Today’s reading: Acts 27-28.
“My life is a wreck. Is God really with me?”
We are easily discouraged. When trouble comes we doubt ourselves, and then we begin to doubt God. Does he really care for me? Why is he letting me suffer? Like Job’s friends we equate trouble with sin, or like an unbeliever we think there must be no God – at least not a God that cares for us. Yet history is full of those who suffered great difficulty, kept the faith, and saw a great harvest in spite of their trouble. Paul ranks high among those fruitful but troubled ministers. As Acts concludes, his arrest leads to imprisonment, trial, and shipwreck before he finally arrives in Rome and is placed under house arrest. Listen to Paul describe the struggles of his ministry, most likely written several years before the shipwreck of Acts:
Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. 2 Corinthians 11: 24-27
Now Paul found himself in danger on the high seas once again. He warned the ship’s pilot not to attempt the late-season passage, and if the pilot had known Paul’s history he might have stayed safely in port. Instead he pushed on for a better winter harbor, only to be caught by a Nor’easter that dragged the boat and nearly 300 passengers out to open sea. For two weeks the storm pushed the boat across the Mediterranean Sea until it ran aground off Malta. There Paul made it safely to shore, only to be bitten by a snake. Put yourself in his place. What would you be thinking at that moment, fresh off the cruise from Hell and nursing a brand-new snakebite?
Luke doesn’t tell us what Paul was thinking, but his actions speak loudly. He performed healing miracles on Malta, then traveled on to Rome, where “for two whole years (he) stayed … in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul’s wreck of a life was a stepping stone to further work for the Lord.
Happy island of Malta to have such a missionary driven on its shore, to heal the sick, and preach the gospel to the people. The calamities of ministers are often a benediction to the people. The shipwreck of Paul resulted in blessing to that island which otherwise it might have missed. Let us, as God’s servants, leave ourselves in his hands, and believe that he can sometimes use us better by means of a shipwreck than if he had given the winds and waves charge concerning us to bear us safely to our desired haven. – Charles Spurgeon
Image by josullivan.59 on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0