When all hope seemed lost, when they had done all they could do, the sailors were willing to abandon ship. Every man for himself! They were ready to quit. As far as they were concerned, they had tried and failed, so why bother to fight the inevitable?
Fortunately, Paul was able to convince them to stay aboard the ship. I say he convinced them, but actually, he assured the soldier that the only ones who would survive were those who remained on the boat. As far as I know, this was the same soldier who was supposed to be guarding Paul and making sure the apostle didn’t escape. Ironic, huh? Anyway, the soldier evidently knew Paul well enough to trust him and cut the ropes holding the lifeboat, sending the craft crashing down into the storm-tossed waves. Wouldn’t you have loved to have seen the faces of those sailors? Confused. Irate. And likely hungry.
According to Paul, these men had fasted for two weeks. Two weeks! It’s only been two hours since I ate lunch, and I’m already hungry. Two hours, not two weeks! Now, I will tread lightly here because I don’t want to be misunderstood. There is a time and place for fasting. The Bible makes that clear. So, please understand I am not condemning the practice. When God tells you to fast, by all means, fast.
But with these sailors, this was neither the time nor the place. They were in a situation where they required sustenance. They needed strength. Paul knew that and told them as much. “Wherefore I pray you to take some meat: for this is for your health.” I feel like Paul was saying, “Hey, guys, it’s not over, so don’t quit living just yet.” And that, my friends, is the message for us today. It’s not over, so let’s not give up on life. Instead, let’s continue doing what we know to do.
One of my favorite quotes is “Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light.” During a storm, things can grow dark and confusing. It’s difficult to tell right from wrong, up from down, and even friend from foe. In the midst of a storm is the wrong place and time to make life-altering decisions, significant changes, or snap judgments. It’s not the time to try something new but rather to keep doing what we already know we’re supposed to do.
Oddly enough, when troubles hit Christian people, so many pull away from their faith. They stop attending church, forsake their prayer and Bible reading, and even draw themselves into isolation. They quit doing all the things they know they should do and often go seeking answers elsewhere. Sometimes in a bottle. Sometimes in a one-night stand. Sometimes on a dark bridge in the middle of nowhere. The storm hit before they had established a plan, and when it did, their world fell apart.
I won’t tell you it’s easy to keep on when every fiber of your being tells you to give up. It’s not easy at all! It’s difficult to continue doing the right things even when you know it’s the right thing to do. A storm is still a storm, and no part of it is painless. But as Paul told the sailors, you won’t make it if you abandon ship. Our only hope is to keep doing what we know to do until God tells us otherwise.
The good news is He’ll give us the strength to do it. Remember, we’re not alone in the storm. He’s there with us, holding us, guiding us, encouraging us. We discussed in yesterday’s devotion how God would hold us when we don’t have the strength to hold on to Him. Well, He’ll also give us the strength to persevere.
Don’t give up! I know the storm has been long and your strength is weak, but God will get you through this. Just continue your efforts, and whatever you do, don’t abandon ship!