Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Recovery from Shipwreck

There is one thing in life that we all face, trouble. None of us is exempt; from time to time we all face trouble and if we’re not careful it can have a lasting affect on us. I can look back at my life and see certain times, certain traumas that shaped how I lived life. It wasn’t so much how the traumatic event ended up, but the issue itself that messed me up.

One of the things that I have come to understand about schizophrenia is that it can sometimes be onset by trauma. The trauma has already passed and life has gone on, but the person is caught in the trauma of the thing that has happened. They had built up a fantasy to escape the pain of that traumatic time in their life and after a time they can no longer separate the fantasy from the reality.

I was thinking about this and it is like the person suffering from schizophrenia has a reality of his own, it’s not the same reality to which the rest of us are responding. They are responding to their personal reality and trying to make sense out of it. To us who have the “real” reality what they are doing appears strange and doesn’t make sense. But there is a logic in their response, it’s the reality that they’re responding to that is the problem: That other reality was set into motion by the trauma they’ve suffered and the fantasy they’ve created in order to deal with it.

Problems in life can create trauma for us. A Cheating spouse, with his/her repeated violations attacks your self worth: A loved one’s death; a loss for which you were unprepared can result in loneliness and in some cases, survivor’s guilt. Debilitating disease, a loss of physical strength and self-reliance can result in a loss of self-esteem. Accidents that result in chronic pain or injury for you or death for someone else can destroy self-worth and leave massive guilt. These are devastating traumatic problems and if we’re not careful they can influence us in every aspect of our lives. In this post, I want to deal with those issues and our response to them.

Acts 27:9-22 (NKJV)
27:9 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. 12 And because the harbor was not suitable to winter in, the majority advised to set sail from there also, if by any means they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete opening toward the southwest and northwest, and winter there. 13 When the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their desire, putting out to sea, they sailed close by Crete. 14 But not long after, a tempestuous head wind arose, called Euroclydon. 15 So when the ship was caught, and could not head into the wind, we let her drive. 16 And running under the shelter of an island called Clauda, we secured the skiff with difficulty. 17 When they had taken it on board, they used cables to undergird the ship; and fearing lest they should run aground on the Syrtis Sands, they struck sail and so were driven. 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.


We have all from time to time experienced shipwreck. These are times of great stress in our lives. They are also often beyond our control.

Life threatening illness: People get sick
Loss of a close family member: Your husband or wife dies; maybe a child.
Loss of a job: Lay off due to downsizing

Or perhaps it’s an accident where someone is hurt or killed, a financial reversal, an act of nature, such as an earthquake or a tsunami. These are not just bad days I’m talking about these are terrible and lasting traumatic times for people. Sometimes these times are the result of our own misbehavior or sin, such as a drunk driving accident that causes an innocent person to be killed. It doesn’t matter how these things occur in our lives, the point is that shipwreck happens and it is important how we deal with it, in order to overcome the affect.

I wrote in the introduction about schizophrenia, but that isn’t necessarily the only result of trauma. I know in my own life that it can lead to severe depression and hopelessness. It can also lead to bitterness and hostility.

I read recently about a man who shot and killed eleven children in a school in Brazil. He left a note indicating that this was planned as a method of suicide. I’m sure that if we tracked down his past we would find that at some point he suffered shipwreck and he allowed that shipwreck to destroy him. I believe there is a pathway to recovering from shipwreck.

This event that’s taking place in our text is truly shipwreck. All of the people in this story are under extreme stress. We can read about their fear and anxiety. We can look at their responses to the events to understand the stress they were under.

In verse 18 they began to lighten the ship. The ship is carrying cargo. Cargo is the means of payment for the people operating the ship. This is how they make their money. This is their means of support and they are tossing it overboard to lighten the ship.

In verse 19 they began to toss overboard the tackle of the ship. This is the equipment that’s used to steer the ship, to set the sails to operate the ship. This is a panic move, because without the tackle it is virtually impossible to steer and direct the movements of the ship.

In verse 21 it says, “after long abstinence of food.” The fear, nausea and work kept them from eating. In verse 29 they prayed for daybreak. In verse 30, some of the sailors tried to escape in the lifeboats. This is a hugely traumatic event.

What they are experiencing is what we all experience during the traumatic events of our lives. The stress, the fear, the anxiety, sometimes we lose our appetites. We sometimes begin to panic and jettison the things that have been important to us.

Here’s an example, a family comes under financial problems and at first they begin to lighten the load, and they cut out the luxuries. They figure out what they can do with out. But sometimes the financial problem doesn’t get better; it damages the relationships within the family. Do you know what the number one source of arguments in marriages is? Finances. Sometimes the marriage is cast overboard. Which creates another shipwreck…for the children.

Not every problem in our lives is our fault. Paul is innocent in all this. He makes a statement, he says, “I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives.” But Paul is a prisoner, he doesn’t have a say in what happens to the ship. The centurion trusts the man who has experience in sailing. Paul is carried along.

This happens to all of us. Many of the problems we face in life because we have no choice: Your company downsizes; another driver makes a mistake. You can’t plan for every contingency in life.

People who are careful about their health are an example. They eat right, they watch their weight, they exercise: They do all the things that they should protect their health: The things that should help them to lengthen their lives. I read about a man just the other day that went to a baseball game and was beaten by two thugs and left with serious brain damage. His life completely and forever changed. His family suffers a shipwreck.

Much of life is unpredictable and ends up in trauma. Our response to that trauma can be the difference between recovery and devastation.

Responding to Shipwreck

We see a number of different responses to shipwreck in our text. We have talked about some of them as panicked and improper responses. In getting rid of the tackle of the boat, they have lost all control of their destiny. The Bible says the ship was driven by the wind. When we discard the things that give our lives direction, we also lose control of our destiny.

Have you ever seen someone become angry with God because of the circumstances in their lives? Things don’t go the way they want them to go and they blame God. “How can I believe in a God that would do this to me?”

By doing that you are tossing over the guiding principles of life. You’re refusing to read or hear the Word of God. You’re turning away from prayer. You’ve basically discarded the things that give our lives direction. Once you have done that where do you find comfort and release? By turning away from God you’re taking it all on yourself. This is what the sailors tried to do. They called upon their own strength and skills to save the ship…and even they lost hope. That’s why they tried to escape in the lifeboats; they were unable to save themselves.

But Paul’s response was different. He didn’t abandon God. Look at this:

Acts 27:22-26 (NKJV)
27:22 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. 26 However, we must run aground on a certain island."

Paul listened for God’s response to all this; and God did have a response. Do you realize that God often speaks in the midst of crisis? God speaks to Paul and gives him comfort and hope. Paul uses that confidence and hope that he has because of the words of God to give the others hope. People watch us in a crisis, and how we react can give them hope as well. The sailors were watching Paul. They grabbed hold of his words because they could see the confidence that Paul had in God. Paul makes a statement about God and about his faith in God.

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

The God to whom I belong, and I serve…I believe God. This is a testimony of faith. They heard those words and saw the confidence that Paul had in those words, and they were encouraged. God has spoken to Paul through this angel. In the midst of this huge crisis God speaks and the word of God brings comfort.

I sometimes feel sorry for atheists. They have nothing besides their own skills and strength to believe in. Where can comfort come from for them? They’re comes a point where you realize that you’re not going to be able get yourself out of trouble. There’s no hope and no comfort.

But God speaks to Paul and tells him “It’s going to be alright. Everybody can live.” The interesting thing here for Christians is this: Where does the comfort come from? It comes from God’s plan and destiny for Paul’s life. “You’re not going to die here, Paul. I have another plan for your life.”

Remember when the disciples were in the boat with Jesus and the storm is blowing and they all think they’re going to die? What’s Jesus doing, He’s sleeping. The disciples are panicked, they’re losing hope and Jesus is so relaxed He’s sleeping. Jesus can relax because He knows God’s plan and destiny and that His destiny doesn’t include drowning in this storm. What does he say to the disciples, “Oh you of little faith…” There’s comfort in knowing that God has a plan for your life.

God will speak to you in the midst of shipwreck, but you have to be listening for Him. Don’t jettison the thing that brings comfort and direction to your life.

The other thing that’s important here is that Paul tells the soldiers to cut away the lifeboats.

Acts 27:30-32 (NKJV)
27:30 And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, when they had let down the skiff into the sea, under pretense of putting out anchors from the prow, 31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, "Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved." 32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the skiff and let it fall off.

We think we can use the lifeboats to save ourselves, but in some cases getting into the lifeboats makes it worse.

In the book, Working on the Edge, author and King Crab fisherman Spike Walker, tells this story of the crabbing boat, The St. Patrick.

The St Patrick, a 158 ft vessel, encountered a nightmare storm in the Gulf of Alaska. The storm whipped up huge waves. A monstrous wave that rose twenty-five feet above the wheelhouse slammed into the boat and took out all navigation equipment and the engines lost power. The ship took on water and began to list at about fifteen degrees. And the batteries exploded from the contact with the seawater. The ship was in danger of sinking. The captain and the crew made a desperate decision, climbing into their survival suits and tying themselves together they jumped ship into the icy thirty-nine degree water, to swim to the lifeboat that had been washed off the stern of the boat. By morning all but two of the crewmembers were dead of exposure. Without a survival suit a person can only survive twenty minutes in water that is that cold, with their survival suits they died one by one overnight.

These people felt they had no chance if they stayed with the boat., they were afraid the boat would go down and suck them down with it. They abandoned the only hope of survival they had by choosing to jump. The saddest part is, that the boat didn’t go down. If they had stayed aboard the St. Patrick, most likely they would have all survived.

Sometimes, taking the lifeboats can be more dangerous that riding out the storm in faith.

Getting Back to Normal

Acts 27:33-37 (NKJV)
27:33 And as day was about to dawn, Paul implored them all to take food, saying, "Today is the fourteenth day you have waited and continued without food, and eaten nothing. 34 Therefore I urge you to take nourishment, for this is for your survival, since not a hair will fall from the head of any of you." 35 And when he had said these things, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; and when he had broken it he began to eat. 36 Then they were all encouraged, and also took food themselves. 37 And in all we were two hundred and seventy-six persons on the ship.

There is a young woman in America that was kidnapped at 11 years old and held as a sex slave for 18 years until she was discovered by two policewomen and rescued. The interesting thing is her comment at being asked about what has happened in her life over the last two years. She said, “I’m trying to get back to normal.”

Paul encourages the sailors and soldiers to eat and get back to normal. The Bible tells us that they were encouraged. What happens all to often, I think, is that we dwell on the hurts and disappointment? When we do that, that’s the time when bitterness and anger can set in. We can become fatalistic and always waiting for the next bad thing to happen. Depression and psychosis settle in and we lose part of ourselves.

Our text gives us a strategy for recovery from shipwreck:

First, we need to pray, read our Bibles and attend church. So that we can hear from God, so that we can listen for God to speak in the midst of a crisis.

Second, we need to cut away the lifeboats so that we will trust in God to bring us through. We cannot try to “tough it out” in our own strength, let God’s power help us.

Third, when we have made errors and cut away the things that support, sustain and guide our lives, we need to return to a normal Christian life, which are all the things in the fiorst two strategies.

I know that God can help us to recover from shipwreck. I’m not just giving you a theory here. I have experienced God’s life changing power of deliverance from this very thing. God is a miracle working God, who cares about our lives.

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