coolly under pressure to save lives. He saw through the plans of some of the crew and reported it to the centurion. He knew they would need a full crew to get the ship to land safely. He also saw the need for everyone to eat something. They must have had other priorities such as staying afloat but they would need all of their collective strength in the hours ahead.
There are times when God calls on us to do things by faith that make no sense apart from the fact that God is telling us to do them. When that happens; we should always obey God. But often God wants us to use the intellect and gifts that he has given us. Being obedient to God is a Christian virtue; being foolish isn’t.
- Paul’s life was an example to others. Obviously this was such a stressful situation that people didn’t want to eat. Perhaps Paul didn’t really feel like eating but after telling them all that they needed to eat, he took some bread and ate it. It was only after Paul had eaten that the others were encouraged and ate for themselves.
As Christians we have to tell others about the new life in Jesus. If you are a member of a Ballroom Dancing club; no one is going to learn about the gospel through your excellent Foxtrot, or the way you reverse a car or go shopping.
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Romans 10:13-14)
We have to speak of the hope we have but we also have to act with integrity. It is so damaging to the gospel when Christians say all of the right words but live like everyone else. We are judged by a higher standard. As we have said before; people may not read a Bible but they will read you.
- Paul gave thanks to God for the food. In everything he did, Paul acknowledged his Lord. He didn’t park his faith in this stressful situation in case it led to arguments. It was who he was, he was a child of God and you could no more ask him to ease off than ask him to stop breathing. It probably wasn’t much of a meal but he thanked God for it. Paul’s hope was not in the vagaries of the weather, or the seamanship of the sailors it was in God and he made sure everyone on board knew it.
Shine your light and let the whole world see,
We’re singing for the glory of the risen King… Jesus (x2)
My Saviour, He can move the mountains,
My God is Mighty to save,
He is Mighty to save.
Forever, Author of salvation,
He rose and conquered the grave,
Jesus conquered the grave. (Mighty to Save – Ben Fielding and Rueben Morgan)