Monday, August 23, 2010

Shipwrecked by Bad Advice

A sermon based on Acts 27 - Preached by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett at Faith Community Church in Barre, VT on August 22, 2010

  • We have been studying the end of Paul's ministry for the last few weeks.
  • We have learned that Paul was arrested for something he did not do and put on trial a number of times for his alleged crimes.
  • Paul's opponents were determined to kill him and he eventually had to appeal to Caesar, which was his right as a Roman citizen.
  • Paul had to be transferred to Rome where he would stand trial before Caesar.
Verse 1 - When it was decided that we were to sail to Italy, they handed over Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion named Julius, of the Imperial Regiment.
  • After Paul appealed to Caesar, he was transferred yet again. This time into the care of Roman centurion named Julius.
  • Little is known of Julius, but tradition says he was well respected and held great authority.
  • Centurions normally commanded a group of 100 soldiers. It is possible that all 100 of these soldiers traveled with Paul on this journey.
  • There were a number of other prisoners who had to go to Rome as well. Though the Bible does not tell us if they were Roman citizens too, mostly likely they were or they would not have been worth the expense to transfer them.
Verse 2 - So when we had boarded a ship, we put to sea, intending to sail to ports along the coast of the province of Asia.
  • The entire group began their journey with great hope and expectation.
  • The prisoners hope to be found innocent and set free.
  • The soldiers hope to see family and friends after months or years out on the field.
  • The sailors hope to make a big profit off of the government passengers and cargo.
  • Little did these passengers know they would barely survive what was going to be one of the worst ordeals of their lives.
  • We often begin a new phase of life with great hope and lofty expectations.
  • Our expectations do not always come about.
  • We must learn to deal with life situations that are not what we expected them to be.
Verse 4 - When we had put out to sea we sailed along the northern coast of Cyprus because the winds were against us.
  • Though the passengers started off with great hope and expectations, it did not take long before the wind turn against them.
  • When the wind turns against us in life, we have to make serious decisions about how to continue.
  • Do we continue on the same course hoping things will turn around, or change course?
  • It is sometimes hard to know if we should continue on or change course.
  • If we are always changing directions the first time we experience difficulty, we will not get far in life.
  • But if we stubbornly refuse to change direction when it is clear we are headed the wrong way, we will not get far in life either.
  • Somewhere in the middle of these two extremes is the balanced Christian life. This is a balance that only the Holy Spirit can help us find. 

Verses 5-6 - After sailing through the open sea we reached Myra. The centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board.  

  • When trouble first came, Paul and the other prisoners let the centurion make the decisions since he was in charge of the whole trip.
  • This later turned out to be the wrong choice, but we can understand why Paul did not object. After all, Paul was a prisoner bound in chains.
  • We often let others make decisions for us.
  • When we are young parents try to help us.
  • When we are married, spouses give us advice.
  • When we work for someone, we must listen to the boss.
  • There are times when we have to let others make the decisions even if we do not want them to. That is just the way it is.
  • Regretfully, our hopes and dreams are sometimes shattered because those other people make bad decisions that we have to live with. 
Verse 8 - With yet more difficulty we sailed along the coast, and came to a place called Fair Havens near the city of Lasea.
  • As the group continued on their journey, things began to get even more difficult because the season for sailing had already passed.
  • They finally came to a safe place where they could stay for the winter and continue their journey when spring came.
  • Though it may sound odd to us, travel in the First Century often took months and staying over for the winter would have been a very normal thing to do.
  • As a matter of fact, that is why the town was named Fair Havens. It was a good place to stay in situations like this.
Verse 9 - By now much time had passed, and the voyage was already dangerous.
  • The writer of Acts (Luke) points out that so much time had passed that sailing was already dangerous. At this point, it was wise to wait for a while before continuing the journey.
  • We all go through seasons in life.
  • Sometimes we need to push forward.
  • Sometimes we need to pull back.
  • Learning to listen to the Holy Spirit will help us know which time is which in our lives. 
Verse 10 -Since the Fast was already over, Paul gave his advice and told them, "Men, I can see that this voyage is headed toward damage and heavy loss."
  • Paul was not a sailor or a ship captain. But he was an experienced traveler who could see the obvious.
  • It was obvious that they needed to spend the winter in Fair Havens and wait until spring to continue their journey.
  • Paul spoke up and shared this good advice with the group.
  • People who have a lot of experience in life often have wisdom about things even if they have no formal training in those issues.
  • We should learn to listen to wise advice.
Verse 11 - But the centurion paid attention to the captain and the owner of the ship rather than to what Paul said.
  • The centurion chose to listen to the captain and ship owner instead of listening to Paul.
  • On the surface, this sounds okay since both of those men had more training about sailing ships than Paul.
  • But both of those men also could make a lot of money if they pushed on.
  • They had a personal agenda that clouded their judgment on the issue. Paul had no such agenda.
  • When we are seeking advice from others about situations we are facing, we should be very careful about advice we receive from those who stand to gain something from our actions.
Verse 12 - Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided to set sail from there, hoping somehow to reach Phoenix . . . and to winter there.
  • An example of how the ship owner and captain's judgment was clouded by their desire for personal gain was their declaration that Fair Havens was unsuitable to winter in.
  • Though Phoenix was indeed a larger city and therefore had more to do, there was nothing wrong with Fair Haven at all.
  • Notice that the "majority" decided to sail on, even though that was clearly the wrong choice.
  • Though we love democracy because of the freedom it gives us, we must never forget that the majority can be wrong. They were clearly wrong in this instance.
  • We need wise Spirit filled leaders to guide us.
Verse 13 - When a gentle south wind sprang up, they thought they had achieved their purpose; they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete.
  • As soon as the wind seemed gentle, they proudly thought they had been right and Paul had been wrong.
  • They took off for what they perceived as a better place.
  • We often grasp at straws in an effort to prove ourselves right when we are so clearly wrong!
Verse 14 - But not long afterwards, a fierce wind called the "northeaster" rushed down from the island.
  • That part of the Mediterranean was known for terrible storms called "northeasters."
  • During the winter months such storms could come out of nowhere and last for days.
  • That is exactly what happened as soon as they began to follow the bad advice from the ship owner and captain.
Verse 15 - Since the ship was caught and was unable to head into the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along.
  • The ship got caught up in the storm and there was no way to steer it back to safety.
  • They had to just ride the storm out and hope for the best.
  • Sometimes we get caught up in situations that we had never planned to be in.
  • At such times in life, we have to pray a lot and hang on. The storm will eventually pass.
Verses 18-19 - Because we were being severely battered by the storm, they began to jettison the cargo. On the third day, they threw the ship's gear overboard.
  • The sailors realized the ship was about to go down, so they threw over the cargo.
  • Remember, one of the reasons they took the risk of traveling in the stormy season was because they thought they could make a lot of money.
  • That did not work out well at all. Instead they lost a lot of money.
  • Then they threw the ship's gear (tackling) overboard. That actually made no sense at all because they would be unable to guide the ship once the storm finally ended.
  • When we follow bad advice and get into a mess, we often end up experiencing the very pain we were trying to avoid.
  • Bad advice will never profit us.
  • Sometimes in the heat of the moment, we get rid of the very things in life we need in order to get back to where we need to be in life.
Verse 20 - For many days neither sun nor stars appeared, and the severe storm kept raging; finally all hope that we would be saved was disappearing.
  • The storm lasted for a long time.
  • At one point, they began to lose hope of ever being saved from the situation.
  • When we pass through the storms of life, they seem to go on and on and on.
  • Sometimes we begin to despair and think that there is no hope for life to be normal again.
Verses 22-25 - Now I urge you to take courage . . . For this night an angel . . . stood by me, saying, Don't be afraid. You must stand before Caesar. God has graciously given you all those who are sailing with you. . . . I believe God.
  • Paul tells the group to take courage because God was at work.
  • God had sent an angel to give Paul a supernatural message.
  • God wanted Paul to stand before Caesar and no storm could keep God's plan from being fulfilled.
  • God had chosen, by His grace, to save the lives of all the other people on the ship because they were with Paul.
  • When it seems like the storm is going to destroy us we must take courage in our faith.
  • God is still at work around us and His plan will not be stopped.
  • Can we believe God in the midst of the storm?
Verse 39 - When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but sighted a bay with a beach. They planned to run the ship ashore if they could.
  • When that long stormy night was finally over, they were not sure where they were, but it looked like a good place to stop.
  • They had thrown the tackle overboard so there was little they could do to steer the ship, so they decided to run it aground and get to shore any way they could.
  • It is ironic that a journey that began with such hope and expectation has now become such a fight for survival that they no longer care about profit or prestige; they just want to get safely to land even if they lose everything.
  • Sometimes real life is like that!
Verses 43-44 - The centurion ordered those who could swim to jump overboard and get to land. The rest were to follow . . . on debris from the ship. In this way, all got safely to land. 
  • The centurion gives orders for everyone to get to land, and every one of them safely made it.
  • Considering the severity of the storm, it is amazing that not a single person lost their life.
  • It often seems that the storms in life will destroy us. But if we trust in the Lord and hang in there, we will get through them.
  • Sometimes we have to "winter" in a place but if we hang in there, we will make it.
  • Life should be filled with hope and expectation.
  • Sometimes we go through storms in life that cause our hopes and dreams to not be fulfilled the way we expected.
  • In the midst of the storm, we must not doubt God's plan because He is always working.
  • We need to hang in there, trust the Lord and listen to godly advice.
  • God will get us safely through the storms.

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