Even shipwrecks can be used for good

Published 1:00 pm Sunday, February 4, 2024

The Acts of the Apostles,” chapter 27, contains perhaps the longest account of a specific event, during Paul’s travels (his final voyage); and for good reason, as those who read and study the chapter will soon find. (I ask that you read the entire chapter, before, or during the reading of this column.)

The chapter begins just after Paul is reluctantly ordered to Rome by Governor Felix, and King Agrippa. Reluctantly, because they find no fault with Paul, and would have gladly released him but for his appeal to Caesar. (Ch. 26 vs.32)

All is well for the first nine verses; Paul then expresses his concern about sea travel during this season of foul weather, ignored by the others, they sail on into a terrible storm. It is here that we see that Paul is the authority figure, albeit without formal recognition.

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In verse 20, after many stormtossed days, the passengers had lost all hope of survival. In verse 21 Paul reveals his angelic visitation “For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong, and whom I serve.” Paul is convinced that the angel has spoken truthfully, and that all will survive if they remain on the ship. Then in verse 26 he speaks one last word about the visitation, “However, we must run aground on a certain island.”

God has given His word that they will be saved; now they learn that they must be shipwrecked! There is confusion as some of the soldiers want to launch the skiff and kill the prisoners, others are terrified because they can’t swim, and Paul says they will run aground!

With authority Paul diffuses the situation and they do indeed run aground. As the ship is breaking apart, those who can swim reach the shore, those who can’t swim hang on to the ships debris and float ashore. All are saved!

Isn’t that just like God? To come to us when we have lost all hope and bring us through to safety. Sometimes the methods He uses involve a “shipwreck” in order to provide a means of escape for those of us who can’t swim. Sometimes God uses a tragedy within a tragedy to bring us back to Himself.

In the face of disaster, we must be humble before God; and in failure we must keep trying. He said “all things…” even shipwrecks can work for our good.

The Rev. Bobby Thornhill is a retired pastor.