Preached at Trenton Baptist, February 26, 2017

On a Trump Steamer on Trumped Up Charges

Acts 26:30 -27:15

Want to sail the world cheaply? Then, book passage on tramp steamers.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, a tramp steamer is a merchant ship that “operates without a schedule, going wherever required to deliver its cargoes.” Tramp steamers have the benefit of freedom of destination, cargo and route that the more common merchant liners do not.

While traveling on tramp steamers is exotic, there are down sides to traveling that way. The accommodations are fair to poor.  You might miss your destination by several thousand miles. The food might be passable. And most importantly your safety is not guaranteed.

You might get to your original destination, but it can take a while. You might feel a bit like Huckleberry Finn, meandering down the Mississippi River never knowing what adventure lurks around the next bend.

Ships and lives tend to get off course without a steady, determined hand on the wheel. We find Paul a bit off course this morning.

Paul will be taking anything but a direct route to Rome. He does have a free ticket. Like all free tickets, it will end up costing a lot. It’s free because criminal charges have been trumped up against him. Paul will also be shipwrecked, dunked, blown over, and snake bit before it’s over.

STORMS HAVE A WAY OF COMING UPON US SUDDENLY. Max Lucado tells the story of Chippie’s stormy day. Chippie the parakeet never saw it coming. One second he was peacefully perched in his cage. The next he was sucked in, washed up, and blown over.

The problems began when Chippie’s owner decided to clean Chippie’s cage with a vacuum cleaner. She removed the attachment from the end of the hose and stuck it in the cage. The phone rang, and she turned to pick it up. She’d barely said “hello” when “ssssopp!” Chippie got sucked in.

The bird owner gasped, put down the phone, turned off the vacuum, and opened the bag. There was Chippie — still alive, but stunned.

Since the bird was covered with dust and bird droppings, she grabbed him and raced to the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and held Chippie under the running water. Then, realizing that Chippie was soaked and shivering, she did what any compassionate bird owner would do… she reached for the hair dryer and blasted the pet with hot air.

Poor Chippie never knew what hit him. A few days after the trauma, the reporter who’d initially written about the event contacted Chippie’s owner to see how the bird was recovering. “Well,” she replied, “Chippie doesn’t sing much anymore — he just sits and stares.”

When storms of life overtake us, we can lose the song in our heart. When we get blown off course, we want to just sit and stare.

God often takes us on a circuitous course rather than a straight line. We travel a straight and narrow course in our faithfulness to Jesus and steadfastness in obedience to His commands. Sometimes that requires going in a way we do not desire, or have not planned to take.

Jesus said to Peter, Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.

Paul is on his way to Rome. He is going to a place he had not intended to travel, on a conveyance not of his choosing, and in lodgings far less than desirable. He is not traveling in First Class accommodations with a porthole. He is not even in the economy section. He is traveling as a prisoner.

We, like Paul, can find ourselves riding in the cargo holes of life without warning. We look around and ask, “How in the world did I get here?”

But unlike the unbeliever, we can find joy and relief in unexpected places.

The difference is that however wandering our course may seem to be, we are always safe with Jesus. Jesus always provides the help we need.

He may not change the road we are to travel, but He helps us along the way. We see Jesus doing that for Paul by giving him friends and open doors on his journey.

First of all, Luke is with him. THANK GOD HE GIVES US FRIENDS WHO ARE WILLING TO GO WITH US IN OUR STRUGGLES AND SHARE WITH US IN OUR STORMS. Except for the friends in Sidon all the others mentioned here endured the same storm as Paul.

God gave Paul two friends who were willing to take their lives in their hands to go with him.

The first one we see though he is not mentioned by name is Luke. Verse 2 lets us know that Luke was along. It says, “We boarded a ship…”

Who do you suppose the “we” is? Luke has been Paul’s helper and trusted friend for years. He is the author of Acts.

The second friend God puts in Paul’s life is a man called Aristarchus. He is a man whose desire to support Paul knew no limits.

You might start to wonder at this point how it was that these two men could accompany Paul, the prison, as he was being transported to Rome.

It is possible that Luke is listed on the ship’s log as Paul’s personal physician. The centurion would have been glad to have a physician along.

Aristarchus is another matter however. Scholars believe that for Aristarchus to travel with Paul on this journey, he had to become Paul’s personal slave! Had Paul died before he could free Aristarchus he would have remained a slave. The state of Rome would have claimed him. Paul mentioned him in Colossians 4:10 and calls him a fellow prisoner. That is indeed a friend that sticks closer than a brother.

It may also be that Aristarchus was himself a Christian prisoner who happened to be part of those delivered to Julius. In that case God put Paul in his life and him in Paul’s life. They mutually propped each other up.

An old deacon often prayed, “Lord, prop us up on the leaning side.” Someone asked him why he prayed that way.

He answered, ‘Well sir, you see, it’s like this….I got an old barn out back. It’s been there a long time, it’s withstood a lot of weather, it’s gone through a lot of storms, and it’s stood for many years. It’s still standing, but one day I noticed it was leaning to one side a bit. So I went and got some pine poles and propped it up on its leaning side so it wouldn’t fall.

Then I got to thinking about that and how much I was like that old barn. I been around a long time, I’ve withstood a lot of life’s storms, I’ve withstood a lot of bad weather in life, I’ve withstood a lot of hard times, and I’m still standing too. But I find myself leaning to one side from time to time, so I like to ask the Lord to prop us up on our leaning side, ’cause I figure a lot of us get to leaning, at times.

Has God put people in your life who love you like that? Has God given you someone to prop you up on your leaning side? If so, take heart when the seas get stormy, and look around for the people God places in your life. He’s put them there because he loves you and because He knows you can’t make it on your own! Like it or not, we need each other!

Storms of life aren’t meant to be weathered alone. And we’re foolish if we try.

God will put people in our lives at the right time and at the right place that will be with us through the storm.

LOOK FOR GOD TO SEND HELP IN UNEXPECTED WAYS. Our help may come from sources we don’t expect. God may use strangers to help us in our time of need. There is the kindness of a stranger. The first way God works in our lives in stormy times is by putting the right people in the right places at the right time.

With Paul he started with a man named Julius. Now, I don’t know who Julius was, but I know who put him there. Julius was a man who showed kindness to Paul when kindness was exactly what Paul needed! Not only does he save Paul’s life later in the chapter, but verse 3 tells us that he allowed him to go to his friends in Sidon.

Paul is allowed to visit friends in Sidon. The Greek indicates that Paul arrived uninvited; they were not looking for anyone off the ship. It also indicates he went to get medical care. Luke was a physician, so perhaps they went looking for medicine or a decent, quiet place to rest.

Never let us forget, however that tramp steaming like life is dangerous. Paul warns that their present trip plan will end in disaster.

It is always disheartening to watch people, having been warned, continue a course which ultimately will place them in the perfect storm. While saying “I told you so” might be personally satisfying, it does not change the reality of the moment.

“The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.” Proverbs 12:15

Neither the ship’s owner nor the centurion will listen to God is warning delivered by God’s man. They will end up on the ride of their life.

Maybe you need to listen to God this morning. Maybe you are about to go on the ride of your life. You need a friend better that any other friend in the world.

Maybe you need Jesus this morning.