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[b] 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.
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.”
As 2017 draws to a close I find I am led to talk a little about what it can mean to sail with God.
It isn’t always easy. Sometimes we find we are met with fair winds and calm seas. At other times, we find just the opposite. Like the episode above, taken from the life of Saint Paul as he sailed to Rome, there are times when the winds are anything but fair and the seas anything but calm.
Maybe you have found 2017 to be smooth sailing all the way. If so, give God thanks for it, and find a way to encourage someone else who has had a different experience.
But if 2017 has been more than a little rocky – take heart. You are not alone on the water. You are never alone on the water. And, if you will let Him, the Lord of the wind and the waves will meet you – right where you are – and calm the seas a bit.
That’s what the disciples found during an unexpected storm. That’s what Paul found as he made his way, all according to God’s timing and purpose, to his destiny in Rome – where he shared the gospel with Caesar himself.
What will 2018 bring our way? Who knows.
But I know one thing for sure. God is at the helm.
Surely we can have no better Captain than that.
Happy New Year.