by Roger McCay
10 January 2021
Sermon Passage: Acts 27
Link to Audio Version
The story is told of “A little boy [who] was asked by his father to say grace at the table. While the rest of the family waited, the little guy eyed every dish of food his mother had prepared. After the examination, he bowed his head and honestly prayed, “Lord, I don’t like the looks of it, but thank you for it, and I’ll eat it anyway. Amen”
Sometimes life is like that. We’re faced with something we don’t like that’s out of our control. Perhaps the trouble comes about due to the whim of others; or bad decisions, leading to bad circumstances; or natural disasters and disease; or perhaps it’s just the way the cards fell. Whichever way, sometimes in life you find yourself helpless, carried along by events into a storm of painful trials. You don’t like the looks of it, but you’ve got to eat it anyway.
There is a sense of desperation that come upon us during the storms of life. It can become overwhelming, a formula for despair. But it doesn’t have to end up in despair.
What makes the difference is the anchors that keep us grounded: grounded in the Lord; grounded in the reality of God’s provision, in times of struggle. Anchored in God’s provision, we can endure. Indeed, no matter how bad the storm, in our Lord we can find peace and thanksgiving.
In our passage today, after a little over two years as a prisoner in Caesarea, Paul is being sent to Rome for a trial before Caesar. The event takes place in October, AD 59, with Paul finally arriving in Rome in AD 60. October was a bad time of year to be sailing west on the Mediterranean, and, typically, sailing had already ceased in September due to the bad weather and winds that would come up after that time.
However, there were some ships that braved the weather, for various reasons. The second ship Paul was on, out of Alexandria, was a grain ship, with its owner and captain willing to risk the weather for a tidy profit. Having stopped at Fair Havens, on the southside of Crete, due to the increasingly difficult and dangerous voyage, a decision had to be made to stay or to go. As it was, the owner, the captain and the centurion, along with a majority of folks on that ship, made the decision to chance the increasing danger and attempt to sail to a more favorable harbor for wintering than Fair Havens—the harbor of Phoenix.
Contrary to the majority opinion, Paul, sensing that staying there was the best option (perhaps prophetically with a nudge from the Lord, we aren’t sure) … Paul urged them to stay put at Fair Havens. They ignored him, however, not surprisingly, as he was a minority opinion and a prisoner, which proved to be a dire and terrible decision. This, of course, is an example of how the majority vote does not always mean something is best.
In what follows, we get a picture (with everything that happens) of how to stay anchored in the Lord and his provision when we encounter storms—not only storms at sea, but even in the storms of life. Not only did Paul find hope and encouragement in the Lord’s provision during the storm, he was able to pass that encouragement on to those around him, taking action that led to actions that saved them all.
First off, from Paul’s example, we see how we can take hope in light of God’s provision, which includes friends, identity, promise, assurance, and God’s provision of hope.
In the opening verses of Acts 27 (vv. 1-3), Luke emphasizes God’s provision of friends. Traveling with Paul there was, of course, Luke himself, whom we know was along for the journey in v. 1, when he says “that we should sail.” Another friend, one whom was a long-time companion was Aristarchus, the Macedonian from Thessalonica. In Acts we’ve seen his name mentioned several times. Plus, Paul mentions him in various epistles. Aristarchus was a solid, faithful friend. Then there are the friends encountered along the way, mentioned in v. 3, friends at Sidon (who were likely the Christians at the church at Sidon) sought out by Paul for a brief moment of fellowship. And another friend may have been Julius, the centurion. He certainly treated Paul kindly in v. 3, and then later, in v. 43, he saved Paul’s life.
Quality friends can have a grounding influence: both friends who are constants and friends whom we encounter for a brief time along our journey in life. There is a stabilizing effect to friends. They are anchors who provide accountability, encouragement, and fellowship—sometimes even a much-needed smile in common circumstances.