"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." (Acts 27:33-37)
The setting is somewhere off the coast of Greece. Paul and 276 others are stranded on a tiny ship in the midst of a one of the worst types of storms seen on the Mediterranean. Prior to this, Paul had warned the centurion in charge of him to NOT set sail, but the centurion didn't listen, and now the ship is being battered by hurricane force winds and walls of ferocious water. There was no way the ship could navigate in the storm, so instead it remained at the mercy of the elements. Early on, they feared the boat wouldn't hold together, so they bound it together with ropes. On the second day of the storm, they realized that if they didn't lighten the load, there would be no chance of survival. The cargo went first. But as the fierce storm continued to pound and beat the ship, their very survival required them to throw out the ship's tackle. Now, if they survived the storm, they wouldn't be able to navigate! But still the storm continued. Stress was high, so high that for fourteen days, the men refused to even eat.
During this time, Paul has received conformation from God that he will survive the storm, because he "must stand trial before Caesar . . ." (Acts 28:24). He is also given confirmation that those traveling with him will survive the storm: "and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you" (Acts 27:25). Through this passage, Paul repeatedly gives words of encouragement to the people (see vs. 21-26, 31). And again, in vs. 33-37 Paul attempts to encourage the people. This encouragement is slightly different, however. For one thing, it is given just a few hours before deliverance. And for another, it contains a command for all of the people: "I urge you to take some food." (vs 34a) Now it could be argued that they had been surviving quite nicely for 14 days without food. Why, now, so soon to the time when the men would be delivered from the storm, did Paul start urging them to eat? Paul answers that question himself in his next sentence: "You need it to survive." (vs. 34b). Paul knew their rescue was at hand, but he also knew there was more trauma to be gone through! He knew that the men, weakened as they were from stress and lack of food, would never have had the strength to make it through the worst part of the trial, so he urged them to eat!
The passengers aboard Paul's ship may have had many different reasons for their 14 day fast. Some may have been too sea-sick to think about eating (I would have been in this class!). Others may have been too sick with worry to feel like eating. Still others may have thought that depriving themselves of food would somehow appease their gods. Finally, some may have been fasting because others were doing it.
I would like to suggest that when we feel ourselves getting caught up in the worst trials of our lives, we also tend to cut ourselves off from our "Bread of Life"--Fellowship with Jesus Christ through Bible Study, praise and prayer! There may also be many different reasons for this "spiritual fast". For example, some may blame God, saying that they couldn't possibly believe in a God who would allow such things to happen. Others become so focussed on themselves--their problems, their pain, their lack of money--that there is little thought left over for partaking in the Word of Life. Still others get caught up in their circumstances, focussing on what they see, rather than what the Word of God promises, and thus they fall into disbelief.
My friends, in the midst of the storms of life, getting ourselves into a spiritual fast is the worst thing we could do to ourselves, for in so doing, we weaken our abilities to ride out the storm! Also, doesn't it often seem as though the worst part of our trials often comes just before resolution? Just like Paul knew that the men all needed some physical nourishment in order to be able to survive, we need all the spiritual nourishment we can get to survive. During the trials of our lives, we should not be turning from God, but to Him! We should be devoting EXTRA time every day to praise and worship, Bible study and prayer! We must speak the Word over our situation, holding onto God's promises in faith, never faltering, never wavering, always believing as we wait for our "miracle"!
Paul writes: " I can do everything . . ." But he goes on to specify that this is not of himself, for alone, he can do nothing. He can do everything only "through Him who gives me strength." (Phil 4:13). That everything, my friends, includes riding out the storms of life, coming through trials unblemished and better for what we've been through. But we cannot do it on our own! We have to partake of the bread of life regularly, and even more so when we are being tried.
The next time you find yourself right in the middle of the worst "storm" of the century, when you feel that you are at the mercy of the enemy, remember this story. Remember that no matter how bad things look, when God is for you, who can be against you! But also remember that it is our responsibility to partake of the "bread of life", because, in Paul's own words, we "need it to survive"!
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Moderator, The Nugget, Scriptural Nuggets ( www.scripturalnuggets.org ), Answers2Prayer Ministries, www.Answers2Prayer.org
(To access the entire "Shipwrecked!!!" mini-series, please click here.)