My family and I live in Florida and were recently visited by a powerful hurricane named Irma. As I’m writing this, the Weather Channel has identified another powerful hurricane churning out in the ocean: Maria. Right now, models are predicting it will avoid Florida but our friends in the Carolinas may not be so fortunate. Prayers are always welcome.
Planning for and recovering after hurricanes can be exhausting. In Fort Myers, where my sister lives, the schools have been closed for over two weeks. Many homes have been destroyed, flooded, or damaged significantly. Many do not have power yet. But they feel lucky to be alive.
Hurricanes are distinct from other natural disasters such as tornadoes and earthquakes in that we are given adequate time to prepare our homes and evacuate. It has not always been this way. The first hurricane forecast models were developed in the 1950s. Prior to that, people relied on changes in barometric pressure. Hurricanes significantly reduce barometric pressure – and people have known about barometric pressure since it was discovered by Italian physicist Evangelista Torricelli in the seventeenth century.
The last place one would want to be in a hurricane would be on a boat. Evidence of sunken vessels in areas prone to hurricanes suggest the possibility that captains and crews were caught off guard by hurricanes in years past. And that is exactly what happened in the book of Acts. After Paul’s arrest, Luke details an event in which he and Paul were aboard a ship in the Mediterranean Sea.
“So Paul warned them, ‘Men, I can see our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.’ But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. There was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest.”
“When a gentle south wind began to blow, they saw their opportunity; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the Northeaster, swept down from the island. The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along” (Acts 27:10-15).
“We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo aboard. On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved” (Acts 27:18-20).
At this point, after they had given up all hope, Paul stands before them in a sort of “I told you so” way.
“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. But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 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.’ So, keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as He told me’” (Acts 27: 21-26).
And just as promised, the ship was destroyed and the captain, crew, and prisoners all survived when they finally made it to the island of Malta.
Paul was one of Jesus’ greatest and most courageous Christian defenders. The book of Acts and the epistles document the way he was bitten by a snake, beaten, and imprisoned. Eusebius, Origen, Tertullian, and Dionysius of Corinth documented his beheading by Nero. Despite such treatment, Paul endured.
“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow worry and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Thank you for your time. Credit for this blog goes to Pastor Daniel Butson.