A Reliable Compass

from Lynda Lindsey

After hoisting it up, they used supports to undergird the ship. Then, fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear, and thus they were driven along. Since we were violently storm-tossed, they began the next day to jettison the cargo. Acts 27:17-18

When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.  Acts 17:20

Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship…   So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. Acts 27:22; 25

Before the invention of the compass, a navigational tool that points travelers in the desired direction, sailors used the location of the sun and stars to get their bearings. During storms, when the sun and stars weren’t visible, it was easy to veer off course and suffer shipwreck. Paul, on his way to Rome to appeal to Caesar, was caught in a storm so violent that even seasoned sailors, after taking every precaution, were resigned to shipwreck and death. Paul encouraged the men to take heart, to not be afraid, to have faith in his God who had assured Paul that there would be no loss of life. 

The sailors prepared to ride out the storm. They secured the ship’s boat, undergirded the ship, and jettisoned all nonessential cargo. When the sailors attempted to jump ship with the ship’s boat, leaving the passengers without a navigational crew, that small vessel was set loose. The storm raged for more than two weeks before land was sighted and they dropped anchors in hopes that the drag would keep them from running aground on the rocks. The men had done everything they knew to do, and encouraged by Paul’s faith and his prayers, they awaited daybreak.

It happened just as the Lord told Paul; all the men were brought safely to land even though the ship was wrecked. The Lord saves our lives, not necessarily our boats. In heavy seas when the constellations are dark and we can’t see our way, Jesus, the radiant Son of God is our reliable compass. God saves. Our responsibility is to do what we know. Make preparations. Undergird any weak places. Jettison everything not essential. Stay together in community. Set loose every distraction. Take heart. Be encouraged by words of faith and prayer. Obey God, settle in and await daybreak.