The weather was terrible. They shouldn’t have been sailing any farther…it wasn’t safe or smart. Paul warned that the voyage would end in disaster. But did the sailors or centurion listen? No, they pushed on. They had their own goals in mind, their own destination point picked out. And they weren’t willing to give up their personal aspirations, not for anybody…not even God Himself.
Through His Word, the circumstances we face in life, and the advice of good Christian friends, God desperately tries to communicate to us His desires for our lives. But too often we overlook these messages, all for the sake of self-satisfaction.
What happens when we go our own way, not heeding God’s warnings? Acts 27 clearly gives the answer with the story that I have come to think of as “The Sin Ship.”
“Nevertheless the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman and the owner of the ship than by the things spoken by Paul.” v. 11
The centurion was the ultimate authority onboard the ship; he had the preeminence to choose between pressing on with the journey or harboring for the season. Contrary to Paul’s warning, the centurion chose to listen to the sailors’ urging and ordered that the ship sail forward.
Note the contrast in verse 11 between the two sources of advice – it’s “the helmsman and owner,” mere earthly men, versus “the things spoken by Paul.” Not just “Paul,” but the “things” he said. Those “things” didn’t come from mere earthly wisdom as the sailors’ words did – Paul’s statements relayed God’s advice for the ship’s passengers. The centurion’s dilemma was between the words of men and the words of God.
And the centurion chose to heed the words of men.
The situation isn’t any different today – we are faced with both worldly and godly advice. We can’t escape it, but we do have to choose whose advice we will take, whose words we will follow. Who are my influences? Who are my advisors? When I’m making a decision, do I heed the words of the world, or the words of the Lord?
Look at the advice that Paul gave: If the centurion made the wrong decision, the choice could end in “disaster and much loss.” Is it any different for us? I think not. When we choose whose message to follow, we need to remember that there are positive or negative consequences for each, and we will have to live with those consequences.
“I have paid the price to live with myself on the terms that I willed.” Rudyard Kipling
The trouble is, we don’t always consider the future negative consequences seriously enough to realize how severe they will be.