The Centurion did not believe in the voice and warnings of a common prisoner; he chose to heed to the voice of an expert Captain who probably had racked up so much experience on the sea in different boats and ships. So they decided to embark upon the journey and never thought of asking why Paul told them not to make that journey; a picture of the many mistakes when we begin to teach things that are outside of the doctrines carefully laid down by this great theologian of all time. This is the same mistake we make when we think experience and feelings are supposed to dictate the tunes.
Jesus met with a frustrated Peter on the sea after they had sailed all night and caught nothing. These were expert fishermen who knew the best time to set out to fish; to their amazement they caught nothing and with that deep sense of disappointment, Jesus appeared on the scene instructing them to throw their nets back into the sea. Reluctantly they give in and instead of throwing their nets, they threw one probably because they didn’t want to go through the pain of washing their nets all over again. No one likes to go through a second time of frustration especially in the same situation.
Master! We have toiled all night, they exclaimed (knowing that the probability of catching a fish is very high when it’s dark than when it’s not). They forgot that they were dealing with the Word of God in contradistinction to the marketplace knowledge. Marketplace, Worldview, Motivational presentations, Experiences, Feelings do not equate to the Word of God; they may sound or feel right but they are no substitute for the Word of God. God’s ways are higher than ours, any day and at any time. He (God) said, “as far as the Heaven is from the Earth, so are His ways to ours”.
The Apostle advised that a refusal to follow his instruction would lead to chaos, not only for the ship but also the people aboard. In his words, he said, “Sir, I see only disaster ahead for cargo and ship—to say nothing of our lives – if we put out to sea now.” It was winter time and the best time to sail at that moment. All the Apostle was asking for was to stop at the next harbor so that when the weather gets better, they can continue on the voyage/journey. Like most would do and say today, “If our ideas (outside the Word) are working for us, why change it?” “If we preach a particular message, the people might refuse to come therefore we have to be pragmatic to sustain the crowd.” We would rather listen to the voice of feelings, experiences, motivation et al, like we have mentioned above.
With the agreement of the Captain, they set aside Paul’s advice and continued on the journey. Here comes the STORM. When a gentle southerly breeze came up, they weighed anchor, thinking it would be smooth sailing and not long after, there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon. They lost all control of the ship. It was a cork in the storm. They came under the lee of the small island named Cauda, and managed to get a lifeboat ready and reef the sails. But rocky shoals prevented us from getting close. We only managed to avoid them by throwing out drift anchors.
The good thing about this storm was that Apostle Paul (a representative of God) was still part of the people in the ship. This is NOT to say that our journeys in life would be void of STORMS. A journey with God bringing a STORM is quite different from a journey without God and also experiencing a STORM. Isaiah drove the point home when he prophesied, “When we go through the fire and when we go through the water, we shall not be burnt; neither would we be overwhelmed by the waters.” The promise God gave here was that He would always be with us through the STORMS of LIFE.
Becoming a Christian or walking with God does not exonerate us from the storms or the sufferings that we are meant to go through. In fact the Good Book stresses that we can only become Joint Heirs with the Lord Jesus, when we suffer with Him. Permit me to say that suffering can come in any form but we are promised that He would never leave nor forsake us. God did not promise that coming to Him guarantees a smooth voyage. He only promised, that from the day we are saved, we are sealed (all Christians) till the day Christ will come back by the Holy Spirit as down payment.
I agree that they were not all Christians on this particular journey but when we read through the whole story, we would come to that agreement that the STORM in this journey with the Apostle was for a particular reason, beyond what the people aboard, the Centurion or the Captain would have expected. Hang with me!
Luke’s account gives a very clear picture: “We came under the lee of the small island named Cauda and managed to get a lifeboat ready and reef the sails, but rocky shoals prevented us from getting close. We only managed to avoid them by throwing out drift anchors. Next day, out on the high seas again and badly damaged now by the storm, we dumped the cargo overboard. The third day the sailors lightened the ship further by throwing off all the tackle and provisions. It had been many days since we had seen either sun or stars. Wind and waves were battering us unmercifully, and we lost all hope of rescue.”
They knew something special had to happen to them and if that special thing did not happen, they were looking at death as the unavoidable option. You know the so many times we are faced with challenges and instead of running back to God, we try to look for ways of safety. We decide to preach the so many ways to getting this and that; by the time we exhaust the so many steps preached in our Churches, the frustration deepens. We begin to think of the step we missed from what was taught in Church last Sunday only to find out that those steps are just another way to follow in the ways of men rather than the ways of God.
The STORM was so serious that the Captain lost control of the ship! Imagine the look on the faces of the Centurion, the Captain and the owner of the ship. Though tight-lipped, they would have imagined in their minds that the Prisoner was eventually right. Paul didn’t waste time; he went to meet them knowing that they would begin to device ways at which they can remain safe. The Apostle was so sure that as human as they were, selfish and self-centered in nature, having the “every man for himself” mentality, they would have a futile option like they did at the beginning of the journey when he warned them.
Nobody likes to hear those heart breaking words of “DIDN’T I TELL YOU”; Paul went over to the Centurion and told him that. What would be the reaction of the Centurion and the Captain? Would the Centurion set aside for a second time the advice of this Prisoner? At the back of his mind would be those words ringing again and again; “set aside the Apostles word and more trouble will come.”
No one can be a Christian aside that which the Apostle has taught as the Gospel and the doctrine of salvation. If the Church must grow and make an impact in our world today, we CANNOT afford to set aside the voice of our leader and Apostle to the Gentiles. This is the reason why we are called followers and not inventors.
STORMS do not make you who you are rather, they reveal who you are.
“Many un-renewed hearts quarrel with God at His own altar: quarrel by presenting what He never commanded, and then by growing wroth because He rejects their will-worship” – C.S Spurgeon