Since we were violently storm-tossed, they began the next day to jettison the cargo. And on the third day they threw the ship's tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.
Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, "Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss.
Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 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. But we must run aground on some island."
My eighteen-month-old daughter Olivia and I read a book each night that is a paraphrase of Psalm 23 called Found. One of our favorite pages says, “even when I walk through the dark, scary, lonely places, I won’t be afraid. My shepherd knows where I am. He is here with me.” Olivia will point to the lamb, and then kiss the shepherd. It’s a lovely picture of childlike trust.
We put our trust in a great number of things. Acts 27 captures one of the most vivid descriptive narratives in the book of Acts, and truly, in much of the New Testament. Luke writes to convey the gravity and peril Paul and the shipmates faced, the astonishing power of God’s sovereign care and deliverance, and nestled in the middle in verses 22-25, a portrait of trust under duress.
It is said that the night is darkest before dawn begins to break. As God’s children, we often can’t see His presence or purposes in the storms of life. This was the case in Acts 27. Days went on without light. The hurricane-grade wind howled mercilessly and the berating waves sapped their strength (27:14-20). But then, God spoke (27:23-24). He spoke into the darkness and despair to give hope: Don’t be afraid. Take courage. I am the one who rules over this storm.
We often feel helpless, vulnerable and impotent to deal with the storms of life. And truly we are on our own. But by God’s grace we are not orphans, left to fend for life and livelihood by the scrappiness of our hands. We are beloved children who are always, always, in the strong grip of our good Father and sovereign God, who is our protector, defender, and caretaker in every single trial and trouble we experience.
Paul emulates in this passage what it means to depend on God as a beloved child in crisis. His ultimate trust was not in a certain outcome, but in God’s unfailing love for His children (Psalm 143:8). Thus, he did not assert himself aggressively when the centurion ignored him (27:11-12). He trusted the Lord’s voice when it meant destruction of their physical security, the ship (27:26). By inference, we know that Paul was praying fervently for God’s care and deliverance for himself and those in the ship as well (27:24c). He reminded his shipmates of God’s word (27:34). He praised God with thanksgiving in front of all (27:35).
This passage reminds me of Psalm 20:7: “Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God.” In the Old Testament, chariots and horses represent means of escape and protection. Today we put our hope in many things that we think will insulate us from discomfort, financial hardship, pain, and trouble. But to boast in the name of the LORD means to have confidence in and trust in the character of God, our God, who promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5).
Fellow believers, let us take courage that whatever storm we may encounter, we are not alone. His character is trustworthy. He is always with us, even in the dark, scary, lonely places. He knows where we are. He is here with us, now and forever.