From Hopeless to Hopeful
使徒行传 Acts 27:18-44
李万兵 Wanbing Frank Li, PhD
Years ago a submarine was hit by another big ship and quickly sank. Other ships rushed to the scene of disaster off the coast of Massachusetts. The men in the submarine worried about their life as the oxygen slowly gave out. A diver placed his ear to the side of the vessel and listened. He heard that someone was tapping out a question in Morse Code: “Is…there… any…hope?” That is the cry of all human beings: “Is there any hope?”
Hope is critical to one’s life. When a person does not have hope, he loses the purpose and the desire to live. It is hope that drives us to get up every morning. In the United States of America, on average 100 people die of suicidal death each day. They kill themselves not because they are poor, but because they have lost hope.
Acts 27 records a story about Paul and others aboard a ship experiencing a tremendous storm. Most of the people lost hope. But God used Paul to give them hope to survive the storm. Here is the story.
The next day as we were being violently storm-tossed, they began to jettison the cargo; and on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. (Acts 27:18-19)
Their ship was When they threw away their goods, they still had some hope. But things became worse.
Since neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small storm was assailing us, from then on all hope of our being saved was gradually abandoned. (Acts 27:20)
They lost all their hope and even refused to eat. They were basically waiting to die.
When they had gone a long time without food, then Paul stood up in their midst and said, “… now I urge you to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you.’ Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told. But we must run aground on a certain island.” (Acts 27:21-26)
Previously God gave Paul the promise that he would keep him safe to Rome. Paul did not need a new vision from God to believe that God would keep him safe. God gave Paul this new vision for the people with him, specifically telling him what would happen so that Paul could share with the people on board.
The merciful God knew exactly what Paul and other people were experiencing. So He gave Paul this new vision to guide them although so he did not seek for this vision. But the people on board did not believe what Paul said until they saw what happened later.
But as the sailors were trying to escape from the ship … Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, “Unless these men remain in the ship, you yourselves cannot be saved.” Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat and let it fall away. (Acts 27:30-32)
At least the centurion noticed that Paul was a wise man, so he took his suggestion to keep the sailors on board.
Until the day was about to dawn, Paul was encouraging them all to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have been constantly watching and going without eating, having taken nothing. Therefore I encourage you to take some food, for this is for your preservation, for not a hair from the head of any of you will perish.” Having said this, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of all, and he broke it and began to eat. All of them were encouraged and they themselves also took food. All of us in the ship were two hundred and seventy-six persons. (Acts 27:33-38)
Now the people there have some hope because of God’s vision and Paul’s encouragement. They ran the vessel aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern began to be broken up by the force of the waves. (Acts 27:41) Now the ship is damaged. So people lost hope again, especially the soldiers. They were afraid that the prisoners would take the opportunity to escape.
The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, so that none of them would swim away and escape; but the centurion, wanting to bring Paul safely through, kept them from their intention, … they all were brought safely to land. (Acts 27:42-44)
Again the centurion believed in Paul. After all, Paul predicted that the ship would be lost. The damage actually proved the Paul had a vision from God. So he decided to protect Paul and other prisoners. Because of the vision God gave to Paul, they were saved.
Why did God allow so much trials and troubles in Paul’s life? God has the ability to take Paul from anywhere in the world and deliver him directly to Rome. Why didn’t God do a miracle like that, instead he let Paul and others struggle in the sea for so long?
Paul and others with him experienced the storm and the deliverance from God. In the end, they came to the knowledge that God is faithful and almighty and they had a hope which was unseen, the hope of eternal life.
You may be experiencing some kind of trials right now. God may be using these situations to grow you faith so that you may trust him even more.