Friday, November 9, 2012

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday November 11, 2012

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(Faith can lead us through the storms of life)
(Acts 27)

Here in Acts 27, Paul’s long sought after appeal to argue his case before Caesar in Italy, is finally looking like it’s going to happen.  Paul, Luke, Aristarhcus, who was a Macedonian from Thessalonica, along with some other prisoners, all set sail on a cargo ship to Rome, under the guard of the Roman centurion, Julius.
Luke’s accurate description of this Mediterranean scene, impresses even today’s scholars, as he gives us a vivid account of the ports, sea vessels, and weather conditions in that area of the world in late October, and early November. There can be no doubt that this biblical account has to be based on the experiences of someone who had actually traveled these waters, during this particular season, at some point in their life. Luke tells us that they set sail from Caesarea on a ship that had come from Adramyttium (Add-rah-MITT- ee-um), an important sea port in northeastern Asia Minor. It was scheduled to make several stops along the coast of the province of Asia.
The following day they docked at Sidon, an ancient Phoenician seaport on the Mediterranean coast of northern Palestine. There we get a glimpse of the kindness that Julius shows to Paul as he permits him to go ashore and visit with friends, who were able to provide for some of the needs of this, now famous, apostle (v. 3).
After leaving Sidon the crew encountered some strong headwinds that made it very difficult to keep the ship on course. As a result, they were compelled to sail farther north between the island Cyprus and the mainland. They sailed along the coasts of Cilicia and Pamphylia, coming to shore at Myra, in the province of Lycia, a mountainous country in southwest Asia Minor. It was there where they changed ships, and boarded an Egyptian vessel from Alexandria, that would take them on to Italy (Vs. 4-6).
After several days of very rough waters they finally came near Cnidus (NYE-dus), a city of the province of Caria, which is situated on the extreme southwestern tip of Asia Minor. But, unfortunately the winds were too strong against them for them to land. As a result, they had to sail down the wind-sheltered side of Crete, past the cape of Salmone, where they struggled along the coast, finally arriving at Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea. 
This detour caused the crew to lose a great deal of time, and it was now becoming more and more dangerous with early winter approaching. Paul, who had traveled these waters before, went and spoke to the officers of the ship, because he believed that if they continued on their journey, they would no doubt meet with disaster. However, the officers made the decision to go on, in spite of Paul’s admonishments. They reasoned that Fair Havens was a port that was badly exposed to the winter elements, and that the port of Phoenix, which was located farther up the coast, would be a much safer place to spend the winter (Vs. 9-12).   
And so they ignored the voice of the man of GOD among them, and they sailed away into peril. When a light wind began to blow from the south, the heads of the ship thought for sure that they could make it to Phoenix. However, the weather then changed abruptly, and a wind, of typhoon strength, caught the ship and blew it out to sea. All they could do was surrender helplessly to the power of the wind (Vs. 13-15).
Having nothing else constructive that they could do, they pulled in the lifeboat to keep it from being damaged, and then girded up the battered ship with ropes to strengthen its hull. They were afraid of being driven across the sand bars of Syrtis on the African coast, and so they lowered the anchor as they were being helplessly pushed by the wind. The gale force winds continued on for several more days, blotting out the sun, and the stars, until all of their hopes (not Paul’s) were dashed (Vs. 16-20).
Then the man of GOD, Paul, stepped forward one more time, to say “I told you so”. Then he encouraged the frightened crew by telling them that they would lose the ship, but none of them would lose their lives. Paul goes on to tell them that an angel of “the GOD he served” had come to him the previous night, and assured him that they would all live, and he himself would stand trial in Rome, before Caesar. However, Paul disclosed to them that they would be shipwrecked on an island (Vs. 21-26), and they were (Vs. 39-44).
By this time Paul had garnered so much credibility that he was, quite literally, in charge of the ship. The lesson that can be learned here is that, authority is not something that rests on position alone, but rather, it is something that comes with integrity, and demonstrated competence. Once again Paul had been proven right by GOD before men, and now, he represented the hope of the entire 276-man crew.  
Even before this dramatic voyage, Paul had become accustomed to facing life-threatening situations that would more than buckle the average person. However, the apostle always believed what GOD told him, and that gave him strength to continue on with his work, and his calling. And so I find it appropriate to end this lesson by leaving you with the four anchors of faith;
·         Anchor yourself in GOD’s presence (believe)
·         Anchor yourself in GOD’s promise (believe)
·         Anchor yourself in GOD’s plan (trust)
·         Anchor yourself in GOD’s power (trust and believe)
Whenever we are in danger of being overwhelmed by the storms of life, GOD, will keep in perfect peace, the mind that stays on HIM, because we trust HIM. GOD will always bring the person who believes in HIM, through the storms of life, but not always necessarily on a sound, well-put-together ship. JESUS comes to us from across the storms of life, with HIS hands stretched out to save, speaking in a calm, clear voice, that bids us to “have no fear” (have faith). And sometimes when HE delivers us, HE may just have to bring us in on shipwrecked, broken pieces, because we were too prideful to consult with HIM, during fair weather.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

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