Finding a Place of Safety Part 1

by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)

4-27-04


Title: Finding a Place of Safety


Text: “And the soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim away and escape. But the centurion, wanting to save Paul, kept them from their purpose, and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land, and the rest, some on boards and some on parts of the ship. And so it was that they all escaped safely to land.”
(Acts 27:42-44)


Bible Reading: Acts 27:33-44
33 And as day was about to dawn, Paul implored them all to take food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day you have waited and continued without food, and eaten nothing.
34 Therefore I urge you to take nourishment, for this is for your survival, since not a hair will fall from the head of any of you.”
35 And when he had said these things, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; and when he had broken it he began to eat.
36 Then they were all encouraged, and also took food themselves.
37 And in all we were two hundred and seventy-six persons on the ship.
38 So when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship and threw out the wheat into the sea.
39 When it was day, they did not recognize the land; but they observed a bay with a beach, onto which they planned to run the ship if possible.
40 And they let go the anchors and left them in the sea, meanwhile loosing the rudder ropes; and they hoisted the mainsail to the wind and made for shore.
41 But striking a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the violence of the waves.
42 And the soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim away and escape.
43 But the centurion, wanting to save Paul, kept them from their purpose, and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land,
44 and the rest, some on boards and some on parts of the ship. And so it was that they all escaped safely to land.


This experience that Paul had, while on his way to Rome, may cause us to see one of the great truths about Christian living. It is that Christians may have to suffer. Jesus didn’t promise us a life without pain and suffering. In fact, it was just the opposite. He told his followers that they shouldn’t expect to get along in this world any better than He did. We can expect the enemies of Jesus to also be our enemies. And since the servant is not better than his master, we may someday receive the same treatment that Jesus did.

There is something good that comes out of suffering for Jesus. Paul talked about that; and he certainly suffered a lot. In several of his epistles, he listed those things he had to endure for Christ. It’s amazing that he could go through all that and still continue to be a faithful, enthusiastic servant of the Lord. Some say that the high point of Paul’s ministry was his hearing before King Agrippa. It was a fulfillment of the prophecy, which said that he should appear before kings and rulers. I believe that it was God’s will that he was brought before King Agrippa. If you were there, you would have been part of a large crowd of 200 or more. These were the elite of the city, dignitaries, and officials from the Jews as well as the Romans. They were probably decked out in the best dress of that time. When Paul was brought into the room, they all looked him over and made comments to those around them. I would think that Paul looked them over too. This was not a trial, since Paul had already made it known that he was a Roman citizen, and demanded a trial before Caesar. His fate was out of Agrippa’s hands, because Paul now had to be tried before the Roman Emperor. But Agrippa had heard of the Christians, and he wanted to know more about them, and he wanted to hear from an expert; that would be Paul. So Paul is there, not to defend himself, but to preach the Gospel to this great king. He was probably in chains and wearing the prison garb of that time.

Paul began with a very courteous introduction, telling King Agrippa how he rejoices in this opportunity. Then he proceeds to give Agrippa a brief sketch of his youth and background. Then he tells of his conversion. And finally, he attempts to reach the man for Christ. He presented the Gospel to this man-and to the entire crowd who were present in that place. He said, “That Christ should suffer, and that He should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should show light unto the people and to the Gentiles.” I think Paul emphasized that word “Gentiles” because the king was a Gentile. Notice that he has presented the Gospel: that Christ died for our sins, that He was buried, and that He rose again. He also says here that God intruded into the history of man and that God has done something for man. God has demonstrated His love—God so loved the world that He gave His Son.

Agrippa was an intelligent man. He answered Paul this way, “Almost thou persuadeth me to be a Christian.” Friends, do you know that you can almost be a Christian and yet be lost for all eternity? What a tragedy that is! “Almost” will not due. It must be all or nothing. Either you accept Christ or you don’t accept Christ. Either you have Christ or you don’t have Christ. Either you trust Christ or you don’t trust Christ. Either He’s your Savior or He is not your Savior. It is one of the two. There is no such thing as middle ground. It cannot be “Almost.” It must be all.

In our text, we saw that Paul was in a life-threatening situation. The ship was at the mercy of a horrific storm and passengers and crew were afraid that they would drown. They are afraid that they might run aground on the sands surrounding one of the islands. Therefore they struck sail and allowed the wind to drive the ship away from land. The next day, they were still caught in the tempest, so they started throwing things overboard in order to lighten the ship. On the third day, they even threw the ships tackle overboard. Then in verse 20, we are told, “Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up.”

Paul was in trouble, but there was very little he could do about it. Today, we would say that he was in trouble because of circumstances beyond his control. After all, who can do anything about the weather, and besides, Paul was the prisoner of a Roman Centurion. And the officer listened to the ship’s captain, instead of Paul, who warned, “Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives.” It says in verse 20, “Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up.”

The passengers and crew had given up. They didn’t have the strength to continue to fight against the storm. But Paul received a visit from an angel, who told him that he would not die in the storm, because God wanted him to keep his appointment with Caesar. The angel also told Paul that everyone on the ship would live. Paul told all of them what the angel said, and then he added, “Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me.”
Paul was able to stay calm, when others could not because he believed God.

Now, I want to reread verses 41-44, since that is the end of the story. It says:

41 But striking a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the violence of the waves.
42 And the soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim away and escape.
43 But the centurion, wanting to save Paul, kept them from their purpose, and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land,
44 and the rest, some on boards and some on parts of the ship. And so it was that they all escaped safely to land.

Paul’s faith was rewarded; he was in a place of safety. I don’t know if God sent the storm or if Satan sent it. But I know one thing for sure; God was in control. Paul was safe all along, because God was not finished with him. He would appear before Caesar, but before that, he put his time in prison to good use. He wrote several of his epistles and won many for the Lord from his cell.

And just like Paul, we must make sure that we are prepared for the severe storms that will come into our lives today.
And just like him, we also need to find a place of safety. And we need to be like Paul, in our attitude toward life. He expressed this attitude in his letter to the Philippians. He wrote:

11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:
12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Paul doesn’t need anything, since his joy does not depend on outward circumstances, but on Christ’s presence within.
Paul tells us here that it wasn’t always this way; he learned it through long, hard experience. He learned that in whatever state he was in-whether in prison and in chains or penniless and in hunger-to be content. Paul was totally independent of man because he was totally dependent upon God. Paul’s satisfaction and sufficiency were in Christ (II Cor 12:9).He was put through God’s school of hard knocks, but he was a victor over every circumstance, and not a victim to any circumstance, because he adjusted well to the will of God.

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