Monday, February 9, 2009

Shipwrecks and Snakebites

Based on Acts 27-28

Shipwrecks and snakebites…can leave you disoriented. They tend to occur (as does the subsequent disorientation) when things don’t go as planned, or as we planned, at any rate.

Skim Acts 27:1 – 28:10 with the following questions in mind:

  • How many course corrections did Paul and his travelling companions have to make?
  • What kind of obstacles did they have to overcome?
  • How did God show up along the way to encourage and protect Paul?
  • How did God use Paul throughout his journey?
  • When all was said and done, what do you think stood out most to Paul from his experience?

Now it’s your turn:

How many course corrections have you had to make recently?

Maybe you feel like you’ve been struggling to make headway, fighting to stay on course. Paul certainly experienced that.

Listen to some of the words Luke recorded:
  • · The winds were against us
  • · We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty
  • · The wind did not allow us to hold our course
  • · We moved along the coast with difficulty
  • · Much time had been lost
  • · Sailing had already become dangerous
  • · Paul warned them, ‘Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous’
  • · A wind of hurricane force
  • · The ship was caught in the storm
  • · So we gave way to it and were driven along
  • · We took such a violent battering from the storm
  • · Neither the sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging…

What kind of obstacles are you trying to overcome?

In addition to the seemingly unending, violent weather, don’t forget that Paul started out on this journey as a prisoner, bound for his trial in Rome. And that was just the start.

His warnings of danger were ignored by those in charge.

A change of wind turned out NOT to be the good news they had hoped for. The lifeboat, and even the ship itself, were in danger of capsizing. The cargo had to be thrown overboard to help them survive, along with the equipment for sailing the ship. They had to destroy the lifeboat to keep the experienced sailors from abandoning them.

They were all in constant suspense, to the point that they didn’t eat for 14 days. The soldiers guarding them planned to kill them. The ship began to break up and they had to abandon it to save their lives.

The storm continued as they reached land, and when they built a fire to warm themselves, a deadly viper was in the branches! People judged him wrongly, condemned him, and ignored him.

Have you ever had a stretch like that?

How is God showing up to encourage and protect you along the way? How is He using you in other people’s lives during these times?

God caused Paul’s Roman guard to show kindness to Paul. God allowed Paul to reconnect with friends, friends who cared for his needs. God used Paul to warn the crew of the difficulties ahead.

When they went ahead anyway, God sent an angel to encourage Paul and to offer words of hope, courage, and a promise that they would be safe. The Roman guard listened to Paul’s warning when the sailors were going to abandon them. Paul ministered to the sailors, feeding them, and encouraging them to stay strong and not give up hope. God preserved their lives when the ship wrecked on the sandbar.

God kept the Roman guards from carrying out a plan to kill Paul, and he supernaturally protected him from the viper’s poisonous bite. God provided a home and a warm welcome with the island’s leader.

Finally, God gave Paul a platform for ministry. He opened the door for Paul to heal many people in Jesus’ name.

When the time came to leave, the bedraggled prisoner who first arrived on the island left in high honor, with all his needs supplied for the journey ahead.

What an amazing story of an underdog battling against the odds of circumstance, nature, and man, yet being used by God in the midst of the struggle. In the midst of it all, God protected Paul, preserving him for the purposes God had in mind for him. He guided Paul through the storm, encouraging Paul, and using Paul to pass on the wisdom and encouragement he received from God.

What about you? Where is God calling you to keep focused on Him in the midst of the storm? How are you passing that encouragement along to others?

When all is said and done, what will you focus on—the hardships along the way, or the grace of God that carries you through, gives you opportunities to minister to others, and opens new doors to reveal His grace as a direct result of the journey you’ve taken?

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.—Paul, writing to the Corinthian believers in 2 Corinthians, chapter 1, verses 3-11

To view the worship celebration Bible study on which this Next Step is based, visit

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