AUGUST 26th, 2018 PASTOR DON PIEPER
In Paul's Footprints ACTS 27:1-2a, 4-15,18-26; 27-44
It's quite the story isn't it? It's got adventure, danger, suspense, drama, the supernatural, the supra-nautical! It's really something! One author refers to it as “the greatest sea voyage story in the Bible and one of the best in all of Greek and Roman literature.” (Gerhard Krodel)
It's not the first time Paul has been rocked by a gail at sea. In his letters to the church in Corinth Paul writes: “Three times I've been shipwrecked. Once I even spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea!” (2 Cor 11:25) Strange that Luke doesn't take the time to tell us of those ordeals. Still, Luke spends more time telling this story than any other story he tells of Paul in the Book of Acts. Why is that, I wonder? Well, one, as I said, is, its just a great story. And two, there are some great insights for those of us who seek to know and follow Christ, especially when we, too, face stormy seas!
In modern times, when there's a big story, reporters rush to the scene and try and get an exclusive interview with a first hand witness or two. So I've managed to arrange an interview with an eye-witness to the events Luke describes in Acts 27. So with no further adieu, would you please give a warm welcome to our guest..., Aristarchus of Thessalonica...!
Check Out a video of this :
Aristarchus: Thank you...! Thank you, very much!
Pastor Don: Welcome! Welcome Aristarchus! I'm so happy you could join us, this morning.
A: Yes! Thank you. It's good to be here!
D: So Aristarchus, Luke reports that you were part of this amazing sea voyage in which Paul and everyone on board wound up getting ship-wrecked. Is that right?
A: Yes, that's right. All I can say is its a good thing I can swim – Stroke, stroke, stroke...!
D: Okay! So, I understand you're a friend of Paul's. Can you tell us how you met?
A: Sure. We met on Paul's second missionary trip when he came to Macedonia and told us in Thessalonica how Jesus was the Messiah the Jews had long been waiting for.
D: I see. And that's when you became a follower of Jesus?
A: That's right! Paul spoke of how Jesus was anointed in the Holy Spirit and did amazing
things in the power of the Spirit and Paul demonstrated the same power in the things he
said and did. I came to believe in Jesus who is still doing amazing things!
D: That's great! So when, exactly, did you hook up with Paul?
A: Well, a few years after our church in Thessalonica was born Paul returned to encourage
us. I was so moved that I asked if I could come along and help on his third trip.
D: I hear you guys ran into some trouble in Ephesus?
A: Yeah, that was a bit of nasty business, it was. The whole city was in an uproar!
D: Luke tells us that “everyone rushed to the amphitheater, dragging along Gaius and
Aristarchus, who were Paul's traveling companions from Macedonia.” (Acts 19:29)
A: Yup, that was a drag! Never a dull moment! Hangin’ out w/ Paul is anything but boring!
D: I bet! So that trip ended when Paul returned to Jerusalem... The reason Paul was on
your ship was because he'd been arrested and was being taken to Rome to stand trial.
A: That's correct.
D: So what were you doing on that ship? Doesn't sound like much of a pleasure cruise.
A: No – it wasn't. Have you ever eaten what they serve on those ships?
D: Fish and chips?
A: Not exactly... I was on the ship to support Paul, by the way – and to learn from him.
D: Okay. So what happened?
A: Well, you heard Luke's account. We actually wound up on several ships. There was the
ship we took from Caesarea to Sidon, then another from Sidon to Myra, then we hopped
on an Egyptian cargo ship that was headed to Rome. After several days of putzing along
the coast we arrived at the port of Cnidus.
D: Gesundheit! Wait – Cnidus...? Never heard of it!
A: And for good reason. The next day we sailed off to Crete, hugging the shoreline until
we got to the port of Fair Havens. It was fair but it was no heaven!
D: I see. And that's when Paul talked to the ship's officers, wasn't it?
A: That's right. He warned them of the trouble ahead. He prophesied that the cargo on
board would be lost, the boat would be shipwrecked and our very lives would be in peril But the ship's captain was determined to get to Phoenix for the winter.
D: He wanted to sail to Phoenix, Arizona? He must've been a snowbird, huh?
A: Snowbird? Arizona, what's that? No, Phoenix is further up the coast of Crete.
D: Oh. Okay, so what happened? Did you ever make it to Phoenix?
A: No, we didn't. Once we set sail from Fair Havens we're blown out to sea by a monster
typhoon. It was like being caught up in a tempest. It was terrifying! The captain and
his crew did everything they could – tying ropes around the hull, securing the life-boat, tossing overboard precious cargo and gear, even using the anchor to slow us down!
D: Sounds pretty intense!
A: Intense doesn't cut it. We were all...absolutely petrified.
D: So what was the scariest moment for you, personally?
A: I'm not sure. That stretch when we're in the midst of the storm, and clouds blocked out the sun during the day and the moon and stars at night. It was just so utterly dark!
D: That would be scarey...
A: Then again, when the captain and his crew decided to abandon ship and leave us to our
fates – that was intense. None of us knew how to man or navigate a ship. I've never felt
so helpless or powerless in my life! Without the stars to navigate, we had no idea where
D: Sounds pretty discouraging alright.
A: Maybe worst of all, though, was when the ship hit a shoal and ran aground off the shore
of Malta. That's when the crew wanted to kill the prisoners. After all we'd just been thru I don't know what I would've done if they'd killed Paul. And if that wasn't bad enough, we were told we'd have to swim for it! I'm no fish but I sure do flounder!
D: Uh-huh. So tell us, Aristarchus, what helped you prevail in the midst of the gale?
A: Hmm. Well, I'd say it was the Christ I saw in Paul.
D: The Christ you saw in Paul? How do you mean?
A: Well, there was a number of things. There was the prophetic warning he gave that I mentioned. That increased our confidence that God was speaking to Paul and that He
was speaking to Paul on our benefit. When his prophecy came true, it confirmed that
God was using him to encourage us, to help us.
D: I see. That makes sense.
A: Also the way he talked of God's plan. When he told us of how an angel had visited him
there on the ship and told him that nothing would keep him from reaching Rome, that
God's plan to invade the enemy's territory in heart of the Roman empire would prevail,
gale or no gale, I was encouraged to know that in serving that plan I was exactly where
God wanted me to be and doing what he wanted me to do. That gave me courage....
D: No doubt, it did!
A: Also the way Paul demonstrated God's grace to everyone on board was inspiring – the
way he spoke to the ship's captain and his Roman guard with respect and kindness; and the way he urged the sailors not to abandon ship, knowing that if they did they would all
perish, reminded me of the stories of Jesus loving on sinners and pagans. Paul gave me
a glimpse of God's grace in human flesh and gave me a model of grace to aspire to.
D: Fascinating! Anything else?
A: Yeah. Paul's calm courage, even in the darkest, deadliest moments of the storm, taught
me something about what true courage looks like. It's not that Paul wasn't afraid. He
faced the same onslaught of wind and wave that I did, that we all did, but Paul wasn't
undone by it. Courage is not the absence of fear, but faith in God while feeling fear.
As Paul said, “Take courage! For I believe God – all will happen just as he's said!” Acts 27:25
D: That's powerful! No wonder you like to hang out with Paul!
A: I do! I like to hang out with those who bring Christ to life! It's all about Jesus!
D: Agreed. Thanks so much, Aristarchus. It's been a treat! Thanks for joining us!
A: Absolutely! Just don't mention the fish and chips. I don't think I can eat any more fish!
Right! Would you give it up for my friend, Aristarchus of Thessalonica...!
Good ole' Aristarchus – his and Paul's Christ-centered focus gave them great courage. We can learn a lot from them as we face similar storms today. Consider again, the following four factors:
One, God provides his people powerful spiritual gifts! The one that came into play here was the spiritual gift of prophecy. When Paul offered a prophetic word that was later fulfilled, it encouraged others with the confidence that God was speaking to them, that God cared. The other spiritual gifts of healing and words of knowledge, for example, serve a similar purpose. The Holy Spirit speaks thru these gifts to encourage the church and equip us to courageously do God's will. For more on how God uses the gift of prophecy to this end check out the sermon from July 29th...
Two, Paul pointed to God's plan to spread Christ's kingdom against all odds. Specifically, Paul spoke of God's plan to bring the gospel to Rome, invading the enemy's realm of darkness with the light of Christ. God made it clear to Paul that nothing would prevent Paul from doing so...!
This was in sync with God's plan, as Jesus himself embodied it. As Scripture testifies: “The Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8) And what are those evil works? Whatever keeps people impoverished, captive to despair and darkness, spiritually blind or oppressed, physically or morally ill – those are the works of the devil. These are the storms that assail us from within as well as without. But in his most clear mission statement, Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free...” (Luke 4:18-19)
Whenever we're helping that happen we can be confident that, like Aristarchus and Paul, we're right where we belong! Praying for healing and deliverance puts us in the eye of the storm and dead center in God's plan for us and those around us. My friends, you're right where you belong!
Three, our lives are enriched, no matter the storm, as we live out God's grace.
Paul's grace-filled approach to those on board serves as an encouraging model to follow. No conversions are mentioned but that's not really the point. The point is being faithful to the Spirit of Christ. No one I know of ever came to faith by losing an argument with a Christian, but many have had their hearts softened...
One such heart was that of Rosaria Butterfield who described herself in an interview with Christianity Today in 2013 as “A leftist lesbian professor who despised Christians”. “Brainless, pointless, dangerous – that's what I thought of Christians and their god, Jesus, who in paintings looked as powerful as a Breck Shampoo commercial model”, she wrote in a article that was published in a local newspaper. The responses to her article she filed under 'hate mail' or 'fan mail', save one.
In a kind and inquiring spirit, a Presbyterian pastor from Syracuse, NY, invited her to meet for dinner to explore further her conclusions. Eventually she did just that and was amazed that she soon became friends with pastor Ken and his wife, Floy. “They entered my world. They met my friends. We exchanged books and talked freely though our worldviews differed greatly. They did not treat me like a project nor did they act as if such conversations were polluting them.”
Then one day, I found myself in their church, feeling conspicuous with my butch hair-cut, and Despite myself, I came to Jesus, openhanded and naked. In this war of worldviews, Ken was there. Floy was there. The church that had been praying for me for years was there. I was a broken mess, my con-version was a train wreck, but the voice of God sang a sanguine love song in the rubble of my world.”
(from Phillip Yancey's Vanishing Grace)
Rosaria Butterfield, now herself a pastor's wife, came to faith by the tender care and embodied grace of God through two Christians who pointed to Jesus, who looked at (her) and loved (her)...
Finally, four, we come to be courageous Christians by trusting in God in the midst of the storm. No one has inspired me more directly in this way than Nick Taylor, who, while his health failed, clung to Christ and showed such amazing resilience and courage, that he inspired everyone around him. Like Paul, he had an encounter with his risen Lord when in Alpha he was filled with the Holy Spirit, and through that encounter was able to weather any storm, even that of losing the fight to illness.
Nick and so many others I've known over the years, have reflected such courage precisely because they were able to trust in Jesus, because they knew he is good and good to his word, so “Take courage! Believe God – all will happen just as he's said!” (Acts 27:25)