We’ve heard it said that the Bible is archaic, outdated, non-applicable to modern life, etc. Many have struggled with some form of the question, “Can the Bible really apply to my life?”
That’s where I am coming from today. After months of agonizing over what to study (in the Bible), what devotional to use, what minister to listen to, I found myself simply where Satan was happy to have me…not in the Bible at all.
This morning I sat down at my desk, turned on my computer, and logged in. While I was waiting for the operating system to bring me to my desktop, I thought about what I “needed” to get done. And then I heard a still small voice telling me that I needed to study God’s Word. I argued back, “But I haven’t found a study I like, a minister I can trust…” And the God said, “You have MY Word.”
“Yeah,” I continued to argue, “but I don’t know what to study in the Bible.” Knowing that I should be in the Word, knowing that God has blessed even those who open their Bible, close their eyes, and choose their Bible study like playing pin the tail on the donkey…I grabbed my Bible. Before I could open it, I had to run a dust rag on the zipped up cloth Bible purse. That was a sad commentary.
Once I’ve dusted it off, I open my Bible and it falls to one of the gospels where I glimpse the title Jesus’ Birth and Preparation for Ministry (at least that’s what I think it said). I mutter to myself. “Oh goodie…a Christmas story.” Yet, I concede that if this is where God wants me to study His Word today, I guess this is what I study.
So, I adjust my hold on the Bible to bring it closer to me and a big chunk of pages flips by with a thud…now I’m suddenly in Acts. The title before me is The Storm at Sea. I guess I hadn’t figured out I was in Acts because as I started reading, I thought this was the story where Jesus walked on the water. It mentions sailing behind the island of Cauda. I glanced at the inset map and think, “Wow. Jesus walked all the way out there.” Yeah…no…wrong sea.
Acts 27:13-25 is a story about Paul. When I go back to the beginning of Chapter 27, I discover that Paul is a prisoner on his way to Italy. In verse 10 he politely warns them that “I believe there is trouble ahead…” I find this funny, at first read, because although he warns them of “…shipwreck, loss of cargo, injuries, and danger to our lives.” it doesn’t appear to be a strong Hollywood “We’re all doomed!” warning. Paul doesn’t appear to mention God and what transpires later in story leads to me believe that God didn’t want him to give them a wrath of God warning. God’s plan was for them to be shipwrecked. He provided a warning, but didn’t tip His hand. I can think of several reasons God might do this, but I rely on one single important fact….He is God…and His Ways are perfect.
Moving into the story…a light wind suddenly turns into a big storm that rages on for “many days”. The commentary in my Bible says this was October, which for starters was apparently not a good time for sailing the Mediterranean. They were unable to maneuver the ship and blown out to sea. It says “they gave up” trying to turn into the wind and just let the storm push them along. They did a bunch of sailory stuff. Eventually they threw their cargo overboard. Then they threw over their ship’s equipment and “anything else they could lay their hands on”. As the storm raged on they couldn’t see the sun or the stars (by which they navigated) and they gave up their last bit of hope. Blown helplessly more than 300 miles, they were hopeless, exhausted, and starving.
Now comes Paul in verse 21, gathering all the crew to say, “You should have listened to me…you would have avoided all this injury and loss.” He continues by telling them not to worry because they will not die. The ship will be lost, but God sent him an angel to assure him “for surely you will stand trial before Caesar!”
I pause for a moment to ponder don’t-worry-you-won’t-die-here-because-you’re-still-going-to-stand-trial-before-Caesar. Without further speculation, I conclude that Paul trusted God implicitly.
Verse 26 concludes the story, “But we will be shipwrecked on an island.”
Now I circle all the way back to the where I began…How does this apply to my life today?
Have I ever disobeyed God’s warning?
Have I ever sailed out into peril against even common wisdom?
Have I ever been swept away by the storms I got myself into?
Have I ever been way off track?
Have I ever felt helpless and hopeless after my sins had tossed me about in an endless storm?
Have I ever been spiritually starving?
Have I ever been spared by God’s goodness and mercy?
How many times could I have avoided all the injury and loss I brought into my own life through willful disobedience?
Has my life ever been shipwrecked at my own disobedient hands?
Satan enjoys tripping us up with our own egos. He whispers in our ears, “Oh, that story again. You already know everything there is to know about that. That story has nothing to do with your life.”
The Word of God still speaks Truth. It is so much more than mere written words on pages. It is not archaic, outdated, or inapplicable to modern life. What was true for those on that ship with Paul is still true. When we don’t heed God’s simple warnings, we end up shipwrecked. God knows what is ahead of every step we take. He gives us good guidelines in the Ten Commandments and further instructs us throughout the Bible. Nothing is a mere tale. The power of God’s Word transcends human thinking. No matter how many times we read a passage in the Bible, God will show us how to apply it to our lives. The more we obediently study His Word, the less we will be tempted to think that we know it all already.
And studying God’s Word is the best way to avoid being shipwrecked.