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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...


By David W. Argue
Dec. 26, 2010

It will be the last trip. This one to Rome.

The apostle Paul is on his final mission.

He has already been held for two years as a prisoner without benefit of a trial.

Arrested in the temple in Jerusalem (Acts 21:33) he had to be rescued by a squad of Roman soldiers to escape certain death by mob action (23:7-10). It takes 200 soldiers, 70 horsemen and 200 spearmen for Paul to be transferred safely out of the city and to Caesarea on the coast (23:23). By some estimates, this represents half the soldiers stationed in Jerusalem. Even then, they take him under cover of night.

Over the following months, Paul has opportunity to defend himself and promote the gospel — presenting his story and the transforming truth about Jesus — before two Roman governors and a regional king. When the trial process is running askew, he makes his “appeal to Caesar,” the legal right of any Roman citizen to ask to be heard before the highest court. This means that he must be granted a hearing in Rome (25:10-12).

And so he begins a journey — his last.

Luke, author of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts, is one of the believers who travel with him. Luke’s eyewitness account in Acts 27 and 28 offers a detailed description of maritime travel in this period of time. But look past the ships and the sea. It seems to me this consummate historian is showing us vividly what the character and influence of a person close to God can really be like — especially in the face of resistance and an uncertain future.

Paul’s fourth and final journey begins in Caesarea on the coast of modern-day Israel and follows a basically northwest trajectory some 1,800 miles to the city of Rome. The journey begins in a small ship snaking along the coast. At Myra, they change ships and begin the major open-water portion of the trip.

Seamen of the day knew there was only one safe season of the year for sailing, and it was long gone. Their journey coincided with the worst season for a sea voyage. Paul, a seasoned traveler and a veteran of three shipwrecks (2 Corinthians 11:25,26) gives them a word of warning, later followed by encouragement and instruction.

Word #1 — “The voyage will be with injury and much loss” (Acts 27:10, ESV).
Paul gives his counsel, based on years of wisdom, and the sensitivity he has to the Holy Spirit. The people in charge of the ship dismiss the advice of a prisoner. Instead of wintering and waiting for better weather, the ship will sail. Paul is forcefully put aboard the ship, and they set sail into the teeth of disaster.

Smooth sailing in southern breezes soon deteriorates into a northwest hurricane. After battling with all their might, “all hope of ... being saved was at last abandoned” (27:20).

“All hope was at last abandoned” — that is, except within the spirit of one man.

While the crashing of waves and wailing of wind amplify the confusion and undermine every attempt to preserve life, Paul is nurturing the presence of the Lord and receiving the visit of an angel — and a word of hope.

Word #2 — “There will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship” (27:22). “… I have faith in God … ” (27:25).

What a contrast to how we are tempted to react when serving God faithfully under great pressure.

We feel that we have godly wisdom to share — a word to give as from the Lord. When that word does not seem to be followed or affirmed, we become offended. We nurse our hurts and sometimes even “write them off,” pull away, or in the analogy of this account — leave the ship.

Paul follows none of these all-too-human tendencies, but rebounds. Yes, the current crisis came with the disregard of his first word of input, but he keeps giving clear words from the Lord as the crisis unfolds.

“Rebound,” as seen in Paul, means: He nurses no grudges. He continues to care for those around him. He keeps listening for the input God would have him give. He does not give place to discouragement. Instead, even in the middle of a hurricane’s roar, he can welcome the presence of an angel. (And notice, he even can refine the first word when the second is made more clear to him. Compare Acts 27:10 and 27:22.)

God keeps speaking, and Paul keeps proclaiming:

 Word #3 — To the soldiers and sailors: “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved” (27:31).

 Word #4 — To the whole ship: “Take some food. For it will give you strength” (27:34).
Paul, by his personal rebounding has gone from being the prisoner on the ship to the acting captain of the ship. It illustrates so well that a great key in effective ministry is not in our circumstances, or in the immediate responses to our input, but in the proper attitude and nurture of the presence of God. That allows us to humbly and continually hear His voice and be His servant.

Here are some principles for effective service.

• Keep on listening and sharing what you sense God has communicated to you. Serve humbly and leave the results with God. Reject any hint of offense or bitterness.

 • “Stay on the ship” no matter what. At any time, you might discover you are the only person on board who can dial in to the “true north” of the Holy Spirit’s counsel and understand clearly how to complete the journey.

• Keep focusing on loving people and never allow the storm to overwhelm you or break those bonds.

• Even when shipwreck seems certain, remember the most needed factor for your future is not to be found in more human effort but in more of God’s presence and wisdom.

Don’t pull back. Rebound.

“And so it was that they all escaped safely to land” (27:44, NKJV).

DAVID W. ARGUE is a former Assemblies of God executive presbyter and an author, ministry coach and pastor-at-large living in Colorado Springs, Colo.

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