27 On the fourteenth night we were still being driven across the Adriatic[a] Sea, when about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land. 28 They took soundings and found that the water was a hundred and twenty feet[b] deep. A short time later they took soundings again and found it was ninety feet[c] deep. 29 Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. 30 In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. 31 Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it drift away. 33 Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. “For the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything. 34 Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” 35 After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. 36 They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 Altogether there were 276 of us on board. 38 When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea. 39 When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could. 40 Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach. 41 But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf. 42 The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. 43 But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. 44 The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.
We see in this passage that when motivated by fear the sailors act in desperate ways. They’re so consumed with anxiety that they don’t eat, and then they try to escape and save their own skins using a lifeboat.
In complete contrast, Paul – a prisoner on his way to stand trial before Caesar – is motivated by faith and acts with incredible calm in the midst of difficult circumstances. He warns the leader of the risk of shipwreck, and when all seems lost he is the voice of peace challenging the desperate efforts to escape and encouraging the people to eat. Who is it in the middle of the storm that has the capacity to thank God? It is Paul – assured that God will do what He has promised and save Paul and his fellow passengers from the storm.
Where am I motivated by fear and acting out of desperation? What would it look like to be motivated by faith, to cling to God’s promises and to thank God in the midst of the circumstances? Who might I bless by being the voice of peace and pointing to God?
Holy Spirit, help me to see where I’m being driven by fear and teach me again how to rest in your promises and thank you in the messy middle. Amen.
Written by Ps. Bethany Waugh