They Did Jehovah’s Will
Paul Triumphs Over Adversity
PAUL is in a desperate situation. He and 275 others are aboard a vessel that is caught in the throes of Euroaquilo—the most violent wind on the Mediterranean. The storm is so severe that the sun cannot be seen by day, nor the stars by night. Understandably, the passengers are afraid for their lives. Yet, Paul comforts them by relating what was divinely revealed to him in a dream: “Not a soul of you will be lost, only the boat will.”—Acts 27:14, 20-22.
On the 14th night of the storm, the sailors make a startling discovery—the water is just 20 fathoms deep.* After a short distance, they make another sounding. This time, the water is 15 fathoms deep. Land is near! But this good news carries a sobering implication. Being tossed to and fro at night in shallow waters, the ship might smash against rocks and be demolished. Wisely, the sailors drop the anchors. Some of them want to lower the skiff and board it, taking their chances at sea.* But Paul stops them. He tells the army officer and the soldiers: “Unless these men remain in the boat, you cannot be saved.” The officer listens to Paul, and now all 276 passengers wait anxiously for daybreak.—Acts 27:27-32.
The next morning, the ship’s passengers catch sight of a bay with a beach. With renewed hope, the sailors cut away the anchors and raise the foresail to the wind. The ship begins moving toward the shore—no doubt amid shouts of joy.—Acts 27:39, 40.
Suddenly, however, the ship becomes stuck on a shoal. Worse still, violent waves smash against the boat’s stern, breaking it to pieces. All passengers will have to abandon ship! (Acts 27:41) But this presents a problem. Many of those on board—including Paul—are prisoners. Under Roman law, a guard who allows his prisoner to escape must undergo the punishment intended for his prisoner. If a murderer escaped, for example, the negligent guard would have to pay with his life.
Fearing such consequences, the soldiers determine to have all prisoners put to death. However, the army officer, who is friendly with Paul, intercedes. He commands all of those who can do so to jump into the water and swim for land. Those who cannot swim must grab on to planks or other items from the boat. One by one, the passengers from the doomed ship crawl ashore. True to Paul’s words, not one life has been lost!—Acts 27:42-44.
Miracle on Malta
The exhausted group have found refuge on an island called Malta. The inhabitants are “foreign-speaking people,” literally “barbarians” (Greek, barʹba·ros).* But the Maltese people are not savages. On the contrary, Luke, a traveling companion of Paul, reports that they “showed us extraordinary human kindness, for they kindled a fire and received all of us helpfully because of the rain that was falling and because of the cold.” Paul himself joins the natives of Malta in collecting and laying sticks on the fire.—Acts 28:1-3, footnote.
Suddenly, a viper fastens itself to Paul’s hand! The islanders assume that Paul must be a murderer. They probably think that God punishes sinners by attacking the part of their body that was the instrument of sin. But look! Much to the surprise of the natives, Paul shakes the viper off into the fire. As Luke’s eyewitness account says, “they were expecting [Paul] was going to swell up with inflammation or suddenly drop dead.” The islanders change their minds and begin saying that Paul must be a god.—Acts 28:3-6.
Paul spends the next three months in Malta, during which time he heals the father of Publius, the principal man of the island, who received Paul hospitably, and others who are afflicted with illnesses. In addition, Paul sows seeds of truth, resulting in many blessings to the hospitable inhabitants of Malta.—Acts 28:7-11.
Lesson for Us
In the course of his ministry, Paul faced many challenges. (2 Corinthians 11:23-27) In the above account, he was a prisoner for the sake of the good news. Then, he had to face unexpected trials: a fierce storm and subsequent shipwreck. Through all of this, Paul never wavered in his determination to be a zealous preacher of the good news. From experience, he wrote: “In all circumstances I have learned the secret of both how to be full and how to hunger, both how to have an abundance and how to suffer want. For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.”—Philippians 4:12, 13.
Never should life’s problems weaken our resolve to be zealous ministers of the true God! When an unexpected trial arises, we throw our burden on Jehovah. (Psalm 55:22) Then, we wait patiently to see how he makes it possible for us to endure the test. Meanwhile, we continue serving him faithfully, confident that he cares for us. (1 Corinthians 10:13; 1 Peter 5:7) By remaining steadfast, come what may, we—like Paul—can triumph over adversity.
A fathom is commonly viewed as being four cubits, or about six feet [1.8 m].
The skiff was a small boat that was used to get to shore when a ship was anchored near a coast. Evidently, the sailors were trying to save their own lives at the expense of those who would be left behind, who had no expertise in handling a ship.
Wilfred Funk’s Word Origins notes: “The Greeks were scornful of languages other than their own, and said they sounded like ‘bar-bar’ and they called anyone who spoke them barbaros.”