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.
But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.
So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it drift away.
Acts 27:9-12, 22, 32 (NIV)
Paul should hardly have been surprised that his advice to stay at Lasea was ignored, particularly as a safe harbour was available at Phoenix (just a few miles/kilometres further east along the coast of Crete).
There were a number of good reasons for moving on:
- Lasea was not a suitable port in which to over-winter;
- Phoenix was a safe harbour and it was relatively close;
- the ship’s pilot advised them to sail on;
- the owner of the ship advised them to sail on;
- the majority of those on the boat (276 passengers and crew) wanted to sail on;
- Paul was a tent-maker, so what would he know about sailing?
In the face of this, only Paul (and a minority of others) stood out as wanting to be cautious. The centurion took note of all the advice and decided to press on.
Once at sea Paul tells us that a storm developed and the passengers and crew feared for their lives. If only they had listened to Paul! Accordingly, a journey that should have taken a few days at most, left the ship still at sea 14 days later. Cargo and ship’s tackle were thrown overboard to lighten the load. If only they had listened to Paul!
As the crew feared for their lives some decided to make use of the lifeboat to attempt to reach shore. Alerted to the situation the soldiers did something incredible, they cut the lifeboat free. It seems that at last they listened to Paul.
The outcome was that after 14 days at sea the ship finally hit a sandbar and all 276 people on board were able to make it safely to shore (Malta).
Thinking about this I first of all thought that Paul’s initial advice should have been followed. Surely if they had stayed at Lasea all would have been well. Actually we cannot conclude that, particularly as the harbour at Lasea was not suitable for over-wintering.
Looking deeper into the account I came to realise that God’s might, power and saving grace were only displayed in the midst of the raging storm, not in the calm of the harbour. If they had followed Paul’s initial advice the ship, cargo, crew and passengers would have been relatively safe. Yet it is likely that they would have missed out on the display of God’s rescue.
We all want to feel secure. However, life is often unpredictable and sometimes it means that we must face life’s storms. Stepping out of our comfort zone is like putting to sea from a safe harbour, possibly to face a storm. Trusting in difficult situations is a real test of faith for each of us.
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