Since considerable time had passed and the voyage was now dangerous because the fast was already over, Paul advised them, “Men, I can see the voyage is going to end in disaster and great loss not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” But the centurion was more convinced by the captain and the ship’s owner than by what Paul said. Because the harbor was not suitable to spend the winter in, the majority decided to put out to sea from there. They hoped that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete facing southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there. When a gentle south wind sprang up, they thought they could carry out their purpose, so they weighed anchor and sailed close along the coast of Crete —Acts 27:9-13
It was time to make some decisions. It was now late—very late—in the sailing season. It would appear to be mid-October or so, and sailing stopped from approximately November through January. The ship had not made as much progress as they had hoped, and now they were running out of time. It was obvious that they would have to winter somewhere, but the question was where. They had safely made port in Fair Havens, but something about this port made it difficult or at least less than desirable to stay any longer. Maybe they didn’t have any good tourist attractions or lousy resorts, but whatever it was, they decided it would be better to press onward. Now me, I would have felt safer in a place called “Fairhaven,” but for some reason it wasn’t good enough. Evidently, Phoenix was a much better harbor, but it was still some distance away. Should they risk heading for Phoenix, or should they remain on at Fair Havens? Hmm, that was the question.
It was at this point that Paul weighed in. Some believe that Paul may have spent a great deal of time on the sea, because he says in his second letter to the church in Corinth:
Are they servants of Christ? (I am talking like I am out of my mind!) I am even more so: with much greater labors, with far more imprisonments, with more severe beatings, facing death many times. Five times I received from the Jews forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with a rod. Once I received a stoning. Three times I suffered shipwreck. A night and a day I spent adrift in the open sea. I have been on journeys many times, in dangers from rivers, in dangers from robbers, in dangers from my own countrymen, in dangers from Gentiles, in dangers in the city, in dangers in the wilderness, in dangers at sea, in dangers from false brothers, in hard work and toil, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, many times without food, in cold and without enough clothing —II Corinthians 22:23-27
I don’t know if the presumption that he was an experience sailor is true or not, but if Paul had indeed experienced shipwrecks before, I am sure he was not particularly eager to do it again. Do you remember how back in chapter 20 Luke’s team took a ship, and Paul’s team traveled on land? Luke does not tell us why, but this might explain the reason a little, but obviously, I am only guessing. Anyway, he strongly recommended that they wait out the winter months where they were and not attempt to sail farther. Paul warned them that that if they sailed on, they were going to have some problems. This might have come to Paul by direct revelation, but we don’t know for sure, but Paul does seem to speak from a good deal of experience. Now, as we will see, if God had not providentially intervened, all of Paul’s predictions would have come true, and this would be end of the story and of Paul’s mission (which certainly would have delighted God’s enemy). Now this brings up an important pattern our Father follows. He will often warn us of future events, but the choice to move on is in our hands. Now in Paul’s situation, the decision was not his to make, but even if it had been, our Father can and does intercede on our circumstances for His future Glory. Sometimes, all of us make foolish decisions and choices, but the Lord intercedes on our behalf and we don’t suffer the full consequeces we could have experienced. In Paul’s situation, no one will lose their life, but they will be stranded on an island.
Maybe Paul’s case is not a fair comparison, because he had no options, because the Centurian was in charge. The Lord did intercede on Paul’s behalf because the Lord had plans for him. He also has plans for you and me. If we are willing to submit to His leading and follow His guidance, we will accomplish those plans. Even if we miss His specific instructions, He is still able to intercede on our behalf to accomplish everything He plans.
The centurion seems to have the final word in this matter. The ship’s owner, as well as the captain, was in favor of pressing on to Phoenix, as were most of the passengers. Now knowing what we know about Paul, I would have followed his point-of-view, but they didn’t know Paul the way we do. The bottomline is that they reject Paul’s counsel. Maybe Paul’s advice would have prevailed if unfavorable weather conditions had persisted. When a favorable south wind sprung up, it seemed like they would be able to make it to Phoenix before the weather changed for the worse. So . . . they hoisted anchor and set out for Phoenix, staying as close to shore as they could.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Story of Acts