Today’s devotion was written by Pastor Vance Rains.
Let’s be honest, it’s hard to know what to do with some stories in Scripture. In particular, I’m thinking of the stories of angelic visitations, divine interventions, prophetic visions, and unexpected miracles.
Today’s story is just such example. As Paul, the captive, is transported to Rome aboard a large ship, a dangerous storm threatens their survival.
In vs. 31, Paul offers the captain life-saving nautical advice. When did Paul become a sailor?
In vs. 22 (yesterday’s reading), an angel appears to Paul, promising safety, which Paul – the prisoner – communicates to the crew and passengers.
In vs. 35, after 14 days of no one onboard eating, Paul blesses and breaks bread, in what sounds a lot like a ship-wide observance of the Lord’s Supper, and everyone on board is encouraged.
In vs. 41, the ship crashes into a reef, and is destroyed.
In vs. 42, the crew decides to kill all of the prisoners – including Paul – rather than to try to keep them captive in the waves. But, the centurion guarding Paul intervenes.
In vs. 44, everyone swims safely to shore, and not a single person is lost, just as God promised.
An angel told them what would happen. Paul told everyone onboard what God said, and they believed. No one dies, and Paul’s journey continues. So simple.
When the inevitable storms of life come, and the wind blows, and the waters rise, and lightning strikes, and the rocks threaten, and the waves batter, and my “ship” is breaking apart, “simple” isn’t a word I would usually use!
The point of stories like these – I think – are to encourage us to believe in a God who is present, active, and responsive to prayer. That’s good. I believe that. I embrace that.
But, I’m not sure how often God works in such clear and concise ways. I haven’t had too many angelic visitations. I’ve not received too many divinely-inspired messages for ship-loads of people (and I do love cruises!). Rarely have I known how God will act, until I have time to recover, look back, and reflect. And, I’ve crashed onto rocks a more than a few times!
It’s easy in our modern, scientific, evidence-based, rational times to be skeptical about stories like these. And, with skepticism often comes doubt and disbelief. Did this REALLY happen, or not? “NOT” may seem easier to believe.
But, in spite of the challenges of embracing stories such as these, we reject them to our own detriment. Did Paul’s shipwreck experience happen exactly as described in Acts 27? Maybe. Maybe not. Who knows for sure? Was Paul taken as a prisoner to Rome, aboard a ship that wrecked in a storm, and did he survive? Yes! Did God intervene and protect Paul’s life. Quite possibly!
Is God involved in our journeys? I believe so. Does God care about our safety and well-being? Absolutely! Does God speak messages of warning, or hope? Yes – I think so – and if we listen, we might hear. Will God intervene in our storms? Yes – I believe so – but possibly not as demonstrably as in today’s story. Perhaps God’s intervention is the people around us, or the comfort and strength we have to endure, or in the growth that comes through struggle, or the gratitude we feel for “dry land,” or in discovering resources we never knew we had before.
How do you react to the Bible’s miracle stories?
What storms have you endured? Looking back, can you see ways God was working?
Have you listened for God’s voice recently?
What are your thoughts, comments, questions? We’d love to hear!