Who likes detours? No one! When you go from one place to another everyone looks for the easiest and fastest way to reach the destination. Especially if you are going through new places you stick to what your GPS says and pray nothing bad happen on the way. If you have to take a detour you really hate it because first of all it’s a new place and you scared if you can make it to the right road. Secondly, it’s time consuming and irritating. But how about detours in life?
God has a plan for your life and He orchestrates each turn of His plan on the right time. (“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love” Ephesians 1:4 NIV) But somehow we knowingly or unknowingly yanks the wheel from God and try to drive ourselves and end up in big mess ups. Then we cry to God asking why did you do this to me! Whereas more often it all started with us.
In the Book of Acts of Apostles 27 we see a scenario where Apostle Paul was taken as a prisoner to be presented before Caesar in Rome, Italy and Paul along with another 276 prisoners and guards, they set forth from Jerusalem to Rome. As you know in those old days there were no big navigational technologies available and so they depended mostly on the positions of sun, moon and stars for navigation. However, they had a hard time with the weather and suffered a lot right from the beginning.
“When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment. We boarded a ship from Adramyttium about to sail for ports along the coast of the province of Asia, and we put out to sea. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with us. The next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius, in kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs. 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.” Acts 27:1-8 NIV
Much of their precious time was lost because of the bad weather and the Centurion wanted them to reach Italy as early as possible. But Apostle Paul warns them the weather is going to be bad and it can severely damage the voyage and can even kill them. But who wants to hear the word of a preacher right? The centurion found the words of the pilot and the owner of the ship more reassuring. They have already been in several storms and reached Lasea with such difficulty, now who wants to suffer more? Moreover the winter was about to start and Lasea was not a good place to pass the winter and so all agreed to what the pilot and the owner of the ship said to move towards Phoenix and spent the winter there. And now what even the weather seemed favorable!
“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 harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest. When a gentle south wind began to blow, they saw their opportunity; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete.” Acts 27:9-13 NIV
So, Apostle Paul clearly warned them not to proceed, but the situation they were in made them to go against his will and to move from Lasea and now what the gentle south wind soon turned into a hurricane! Now they could not do anything other than to call out God and pray. They lost all their control and they were just sailing on the seas absolutely without any control. They threw whatever they could find to reduce the weight of the ship and finally they threw their navigational equipments! Now no one is controlling the ship and they were just wandering in the sea! The storm was so immense that they hardly knew if it was day or night! And they gave up all hope to be saved!
“Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the Northeaster, swept down from the island. The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure, so the men hoisted it aboard. Then they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Because they were afraid they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along. We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved. Acts 27:14-20 NIV
Usually if we start a voyage at sea, most of us get seasick even at quiet waters. Imagine being in the sea during a hurricane without any control on your vessel for fourteen days! How in the world are you going to survive? It is the absolutely no better place to be in the entire earth in those days! It is a miracle how they managed to pass those 14 long days in sea and nobody ate anything. Now the centurion must have realized what Apostle Paul was warning them about! But it’s too late and nobody could do anything, however Apostle Paul gets confidence from God and reassures them that no one is going to be killed in the hurricane, but they had to have a shipwreck and so he pleaded everyone to eat some bread and take courage, and he prayed and broke the bread and distributed among others and they all ate and then threw the rest of food into sea to further lighten the ship.
If we were in Apostle Paul’s place we would have been screaming, shouting and even crucifying the centurion, the pilot and the ship’s owner. But notice the words of Apostle Paul he tells them he warned them earlier, but it’s of no use to say it again, but look what we can do now. And he tried to encourage them with reassuring words and fed them with the bread for physical strength. Can we do the same in these sorts of situations?
“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.” Acts 27:21-26 NIV
“Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. “For the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything. Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. Altogether there were 276 of us on board. When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea. Acts 27:33-38 NIV
Finally, after so much hassle on the 15th day their ship wrecked and they crashed into an island. Later they realized the name of the Island as Malta. If they would have listened to Paul at Lasea they never had to go through such an immense struggle never ever in their life, but since they didn’t listen and went ahead beyond Apostle Paul’s words, they had to face such a tragedy in their life and finally ended up on the Island of Malta. There was absolutely no reason for them to go there during their voyage, but the hurricane made them to reach Malta.
“Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta.” Acts 28:1 NIV
My point of the passage is this, Apostle Paul along with 276 prisoners, soldiers and other people they never set forth towards Malta, they wanted to go from Jerusalem to Rome, but when they disobeyed Apostle Paul’s words they went through a horrific situation which no one could phantom and they ended up in Malta. But even though it was a terrible detour, God made it for good. It was just because of this detour people in Malta heard about Jesus Christ and the Gospel. As a result, many those who were sick were healed and God’s name was glorified. Later, when it was time for them to return to Rome the islanders helped them to get all cargoes and helped them in every way they could.
My dear reader, are you regretting about some wrong turns you took in your life and wishing you could go back and take the right way and fix things? I want to tell you, do not worry about what you are going through right now. There is a reason why you are going through this right now. You may not understand why, but as the people in Malta heard the Gospel through Apostle Paul’s difficulties, God will use your difficulties for the benefit of people whom you may not even know. So stick with your situation, pray to God and God will surely bring you out of it. Be courageous and do not lose hope.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
”Romans 8:28 NIV
“There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off. Proverbs 23:18 NIV.
““Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.””
Jeremiah 1:5 NIV
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you.”
Psalm 139:13-18 NIV
“Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions. Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing and benefits those who see the sun. Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: Wisdom preserves those who have it. Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked? When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future.” Ecclesiastes 7:10-14 NIV