We are so fortunate to have the Bible available, and sometimes, forget the people we read about were recording the power of God as it was demonstrated in their lives. The New Testament was written in the years following the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus by anointed men of God. One of those people, Paul, was specifically called by Jesus. “…he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.” (Acts 9:15–16 KJV) Paul was a great example of how God works, but it wasn’t easy for him. Paul says he was “In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren.” (2 Corinthians 11:26 KJV).
Though Paul had a special calling, he was not shielded from trouble. As he testified of the Lord in Jerusalem, he was imprisoned. Yet this imprisonment was exactly God’s plan for his life. “And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome”. (Acts 23:11 KJV) Then Paul was held for two years in Caesarea as the prisoner of the Roman Governor who had legal authority over him. But Paul was only subject to this imprisonment, because he was first the prisoner of the Lord, Who had commissioned him to testify in Rome, where he was later executed.
To those looking at him, it may have seemed that Paul was being driven by circumstances beyond his control. Yet, the events around him were not determining his actions. Paul appealed to Caesar and set himself on the course to Rome. There are those today who are living in fear, saying the events happening around us are beyond our control, and they are being overwhelmed. Yet each of us as Christians, also occupy a special calling to demonstrate the life, the love and power of God in our generation. Jesus has commissioned us and said, “Ye are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14 KJV) and “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16 KJV).
By invoking his legal right as a Roman citizen, for a hearing before Caesar, Paul was given protection from “the circumcision,” the religious Jewish community, who wanted to kill him. There are times when we must also exercise our right under governmental authority, not only for our protection, but also to ensure that righteousness prevails. As Paul begins the journey to Rome, he is taken under guard late in the year and he has a spiritual insight that there will be trouble ahead. “Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them, And said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives” (Acts 27:9–10 KJV). But Paul is the prisoner and the decision to go ahead is made based on natural experience, the will of the master of the ship and the vote of the passengers. “Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul. And because the haven was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised to depart thence also, if by any means they might attain to Phenice, and there to winter; which is an haven of Crete, and lieth toward the south west and north west.” (Acts 27:11–12 KJV)
After refusing to listen to Paul, they almost immediately found themselves in a terrible storm. They used all of their natural experience and strength and could not overcome and were in fear for their lives. “And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away” (Acts 27:20 KJV). But now, Paul speaks again, “For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.” (Acts 27:23–24 KJV) As the storm raged on, the crew wanted to escape by boat. Some tried to escape but “Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.” (Acts 27:31 KJV) They listened, cut the ropes, and all got to the shore safely.
In these times of uncertainty, it is important for us to be listening because the Lord will lead us. But people may not listen and we may be carried along by their bad decisions. Even so, once they have exhausted themselves, our intercession, our prayer for them, may save them from destruction. Don’t allow feelings of rejection or loneliness or even the hopeless circumstances to overwhelm you. They did finally listen to Paul as he declared the way the Lord had prepared. Seek to hear God’s promise, “God hath given thee all them that sail with thee” and then let your words ring out as Paul’s did, “abide in the ship” and see God’s salvation for all that are with you.