We Will Never Pass This Way Again

In the 27th chapter of Acts, we find Paul sailing on a ship with a group of prisoners, on their way to stand trial in Rome. The other prisoners were thieves and political rebels, but Paul was different. And while most prisoners would dread standing before Caesar, Paul actually relished the opportunity. As a Roman citizen, he had the right to be heard. Paul wanted to plead his case, of course, but he especially wanted a chance to share the the good news of Jesus with the world’s most powerful man at the time.
As the ship set out to sea, sailing had already become dangerous and “Paul warned them, ‘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.’ But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship” (Acts 27:9-11). I imagine Paul looking one last time at the safety of the harbor, knowing he was sailing on a ship that would never return.
Our lives on this earth are similar to Paul’s journey. We travel from one place to another and our lives never pass the same place at the same time ever again. Each moment happens exactly once. We can’t afford to waste a single minute. The specific opportunities of today come only today.
Like the ship on which Paul sailed, our lives face raging storms and shipwrecks. But to paraphrase Glenn Procopio, storms are part of the process and shipwrecks reveal the miracle of God’s sustaining power. The storms do the work of unsettling us until we realize that the hand of God has never left us.
Notice what Paul said after everyone on the ship had gone a long time without food: “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’” (Acts 27:21-24).
Could it be that every time we face a storm, someone is ready to help, to give us a message of hope and encouragement? (Or perhaps we’re the ones helping others?) Even if your ship breaks apart, isn’t there a plank with your name on it, ready to carry you to safety? And since we’re sailing on ships that will never return, could it be that the ones you help rescue today—by sharing the good news of Jesus—will be the very ones pulling survivors from the sea tomorrow?
Troy Burns