Rome and Freedom

Finally this week we come to the end of our journey through the book of Acts.  While we’ve been caught up with Paul’s imprisonment for quite some time, let’s take a moment to remember the big picture which the book of Acts paints.

The church begins on the Day of Pentecost, or fifty days after Jesus rose from the dead.  Peter preached and 3,000 people who were gathered in Jerusalem from all over the Roman world were saved on that.  From there the gospel began to spread.  Acts 1:8 serves as the key to the entire book:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

The church starts out strongly in Jerusalem but then persecution begins.  Paul happens to be at the heart of the persecution against the church.  With the stoning of Stephen the church scatters but they also take the gospel with them when they go.  As people head out of Jerusalem, they take the gospel to Judea and Samaria.

Just as Peter opened the gospel to the Jews on Pentecost, he also unlocks the gospel to the Samaritans.  Then finally the gospel is opened to the Gentiles when Peter is called to the house of Cornelius.  At this point, Peter takes a back seat in the story of Acts.  His work is far from over but the book begins to focus on Paul as he is responsible in large part for fulfilling the third part of Acts 1:8, the “to the ends of the earth” part.

Paul will go on three missionary journeys which will reach far across the Roman Empire.  He will be beaten, shipwrecked, and imprisoned on numerous occasions.  All of this builds to the final chapter of Acts.  Paul is a prisoner who is on his way to Rome but he has been shipwrecked on the Island of Malta.  This is just another hardship that he has faced in spreading the gospel.  However, it is the last hardship that he’ll have to endure in order to achieve his long term goal of going to Rome.

Let’s travel with Paul on this last leg of the journey in Acts 28:1-8

28 Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.” But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.

It sounds like a bunch of superstitious people who quickly change their opinion of Paul based upon changing circumstances but we do the same thing quite often.  Particularly when bad things happen, we tend to think that someone deserves what happens to them and that God is punishing them for their sins.

God does punish sin and we often will suffer because of our sins through legal troubles or health issues or any other kinds of troubles.  However, we should be very careful about thinking that someone deserves something bad that happens to them.  It is foolish and arrogant to think that someone deserves to have something happen to them because of a certain sin.

It’s true that if you smoke, you increase your chances of lung cancer.  If you are a thief, chances are good that one day you’ll be caught and arrested.  If you drink and drive, you may get in an accident.  These are all facts.  But to say that someone deserves that fate also implies that you are righteous and not deserving of punishment yourself.

Some sins carry inherent risks with them that come back upon a person – if you’re a lawbreaker you’re likely to be arrested.  But what if you’re a gossip?  We might say that a gossip deserves to have their tongue cut out but that’s unlikely to happen.  What would appropriate punishments be for those who are liars, people who struggle with anger, those who are prideful, or those who are covetous?

The fact of the matter is that we are all sinners and to say that someone deserves what they got should leave us open to deserving whatever we have coming to us as well.  The only thing that we have going for us is that we have been forgiven of our sins.  And if you’ve been forgiven of your lust, lying, anger, pride, or whatever else you may have in your past or still struggle with today, it’s really of no concern what happens to someone else because of their sin.  Instead we should just pray that they’ve been forgiven of their sin and thank God that we won’t face punishment that we deserve.

In this story, it is clear that Paul is not only saved from the poisonous effects of the snake’s bite but it is very likely that God caused the snake to be there in the first place in order that His power might be on display and that the people would be open to hearing the gospel from Paul.

Acts 28:7-10

There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days. His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. 10 They honored us in many ways; and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed.

Luke records one final miracle to authenticate the message of the gospel.  Just like so many other places that Paul had traveled, he performed miracles which showed the power of God and caused people to listen to his message.

Apart from the miracle, I want to point out the phrase “chief official of the island.”  For a long time people who try to disprove the Bible pointed to this phrase as one of the so called inaccuracies of the Bible.  The argument basically stated that there was no record of anyone with that title, so obviously the history was made up or inaccurate.

Of course there’s a major fallacy in proving something doesn’t exist and that is you can’t do it.  In these types of situations you can’t prove a negative, all you can declare is that there is no evidence to support the positive at the time.  For instance, many people would agree that there’s no such thing as the abominable snowman or as it’s also known, a yeti.  However, no one can prove that it doesn’t exist, they can only state that there is no concrete evidence of its existence at this time.

And just as a side note, there was a recent study of various hair samples purported to be from yetis.  Most came back as common animal fur such as a rabbit.  However, a couple of the samples matched the DNA of an ancient polar bear thought to have been long extinct.  So it is at least possible that people have seen an animal that was thought to be long extinct and calling it a yeti because it didn’t match any known living creature.

Back to the “chief official of the island” though.  After years of stating that this disproved the Bible, or at least called its accuracy into question, a sign that said “chief official of the island” was find.  Even more so, it was discovered that this terminology was only used in the first century when Paul was there and thus the account had to have been written then.

The more research that is done on the Bible and the more that archaeologists keep digging, they more they find that the Bible is true and accurate not just on theology but also in the history that it records.  Nothing has ever been found to disprove the Bible.  Some things that have called parts of the Bible into question have been discovered to be frauds however.  You may have heard in the last year or two about the “Jesus’ wife” fragment, a purported fragment of paper said to have discussed Jesus being married.  The discovery that this was a fraud wasn’t covered by the news nearly as much as its initial discovery but it turns out that it was a definite forgery which even used ancient paper but the wrong ink.

Acts 28:11-16

11 After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island—it was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux. 12 We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. 13 From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli. 14 There we found some brothers and sisters who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome. 15 The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged. 16 When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.

After spending the winter on the island of Malta, passage was found to Italy in the spring.  Unlike earlier when the wind made it nearly impossible to travel, it takes only a couple of days until they reach Italy.  Paul and those with him would have travelled the Appian Way on the journey into Rome.

You might not care about the name of an ancient road but its history is quite important.  The Appian Way was an ancient day I-95 or US 1, it was the biggest and most important road and it led into Rome.  The Romans were known for their road building among other things.  In fact, they were so good at building roads that some are still in use today, 2,000 years after their original construction.  Meanwhile we can’t build a road that lasts five years with all of our modern construction equipment.

The reason that a road is important is because of what it symbolizes.  We know that there are no coincidences with God.  Jesus came at just the right time.  This period of history is known as the Pax Romana or the Peace of Rome.  The fighting is over and Rome’s expanding of its empire is complete.  The entire region is at peace during this time.

Because of this peace, and because of the great road system that Rome has built, the gospel can travel safely and quickly.  This time of peace will last for about another hundred years after Paul, allowing for Christianity to finish spreading and be an established religion.

As Paul approached Rome, he is greeted by Christians who heard that he was coming.  According to commentary on this passage, the Greek used in these verses implies that these are not just a few people who came out to see Paul but instead he is treated like a returning general or king as he approaches Rome.  Paul has reason to be encouraged and the thank God.  His long awaited journey to Rome is near its end and people are excited to have him there.

When Paul arrived in Rome, he is given a great amount of freedom and lived under house arrest with just a guard to watch over him.  He will be allowed to have guests come and go as he pleases and the gospel is not impaired by his location.  In fact, his preaching is probably aided by his situation as his normal way of preaching usually leads to his expulsion from a city.  This time he will not be kicked out for preaching the gospel and he will be kept safe under Roman guard.

Acts 28:17-20

17 Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: “My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. 18 They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. 19 The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge against my own people. 20 For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.”

After arriving in Rome, Paul calls the local Jewish leaders together.  He explains to them that he has no quarrel with Judaism as he still considers Jews to be his people.  Instead, he is in Rome to defend his beliefs and ultimately appeal for his life.  He states that his hope for Israel is why he is a prisoner and not because of any ill will for the Jews.

Acts 28:21-22

21 They replied, “We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of our people who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you.22 But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.”

Interestingly enough word has not reached Rome about Paul’s “troublemaking.”  While there was a strong Christian church in Rome that Paul did not start, the Jews were not aware of Paul or the uproar that he had caused in other parts of the Roman Empire.

Likewise, this means that while the Jews in Jerusalem were very upset with Paul, they never bothered to inform the Jews in Rome that Paul was coming and to warn them about the problems that he had caused.

Instead of finding the Jews prepared for trouble from Paul, they treat him more like a visiting rabbi and they want to hear from him because they are aware of the teachings of Christianity, just not Paul.

Acts 28:23-28

23 They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. 24 Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. 25 They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet:

26 “‘Go to this people and say,
“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”
27 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’

28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!”

This is Paul’s final recorded sermon in Acts.  The response is much the same as everywhere else.  Some Jews believe his message and others reject it.  Paul goes on to warn them that since they have rejected the gospel, he will continue to take it to the Gentiles.

Acts 28:30-31

30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!

After spending two years under arrest in outside of Jerusalem, Paul spends another two years under arrest in Rome.  Then the book of Acts abruptly ends as the gospel continues to go forward.  We know that Paul’s time in prison is not spent in vain as he is able to receive visitors and from Paul’s letters it appears that some of his guards and even those in Caesar’s household became Christians.

But what happens next and why does the story end so abruptly from our perspective?  While Paul is in Rome, he writes four letters that are included in the New Testament – Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians.  After this, it appears that Paul is released.

Some have suggested that the book of Acts is written by Luke as a part of Paul’s legal defense.  Once Paul is freed, Luke doesn’t need to continue writing the story.  There is some reason to believe that Paul is freed after two years because no one showed up to make the case against him.  Without any accusers, Paul’s case is thrown out of court.

After this time, the Bible doesn’t say what Paul did but there is strong evidence to believe that he took a fourth missionary journey which took him further west, all the way to modern day Spain.  At some point he is arrested yet again and once more imprisoned in Rome.  This second Roman imprisonment is nowhere near as kind as the first one.  Paul writes two letters to Timothy – 1 & 2 Timothy – one letter to Titus as he sits in prison the second time.

Paul knows that his time is up as he writes to these two young men.  As pastors trained by him, they are ultimately entrusted with continuing his ministry and remaining faithful to preaching the gospel of Jesus.  In 67 or 68 AD, Paul sat in prison with Peter nearby.  On possibly the same day, Peter was hung upside down on a cross and Paul faced the blade of the executioner.

The two main men of the book of Acts are called to be with Christ at the same time.  The church’s loss is their gain as they go on to their eternal reward.  But still the gospel goes forward with us.  We are the legacy of the work of the apostles and we are tasked with continuing to share the gospel wherever we go.


Paul’s legal questions have finally reached an end and it is time for action once more.  Last week in Acts 26, Paul stood before King Agrippa, not to defend himself of legal charges but simply because the man was interested in hearing Paul and Festus was interested in Agrippa’s interpretation of Paul’s case.  As it was, Paul had appealed to Caesar and there was nothing more to be done legally at a local level.  However, Festus still had to figure out what to say as to why Paul was being sent to Rome.  Paul had appealed, but the bigger question was what was Paul appealing and why was he being held to begin with.

In explaining his actions and giving his testimony to King Agrippa, Paul is ever mindful of the gospel and presents if clearly to the King.  However, Agrippa acknowledges the prompting of the Holy Spirit to become a Christian but rejects it.  Paul is undeterred however, praying that whether it be a short or long time, that Agrippa and all who heard him would accept the gospel.

While Festus thought that Paul was mad for his beliefs, both he and Agrippa agreed that Paul was innocent of wrongdoing.  If he had not appealed to Caesar, he could have been set free.  This is all part of God’s plan to bring Paul to Rome however.

Paul is finally on the move again in Acts 27.  After waiting under arrest for more than two years, he will draw closer to one of his long term goals.  Even though the Lord has been with him the whole time, this still doesn’t make the journey easy and it won’t be smooth sailing – literally – all the way to Rome.

Acts 27:1-2

27 When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment. We boarded a ship from Adramyttium about to sail for ports along the coast of the province of Asia, and we put out to sea. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with us.

If you pay close attention, you’ll note Luke’s use of the word we in this chapter.  That’s because he is along for the trip.  While some of the book of Acts is a second hand historical account based upon diligent research, this section is something that the man experienced.

What is recorded in this chapter is several locations that are of little consequence to the typical reader but they serve as what amounts to a sailing log that would have been indicative of a typical route that would have been sailed at the time.  This happens to be one of the most detailed logs that has survived from this time period and is thus an important historical reference aside from just being scripture.

Joining Paul and Luke is a man by the name of Aristarchus.  While this name probably isn’t as familiar as Timothy or Barnabas, Aristarchus was a common companion of Paul and is mentioned in Acts 19 & 20 as well as Colossians 4 and the book of Philemon.

Seeing as Paul is a prisoner, you might guess that it is not common for prisoners to be allowed to bring friends along with them during transport.  Paul is apparently being given special treatment.  He is likely being given the treatment that a wealthy person would be extended and Luke and Aristarchus would not be viewed as companions so much as attending slaves.  It is also possible that given the agreement on Paul’s innocence, that Festus has gone out of his way to see that Paul is well treated because it would reflect poorly upon him if a clearly innocent man were mistreated while awaiting appeal of false charges.  Whatever the case, Paul is fortunate to have companions with him but this would not have been the typical experience of the other prisoners traveling with him.

Acts 27:3-5

The next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius, in kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs. From there we put out to sea again and passed to the lee of Cyprus because the winds were against us. When we had sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia.

Additional courtesies are extended to Paul as he is allowed to visit friends in Sidon who attend to his needs.

The route that the ship takes hugs coast of the Mediterranean Sea.  It bounces around a few ports but ultimately stays near the shoreline.  Because Cyprus is mentioned, it’s possible that in better weather the ship may have docked somewhere there of sailed to the south of it but because of the prevailing winds, it is apparently better to stay near the coast.

Years ago I actually had the opportunity to do some sailing in the Florida Keys.  We were on little two man boats and we were just joy riding around and were never in any kind of rough water.  Nevertheless, the principle remains the same.  When the wind is at your back, sailing is quite easy.  All you need to do is open up the sail and let the wind take you where you want.

However, if you are going in the opposite direction of the wind, it is something different entirely.  You can’t sail directly into the wind.  Instead, you have to zig zag.  If you want to go west into the wind, you instead have to go northwest, then southwest, then northwest, back and forth.  As a novice sailor, this technique proved quite frustrating to me and since I was going into the wind to come back ashore, I eventually just got mad and jumped out of the boat and pulled it the last hundred feet or so.

All of this is to say that this technique was difficult in a small boat where I was making small maneuvers and I could see where I was going the whole time.  In a large boat, I can understand how even experienced sailors would want to stay close to shore and not risk tacking against the wind in open water where it would be easy to get off course.  You might be able to determine that you’re still traveling west but assuming that you are aiming for a certain destination, one mile off may as well be 100 miles off in the open sea.

Acts 27:6-8

There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board. We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus. When the wind did not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea.

In Lycia they switch ships, finding one that was headed for Italy.  Based on some details that we discover later, this ship is apparently a grain ship which would have been government’s fleet that was used to supply Italy.  Because of this, the centurion as an officer of the government would have outranked both the ship owner and the pilot.

Another thing we know about these ships is that they were large.  While they were privately owned but government contracted, they were thus not all the same size.  However, they could be as large as 140 feet long, 36 feet wide, and 33 feet deep.  We don’t know the exact size of this ship but it is large enough to hold 276 men and a substantial amount of cargo.

Finally, as luck would have it, these large ships did not sail well going into the wind as they were not very agile.  Likewise, they did not handle storms very well.  This is why the ship creeped along the coast with great difficulty.

Acts 27:9-12

Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Day of Atonement. So Paul warned them, 10 “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.” 11 But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. 12 Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest.

Ultimately it is the centurion’s call on whether to press on or remain where they are at.  He does seek the advice of others though and apparently Paul is included in the process.  This wouldn’t have anything to do with the previous privileges that he had been given but probably based on the fact that Paul was a world traveler.  He had been in similar situations before and would have valuable knowledge.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 11:25 “…three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea…”  This was written before this trip, so Paul isn’t even including this soon to be disastrous experience at sea in his letter.

Paul is not relying on just a gut feeling based upon the previous difficulty in sailing this far.  Luke makes note that sailing was already dangerous because it was past the Day of Atonement.  The Day of Atonement is in October and sailors considered it dangerous to sail between September 14 and November 11.  After that date sailing wasn’t attempted at all.  So Paul, along with any experienced sailor, know that this is already well into the dangerous season.  However, where they are at is not a good place to spend the winter, so the decision is made to go around to the other side of the island about 40 miles away.  It seems like an easy task but it won’t be.

Acts 27:13-20

13 When a gentle south wind began to blow, they saw their opportunity; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. 14 Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the Northeaster, swept down from the island. 15 The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. 16 As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure, 17 so the men hoisted it aboard. Then they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Because they were afraid they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along. 18 We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. 19 On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. 20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.

The ship doesn’t make it far before a storm is upon it.  It’s not just any storm but this must have been a terrible system that remained in place for a long time.  It is not long before the ship is swept out to sea and well away from their destination.  By the third day of the storm the crew gave up hope of survival.

Acts 27:21-26

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 are not told what Paul was doing during the storm but we might assume he was slightly Christlike, sleeping while the storm raged and others feared death.  Despite being shipwrecked three times before, this is probably the worst storm he’s ever encountered.  But Paul has been told by the Lord that he would testify for Him in Rome.  Paul has two options – he can either believe the promises that God has made before, or he can believe that God will not keep His promise and thus his death is likely.

The application of this passage is all about faith.  Ironically the word faith appears only once in this chapter.  Do we have faith that God will keep His promises, or do we not?  Even as Christians, it is our nature to fall apart over some of the tiniest little things.  We worry and fret over stupid things that we have no control over.  And we make small problems into huge ones in our minds.

God has made us promises that we should hold on to when we face storms in life.  Jeremiah 29:11 is an important verse to remember.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Likewise, we have Paul’s words which he previously wrote to the Romans in Romans 8:28.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Now, these are not guarantees that lousy things won’t happen in your life.  Faith in God does not make you immune to sickness.  It does not guarantee that you won’t lose your job.  It doesn’t mean that your marriage will be easy.  If these verses were guarantees of what we might consider an easy life just as long as we claim the promise of God and have faith, then you know you must have been a lousy Christian?  Paul!

Paul was beaten, imprisoned, and shipwrecked.  None of these things are what we would consider good.  Now you might make the argument that these were all sacrifices that Paul made for the sake of the gospel and that is true.  But Paul also suffered from some sort of health problem that had nothing to do with his personal choices and sacrifices.

1 Corinthians 12:7-9

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Paul not only dealt with some sort of physical problem but it was so difficult that he begged the Lord to take it from him and the Lord would not.

My point in reminding you about Paul’s life is that we misunderstand God’s promises sometimes.  And because of that, it can really hurt our faith.  If you take God’s promises to mean that you won’t have difficulties in your life, then your faith is going to take a major blow the first time that you have difficulties.  Because there will be difficulties whether it is a health issue, a financial issue, a relational issue or whatever else.

When those troubles come, if you expected God to shield you from them, then your faith isn’t going to be very great the next time around.  But if you read the promises of God and you understand that they are talking about the big picture, it makes a lot more sense.  Just because you go through some kind of difficulty doesn’t mean that God abandoned you or that His plan for you was thrown off track.  That difficulty may very well have been part of the plan because it made you stronger and opened up doors that wouldn’t be opened otherwise.

The loss of a job may force you to look for a new job that is better for you.  Or maybe financial hardships cause you to evaluate the way you’re living and you discover a more fulfilling life through cutting back on material things.

When we say we have faith in God, we need to trust in the destination that God wants to take us to.  The journey might be bumpy along the way but that doesn’t mean that we’ve been abandoned.  Paul’s destination was secure but he’s got quite a rough landing awaiting him before he gets to where the Lord is taking him.  We shouldn’t think that we’re any better of different.

You know how this ends.  I’m just going to finish up by reading the details of the shipwreck.

Acts 27:27-44

27 On the fourteenth night we were still being driven across the Adriatic[c] Sea, when about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land. 28 They took soundings and found that the water was a hundred and twenty feet deep. A short time later they took soundings again and found it was ninety feet deep. 29 Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. 30 In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. 31 Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.”32 So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it drift away.

33 Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. “For the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything. 34 Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” 35 After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. 36 They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 Altogether there were 276 of us on board.38 When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea.

39 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. 40 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. 41 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.

42 The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. 43 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.44 The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.

Paul isn’t the only one who has faith in this passage.  The men had to trust Paul to cut loose the lifeboats and any hope of escaping the ship.  They did this despite the fact that the storm had raged to 14 days and there didn’t appear to be any hope of it stopping.

In the end, everyone makes it safely to shore.  The storm blew them 500 miles off course and away from their intended destination.  In the end, it doesn’t matter where they come ashore, just that they are safe.

In life, both our journey and our destination are important.  It’s not just where we arrive, it’s how we get there.  The good thing for us is that God is there to guide our journey and steer us to the best destination for our lives.