"So Paul warned [the ship's crew], and said, “Men, I can see that this voyage is likely to result in damage and considerable loss—not only to ship and cargo—but even of our lives as well.” But [the centurion] Julius paid more attention to the helmsman and the captain than to Paul’s words of warning. Moreover, since the harbor is unsuitable for a ship to winter in, the majority were in favor of setting sail again in the hope of reaching Phoenix and wintering there. Phoenix is a harbor in Crete, facing south-west and north-west. So, when a moderate breeze sprang up, thinking they had obtained just what they wanted, they weighed anchor, and coasted along, hugging the shores of Crete. But before long a terrific gale, which they called a north-easter, swept down upon us from the land. The ship was caught by it and since she could not be brought up into the wind we had to let her fall off and run before it. Then, running under the lee of a small island called Clauda, we managed with some difficulty to secure the ship’s boat. After hoisting it aboard they used cables to brace the ship. To add to the difficulties they were afraid all the time of drifting on to the Syrtis banks, so they shortened sail and lay to, drifting. The next day, as we were still at the mercy of the violent storm, they began to throw cargo overboard. On the third day with their own hands they threw the ship’s tackle over the side. Then, when for many days there was no glimpse of sun or stars and we were still in the grip of the gale, all hope of our being saved was given up..." (Acts 27:10-20)
I don't think it'd be too literary, or philosophical, or, in writing about this section, self-serving, to say that the series of events that culminates in this moment of complete hopelessness is a pretty good picture of our last century and a bit. At the beginning of the 20th Century, humanity, relatively speaking, was in a period of peace and prosperity almost unrivaled in human history. The century before it - again relatively speaking - had been less punctuated by war; technologies were making great strides in many areas; economies were, overall, booming; "faith" was easy...
Then, over the last 100+ years, it's been as if a great northeaster hit. In fact, to follow the course of Paul's ship, consider a re-rendering:
“The world was caught in this wind of change and since it could not be brought up into the wind humanity had to let itself fall off and run before it. Two world wars, national revolutions, ethnic hatreds, genocides, nihilism, anarchy then resulted. Then, running under the lee of post-war peace, we managed with some difficulty to secure the world’s ways via economic restructuring, better governance, and nominal religious conviction. We used this trio of ties to brace the ship. But to add to the difficulties we were afraid all the time of drifting back toward a humanism that would redevelop into atheism, so we shortened sail and lay to, drifting. The Church drifted right along with the world. The next era, as we were now at the mercy of storms of cultural overthrow, caused many to throw their 'faith convictions' away entirely. Eventually with our own hands we threw Biblical morality, the purifying realities of the Gospel, and the power of the Body of Christ overboard as well. Then, when for many years there was no glimpse of any light and we were still in the grip of the gale, all hope of the world’s being saved was given up by all around us.”
Do I overstate my case? Truly, I don't think so. And so what's required? Let's continue on in Acts 27 with Paul...
"Nobody had eaten for some time, when Paul came forward among the men and said, 'Men, you should have listened to me and not set sail from Crete and suffered this damage and loss. However, now I beg you to keep up your spirits for no one’s life is going to be lost, though we shall lose the ship. I know this because last night, the angel of the God to whom I belong, and whom I serve, stood by me and said, "Have no fear, Paul! You must stand before Caesar. And God, as a mark of his favor towards you, has granted you the lives of those who are sailing with you." Take courage then, men, for I believe God, and I am certain that everything will happen exactly as I have been told. But we shall have to run the ship ashore on some island.'" (Acts 27:21-26)
How different is the posture of Paul when thrown in contrast against the manic fear of everyone around him! Do you understand that that, in the midst of the storms assailing this world, is how we're supposed to appear? Our lives, not just our words, must stand steadfast and say to all:
“Men and Women, you must listen to me and not keep sailing toward this hopelessness and suffering this damage and loss to your eternal souls. Now I beg you, and by my life and action, and my love for you, I impel you, to turn your spirits toward the One who ensures that not one of His is lost, though it cost Him His life. I know this because everyday, this Jesus to whom I belong, and whom I serve, stands by me and says, ‘Have no fear! You must stand for me before this world. And I, as a mark of my favor towards you, have granted you the lives of those around you who will hear my truth from your lips.’ Take courage then, Men and Women, for I believe Jesus, and I am certain that everything will happen exactly as I have been told, and as I have seen Him do before. But this world shall run itself ashore on the rocks.”
Friends, is that an accurate representation of the stoutheartedness of our belief amidst the Shipwreck that is this world?
May it be so!