21 After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss.22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 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.’ 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. 26 Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”
We hear in the Bible about people having dreams that come from God, and this is one that Paul received. The ship’s owner and captain made the decision to sail in the late fall, a time when there was often bad weather and dangerous winds. It looked fine when they set sail, but very quickly the weather deteriorated, and they were tossing cargo overboard to try to lighten the ship’s load. So Paul’s words to the crew were encouraging in the midst of a very difficult time.
As the story continues, the ship was in danger of being dashed against rocks, so in the night they dropped anchors to hold the ship fast. Paul advised them to eat a hearty meal, something they had not been able to do for the past fourteen days in the storm. Paul took bread, gave thanks to God, and began to eat. There were 276 persons on board. They were encouraged to eat as much as they could, then they lightened the ship’s load by throwing the rest overboard. As Paul foretold, though the ship was broken up on a sandbar, all of them were able to swim or hold on to a piece of the ship in order to make it to shore safely.
Paul was a prisoner; he was not in charge. But by faith he took on a leadership role, and saved everyone on board. Sometimes, that’s what we need to do as well, if God asks it of us. May we be obedient to whatever roles God asks us to take on.
Gracious God, thank you for guiding us and helping us in whatever situations we find ourselves. Give us the courage we need to stand up for you as we may. We do not always know your greater plan, but let us be faithful to the work you would have us do. This we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.