I would like to call your attention to a story that you are more than familiar with in the life of the Apostle Paul. If you could take the time to read Acts 27:7-44, it is the account of Paul being transported to Rome to appear before Caesar. In verse 6, the centurion has found a ship of Alexandria that is sailing for Italy. He has secured passage for him and his prisoner, the Apostle Paul. Because of unfavorable wind conditions, they have made very little progress in reaching their destination. The ship has passed under Crete and over against Salmone before arriving at a place called, “The fair havens; nigh whereunto was the city of Lasea.” It is at this time that Paul and the entire party on the ship must make a decision; lodge or launch? Do they lodge in a less than desirable port for the winter or do they launch in less than desirable conditions and try to make it to Phenice? These men are faced with a decision.
You may never be faced with the exact same decision that these sailors were, but the everyday affairs of life call for us to make decisions in our daily lives. Like these sailors, each decision brings with it repercussions that not only impact us personally, but those that accompany us in life’s journey. In spite of the fact that times may be different, and conditions surrounding the choice aren’t the same; we all basically use a similar decision making process. Look with me at the various aspects of making decisions.
(I) Comfort and Common Sense – vs. 12 “the haven was not commodious to winter in”
Sailing has been slow and difficult for some time now. While they haven’t arrived at their final destination or made the progress they desired, they have arrived at a port near the city of Lasea. It is at this point a decision must be made; lodge or launch. The first factor that enters into the process of making a decision is comfort and common sense. The sailors consider the aspects of comfort. Whether it was known before hand or after investigation, it was discovered that the harbor was not the most desirable. The word “commodious” means well set or convenient and this was not the case with this port! We are not told what was lacking; it may have been the food supply, the quality of lodging, or the attitude of the people toward sailors. All we know is that this port is not some place you want to spend the winter unless it’s necessary! The second consideration that must also enter into the process is common sense; is it advantageous to try to sail to another port; is there enough wind and will the weather permit it.
In the decisions that we make, we use comfort and common sense. When linked with discretion, there is nothing wrong with being comfortable. Some would have you believe that the only way to be godly is stand in a strain, and starve yourself of any pleasures life has to offer; thus making a smile the unpardonable sin. Sometime the right choice is determined by weighing out all the facts and using the discernment man has been given.
(II) Councilors – vs. 12 “the more part advised”
The next element to be considered was that of wise council. It appears that the centurion sought council in several areas. He spoke with the owner of the ship as well as the captain of the ship. They would have considerable knowledge worthy of consideration. Together, their years of experience in sailing and working around the various ports would prove to be invaluable. It appears that he also sought the advice of those that were manning the ship; those that worked closely with the captain and the owner. While the centurion might know something concerning the various aspects of being a soldier, he was deficient in the area of ships and sailing; thus causing him to seek out council from the most reliable sources available at the time.
We too, are admonished to seek council in the process of making a decision, “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14) and “Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established” (Proverbs 15:22). When faced with a decision, take the time to seek out those who are much wiser and older; those that have experience in the various fields surrounding the area in which you must make a decision.
(III) Command – vs.9 “Paul admonished them’
There was a third element to be considered in the process of making a decision, the command. Everyone, but the Apostle Paul chose to ignore this element! In verses 9&10, Paul spoke up and advised against leaving the harbor and trying to sail any farther at this time. Since Paul was not a sailor and had no great wealth of knowledge with respect to ships and sailing, what was his source of inspiration? I believe that the same God that spoke to Paul in verse 23 spoke to Paul and gave clear direction as to the dangers of trying to sail on to the next port. God had spoken to His servant and Paul made known God’s clear command. While they were willing to consider comfort and common sense, and counselors; they chose to reject God’s command in the decision making process.
I am grieved to have to say it, but this is the practice of many folks today; they consider comfort, common sense, and counselors, but choose to totally reject the clear commands of the Word of God. This is not only true of the lost, but it is the practice of many that name Christ as their Saviour.
(IV) Crisis – vs. 14“there arose against it a tempestuous wind”
This is not an element of the decision making process that one wants to come to. Because they made a poor decision on whether to lodge or launch, they are now in a crisis at the mercy of this powerful storm. They make a decision to undergird the ship with helps (vs.17), they lighten the ship (vs.18), and they cast out the tackling of the ship (vs.19). After many days of not seeing the sun, and fearing being cast upon the rock, they cast out four anchors and wish for day. They are in a terrible state and have suffered much loss, but God in His mercy spoke through the mouth of His servant. While there will be the loss of the ship, the lives of all on board will be spared. In an attempt to save themselves, some of the men race for a life boat. It is then that they are faced with a choice, use the elements of common sense and council and attempt to save ourselves by using the life boats or cut the boats loose and stay in the ship. Common sense and council said get in the life boat; the clear command was stay in the ship. Having made the choice to be obedient to the command, all the men were delivered safely to shore. Even in the time of crisis, it was not the time to disregard the command.
There are repercussions for making a bad decision and you can find yourself in a state of crisis. But, even in the midst of crisis, never go against God’s clear commands.
In the process of making a decision; consider the elements of comfort, common sense and council, but never fail to take into consideration the most important element in the decision making process; the clear command. It may be comfortable, it may make good sense, and it may be the consensus of the masses, but if it is in conflict with God’s command, you will always be better off going with God!