By Joe Chesser
If you like stories of action and suspense, you’ll love the story told in Acts 27. It’s a dramatic description of a shipwreck where everything is lost … except the people on board. From what seemed like a promising beginning, the journey quickly turned into a nightmare. A wind of hurricane force (called a “northeaster” - Acts 27:14) battered the ship as it was helplessly driven out of control. Trying anything they could think of, they threw the cargo overboard, and the next day, the ship’s tackle. After several days, all hope of being saved was lost (Acts 27:20).
When we get to the place where all hope is lost is when the grace and power of God shines most clearly. There were 276 people on board this ship, and all had given up hope until the Lord spoke to Paul, one of the passengers, assuring him that none would lose their lives (Acts 27:23-25). However, there was one condition to being delivered by God. Everyone had to stay with the ship. When sensing that land was near, some tried to escape in the lifeboat. Paul told the centurion, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved” (Acts 27:31). The soldiers believed Paul and cut the ropes that held the lifeboat to the ship. In most cases this would have been a very foolish thing to do, but because they believed, they had to do exactly what God had said, they had to make sure no one could escape. Their only hope was that everyone “stay with the ship.” All 276 arrived safely on shore, just as God had promised.
God has given us an even greater promise. He has promised that if we “stay with the ship” we can be saved eternally. Throughout our lives we face the temptation to abandon God’s ship (like Israel – Hebrews 3.12 - 4.7). It may literally be during hurricanes, or earthquakes or tornadoes. It may be when faced with cancer or heart disease. It may be when someone we love is suddenly taken from us through violence or immorality or accidents. It may be when we are hurt by those we thought loved us, or deceived by those we trusted. “Northeasters,” no matter in what form their brutality may come, can drain us of hope and our only thought is to abandon God and everyone else around us.
But wait! Just as God spoke to Paul words of hope for those around him, He has also spoken words of hope for every one of us. And the words are essentially the same: “Stay with the ship.” In this promise, the ship of safety that will deliver us unharmed to the shore of life is the church, the body of Christ. Jesus clearly promised that the church He was to build to transport us to God could not be destroyed, even “the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). Stay with the ship and you’ll be saved.
The “northeaster” didn’t suddenly stop when God promised to save the people on the ship. They had to demonstrate that they truly believed His promise by riding out the storm. The parallel is compelling for us. The only way to reach the “other shore” is to ride out the storms of life by “staying with the ship.” It’s our only hope (Revelation 2:8-11).
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org