Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Fast. So 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 o the owner of the ship. Since the harbour was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbour in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest. (verses 9-12)
There is ominous foreshadowing as we read this passage. “I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous,” Paul says – and so it turned out. But here at the moment there is simply a conflict of opinion – and Paul’s earnest voice does not prevail.
Lying behind the story is the common understanding of the time that sea voyages in the Fall could be ruinous. By Roman standards, anything after September 15 was considered risky. If you left it until November 11, it was counted as suicidal. The voyage on which Paul and company are about to embark falls somewhere between these two dates, the “Fast” coming in late September or early October.
In the context, Paul’s counsel would be entirely reasonable, indeed compelling, if only based in human wisdom. But there is a sense in the account that he is actually drawing on divine insight. Knowing Paul, when he says “I can see,” he’s reporting promptings received from the Lord himself. Certainly he receives very clear communication later, directly from an angelic messenger (verses 23-24). I assume, then, that Paul feels his counsel is urgent, indeed God-given.
But it also seems clear to me in this account that Paul isn’t panicking in the midst of this knowledge. Not at all. The decision regarding the voyage itself is out of his hands, but he’s not frantic. He understands that this whole sea journey is undergirded by the Lord’s previous directive that Paul would, in fact, “testify in Rome” (Acts 23:11). He knows he will arrive there safely. He’s got the Lord’s word on it. So, having voiced his counsel, he settles himself into the Lord’s provision.
Once again, Paul becomes an example to us. With confidence and boldness, he has no hesitancy to speak out. Yet, he possesses an undergirding peace to live with the current reality, knowing he is in the Lord’s hands.
It’s a powerful combination.
Dear Lord, strengthen me with boldness and trust. Help me to speak up when needed, to step in when called, to engage in whatever you put before me, but all the while trusting you. And when things are completely out of my hands, I choose to embrace your peace that I might simply abide in trust. I look to you to guide and direct. For Jesus’ glory. Amen.
Reflect: In what current situations do you need to step forward with boldness, either speaking or taking action? In what circumstances is it out or your control, calling you to simply trust? Put both in the Lord’s hands.