Summary: Paul had a difficult experience in the midst of the storm, and he learned some things that we should learn relative to having courage in the midst of our storms. He gives us some anchors.
Evangelist Herman E. Wesley III
God In The Midst of the Storm
I want to begin by expressing my appreciation to my god friend, brother D.J. Ceasar, and those who have assisted him in preparing these services today, and for this invitation to share with you this morning and this afternoon. The renewed fellowship, in person, between his family and me, have been a blessing to my life. The subject that I would like to share with you this morning, is “God in the Midst of the Storm.”
A wreck of any kind is a terrifying experience, whether it be a train derailment, an automobile collision, or the crash of an airplane. But probably the most terrifying of all is a shipwreck, because of the prolonged agony that the passengers and crew endure. Acts 27 is a narrative of one of the most famous shipwrecks in history — that of the Apostle Paul on his way to Rome. It is also one of the best-told, most-detailed shipwreck accounts in ancient history — and certainly the most profitable for this lesson, on this day.
Let me share with you the background of this text.
Having appealed to Caesar, Paul was put in the custody of a Roman centurion named Julius and placed on an Adramyttian ship destined for Italy — the focus of his ministry dreams. Being a Roman citizen and an obvious gentleman, Paul was allowed to take along his companions Dr. Luke and Aristarchus, a devoted Christian brother from Thessalonica. Paul was treated so well that the next day, when they arrived at Sidon, he was allowed to disembark and visit his friends there. So far, so good. But from this point on the voyage rapidly deteriorated.
After leaving Sidon they had to sail up and around Cyprus, rather than straight toward Italy in the west, because the winds were contrary. Finally landing in Asia Minor, the centurion transferred Paul and the other prisoners onto a large Egyptian grain ship. The typical grain freighter was 140 feet long and thirty-six feet wide and bore a thirty-three-foot draught. It was a sturdy ship, but in high seas it had some definite disadvantages. First of all, it had no rudder like a modern ship but was steered by two great paddles extending from the stern. Secondly, it had only one mast on which was a great square sail. The most significant drawback, however, was that it could not sail into the wind.
Departing Myra in the freighter, they reached nearby Cnidus only with great difficulty. Then they were forced to sail south under the shelter of Crete so that with further difficulty they reached Crete’s small southern port of Fair Havens.
Here, according to Acts 27:9-10, Paul, an experienced traveler, warned the centurion that they should stay in Fair Havens because it was after Passover (mid-October) and everyone knew it was dangerous to make that voyage at that time of year. However, because Fair Havens was a rather small and boring port, I mean, after all, these were sailors, and they were looking for some action, there was not a lot of women, and not a lot of wine in Fair Havens, so really, Fair Havens was not the desired place to be…and nobody wanted to be stuck there for the winter; they began to weigh the options of their next move. Our text reveals that an enticing, south wind began to blow, influencing the captain so that he decided to take a chance and set sail for the much nicer and more entertainment-oriented port of Phoenix, Phoenix was jumpin’…and it was only about forty miles away.
And so they’re off! However, once they were underway, it seemed as if all hell broke loose! Any of ya’ll been there before? The south wind blows, and things look fine, only for you to get in it, and find it wasn’t as good as you thought? According to Acts 27:14 (nasb), the sailors had a name for this kind of storm — "Euraquilo." From their point of view, Euroclydon, the terror of seamen, had been watching and waiting from the top of Mount Ida (the fabled abode of Zeus) to drive them to destruction. Now the battle was on! They were in the grips of a deadly "northeaster" (niv) that was driving them across the length of the Mediterranean. Listen as Acts 27:13-20 (NIV) describes the terror:
Acts 27:13-19 (NIV) 13 When a gentle south wind began to blow, they thought they had obtained what they wanted; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. 14 Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the "northeaster," swept down from the island. 15 The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. 16 As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure. 17 When the men had hoisted it aboard, they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Fearing that they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along. 18 We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. 19 On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. 20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.