God Knows…When I’m in Deep Water – Part 1
The day had come to set sail for Italy. Paul and some other prisoners were turned over to the care of a Roman officer named Julius. Each prisoner was chained to a soldier. But as a Roman citizen Paul was allowed to take along a doctor and a slave or servant on the voyage. So two loyal friends, Luke and Aristarchus, went along, no doubt glad to be with Paul on this last long trip in spite of the circumstances. This was a blessing to Paul, old now and not well, and to us also, for Luke was the one who wrote down the story for us in the book of Acts.
The trip went all right at first. Sailing past the north coast of Cyprus, they docked at Myra, now known as Dembre, Turkey. There the travelers changed to another boat, a grain ship from Egypt, headed for Italy. It must have been large for those days—maybe half as long as a football field, for it had 276 people on board besides its cargo of wheat. Contrary winds slowed progress, but they finally reached the port of Fair Havens on the island of Crete.
“We’d better stay here for the winter,” warned Paul, the experienced traveler, “or all may be lost.” It must have been October now, and by November sailing was considered impossible. They could not navigate in cloudy weather.
But those in charge decided to try to get to a better port before winter. No sooner were they out to sea when a tremendous storm struck. How the sailors worked to save the ship! They tied ropes around the wooden hull to strengthen it. They threw cargo overboard. They lowered the mainsail. But it wasn’t enough. The ship’s officers gave up all hope. For fourteen days and nights they drifted and tossed, no star to guide them and no sun to cheer them. Paul was the only one who still had courage. He was holding on to the arm of God by faith. Now he spoke up to share the secret of his confidence. Scared, seasick, and tired, the passengers and crew listened to this amazing prisoner who now seemed to be in command.
“Take heart,” he said, “there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. An angel of God, the God I belong to and serve, stood beside me in the night. He said: Don’t be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. Those sailing with you will be spared, as you have prayed they would.’ So cheer up, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.”
On the fourteenth night the sailors found that they were coming near land. Quickly they threw out four anchors and hoped for daylight.
When day began to dawn Paul urged everyone to eat. They hadn’t eaten for days and Paul knew they would need energy. He took bread and publicly thanked God for it, then, broke a piece off of it and began to eat. Encouraged, the others also ate. Then they dumped the rest of the wheat into the sea to lighten the ship. Still no one recognized the coast. But they saw a break in the rocky shore.
“Let’s try to reach that beach,” someone shouted. Anchors were cut. Rudders were lowered to guide the ship. They were headed in. Suddenly the front or bow of the ship struck bottom and stuck fast. The stern or back of the sip began breaking up in the heavy surf.
The soldiers grabbed their swords to kill the prisoners. None must escape! Just in time Julius, the Roman officer, stopped them. He wanted to save Paul. “Jump overboard if you can swim to land,” he ordered everyone. The rest of you grab something that floats.” Everyone was in deep water. But God had heard the prayers of Paul. The story ends with a sigh of relief. Everyone escaped safely to land. God’s promise had come true!
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