Summary: A thankful spirit encourages others to see the positive in their own lives, and so being thankful is a ministry in a world where the bad news is thrown at us so often we tend to forget the good news. We need people with a thankful spirit to remind us that light is as real as the dark
The more I study the history of man and the sea, the more grateful I become that I am a
landlubber. Tens of thousands of lives have been lost in ship wrecks in my lifetime. But
some sailors have much to be thankful for in spite of ship wrecks. John O'Brian, for
example, was off the coast of India when his ship was wrecked, and all hands were lost, but he
and four other sailors. The next ship he was on floundered off the Cape of Good Hope, and
he alone of all the crew got to shore safely. Then in July of 1747 he was on the Dartmouth, a
ship of 50 guns, which was engaged in battle with a Spanish Man Of War with 70 guns. His
ships magazine blew up, and he was blown off the ship. Only 14 of the 300 man crew were
rescued. He was one of them. He was found flowing on top of a gun carriage that had been
blown off the ship with him.
There are few men in history who have as much to be thankful for, for protection on the
sea. There is one in the Bible however who beats this amazing record. The Apostle Paul says
in II Cor. 11:25, "Three times I was ship wrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea."
Paul not only ties John O'Brian in ship wrecks he survived, but he spent more time in the
water, and above all, Paul is the only man we know of who was the key to the survival of
every man on board a ship that was totally lost. 276 men survived this terrible ship wreck.
Charles Hocking in his Dictionary Of Disasters At Sea, reveals that many ships have gone
down in storms, and some had survivors, but more were lost than saved. Just a few examples
gives you the picture.
In 1857 in the gulf of Finland-826 lost, none saved.
In 1863 off Japan-584 lost, only 69 saved.
In 1854 Australian ship-459 lost, only 39 saved.
In 1914 off Brazil-445 lost, only 143 saved.
In our text we are looking at one of the greatest ship wreck stories of history, for not only
was it a spectacular ordeal for all involved, it stands alone as a story where the ship and all
its contents were lost, but where every life on board was saved. We would expect to see a
Thanksgiving service after such a dramatic story. We would not expect to see it during the
ordeal itself, and before anyone has yet made it to safety on land, but that is what we see in
our text. Paul has a mini-Thanksgiving service while all of their lives were still hanging by a
thread. It would seem that the only value of this scene for us is to make us grateful that we
were not a part of it. It was a horrible experience, but nevertheless, it is loaded with food
for thought as we approach another Thanksgiving. Paul's thankful spirit here is of value for
all of us for three reasons. First because of-
II. THE CONTEXT OF HIS THANKFULNESS.
We have already referred to the fact that these 276 men were riding out a hurricane.
Some of us know how frightening it can be out on a lake for even a few minutes when the
wind and waves are high and threatening. These men had been helpless for 14 days as they
were driven across the Adriatic Sea. 14 days of hanging on for life. It was not exactly party
time. Bill Robinson in A Sailor's Tales tells of a 24 hour storm he had to ride out in the
Gulf Stream in 1976. He said all of your energy is concentrated on just staying on board the
ship. He said that nobody eats, for the same reason you don't see people eating while
running from a charging bull, or while escaping from a burning house. Your life depends on
not being distracted by anything but the need to hold on for dear life.
This contemporary testing confirms the account of this ancient story of riding out a
hurricane. Paul said that for 14 days they lived in constant suspense, and did not eat any
food. Here were over 270 men in extremely weakened condition, with minds as worn out as
their bodies, with fear and despair, and their ship ready to be dashed against the rocks at any
moment, and yet, in this context, Paul does not curse the darkness, but lights a candle. He
gives a little pep talk; says a prayer of thanks to God, and they all eat some bread. It was the
first positive thing they had done in 2 weeks, and it gave them the shot in the arm they