Luke’s account of Paul’s shipwreck on Malta provides a beautiful metaphor of the function of the church. Paul implored the sailors, “Unless every man stays with the ship, you will not be saved.” The Unexplainable Church sinks without you. Staying with the ship guarantees everyone’s safety.
Fear of the Storm
The storm raged on. No land in sight. The sailors lost all hope, but Paul prayed. Jesus answered. The angel of the LORD promised that they would all make it to shore safely. On one condition- they all stuck together.
However, when the storm began to subside, a few thought about abandoning ship. For some reason they thought a few men in a small, flimsy lifeboat provided better odds than all 276 together on a massive cargo ship. But Paul warned them- unless you stay with the ship, you will die. I’m not sure about the logic behind this decision, but I see a lot of Christians trying to weather the storms of life with the help of one or two others rather than hanging with big ship- the Unexplainable Church.
Swimming In The Waves
When land became visible, the good swimmers jumped overboard first. The rest came on planks. But everybody made it. I imagine those who knew how to swim taught those clinging to planks how to kick, duck under the waves and hold their breath. I imagine the ones holding the planks extending it out when a swimmer got knocked unexpectedly by a huge wave. Both needing the skills and resources of the other to make it to shore. For some of us, it’s time to dive in. Others of us need to start kicking a bit harder. Those who keep looking for life boats need to keep their eyes on the shore.
The angel of the LORD promised safe arrival for every passenger. Paul reminded those with him that even in the midst of the storm, the very hairs on their head were numbered. Our faithful God kept His promise and not one life was lost. God will carry each of us home as well, but just as in this beautiful story, He implores us to stay with the ship.
Many wander out to sea jumping ship into a flimsy life boat never to return. Those left on the ship grow weary from bearing the burden others were meant to carry. The ship weakens.
All Hands On Deck
In Ephesians 4:11-14 ESV Paul emphasizes that every member of the unexplainable church is needed to prevent any being lost at sea. He writes:
” And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
I don’t know if you are in the midst of the storm. Maybe you’ve jumped ship and opted for the convenience of a lifeboat that failed you. Could it be the storm subsided and you got comfortable on smoother waters? Regardless of where you are, The Unexplainable Church needs you. And when the storm rages once again, you are going to need the safety of The Unexplainable Church. If you want to make it home safely, it’s best to stay with the ship.
Why do you think Christians today choose to follow Jesus outside of the church? Why is remaining connected to a local body of believers important?
The blog post is an excerpt from The Unexplainable Church: Reigniting the Mission of the Early Believers. A study of Acts 13-28 published by Moody Press.