Read Acts 27. In this chapter the feel switches from a John Grisham courtroom drama to a Robert Louis Stevenson story. Here we read of Paul's sea voyage and the shipwreck.
At the beginning of this story the ship and its 276 passengers safely make their way all the way to a harbor called Fair Havens. The group then has a decision to make. Keep traveling or stay for the Winter. Paul advices them to stay put because it is around October and everyone in the culture knew that mid-September through November was a dangerous time to travel and after the beginning of November it was even illegal under Roman law to travel by sea.
Paul gave good advice based on cultural common sense but it was ignored. The pilot and the owner of the ship thought they knew better and that while sailing at this time of year was dangerous it would be different for them.
In verse 13 we see that a gentle south wind began to blow and the ship took off. I'm sure a number of men were teasing Paul saying, "I told you. Boy, were you wrong." However, their tune would soon change.
"Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the 'northeaster,' swept down from the island. The ship was caught in the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along... When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved."
The ship was in trouble. They were throwing things overboard, using ropes to hold the ship together and everyone knew they were going to die.
Finally, Paul was listened to. Paul reminded everyone that he said they shouldn't have left Fair Havens, but then he started to give advice again. The 276 people on the ship listen to all of Paul's advice. They even follow his unconventional advice to cut the lifeboats loose from the ship. These same people who wouldn't listen to Paul's culturally normal, sound advice were listening to anything he suggested in the storm. Because of this and God's promise to Paul that no one would die, everyone was saved.
We can often find ourselves in Paul situation. Sometimes we give sound, wise advice to people and they don't listen because they are convinced that things will be different for them. I'm sure it aggravated Paul that they didn't listen and it does irritate us too because we care.
Funny thing happens though when the storms of life come... people start listening. When this happens we need to be like Paul. Paul reminded the people of his good advice earlier, but he didn't dwell on that; rather, he immediately began giving advice in the storm. And while the storm was going on and no one would listen to him he prayed not just for himself but for everyone on the ship. We need to follow this pattern. When people come back to us in the storm we need to move on from the advice that would have helped them miss the storm and begin advising in the storm.
But in the end advice only goes so far. Paul prayed. He did what he knew how to do and used the knowledge he had gained and he prayed. He didn't do one or the other, he did both.
So, remember that if you try to help someone avoid a storm your advice will not always be taken because people will, in the end, make their own decisions. But also remember to continue to pray for them and be there for them when the storm drives them back to you. Be a buoy in the storm for someone today.