Shipwrecked

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Paul left Caesarea in chains with one hundred and twenty-five other prisoners. The storm season was approaching as the hot summer temperatures had vanished allowing cooler air to flow into the area from the north. As they boarded the tall wooden ship bound for Italy the captain knew they would be sailing on the cusp of possible bad weather. With a crew of fifty and one hundred Roman soldiers aboard the total human compliment was two hundred and seventy-five.

Paul left Caesarea in chains with one hundred and twenty-five other prisoners. The storm season was approaching as the hot summer temperatures had vanished allowing cooler air to flow into the area from the north. As they boarded the tall wooden ship bound for Italy the captain knew they would be sailing on the cusp of possible bad weather. With a crew of fifty and one hundred Roman soldiers aboard the total human compliment was two hundred and seventy-five.

The ships manifest also listed hundreds of flagons of olive oil, wine and wheat that made the ship’s draft ride low in the water. Julius was the centurion in charge of getting Paul and the other prisoners safely to Rome. Many of them would have to endure weeks of heavy ocean travel only to end up as food for the hungry lions in the coliseum.

Julius was a middle-aged Roman centurion who was in charge of getting Paul and the rest of the prisoners to Rome. He had taken a liking to Paul allowing him to leave the ship in Sidon to visit with a group of Christian friends. Julius, when he was a younger man, had been part of the regiment that had crucified Jesus Christ along with two other prisoners in Jerusalem. It was on that day when Jesus was crucified that the young Roman soldier had a small seed of faith planted and started to believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

The wind was pushing against them and sailing was slow as they headed up to Myra to find a larger ship that could make the trip to Italy. That night Paul had a premonition that the voyage would end in disaster and on the next morning tried to convince the Centurion, the helmsman and the ship’s owner to winter in the harbor. However, a delay would mean less profit for the ship’s owner so pressure was applied and the Centurion decided to leave the harbor and sail for the Italian coast.

Soon the situation worsened as Paul predicted and the heavy ship began taking on water as rough seas poured over the ship’s railings and onto the deck. The prisoners were compelled to handle the bilge pit and bucket out the water that flowed continually into it. The sailors too were busy lightening the ship by throwing all un-nessacerry goods overboard. They ran cables and ropes under the ship to hold it together from the constant pounding of the fierce ocean waves. On the next day, fearing the worst, the crew began throwing the ship’s tackle overboard.

Julius had remembered Paul’s prediction and believed it was the God he worshiped that had sent him the vision. For fourteen days the tempest blew the rain sideways and all on board could neither see the sun or stars as hope flickered like the wick of a candle that had used up all of its wax. The crew had all but given up any hope of surviving the dark night as the soldiers prepared to execute all the prisoners. Several sailors began lowering the only lifeboat into the water.

Paul boldly informed the Centurion about an angelic visit that night and that God was going to spare everyone’s life if they would all just stay on board the ship. Immediately Julius barked out orders to cut the ropes holding the lifeboat and stopped the soldiers from harming the prisoners. At daybreak the ship ran aground on a reef and was beginning to break up as the waves pounded from behind. Those that could swim were told to make for the shore followed by everyone else who was clinging to barrels, wooden planks and anything that would float. They all made it safely to land.

It’s often in our pitch black, wave-swollen lives, in the midst of the storm, that we call out to the Lord for help and begin to cling to Him. It’s often in our darkest hours, before the dawn, when we feel our situation is hopeless that we feel God’s presence the most. While he doesn’t promise us life without storms He does promise to walk with us through the very heart of our crisis.

In Paul’s story the sailors weren’t taken out of their circumstances but were given hope and encouragement through the storm to persevere. God used Paul, one faithful God believing person, to influence the Centurion who immediately stopped the sailors from leaving the ship, which would have meant their certain doom.

While we might have to do a little swimming, board surfing or barrel riding in this life; God will guide us into safe harbor. Our final destination, our safe harbor, lies ahead of us across this horizon beyond time and space into eternity with our Creator.

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