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Shipwrecked in Faith

Paul and his companions have been lost at sea for several weeks, and it has become clear that nobody has any idea where they are or what to do. Paul stands up and reminds the crowd that this is exactly what he predicted would happen, not in order to gloat, but in order to establish his authority to give further instructions. But Paul is not exalting himself, or his own predictive abilities. His confidence that they will all be saved comes the fact that God’s messenger had appeared to him and told him what would happen.

The angel’s message had two parts: God’s goal was that Paul the Apostle would stand before Caesar, and God’s gift was that in addition to saving Paul, He granted Paul the lives of all the other passengers on the ship. For Paul, faith in the promises of the God he belongs to and worships results in comfort and encouragement that he is then able to share with others.

Even though God has already promised Paul that they would all be saved, this salvation still works its way out in human history, through human actions and decisions. So what do the other 275 passengers besides Paul need to do to be saved? What is their part in fulfilling God’s promise? Three things: 1) They need to believe God’s Word. If they ignore Paul’s advice again, they will not be saved. 2) The sailors need obey and stay with the ship to run it aground (vs. 26 & 31), and the soldiers need to not work against God’s promise by killing the prisoners when the ship doesn’t quite make it to beach (vs. 42-43). If they don’t obey, they will not be saved. 3) They need to eat (vs. 34). Those on board need food in order to be saved. Practically, if they don’t have energy to get from the ship to the shore, then they will die. Believe, obey, and eat, and you will be saved, and thus God’s promise will be fulfilled. And led by the centurion, the people on the ship listen to Paul this time, and in God’s mercy, they are all brought safely to land.

While it probably isn’t a Lord’s Supper service, when verse 35 describes Paul taking bread, giving thanks, and breaking it, we can still see these events as picturing spiritual salvation: when people believe God’s word and share in the breaking of bread, they are saved through the water. This is the Christian life: receiving the Word in faith, sharing the Lord’s Supper, and being baptized, resulting in salvation. This isn’t a “hidden meaning” in the text, but it is an instructive parallel that shows how our life circumstances can teach us spiritual lessons. God tells His story of salvation in a thousand different ways through the events of our lives, for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

As Christians, we know that God wants us to bear witness, but we struggle to see how He can put our lives on display in the middle of the rough seas we find ourselves in. The challenges of parenting, divorce, illness, lost jobs, financial struggles, busyness, weariness – does that describe you? Does it feel like these things are keeping you from doing what God wants you to do, or being who God wants you to be?

Be encouraged: you cannot hear this passage without realizing that God is the master of the seas and storms of life. He means for you to come through these storms alive, and He uses them to further strengthen and shape your faith, so that when everyone around you has lost hope, you can stand up and say, “Take heart, for I have faith in God.” For it is by faith that you are saved.

So take heart, children of God, and be strong in faith. Every promise of God will come true exactly as you have been told, and you will be brought safely to shore. The voyage might be rough, and the ship might not make it, but the God to whom you belong and whom you worship will plant your feet on solid ground, and so the best thing for you to do is to believe God’s Word and obey it, take some food, give thanks to God, and be encouraged.

Posted on Thursday, July 30, 2015 by CJ Bowen