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More Than a Shipwreck

November 11, 2011

God has some strange ways of doing things.  Now listen, I know the Scripture…some of you are ready to say, “But God’s ways are not our ways.”  And I agree with you, and I even know where to find it in the Bible.  But when we’re in the middle of one of those storms of doubt, or uncertainty, or just flat out fear, those woes don’t always provide the comfort we might hope for.

 Take a minute and read through Isaiah 55:8-9 and then look over at Isaiah 6:8-13.

 Isaiah knew something about the different ways of God.  As soon as he says those famous words, “Here am I! Send me”, God tells him what he’s getting into.  He essentially says that Isaiah’s ministry is going to a bunch of people that can hear and see perfectly fine…but they will never understand.  They’re never going to embrace the message.  (Purely conjecture; but I bet for at least a second, Isaiah was rethinking his earlier commitment). Isaiah understood that our ways are not God’s ways…he understood it because he lived it.

 Paul understood something of this as well.  We know that very early in his formal ministry that Paul had set his sights towards Rome.  It only makes sense.  Rome was the hub of the world at that time…if you were going to go big…Rome was a good place to start.  And in Acts 23:11, the Lord tells Paul, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”  At this point, Paul has been through three missionary journeys, and he is currently being held as a prisoner of the state.  He’s going to be sent to Caesarea to testify before Felix, the governor.  He’s going to be kept there for two years…basically just answering the questions of Felix whenever he is called upon.  Then, in Acts 24:27, it says, “When two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus.  And desiring to do the Jews a favor, he left Paul in prison.”  It is at this point that Paul, two years removed from the promise of the Lord that he would testify in Rome, appeals to Caesar.  This is going to the Supreme Court…this is the homerun shot…and this will ultimately be the mechanism that God uses to bring His servant before the people of Rome.

 Before he really gets going, he has to testify before King Agrippa and his sister/wife Bernice.  Effectively, Paul shares his personal testimony of salvation in Jesus Christ and then they send him along to Caesar.  En route to Rome, Paul is shipwrecked on the Island of Malta (this is Acts 27).  There, after being shipwrecked, he is bitten by a snake.  Now listen, I don’t want to sound unfaithful, but at this point, I’d be having some serious doubts about what God was doing.  I would hate to be a prisoner, and I’d hate to be shipwrecked on an island, but when both of those happen, and a snake actually bites you…I’m going to be concerned.

 Eventually, through the shipwreck and the snake bite, Paul is able to share the Gospel on Malta.  And then in chapter 28, in the year 62AD, he finally does make it to Rome.  It has been a long, hard, five year journey.  Sometimes we get so focused on what’s coming that we forget about today.  Paul easily could have gotten depressed.  He had such hopes to make it to Rome and things kept popping up in the way.  But Paul seems to have understood that obstacles in the faith are often opportunities.  You see, more than a ship crashed onto the shores of Malta that day.  The Gospel…the transforming power of the Gospel…crashed onto that island.  What opportunity are you overlooking today?  Because listen…God’s ways are not our ways.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 24, 2011 5:42 am

    I amconvinced Paul was a Christian who never missed any opportunity to share the gospel but I am just wondering how was Paul able to share the gospel to Maltese people when they don’t speak Greek. They were non-Greek speakers and neither could they speak Aramaic. In fact even the author of the Book of Acts did not give details on this aspect. It was only stated that they healed people there there but nothing about witnessing. Kindly enlighten me please?

    • November 24, 2011 12:06 pm

      In the passage, verse 28:7 refers to the “chief man of the island, named Publius.” The technical term here is “chief official.” This is a term for the person, appointed by Octavius Augustus, who represented Rome in that place/area (including the neighboring islands). This person would have been capable of communication in at least the Greek language. Further, Malta was not an uncharted island. It had been strategically settled by the Phoenicians in 1000 B.C. This was not a random tribe of people.

      However, I would agree with you that it is a bit of conjecture to say that he “shared the Gospel.” But, I’d also say that based on his recorded life…it’s not a ridiculous stretch. More accurately, I’d say that the example of a Christian life crashed onto the shore of Malta that day, particularly Christian suffering. Instead of distressing over his predicament, Paul displayed genuine faith in what God was doing. That is what challenges me about the passage.

      Thanks for the comment! I hope that response is close to reasonable.

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