Summary: Stretching you past your limits to cope, God can use a crisis to bring us close and draw a crowd along with us to him.
Few things are as awesome to experience as a big storm. This past year, Florida saw four hurricanes plow through and wreak a path of destruction. We can begin to think we are large and in charge when God allows us to be humbled again by some force of nature that reminds us of our true size and strength.
It is one thing to endure a storm from within a building on land, it is quite another to be on a boat in the midst of the Mediterranean Sea. And not for one or two hours or even one or two days, but two weeks (fourteen days!) they were blown across the sea in that storm!
Verse 20 Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, ALL HOPE THAT WE WOULD BE SAVED WAS FINALLY GIVEN UP.
You can’t get much lower than hopelessness. These seasoned sailors knew the chances of survival at this point. They calculated the possibilities of getting out of this alive and came up with zero. They had reached the end of the rope of hope. Verse 20 doesn’t tell us, but perhaps even Paul and his company were counted among those who lost all hope of rescue. We don’t know. What we do know is that God sent a word of hope in the midst of this hopelessness. He sent an angel to Paul to let him in on God’s plan. Now just imagine this with me. Here are 276 people on this ship and they are all filled with dread and hopelessness, thinking that any moment now this ship will break up and sink to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea taking them all with it. Right when all seems darkest, after ALL HOPE WAS FINALLY GIVEN UP, God sent an angel to Paul to tell him that they will all live through this. The boat and cargo will go down, but every person aboard will be saved. Paul has a divine appointment to keep and God will see that he keeps it. Not only this, God has graciously allowed that all those there will be spared as well.
Now, would you call that good news? Of course! But who will believe it? No one else saw the angel that we know of. No one else heard this message of hope from God. Why should they believe this prisoner Paul?
Notice that when Paul tells them, he first reminds them that they should have listened to him earlier. He’s been right before when the majority were wrong. Three interventions of Paul follow in verses 21-38. He instills hope, courage, and dependence on God’s provision in these.
21 And when they had gone a long time without food, then Paul stood up in their midst and said, "Men, you ought to have followed my advice and not to have set sail from Crete, and incurred this damage and loss.
22 "And yet now I urge you to keep up your courage, for there shall be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.
23 "For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me,
24 saying, ’Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you.’
25 "Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God, that it will turn out exactly as I have been told.