Summary: Scripture offers three anchors when life is headed for shipwreck
Last Tuesday, I began preparing this sermon. During that day, three people experiencing shipwreck came sailing into my life. Let me tell you about one of them. His name is Bill.
I decided to replace the broken door on the church storage shed while the weather was still warm and was crossing the parking lot to get something at home, when a man stopped me. He said I looked like a nice guy to talk to!
Bill asked if I had any work he could do. He told me he was staying at the rescue mission and had fallen behind in his rent, $1 a night. “I’m a hard worker,” he said. “I’m not one of those dudes who goes around scamming people.”
Normally, I don’t fall for stories like that, but as I thought about it, I decided I really could use help, so I said yes. As Bill and I worked together, I learned that he grew up in this neighborhood. He had lived on Scott Street and Harrison and his grandmother still lives on St. Johns. He said he had been to this church in the early 80s. He had worked as a carpenter pre-apprentice when he was younger. He had been in the military. And he had attended UN OH to study car and diesel mechanics. Things were promising for Bill, until he hit rough waters.
One of his aunts, in a fit of rage, murdered his mother. Bill eventually married, but his wife took her own life. He himself got into trouble and ended up in prison. Now he is 38, out of prison two weeks and looking for a job to get back on his feet. But jobs are hard to find when you have a record, he told me. His life was a wreck
I asked him if he had ever felt God near to him. “Yes, at one time in my life he was real close. But then I wandered away and lost everything I had,” he said.
After giving him 5 nights of rent money, I invited him into the church for a moment, where I prayed for him and made sure he knew he was welcome to worship with us. Before turning to go, he gave me a big hug and said, “You are God’s angel today. Thank you so much.” And off he went.
What do you do when storms beat you down and you face the certainty of shipwreck? The story of Paul’s final voyage on stormy seas provides several anchors for us to hold on to.
Paul’s voyage to Rome was one incredible journey. I hope you will read Chapters 27 & 28, taking time to picture the details of the description. It is every bit as exciting as Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey or Melville’s Moby Dick.
Keep in mind that Paul was not going to Rome as a sight-seer. He was not on a cruise ship. He was a prisoner under the guardianship of a Roman centurion named Julius because he had appealed his case to the Roman Emperor.
Paul was not alone. And here comes our first anchor. Accompanying him, first of all, was Luke, a physician, and the writer of the Gospel of Luke and this book of Acts. How do we know? Look at the first line of Chapter 27. It says “When it was decided that we were to sail…” Note the word “we.” Luke was right there beside him. This beloved doctor had been a consistent friend each mile of the way.
But that isn’t all. Verse two says that Aristarchus was with them. Aristarchus was converted during Paul’s ministry at Thessalonica. He became Paul’s faithful friend and comforter. We first hear his name in Acts 19 when Paul was in Ephesus. In Acts 20 we see that he went with Paul to Jerusalem. Only special prisoners were permitted to have companions like this. Here were brothers in the faith who would struggle through the storms with him and provide spiritual and physical care. Think about the encouragement that Paul must have experienced from the prayers and insights of these dear friends as they traveled.
In the first leg of this trip, Paul was permitted to stop in to see fellow believers in the church at Sidon. Even though he had never been there, he knew there would be instant fellowship when he met them because of Christ’s love. How do you survive a storm? Not by going off and trying it alone as many people seem to. The first anchor is to surround yourself with other people who love and serve God, who can provide spiritual encouragement.
When people call us for help because of a personal crisis, we ask if they belong to a church where they can get counsel, help, and support. Most often, their answer is no. How sad. God never intended us to be loners and self-reliant. He created us to be part of a spiritual family where we can be surrounded with fellow believers and spiritual advocates. The Bible says nothing about spiritual hermits isolated from other believers. We are part of God’s family.