The account of Paul’s voyage in Acts 27 reads like a gripping suspense novel.
The story began with Paul sensing a directive from the Lord to go to Jerusalem and then receiving prophetic warnings from faithful believers along the way of the danger and imprisonment that awaited him there. Paul publicly testified of the incredible story of his conversion on the road to Damascus, declaring that Jesus is the Christ. Religious troublemakers responded by accusing him of fabricated crimes. A riot ensued, leading to Paul’s arrest. Paul shared his story and the gospel of Christ with the Sanhedrin and various leaders before finally appealing to Caesar. This led to his journey by ship to Rome.
Paul boarded the ship along with Julius, the centurion in charge of the prisoners. There were 276 on board, including Paul’s friends, Luke and Aristarchus, many prisoners, the ship’s owner and the captain and crew. The voyage proceeded, setting sail and docking at different points along the journey, battling difficult weather. The season commonly considered safe for sailing was nearing the end. In Acts 27:10, Paul warned Julius and the officials of the danger of continuing, saying, “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.”
The crew nevertheless opted to continue to Phoenix, believing it to be a better location to spend the winter season. This decision proved disastrous.
The men encountered a severe storm of hurricane force that battered the ship and made any control of the vessel impossible. As the storm raged for days, the voyage became a desperate fight for survival. The crew jettisoned the ship’s tackle and cargo, released the lifeboat and even passed ropes under the ship to hold it together. After 14 days of weather so severe that neither sun nor stars were visible, all seemed lost.
God gives us everything we need for the journey, and He knows how to use every storm for His glory.
Paul reminded them of his warning, but he also offered encouragement and hope: “But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island” (verses 22–26).
As the storm tore apart the ship, Julius instructed everyone to swim, if possible, and make their way to land. Just as the angel had prophesied to Paul, all survived the shipwreck, arriving on the island of Malta (Acts 27:44–28:1).
This account in Scripture is full of application for our lives today. We may never experience a literal storm at sea, but we will certainly weather figurative storms. Paul’s story provides three keys for navigating life’s tempests.
Storms Will Come
Paul shares a list of his sufferings as an apostle in 2 Corinthians 11:25: “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.”
Paul had survived three previous shipwrecks! Obviously, people on mission for God can’t claim an exemption from trials and sufferings. Paul sensed danger awaited, but he understood that God was with him. Paul knew by experience where to place his trust and confidence. We must follow his example.
The Word of God says we will face trials. In John 16:33, Jesus says, “In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world” (AMP).
A storm could be a financial hardship, a personal loss, a sickness, or a troubled relationship. We can’t always predict them. We can’t outrun them. But we can navigate through them by the power and presence of God. Storms will come. We can draw closer to God through them and emerge stronger and bolder in our faith.
Storms Reveal Our Faith
What’s inside of me will come out. What is my response? To whom do I listen? Whose advice do I follow? What action do I take?
Julius initially listened to the owner of the ship and the pilot over Paul’s advice. This was a natural response, since Paul was a tentmaker by trade and a prisoner by position. Later, when the disaster Paul had predicted arrived, Julius showed humility and wisdom by listening to Paul. The crew tried to deceive others and bail out and save themselves, obviously listening to human emotion and desperation. People were panicking; most lost all hope.
Yet Paul listened to the voice of God and received assurance about the outcome. Paul reminded them they should have listened to his warning, but he also encouraged them by stating in verses 23–25, “For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told” (ESV).
Fear is expected and natural. Everyone was afraid, including Paul. God sent Paul encouragement and a prophetic word — a promise — that everyone on the ship would survive. God understands our fear. We may feel anxious and afraid in our storms, but if we look to God, He will strengthen and encourage us. His Word is food for our souls in times of fear and darkness, and He offers His Holy Spirit to guide us.
In Romans 12:12, Paul says, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
He goes on to write: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
Whatever storms we face, we can trust God to provide strength, encouragement and protection.
Storms Reposition Us
When the storm is over, I will not be in the same place.
Storms move ships. A ship cannot remain stationary through a storm — and neither can you or I.
The storm brought Paul to a new place. The captive became a commander, repositioned in both influence and authority. The storm was an invitation for a supernatural visitation from God through a message from an angel. Both the travelers and those on the island saw the gospel in action. People realized this God of whom Paul spoke was real! This presented an opportunity for salvation for those who would believe. Storms present opportunities if we see them through spiritual eyes, a truth that is evident throughout Scripture. For example, Moses, raised in a palace, became a fugitive and then a shepherd. Following many years of struggle, God called him to lead more than a million Israelites to freedom. David’s facing a giant named Goliath repositioned him, a mere shepherd boy, to become a great warrior and king.
God sometimes uses storms to reposition us for His call and purposes.
Let us keep our focus on God, press in deeper to know and trust Him more, and cling to His Word in times of suffering. As God reveals what is inside us, we must allow Him to transform us.
We can choose to worship God when gentle winds blow and when tempests shake us to the core. He gives us everything we need for the journey, and He knows how to use every storm for His glory.