On November 29, 1981, the St. Patrick, a one fifty-eight foot fishing vessel and its crew of twelve pulled out of its slip in Kodiak, Alaska, in search of King Crab in the Bering Straight. On the first night of their journey a storm began building. Winds were whipped up to one hundred miles per hour, waves began crashing over the handrail and smashing onto the deck: The sailors began to put on their Arctic survival suits.
The temperature of the water in the Bering Straight is about thirty-nine degrees Fahrenheit. A Human body thrown into water of that temperature will become hypothermic and die in about 20 minutes.
The storm continued to build, waves were rising up to twenty-five feet above the deck, and slamming into the bulkheads of the ship. The galley was destroyed. Men were thrown completely out of their bunks where they had huddled to ride out the storm by the force of the storm.
The captain turned the bow of the ship into the wind, so that the waves would strike the ship’s bow first, to keep the ship from capsizing. That’s when all hell broke loose.
A rogue wave is usually a wave traveling across the pattern of the waves; this wave is not caused by the storm. Because the ship was turned into the storm the storm proof glass of the wheelhouse was unable to protect the wheelhouse from this wave. The wave crashed into the wheelhouse and destroyed the navigation equipment. The water then rushed down a gangway though an open hatch and poured into the engine room. The ship lost all power, was not able to move forward, so all steering was lost. It foundered and began to list to fifteen degrees starboard.
The situation looked hopeless and the order was given to abandon ship. The lifeboat had been lost, washed overboard, so the crew lashed themselves together and jumped into the icy sea. They had jumped into the midst of the storm; into the darkness of the night. Only the lights of the ship could be seen until all was dark.
One by one they died, through out the night for the next thirty-six hours. Only two of them survived. What happened to the St. Patrick? Look at this conversation between the two survivors, from “Working on the Edge”, by Spike Walker:
The next day, Thomas learned that one other crewmate had survived the ordeal. As he lay recovering in a Kodiak hospital bed, nurses wheeled in Bob Kidd for a visit.
“I can’t believe it,” Thomas confided to his good friend. “I would never have believed that a ship built like the St. Patrick could have gone down as quickly as she did.
Bob sat upright and turned and looked at Wally Thomas in astonishment.
“Wally,” said Kidd, It didn’t go down. It didn’t sink. They found the St. Patrick floating the day after we abandoned ship. They’re towing it in right now!”
They had jumped too soon. All they had to do was ride it out. The ship was found twenty-four hours after they had abandoned ship; twelve hours before the last person died.
I want to post a message that I have entitled, “Shipwreck.”
Acts 27:7-11 (NKJV)
27:7 When we had sailed slowly many days, and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, the wind not permitting us to proceed, we sailed under the shelter of Crete off Salmone. 8 Passing it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea. 9 Now when much time had been spent, and sailing was now dangerous because the Fast was already over, Paul advised them, 10 saying, "Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives." 11 Nevertheless the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman and the owner of the ship than by the things spoken by Paul.
Acts 27:18-25 (NKJV)
27:18 And because we were exceedingly tempest-tossed, the next day they lightened the ship. 19 On the third day we threw the ship's tackle overboard with our own hands. 20 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. 21 But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, "Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. 22 And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, 24 saying, 'Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.' 25 Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me.
Acts 27:40-44 (NKJV)
27:40 And they let go the anchors and left them in the sea, meanwhile loosing the rudder ropes; and they hoisted the mainsail to the wind and made for shore. 41 But striking a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the violence of the waves. 42 And the soldiers' plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim away and escape. 43 But the centurion, wanting to save Paul, kept them from their purpose, and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land, 44 and the rest, some on boards and some on parts of the ship. And so it was that they all escaped safely to land.
Decisions can Lead to Shipwreck
Every day we make decisions, every day we can make decisions that cause shipwreck. Each and every day we look at some aspect or another of our lives and make a decision. Most of those are simple decisions. Will I get up and go to work? What will I have for breakfast? Some are more difficult. Should I accept this job offer or wait for another? Our entire life is made up of decisions.
Every thing we do stems from a decision we have made, and sometimes we can make a decision that causes problems in our lives. We can make a decision that can haunt us for their rest of our lives.
I was listening to a radio psychology show, not long ago, and a young woman that called into the show was in the midst of wrestling through a decision she needed to make. Her father and mother were divorced. Her father had remarried and this young woman was very angry at the new wife and didn't like her. So, she was wrestling with the decision to tell her father that she didn't want his wife in her life.
The radio host put this decision into perspective by telling her that the real decision she was struggling with was whether or not she wanted her father in her life, because the father wouldn't leave his wife and destroy the relationship. The girl was deciding if her father was worth putting up with the wife. Her decision came down to this: A relative of this woman had molested her and her father had ignored the signs of abuse. He feigned ignorance, rationalizing that it didn't really happen. So now this young woman was making a decision that would affect her family for generations, all because of a decision that her father made to make life simpler for him and not confront that issue with his wife and protect the child at the same time – SHIPWRECK!
Do you know what’s really sad? We make decisions that deep and far-ranging, so cavalierly, so quickly.
A friend of mine made a decision that way. He had been a Christian for a number of years and made a decision to walk into a strip club. He rationalized it in his mind. He said he needed to see what it was that had such a pull on the lives of other men. This is one of the things from which he himself had been delivered and he walked in there making a decision to compromise his testimony and place his entire destiny at risk – SHIPWRECK!
There are people who have left their churches; walked out angry and bitter slamming you and the fellowship and your pastor, because they had made a decision that they weren’t willing to deal with some issue in their own life. Sometimes, it’s easier to get mad at the pastor than face the painful truth that you aren’t living right. How many times have you seen someone flushing their lives and relationships over some issue of pride in their life? It’s like abandoning ship in the midst of a storm – SHIPWRECK!
A decision you make today can destroy your life and your destiny. The captain of the St. Patrick decided they had to abandon ship. He should have tried to ride it out. He made the wrong decision. So did the centurion in our text, he decided that even though it was late in the year, even though he had been warned, even though they had already encountered difficulty that they would attempt to sail on. It was a decison that led directly to the loss of the vessel off the shore of Malta. His decision led directly to shipwreck. We need to be careful because our decisions can lead to same fate for us.
Storms in the Middle of God’s Will
Even when you’re in the middle of God’s will for your life, storms can blow up. Those storms can cause shipwreck in your life, as well. In our text Paul is in the middle of God’s will for his life. He’s doing exactly what God called him to do. He’s been preaching the Gospel. He’s been laboring for souls. He’s been faithful to God’s call on his life and yet he finds himself in the midst of the storm and the shipwreck. We see in the text that Paul is in God’s will at the very moment of the shipwreck:
Acts 27:21-25 (NKJV)
27:21 But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, "Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. 22 And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, 24 saying, 'Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.' 25 Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me.
We can see it as he speaks to the Angel of God in verse 24, who is speaking of the destiny that Paul must live out, “You must be brought before Caesar.” God had a plan for Paul that included being brought before Caesar. Paul was right in the middle of that plan, en route to being seen by Caesar and yet look at the storm that he encountered as the devil tried to short-circuit what God had planned. Believe me I know what’s happening here. I've encountered this in my own life.
A number of years ago I was outreaching for an event that we had planned. I was walking across a parking lot, because there were some young men that I had seen before and I wanted an opportunity to witness to them, and invite them to this event. I looked both ways, I’m disabled and very careful about crossing the street, because I can’t move quickly to get out of the way. A pickup truck came from around a corner, knocked me down and literally ran over me. The truck went on leaving me lying bleeding in the gutter.
Approximately two weeks later, in the paychecks of the people I worked with, as a dispatcher, was a questionnaire asking which dispatcher the men preferred, me or the other man. It asked pointed questions, “Is dispatch helpful?” “Has your equipment ever been late?” “Who is the better dispatcher?’ They wanted the dirt, they were actually asking who should we fire? You decide.
Five days later at 3:45 am I woke up with severe pains in my chest, like a cramp that spread to my shoulders and jaw. I wound up in the hospital for three days with a week off work after that. On the very day I returned to work I was fired from my job.
I was in the middle of God’s will for my life. I was preaching the Gospel. I was outreaching and following up on new believers. I was in the midst of doing what I was called to do, and I still found myself in the midst of a storm as I was pummeled by wave after wave. I called it “Hell Month.”
Matthew 5:45 (NKJV)
5:45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Being in God’s will doesn't always save us from going through things. It doesn't mean that some rogue wave isn't going to bust through and stop us in our tracks. We have to be prepared for what comes at us. On the St. Patrick there was a hatch left open and water poured through it into the engine room and destroyed the engines. That stopped all forward momentum and that took away the ability to steer the ship. In our lives faith and prayer are the hatchways that protect the engines and keeps us moving forward in His will.
In our text it was Paul’s faith that encouraged them and kept them moving forward. God has a plan for your life as well.
Shipwrecks can be survived. You don’t have to go down with all hands. The key is what you decide to do.
One thing that happens is that as we testify, many times we paint a picture of a changed life. That’s absolutely genuine; my life has never been the same. I am a completely different person. I think, though, that we sometimes leave the impression that bad things will never happen again… but they do. Life does not become whipped cream and cherries. We all have to go through things. We all have struggles we have to deal with. Life can still be difficult, and we need to be prepared to deal with that.
People get saved and they think, “All my troubles are behind me. I have no more worries.” If we’re not prepared we can be overwhelmed and decide that we made a mistake in salvation and begin to look outside for comfort. We can think, “I never went through all of this before I got saved.” At that point we think life was better before we got saved. That happened to Israel in the desert.
God manifested Himself in power and delivered them from Egypt. We haven’t seen God move with that kind of power since: The plagues: The miracles: The Red Sea parted: The Egyptian army destroyed…powerful stuff. Yet, just a few weeks later the Israelites were whining about Leeks. Look at this:
Numbers 11:5-6 (NKJV)
11:5 We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; 6 but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!"
Leeks are giant onions. That’s how warped we can get. Here, God is providing all for them. He delivered them. He manifested His power, destroyed the Egyptians and now is raining food down on them from Heaven, and they don’t like what He’s giving them. It sounds like my kids at dinner, “I don’t like Manna!” "Really? What did you do to deserve a vote?” The Israelites were ready to jump ship. They were going to give up. Sometimes, we think the answer is to quit, to abandon ship, to go somewhere else and start over. Do you know that when you leave you take you with you?
In the 1970s there was a revolutionary group called the Symbionese Liberation Army, the SLA. They kidnapped Patty Hearst. Robbed a bank and most of them died in a shootout with the cops at a house in Compton, CA. One woman, Kathleen Soliah, went underground, moved to a different state, and became someone else. She abandoned ship. Twenty-five years later whe was arrested and charged with attempted murder on a police officer and murder for her role in a bank robbery and was sentenced to twenty-five years to life. She couldn’t hide from herself. How many of us have tried that?
Things get too hard, we’re confronted by our own sin and we think we can just go somewhere else. We try to abandon ship, but we can't do that, because we still have that sin in our lives. The best thing to do is to ride it out. Huddle together, to keep away spiritual hypothermia. Your brothers and sisters want to help you, not see you drown. Your pastor wants to help you, not see your destiny destroyed. Batten down the hatches. Don’t let your forward momentum be destroyed, so that you can continue to steer through the storms. Finally, don’t abandon ship. The biggest mistake of this illustration was that they left the ship when it wasn’t sinking.
We’ve seen people leave the church, and in leaving they have begun to drown. All because they made a decision that it was safer to leave the ship and battle the waves on their own. Ride it out. The key to survival is in the decisions that you make.