Acts 27: 4-12
“From there we put out to sea again and passed to the lee of Cyprus because the winds were against us. When we had sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board. We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus. When the wind did not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea.
Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Day of Atonement. So Paul warned them, ‘Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.’ But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. Since the harbour was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbour in Crete, facing both south-west and north-west.”
They swap ships but are moving very slowly. It’s a dangerous time of the year to sail. In verse 9 it says: “…sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Day of Atonement.”
The most treacherous season for sailing was between September and November. The Day of Atonement was in late September so they are already taking a huge risk by even trying to sail at this time.
There is a huge difference between faith and foolishness. Some time before this, God had clearly spoken to Paul and told him he would get to Rome. Look at Acts 23: 11:
“The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, ‘Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.’”
So he had a clear word from God – You will get to Rome. And yet he still uses common sense and looks at the circumstances and events going on around him – and says – I don’t think we should go now. It’s too dangerous, it too risky, it’s foolish.
“Paul warned them, ‘Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.’”
He sees warning signs flashing in front of him and he doesn’t ignore them. Faith and common sense aren’t opposite to one another. Paul here had faith: 'I’m going to get to Rome. God says so.' But his common sense and practical life experience says – now might not be the best time to travel.
The number of times I hear Christians using expressions like –
- ‘I’m just having faith it’ll be OK…’,
- ‘I’m just trusting God it will work out…’,
- ‘God told me to….’
- to justify doing something which is obviously not the right thing to do, or at least it’s not the right thing right now.
And then they end up in a total mess and blame God.
I’ve seen it with churches. They completely overextend themselves on building programmes saying they’re doing it by faith. And then when they can’t make the payments on the building it actually becomes a terrible witness to the world around us.
We all make mistakes, we all make stupid choices at times – but let’s not spiritualise our stupidity or blame God.
You can have total faith in God and yet be cautious, especially when it’s a big decision that will have a major impact on you and other people.
Have great faith – yes – but also use common sense and don’t ignore all the warning signs flashing in front of you.