Acts 27: 21-26
After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: ‘Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, “Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.” So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.’
This is Paul’s moment where he shows what real unsinkable character looks like. Real character isn’t following the majority or being dictated to by what you feel. Real character isn’t shown when the sun is shining and you’re safe in harbour.
Real character is shown in a crisis. The storm doesn’t make a person what he or she is so much as it reveals what is already inside them.
We’re all like tubes of toothpaste – when we’re squeezed, what’s inside always comes out.
And so here, when everyone has given up all hope, when there is nothing but despair, that’s when Paul comes to the fore and steps up and shows real leadership.
You see the captain and the owner of the boat and the centurion might have had the position and title of leader on the boat. But real leadership isn’t based on position and title – it’s someone who is willing to step up in the middle of chaos and in the midst of a crisis and take control.
You don’t need the title of a leader to be one. Some of you are leaders in your families, in your classrooms, in your workplaces, in your community organisations. You don’t wear a badge and no one calls you leader – but when they don’t know what to do, they look to you for advice, when things get too heavy, you step up and carry the extra weight, when it all seems to be falling apart, you speak fresh courage and inspire hope to press forward into the future.
A leader is someone who might have the same storm swirling around them that everyone else has – but the difference is, the storm hasn’t got inside them. The storm is still out there – not in here.
However Paul is still human so he can’t help himself here: “…Paul stood up before them and said: ‘Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete.” (v. 21)
He pretty much says: 'I told you so.' If you had been on board this ship, how much would you want to give Paul the right hand of fellowship (to the head) in that moment?
Women might take this as their life verse: “Men, you should have taken my advice.”
Actually, what Paul is doing here is establishing credibility for what he’s going to do and say. He's essentially saying: 'I told you this would happen and it has. You didn’t listen to me then and look where it’s got you. Listen to me now.'
When things are going well for people and you try to share Christ and the faith you have in Him, they may ignore you. They may even mock or say they don’t need God. However when the storm hits… when the storm batters them and beats them… it’s amazing how much more willing they are to listen.
Not long ago I was speaking at a church weekend where I got talking to a young guy in his 20s who’d only recently become a Christian. I asked him how it happened and he told me that for years his Christian friend called Alan had shared the Gospel with him but he didn’t want to know. But over time, he got so sick of the life he was living and of how he treated others, that he cried out to God to help him. And then he said: 'I called my friend Alan because he was the only Christian I knew who had been bold enough to share his faith with me.'
In the middle of the storm, what the Apostle Paul lacked in position and title, he made up for in authority and credibility. They were now ready to listen.
Don't be discouraged if you have shared your faith with someone and they haven't responded how you had hoped. One day they will face a storm, because storms are inevitable. When they do, you could well be the one they turn to because you were the once the only one who was courageous enough to share Jesus with them.