Tossed on the Seas of Life
By Tim Tron
The boat had been adrift at sea for days. Grown men began to weep for fear of dying. Their assumed fate was up to the mercy of the storm. The vessel was one of the largest of its time, a cargo ship carrying grain to the starving city of Rome. The captain, a seasoned veteran of the sea, knew the risks of sailing in the late season on the Adriatic. No man sailed this ocean in the winter and lived. Yet, due to dire circumstances of his city’s plight, Nero had offered large bonuses to any captain that brought grain at their greatest time of need. So, even against Paul’s warnings, he pushed on. Besides, who was this Paul, and what did he know about sailing? Paul was under arrest and in the custody of Julius, a Centurion of the Augustan Legion, who was in charge of his prisoner. So, when Paul spoke up, even though most of the crew, and likely even its captain, knew of his story, the captain chose to keep going; the lure of this worlds’ reward was greater than his trust in the man of God.
Once they had thrown caution to the wind after pushing past Cauda with a southerly wind, it was as the nature of the season, the deadly Eurakylon struck. The crew managed to keep the bow pointed into the gale that pounded their ancient vessel. All tackle had been taken down, the lifeboat secured into the ship’s hold, and the ship secured with ropes to keep it from being torn apart. Two hundred and seventy-six people were on board that vessel. All of the 276 souls thought they were going to die, except for one. The one held fast to his faith. His belief was as strong as the raging seas in which they were tossed. If anyone knew better, the Apostle Paul was certain that this was not where he was to die, nor anyone else on board; this much he was told. “For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.” Acts 27:22-24
In life, we are simply nothing more than a minute vessel cast upon a vast ocean of time, waves of trials, and currents of torment. We cannot know our destiny any more than the raindrop knows where it may fall. God’s purpose in our life is that wind, driving our ship toward where he has planned our journey long before we were formed in the womb. When we choose to follow the path He has chosen, those winds become our compass, regardless of where we think we should go, his will is the ultimate guide.
The passengers and crew on that fateful trip bear many resemblances to those of our own voyages in life. Although Paul was a prisoner being transported to Rome for trial, it was his choice to be on the journey. He had allowed himself to be tried by Festus in the presence of king Agrippa and his family. The account we are told is that of their hearts being changed, and in the end, was the sacrifice Paul had made in order to share the gospel with those who might never hear the truth. His appeal to Ceaser, a mere consolation and maneuver at using his Roman citizenship, all but granted him a sentence of death, not in the presence of Festus, king Agrippa, and his court, but rather in the heart of the Roman empire, Rome. In other words, while serving God, he knowingly placed himself in that boat, so that he may continue to follow the path to which he had been called; a higher purpose, one greater than his own, or anyone else in that vessel.
The other passengers and crew are like those people in our lives whom Jesus had warned us against keeping in our lives, and those who become part of our journey unknowingly. When many began following Christ in his earthly mission, he warned them saying, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”-Luke 14:25-27 The consequences of being called and stepping out in faith are more than a personal decision; it is a choice that will affect all whom you call family and even those whom you don’t. Stepping into the boat requires a realization that where you are about to go is no longer up to you; rather, it is up to the Lord. When we pray to God and say such things as, “Lord, I put everything into your hands. Wherever you lead, I shall follow,” we literally become bound to all that He will require; be it good or bad. As Paul would tell Luke in his last days of imprisonment, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.”
Like the captain and crew on that grain ship headed for Rome on which Paul was a passenger, we can try to convince ourselves that we have it all under control, but they soon found out that God’s power was beyond anything they could fathom. Their fate was out of their own control. They were at the mercy of the Almighty. In our own world, when we face the storms of life, some believe, unlike Paul on that fateful passage, no matter the difficulty, that they are in control. They believe, they are the captain of their own ship. How foolish their plight. When we become so self-absorbed, we are only kidding ourselves. For if we say we know, we are a liar, just as if we say we have not sinned, we also are likewise as much the same. In the end, we make a mockery of what God wants for each of us, and in that moment, disgrace all that he has done to give us the hope of eternal salvation. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”- 1 John 1:9-10.
When the storm had finally bored down upon them, the crew took measures to physically secure the ship as much as humanly possible. They took down any protruding masts and sails, brought in the lifeboat, and did something we might consider odd by today’s standards, tied ropes around the bulk of the vessel to keep it from falling apart. In ancient times, ships were not made as they are today. They were crude boats that often fell apart in strong storms. To keep the wood from tearing apart, they literally wrapped the main body of the boat with strong ropes so that it might endure. In our own lives, our spiritual bodies are as frail as those ancient sailing ships. Left alone, it doesn’t take much of a tribulation, a storm, to begin to tear our world apart. We become desolate, lost, and feel abandoned. We can feel as if we are being torn asunder. Yet, there is a choice we can make to forgo this destruction of our inner being.
Yes, we have a choice.
We can choose life; eternal life
Accepting Jesus into your heart is the very essence of wrapping your soul in secure bindings that will hold you and keep your world from falling apart in the most arduous tempests of life. When we confess, we are sinners with our lips, believe with our hearts that Jesus died for our sins and that he arose from the dead to sit at the right hand of the Father, we allow the Holy Spirit to indwell. We become one with Christ, and it is then we find we are no longer alone on our journey. When the seas crash against the bow of our little boat, we can take comfort that He is with us, no matter the result. We can find comfort in the scriptures and hear the voice of God speaking to us through those ancient writers. The passages of the Bible become the ropes that bind our world together.
It may sound easy, but it never is.
Once you begin that journey, that path of righteousness, it is then Satan will come at you like a roaring lion, seeking who he may devour. The headwinds will become stronger, the challenges will now come from all angles, not one. The feeling of despair may haunt you like the shadow of death. Be ye not dismayed, for this is only a sign that you are on the right path. When the headwinds are the strongest, you are guaranteed the direction you are heading is most certainly the one in which you are called by God.
Some will hear the calling and step out thinking they are alone. Yet, if we have a family, our decision will affect all of them as well. Our choice becomes a ripple effect which will permeate their entire existence. Jesus knew this would happen. The way becomes more complicated when we cannot do as Christ insisted. To include more than just yourself puts others in jeopardy. The choices you make will impact everyone in the boat. As Paul found, his passage and all those on board were assured. Yet, for some, we bring those who are not ready. We must choose wisely, lest we put their salvation in jeopardy. The angel who assured Paul of everyone’s safety was like a spiritual life preserver. When we are called, we must decide if we take the trip becomes overwhelming; their boat capsizes and, seemingly, all is lost. We must provide our loved ones with that same life preserver in case. We must not take for granted that they know Him. We must ask, and know that each member has sought Christ, and know him in their heart. If we truly know that they are safe, then we should not fear, but allow His grace to be sufficient. In Christ, we shall never be lost, for, in Him, we have the hope of life eternal. “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?”-Luke 9:24-25
My own ship is in the midst of a storm as strong as any I have known. My lashings are firm, the Word of God keeps my hold from breaking apart, yet the darkness has never been more prevalent around my life than before. In the distance, I can hear the lion roaring, but I fear not. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want, his rod and staff comfort me. What can man do to me? My ship is being driven by the currents and winds created by His divine hand. He leads me down the path of righteousness for his namesake. Where my ship will land, I do not know. In fact, I don’t need to know. Instead, all I need is to trust in Him, for when we do, when we trust in our Lord, we can know that wherever we come ashore is exactly where He wants us to be.
Our purpose will become evident in time; time not of our own, but in God’s time.
Yes, there will still be storms, just as Paul, Job, and so many more experienced.
No, it will not be easy.
But the first step is to get in the boat.
Choose Christ and begin your journey today.
Thanks be to God.