If you like to eat, I think you’re going to like this post. I love eating. Sometimes I wonder what people throughout the centuries would think of food options that we have available to us in 2020? We eat like kings of old could only dream about. In fact, we have the foods of the world available to us all the time, and thus those kings probably had no idea what they were missing, as the options were so limited. Someone should make a TV show that envisions what it would be like for various people from ages past to walk through Costco, sampling food. My point is that eating is a genuine pleasure for most of the world in our day and age. Certainly we need to be aware of and compassionate and generous towards those who are living through famines, food deserts, by supporting local food banks. But have you ever considered that eating is sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do? Wondering how that could be true?
We find out in our continuing study through Acts 27 when we learn what happens after Paul’s speech. Go ahead and read the rest of Acts chapter 27, verses 27-44.
14 nights of a brutal storm! Can you imagine? That’s horrible. 14 nights! But there is hope. While they don’t spot land, the depth of the water was getting shallower though. 120 feet. Then 90. This means land must be near, but it also means there is a new danger. The water is getting shallower and shallower, and fast! If it gets much more shallow than that, and they run aground on rocks, the ship will be smashed. So they have to do something to slow down. They drop anchors and start praying for day light. Interesting that they prayed. How many prayed? Just Paul and the other Christians? Or like the phrase, “there are no atheists in foxholes,” maybe all or most of the 276 passengers were reaching out to whatever various gods they might have believed in.
Clearly not all of them are good with the spiritual option, because in verse 30, some sailors try to escape on the lifeboat. Paul intervenes with the centurion saying that those sailors are vital to their survival. So the soldiers cut the ropes, dropping the lifeboat into the water.
Paul speaks up again in verses 33-38, urging all to eat, saying that they have gone without food the entirety of two weeks! Paul is right, this can’t continue. Even when you’re freaked out, you need to eat. I love the practicality of this. Paul isn’t spiritualizing here. He is simply speaking to a physical reality. Thankfully, the people agree. All 276 of them eat to their fill! Good thing, as we’ll see, because they will need the energy.
Paul’s timing is great. When daylight breaks, they run the ship aground on a sandbar, and the ship’s stern is eventually broken to pieces by the pounding surf.
At this point, the Roman centurion and his soldiers are in a very bad spot. If they lose their prisoners, Roman martial law dictates that the soldiers will have to pay for those prisoners by giving their own lives. The centurion Julius intervenes stopping the soldiers from killing anyone. Eventually everyone makes it to shore safely, whether by swimming or floating on planks of the ship. That is where the chapter ends, with God’s word to Paul coming to pass. No one was lost, just as God told Paul.
What can we learn from Paul’s actions and words to the people on the boat in the middle of the storm? As we saw yesterday, we can have peace in the midst of great trauma. We can trust in God rather than become consumed by fear. We can choose to rest on the character and presence of God and not on worst case scenarios. We can be the voice of comfort and calm, seeking to dissolve the drama. Today, we also saw Paul thinking very practically. Eat! In my own struggles with anxiety, practical matters have been incredibly important. Exercise. Eat healthy. Get a good night’s sleep. Consider taking meds. Get therapy. Breathe. Sometimes these very down-to-earth steps are the most spiritual thing you can do. Does that sound like a contradiction? How can physical acts be the most spiritual thing you can do? They are two different realms, aren’t they?
Nope. Not if you are human. We humans are a mysterious combination of the physical and the spiritual. I will admit that I don’t know how it works: body, soul and spirit. Do we have three natures? Two? One? There is a long-standing debate in theology, psychology and other sciences about this. I’m not going to attempt to resolve the debate. What I do believe is that the physical and the spiritual are somehow beautifully intertwined in humans. In other words, everything we do and think is a combo package, physical and spiritual. It is important, I believe, to see ourselves that way. Take seriously your physical well-being, just as much as you give importance to your spiritual life, and vice-versa.
If you’re thinking, “Easier said than done, Joel,” I agree. While I implement those practical measures, I can still really struggle to trust in God rather than be consumed by fear. There is still the reality that pain happens. The ship broke apart! But in the middle of the storm, where should our focus be?
Check back in tomorrow for the final post in this five-part series on Acts 27, as we wrap up by seeking to further apply Paul’s words and actions to our own storms of life.