The lesson found in Acts 27 is, by far, my most favorite story in the book of Acts. The heading explains that Paul, in a perilous voyage, travels to Rome.
The season is late fall, sometime in the middle of October. Winter is fast approaching, and “sailing was now dangerous.” (Acts 27:9) With what must have taken great courage, Paul, who was a prisoner, approached the centurion saying, “Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives.” (vs. 10)
But his advice was not heeded–– “Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul.” (vs. 11) The master felt that the haven they were in was not a good place to winter; he wanted to try to make it to Crete. Because the south wind blew softly, he felt confident in his decision and began the journey.
Not long after the journey started they encountered a tempestuous wind called Euroclydon, known and feared for its destructive power. The storm became so powerful the ship could not be steered, and the captain finally had to let go of the controls and let the ship steer herself. As the storm intensified, the men began undergirding the ship, tying it together with rope so that it wouldn’t break apart in the storm.
On the second day of the storm they lightened the ship, throwing overboard everything they could do without. On the third day they threw out the tackling. Several days went by under complete and heavy cloud cover so dense they could not see sun or stars. They had lost the power to navigate, and the scriptures tell us, “all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.” (Acts 27:20)
I love what happens next.
It seems Paul, who had known all along what was going to happen, waited patiently until this point. “But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me.” (vs. 21)
I always get a giggle out of this told-you-so moment.
But I also recognize that his hesitation and patience were an important part of the lesson that was about to come. During the days of storm these men had let go of their excess baggage, they had secured what was most important, and they had lost all ability to rely on their own strength or intelligence in navigating their course. Just when it seemed all hope was lost, in the moment of greatest humility, Paul began to teach. His sermon was a powerful one.
“Now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me. Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island.” (Acts 27:22-26)
Within this sermon Paul teaches four important lessons.
I like to call them anchor points.
First, he testified of his trust in God, “Whose I am, and whom I serve.” Second, he explained how the angel told him, “Thou must be brought before Caesar.” God had a purpose in mind for him and Paul knew it would come to pass. Third, he said, “Be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as he told me.” Faith in God was something Paul would not turn his back on. Last, he said, “we must be cast upon a certain island.” Paul knew that God knew what the end would be, that they were in God’s hands and known of Him.
When we find ourselves on a perilous journey, I wonder if we could learn from these four anchor points: to trust God whom we serve, to know that He has a purpose for us, to have absolute faith in Him, to remember He is mindful of us.
You might be wondering why I call these anchor points. It is because of what happens next. When the fourteenth night came the men began to worry that they were close to shore. Fearing that they might hit rocks “they cast out four anchors… and wished for the day.” (Acts 27:29)
Just as Paul had done with his four anchors spiritually, in the midst of the storm and the doubt, they cast out four physical anchors, and waited for light to come.
As they waited for the light several more lessons were learned. First, some of the men tried to escape by the lifeboat. They were discovered and Paul told them, “Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.” (Acts 27:31) They could not rely on their own strength or timing, they had to be patient with God’s timing. In an effort to make this extremely clear, the lifeboat was thrown overboard. Second they took meat and bread, and gave thanks. During this time of waiting they gathered strength, and because they recognized it, they were able to thank God for it. Last, they threw everything off the ship, placing their full trust in God’s plan.
When it was day they took up the anchors and committed themselves unto the sea.
It wasn’t until they had completely entrusted themselves into the hands of the Lord, that they took up the anchors. Then, “they hoised up the main sail to the wind, and made toward shore. And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; … and the forepart stuck fast and remained immovable. And so it came to pass that they escaped all safe to land.”(vs. 41-44)
There is a great lesson on anchor points that can be learned from this chapter.
When we find ourselves on a perilous journey we too can cast out our four anchors and wish for light to come. We place our trust in God, and let Him determine His purpose for us. This requires faith in Him and an understanding that He knows the end from the beginning and is mindful of us along the way. While our anchors are set we must let go of anything that might be holding us back and gather strength from Him with gratitude, rather than relying on our own strength. Then, when we are ready, we must commit ourselves into His hands, trusting that He will lead us exactly where we need to go.
These anchor points can become a testimony to us, steadfast and immovable. They are four anchors we can cast out during any life storm we might face while we wish for the day.