Saul of Tarsus is known worldwide as one of the greatest Christian missionaries. His inspired writings cover a large portion of the New Testament. He was born to Jewish parents who possessed Roman citizenship. As a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin, he persecuted Christians who were of The Way. While on the road to Damascus, with the intent of capturing followers of Jesus, God intervened and struck him blind. (Acts 9:3-7) A miraculous conversion occurred and Saul was given a new heart. One might say Jesus shipwrecked Saul’s plan to persecute the early church.
“Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” Acts 9:1-2 (NKJV)
“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV)
“In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.” Ephesians 1:11 (NKJV)
Saul’s education, his background as a Pharisee, his Roman citizenship, and his zeal contributed to his success as a missionary, once those credentials were subjugated to the will of God. God equipped him (and all of us) with gifts and traits necessary to accomplish His will. Before Paul was born, God commissioned him to take the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15 and Romans 11:13).
Paul suffered many trials in his life, including several shipwrecks. There were three accounted for within his writings
(2 Corinthians 11:25). However, there was a fourth one mentioned towards the very end of his life in Acts 27. On his way to Rome to stand trial, Paul was shipwrecked on the Island of Malta. God used this event to demonstrate His goodness and bring the good news of Jesus to the people of this island. This is a good reminder that God works through all circumstances to accomplish His will and purpose.
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:3-4 (NKJV)
“I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.” Job 42:2 (NKJV)
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NKJV)
“Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea.” 2 Co 11:24 (NIV)
As I have never endured an actual shipwreck, I can only imagine what a fearful experience it was for the soldiers, sailors and prisoners. The tempest they endured for fourteen days was so intense, the sun and stars were not visible. Verse Acts 27:20 states that they lost hope of surviving the storm.
“Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up.”
God used Paul to encourage and instruct the centurion, his soldiers, and the sailors on the ship. An angel appeared to Paul assuring him that he must be brought before Caesar and he would not die from a sinking ship. Paul had work to do on the island of Malta before heading to Rome.
“And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ Therefore, take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me. However, we must run aground on a certain island.” Acts 27:22-26 (NKJV)
We are but sojourners here and heaven is our final destination. But while we are on our spiritual trek, God will ask us to fulfill individual special missions for His purpose. If we get off course, He may allow a shipwreck. Weathering such a storm will strengthen our perseverance and faith. We need to take each day as it comes. What may seem like a disaster to us is actually an opportunity to glorify God and bless others. Perspective is the key!