Leadership has its undercurrents--a lesson Paul was forced to rediscover, almost too late, in his ministry. Extradited via ship to face Caesar, the former Pharisee became the floating fugitive when his vessel was destroyed by the hellish Euraquilo winds (see Acts 27).
Was Paul's amazing maze of political appeals going to come to an end at the bottom of the sea? Or was the Holy Spirit just floating another principle on leadership out there to see if there were any takers?
Clearly, Paul was ready to sink for the cause of Christ. He had sufficient peace to perish. He would later write, "For to die is gain" (Phil. 1:21, NKJV). But the Lord saw fit to deliver him once again. However, this time He delivered a lesson as well as a man.
As usual, Paul played his part flawlessly. With fearlessness he preached in the face of soldiers who wanted him dead. After the storm, he miraculously washed up on shore where he aired out, dried off, and gathered his senses and proceeded by faith to turn a viper's strike into a mosquito sting--all so he could go right back to doing what God had fashioned him to do in the first place: preach the gospel and heal the sick.
Experiencing God in this dimension is a mere fantasy for many of us in church leadership. Why? Because we are never privileged with such dramatic circumstances? I do not adhere to that for one moment.
Rather, I believe that too often we abandon the basic beliefs about God at the beginning of some wonderfully God-ordained perils. In other words, we sink before giving God a chance to help us swim (or float) because we forsake our core beliefs.
What do you believe about the perils in ministry? Do you believe that God's leader is never actually lost, only loved? Even if, at times, you may get a little wet?
Do you believe God is in full control of the uncontrollable? Do you believe that menacing uncertainties serve the kingdom of God? Do you believe those seasons in which you feel lost are often a grand scheme of delay by an almighty God who is writing a longer novel about your life than you first realized?
Paul knew he would die only when God was finished with him--and not one shipwreck earlier.
Sinking ships have a way of testing whether or not we are willing to release by faith those things that are beyond our grasp. Paul was at peace with the uncertainty of circumstances. Part of him wanted to see Caesar; a stronger part wanted to see Jesus. But he was prepared for both.
If a trapped man could ever be excited over his final gulp of life, it was Paul. His exit would have involved no crowds, stones or whips, and certainly no injustice--just a brief moment of struggle followed by an everlasting surrender into the arms of Jesus.
But God had other plans for Paul, such as writing Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians and 1 and 2 Timothy, to name a few. It was much easier to correspond from dry land than an ocean floor.
Paul knew his hope was not in a new ship or a soft shoreline. His hope rested in the assurance of God's presence to either lead him home or lead him on. In Paul's case, his theology actually did rise above his anxieties.
Paul knew the deepest ocean couldn't rise above God's ankles. Paul also trusted that the only thing able to disable God was his own unbelief in His love and mercy. So he held on. Not for dear life, but just the opposite--because he didn't count his life as dear to himself.
Even when your mind is waterlogged by worry, hold on. When your lips are saturated with salty sorrows, hold on. Even when your dearest board member is a shark and the church you love has capsized, hold on. Hold on by means of genuine trust. Remember, God loves His passengers and crew far more than He loves His ship.