Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Taking Sailing Advice from Prisoners

There is a story in Acts 27 that I have always found comical.  Paul has boarded a ship headed for Rome as one of a large number of prisoners (remember from yesterday that he had appealed to Caesar and was being taken there for his hearing). As they are travelling, the ship runs into some rough weather and Paul predicts that they will end up losing their cargo and risking their lives if they don't stop traveling until the weather changes. And then Luke, the author of Acts, makes this statement: "But the officer in charge of the prisoners listened more to the ship's captain and the owner than to Paul" (Acts 27:11, NLT).   The fact that Luke felt compelled to make that statement in the first place has always been funny to me.
I mean, who would the officer in charge of the prisoners listen to? A prisoner on his way to his trial or the captain and owner of the ship? If I were the Roman centurion, I know I wouldn't be listening to some prisoner who thought it was his business to tell me what to do.

So the centurion listens to the captain and owner of the ship, who should have known better than Paul, and they end up in exactly the predicament that Paul predicted. The ship gets caught in a massive storm, during which they toss over all of their cargo and give up hope of being saved. But when Paul speaks up again, encouraging them and preparing them to survive the coming shipwreck, however, they do listen to Paul, even when the soldiers come up with a plan to abandon the prisoners to the sea. Everyone on the ship ends up being saved, due in part, to Paul's choice to speak his mind both before the storm and during the storm.

Several times I have found myself in a situation similar to what Paul experienced, firmly convinced of a particular truth, even when there were people around me who should theoretically know more than I do who are contradicting me. Sometimes, God lays something on our hearts to say, even when there are more respectable sources that God could use. Maybe like Paul, you have felt the Spirit's compulsion to speak up and been ignored because people who knew more contradicted you, and maybe you have wondered why God wanted you to speak up if no one was going to listen.

The next time you find yourself in that position, remember what happened to Paul in this story. No one listened the first time he spoke up, but if Paul had not spoken the first time, no one would have listened to him the next time. God does not always call us to speak up because people will listen and change their minds or follow the advice we give. Sometimes, God wants us to speak because God is laying the groundwork for the future. When you speak up, no one may think you have any clue what you are talking about, but God can use your voice now to give people reason to listen to you down the road.

When the Spirit of God compels you to speak, don't remain silent because wiser, more experienced people think differently than you do. Don't be intimidated because you don't have the formal education or training that other people may have. Learn to recognize God's voice and be confident that, when God wants you to speak, there is a purpose, even if that purpose is not immediately apparent. If you are discouraged because you have obeyed God's call and have been ignored, remember that God plans  for the long-term. Your seemingly futile act of obedience might be exactly what God uses in the future.

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