After many years of preaching Paul was put in prison for over two years. This time God did not set him free. He had a work for him to do in prison. He preached to governors and many who had not heard him before.
It was decided that Paul should go to Rome and be tried by Nero. Everywhere Paul went, he preached about Jesus. Everyone who was given the duty of guarding him, was told about God. Paul loved God so much he never kept quiet.
To get to Rome, he was sent in a big ship with sails. Now in that time, traveling by sea was very dangerous and difficult. It was often very uncomfortable and unpleasant.
The ship was directed North, South, East, or west by where the sun and stars were. When there was a storm, the captain of the ship was fearful to go into the open sea. During some parts of the year it was always stormy. It made travel almost impossible. They did not have the radio and radar and satelyte information that ships of today use.
As a prisoner, Paul was in chains and put on a ship going to Italy. Winter was approaching rapidly and sailing was very dangerous. The decision to go or to stay at Fair Havens was a hard one. Captain, soldiers, owner of ship, and passengers all had different ideas.
Finally the centurion in charge of Paul went to ask him what his counsel would be. Everyone, sailors and soldiers had learned to respect Paul.
He said that that they should not go on. If they did, the ship would be damaged. All lives on the ship would be in great danger. It was a very bad choice to go sailing at that time.
Well, the owner of the ship and many passengers didn't want to follow Paul's advice. They did not want to winter in Fair Haven. It was not a nice resort town. It would be uncomfortable.
The majority ruled and the centurion said they might as well sail on. Paul's advice was ignored. How do you think Paul felt? He had no choice but became very uncomfortable with all the rest of the passengers when high speed winds hit the sails not long after leaving harbor. Big waves crashed against their ship. Everything tumbled around. Many became sea sick. The passengers did all they could to survive. Their ship began to leak. The wind grew stronger and more violent. They threw out all their suitcases and cargo to make the ship lighter. They saved food supplies like grain.
The groaning timbers in the ship twisted and reeled and quivered and shook. The leak increased till everyone on the ship had to take their turn pumping out the water that was rushing in. No one felt like eating. For fourteen days the storm tossed them about.
Paul as always, trusted God to work things out. He had no fears for himself. His heart felt sorry for the poor frightened people around him. Many were very sinful and not ready to die. Many were prisoners because they had killed or stolen. They needed hope of being saved by Jesus. Paul felt sorry for these people with no hope. He prayed earnestly with God to spare their lives. God told him he would save every one on that ship. Wow, what news he had to share! Would he keep it to himself? Was he angry that he had to go through this storm just because they had not listened to his advice? Paul was full of forgiveness.
He hurried to the deck of the ship to share his good news. He stood up and yelled above the storm. It was easier to be heard for there was a lull in the hefty winds. Paul told everyone that they should have listened to him. If they had they would not have had this harm and loss. Then Paul told them an angel had spoken in the night to him. He told them God would save every life on that ship. That was 275 lives.
This gave a new spark of hope. But the stormy coast still made the soldiers think it was impossible. They wanted to flee in the life boat. Paul saw this and the centurion was notified. They quickly cut the ropes and the life boat fell into the sea without any passengers. This life boat was no longer a way of escape. Paul had said that anyone fleeing would not live unless they stayed with the ship.
Paul encouraged everyone to eat. Since all would have to swim for shore, they would need energy. They had not eaten for fourteen days. After they ate, they threw over extra grain to make things lighter.
A huge jerk and groaning noise filled their ears as the boat ran into the ground and the whole back of the ship broke off. Everyone panicked. Soldiers planned to kill all prisoners. If any escaped the soldier had to pay with his life. The centurion heard the plans and wanted to save Paul. He ordered that no one be killed.
All passengers had to swim or float on boards to shore. All made it to the shore. They built fires and warmed themselves.
While Paul was helping to put wood on fires, a very poisonous viper bit him. God kept him alive for he had more work to do. This shocked the villagers. They were sure Paul was a god. They wanted to hear anything he had to say. There were many people healed when Paul prayed for them.
During the three months on this island the entire shipwrecked company of 275 people on the ship were treated very kindly because of Paul and his work. The third blessing was that they sailed away with a load of provisions for their trip that were given in gratitude by the people on the island. They could have left hungry if it had not been for Paul.
Now if Paul had held the anger in his heart at the captain for not listening and following advice from heaven, all these blessings might not have happened. He might have not prayed for them. He could have rejoiced at their punishment. Instead he had love and prayed for them in their troubles. He had forgiveness and pity for them.
When they left the island, many knew and loved God because of Paul's witness.
(Story based on Acts 27, 28:1-10)