When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could. Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach. But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf. The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. But the centurion wanted to spare Paul's life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.Acts 27:39-44
As Paul had been told by God, not a single life is lost. Verse 44 reads almost as a sigh of relief at the end of this chapter:
In this way everyone reached land safely. We can heave that sigh along with them. Now we have to answer the question: Why do shipwrecks come to us in the midst of doing the will of God? Why is it that Christians face this kind of difficulty?
The scriptures give us several answers. First, these difficulties are the result of satanic opposition. In Paul's letter to the Romans he said that he had tried many times to go to Rome and had been prevented by Satan. Satan did not want this mighty apostle, coming in the strength and power of a risen Lord, to move into this city and start breaking down his stronghold of darkness by which he held in grip the entire civilized world. So he delayed him every way he could. You and I will never understand the meaning of the difficulties in our lives if we do not set them against the background of satanic opposition.
Having said that, it is also well to remember that God had permitted all this. God is greater and stronger than Satan. He could have made the winds fair and had them blow in the right direction. Scripture suggests some reasons why God does not always intervene to prevent Satan's work. One is that there were lessons in this for the others who sailed with Paul. Imagine what they learned of a different way of life as they watched this man of faith in the midst of the same perils they were facing. There was a baffling element which was keeping him stable in the midst of these circumstances. Repeatedly, he was the man in the critical moment who saved the day. He showed them that there is a new way of life.
There were also lessons for Paul in this. He too grew in faith as he learned how faithful God could be, and how he could move in so that things would go only so far, and then, at the critical moment, a line would be drawn. Paul tells us that God's strength is made perfect in man's weakness. He grew to understand more about the love and grace of God as he went through these dangerous times.
Finally, there is the story of Job which shows us that, even when there is seemingly no explanation at all in terms of this life for the shipwrecks we go through, there is still that unseen victory occurring which we know nothing about, which honors and glorifies God and makes possible great progress and advance in the kingdom of God.
Father, thank you for the reminder that life is intended to be filled with difficulties and even shipwrecks at times, and that it is through these that I learn great lessons along the way.
Are we surprised and confused when we encounter tests and trials? Are we learning to recognize the strategies of the enemy, and the power of the indwelling Christ made perfect in our weakness? Are we content that when we do not understand, God knows!