At this rate they were afraid we would soon be driven against the rocks along the shore, so they threw out four anchors from the back of the ship and prayed for daylight. —Acts 27:29, NLT
Acts 27 contains the amazing account of Paul’s journey to Italy to appear before Caesar. This trip takes place after he has been examined by Festus and Agrippa; declared innocent of anything deserving death or chains (Acts 26:32), and “almost” (v 28) persuaded Agrippa to become a Christian. What an amazing series of events for Paul, to prepare him for an incredible journey.
I love this story of Paul’s voyage to Rome. (If you’d like to read more about it, check out my blog post here.) It is full of danger, adventure, and suspense. No matter how many times I read it, I’m still on the edge of my seat! I think that’s because it offers so many parallels to life in this world. Paul’s journey was difficult (vs 8, 16), dangerous (v9), potentially disastrous (v10), fearful (v 20), and laced with regret (v 21). Now, if that doesn’t sound like life as we know it, then I don’t know what does! There are difficulties and potential disasters at every turn in this world. So, how do we navigate these waters of life? As I look to Paul for help, I see three steps that I must take if I am to make it to shore.
Listen for God’s Guidance
But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! (V21-24a,).
This was clearly a vision that Paul had of the Lord’s angel, who spoke directly to him to encourage him and give him confidence. But we also have the Word of God, in the form of the Scriptures. We must take our courage from God’s Word if we are to sail a straight course. We don’t need to be fearful, because the God to whom we belong will carry us through any storm and bring us safely to the other side. God has not promised that we will live in this world forever, but He does promise that we will not lose our lives when we give them to Him (Matthew 16:25).
Believe that God is Able
So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said (v. 25).
This is sometimes easier said than done, isn’t it? We know the truth of the Scripture, but when the rudder hits the wave, we can sometimes lose our footing. Paul stands firm in the truth that God is faithful, and will do what He has said (1 Thessalonians 5:24). What is stopping us from believing? Most of the time, it is the height of the waves. Like Peter walking to Jesus on the water (Matthew 14:22-33), we take our eyes off Christ, we look at the waves, and we become afraid. All of our Bible knowledge and theological assurance fly out the window as we sink down in our panic. Let’s work on this, my friend! Let’s be like Paul, and simply believe God, refusing to doubt that He will do exactly as He said. Pray that the Lord would strengthen your faith through the trial, so that your belief is firmly rooted and unshakable.
Be Often in Prayer
At this rate they were afraid we would soon be driven against the rocks along the shore, so they threw out four anchors from the back of the ship and prayed for daylight.
Often, if we’re honest, we must admit that prayer is a last resort. It is hard for me even now to type that, because I am ashamed of my own prayerlessness at times. I don’t know about you, but I tend to be a doer and a fixer. My default response, when there is a big problem, is to figure out what I can do to fix it. I long to be a more prayerful person, and by God’s grace I am becoming so. But I have certainly not arrived, and the Spirit must remind me often to pray about the trials that come. Of course, there is nothing wrong with checking to see if there is something practical that we can do—like throwing out four anchors—but prayer must accompany those efforts.
I am so thankful for the many examples of faithful saints that we find in the Word of God. They teach us so much about how to respond to life in a way that will be pleasing to the Lord. As we follow their examples, He gives us more grace to withstand the choppy waters. One day we will reach that beautiful shore, and we will be with the Lord forever. But let’s not forget that we are with Him now, as we listen, believe, and pray.