Grades 3-6 Lesson for Sunday School:
The Apostle Paul: Part 7
Author’s Notes: The apostle Paul completed many missionary journeys, spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Jews and Gentiles throughout the area of Asia Minor. But for many years, Paul had a longing to visit the Christians who lived in Rome. And it was on his way there that the events of today’s lesson took place. Through the years, Paul had learned that he could trust the power and care of his Lord Jesus. But his faith would be greatly tested, again, as the journey to Rome, by boat, took some very dangerous turns.
What is the scariest thing you’ve ever had happen to you? (Allow the students several minutes to share frightening things that they have experienced. If they cannot think of any, ask these questions:)
Have any of you lived through a really bad storm? Perhaps one where lightening stuck things on the ground, or trees were knocked over?
Have any of you been out in a boat in the middle of a storm? Sometimes storms can come up so fast that even an experienced sailor can’t get back to land before the storm overtakes them. And that can be a very dangerous situation. If the waves get too high, water might get in the boat and sink it. If the waves get too rough, they can damage the boat, or drive it in the wrong direction, maybe toward a dangerous shoreline with rocks, or shallow water that cause the boat to run aground.
As you might imagine, this would be a very frightening and dangerous experience. But in today’s lesson, we’re going to see Paul go through a storm at sea. And he doesn’t forget that the one who called him to be a missionary is the same one who created the stormy sky and sea. Paul had already learned to trust God. And this situation would be no exception. He had taken to heart this Old Testament verse that we are learning, today.
Memory verse: (Have the children repeat this verse with you several times, until they are able to say it themselves. And encourage them to repeat it to others several times during the week, so that it’ll have a place in their hearts.)
“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” Joshua 1:9
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank You for the apostle Paul – the example he is to us, and for the Words he’s given us to read, from You. Help us, today, to be attentive to the lesson we’ll be learning from his life. Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: Shipwrecked! ( Acts 27)
We’ve spent several weeks, already, with the apostle Paul. And we’ve seen him go through some pretty tough trials. Who can remind us of some of the things Paul has already been through?
None of these things discouraged Paul from obeying God’s call to be a missionary. But Satan did not give up on sending more trials to try to stop him.
For a long time, Paul had wanted to go to Rome, to minister to the church that had been started there. After several missionary journeys throughout Asia Minor, Paul finally had the opportunity to get on a ship headed for Rome. The only drawback was that he was headed there as a prisoner. But that wouldn’t stop him from sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with those he met along the way, even in the middle of some of the toughest trials he had faced, yet.
We’re going to catch up with Paul as he’s ready to board a ship, under the watchful eye of a Roman soldier named Julius.
1And when it was determined that we should sail into Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners unto one named Julius, a centurion of Augustus' band.
2And entering into a ship of Adramyttium, we launched, meaning to sail by the coasts of Asia; one Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, being with us.
3And the next day we touched at Sidon. And Julius courteously entreated Paul, and gave him liberty to go unto his friends to refresh himself.
Did you notice how the Roman soldier treated Paul? He could have been very hard on him, demanding that he stay close by. He could have even kept him in chains. But Julius must have had a great deal of respect for Paul, to allow him to go off, away from the ship without a guard along.
So, after a brief visit, they headed out to sea again. And we’ll see the first signs of trouble on the water.
4And when we had launched from thence, we sailed under Cyprus, because the winds were contrary.
What did this verse say about the wind? It says the wind was “contrary.” Does anyone know what that might mean? It means rather than being a help in moving them in the right direction, the winds were blowing against them, making the trip more difficult. They had to change course, a bit, but it didn’t make them turn back.
We can learn a lesson from this experience. We might, at times, find ourselves headed in one direction, then find that God will send along a little something to nudge us in a different direction. It may not feel good at the time. It may even be a little scary. But when we allow God to steer us, He’ll always make sure we get to the place He wants us to be.
Sometimes, those changes in direction mean saying goodbye to old friends, and making new ones. That’s what happened to Paul, on the next part of his journey. Julius would say goodbye, and a new guard would be in charge.
5And when we had sailed over the sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia.
6And there the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing into Italy; and he put us therein.
7And when we had sailed slowly many days, and scarce were come over against Cnidus, the wind not suffering us, we sailed under Crete, over against Salmone;
8And, hardly passing it, came unto a place which is called The fair havens; nigh whereunto was the city of Lasea.
Notice, again, that the wind was causing problems for the ship that carried Paul. In fact, the bad weather delayed their trip enough that the season began to change, and it was no longer safe to travel by sailboat. So Paul had a warning, from God, for those in command of the ship.
9Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them,
10And said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives.
11Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul.
12And because the haven was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised to depart thence also, if by any means they might attain to Phenice, and there to winter; which is an haven of Crete, and lieth toward the south west and north west.
13And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete.
To those in charge of the ship, the weather looked good. And it seemed like a perfect time to resume their journey toward Rome. But what was Paul’s prediction for the coming journey? He said there would be “hurt and much damage” to the ship and the people on board. But did the centurion listen to Paul? No. Whose advice did he take, instead? That of the master and owner of the ship. Maybe the centurion figured that the ship master would know more about the sea than a mere prisoner on board would. But that prisoner happened to know the Creator of the sea and the sky. And God had warned Paul about what was going to happen. Paul believed. But the sailors did not. And everyone on board would be in great danger because of their disbelief.
Let’s look at Paul’s description of what happened when a storm came up that they couldn’t sail away from.
14But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon.
15And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive.
16And running under a certain island which is called Clauda, we had much work to come by the boat:
17Which when they had taken up, they used helps, undergirding the ship; and, fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands, strake sail, and so were driven.
18And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship;
19And the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship.
So the first day of the storm, the sailors tried to undergird the ship. This would normally involve wrapping ropes or chains beneath the boat, to make it more secure. Then, on the second day, it says they lightened the ship. How do you suppose they did that? They would have taken any unnecessary items in the ship and thrown them overboard, into the sea. That would make the boat sit up higher in the water, so not as much would come in as the waves passed over.
By the third day, the sailors were becoming more desperate. What did they do on that day? They threw the ship’s tackling into the sea. Does anyone know enough about boats to know what that means? It means they were now throwing parts of the boat that were not absolutely needed to get into shore, into the sea. And notice that it’s not just the sailors throwing things into the sea at that point. All of the ship’s passengers were now frantically trying to lighten the ship in any way they could. This probably indicates that the ship was beginning to sink.
Did you know that there are things in our lives that can weigh us down, too, and keep us from completing the tasks God gives us? If there is anything in your life, whether it is a person, or a place, or something you own, that you would not be willing to give up in order to serve the Lord, then God may just bring a storm, of sorts, into your life, to show you that you can, and sometimes must live without those things. God has promised to provide us with everything we need. So if He ever makes it clear that there’s something we need to give up for Him, then either we don’t need it, or He’s going to replace it with something even better. But we have to be willing to let those things go when God says so.
No doubt it was hard for the sailors to let go of parts of the ship that they once felt were needed. And there’s also no doubt that there were probably a lot of scared and sea sick people now on board. Does anyone here get sea sick? If so, can you imagine being out in a storm, getting bounced around in a boat…and for three whole days. You might think that sounds pretty bad, but just wait. Three days was only the very beginning of this storm.
20And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.
After many days of being caught in the storm, a storm so bad that the thick black clouds kept them from seeing any signs of the sky, what did everyone think? They thought there was no hope. They would all surely drown out there in the stormy sea. Everyone had given up…except one. And even though they had not listened to him the first time, Paul was ready, again, to share a message from God with whomever would listen. And since they had no other hope, the only alternative was Paul’s.
21But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss.
22And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man's life among you, but of the ship.
23For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve,
Paul wanted to make it very clear who his message came from. He reminded those on board the ship that he was a servant of God, and that God had given him another message concerning the ship and its passengers. And this was the new message he had received:
24Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.
25Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.
26Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island.
What was the message Paul had received from God? The ship would be destroyed, but everyone on board would be saved. For those who believed, this was good news. But they still had a difficult time ahead. God had predicted a shipwreck. And that’s just what was going to happen.
27But when the fourteenth night was come, [notice, that’s two full weeks of being driven in a storm] as we were driven up and down in Adria, about midnight the shipmen deemed that they drew near to some country;
28And sounded, and found it twenty fathoms: and when they had gone a little further, they sounded again, and found it fifteen fathoms.
29Then fearing lest we should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day.
30And as the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat into the sea, under colour as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship,
31Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.
What was going on here? The sailors were trying to abandon the ship, leaving Paul, his fellow prisoners, as well as the soldiers on board. The sailors had pretended to let out some anchors, but they were really lowering a lifeboat for themselves. But Paul knew what they were doing, and alerted the centurion and other soldiers. And their reaction was quick.
32Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off.
Before the sailors could even get into the lifeboat, the soldiers cut it loose. Now, they would all be in the same boat, literally, to see this thing through. And as daylight approached, Paul had a little more advice for the now very tired and disheartened group, stranded on a sinking ship.
33And while the day was coming on, Paul besought them all to take meat, saying, This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing.
34Wherefore I pray you to take some meat: for this is for your health: for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you.
35And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken it, he began to eat.
After fourteen days of being tossed around on the sea, what did Paul suggest they all do? He recommended that they try to build up some strength by eating something before their final moments in the ship. And despite the probability that they were feeling pretty sick, they listened to Paul’s advice, and did as he suggested. And it really seemed to do them some good.
36Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took some meat.
37And we were in all in the ship two hundred threescore and sixteen souls.
38And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, and cast out the wheat into the sea.
39And when it was day, they knew not the land: but they discovered a certain creek with a shore, into the which they were minded, if it were possible, to thrust in the ship.
40And when they had taken up the anchors, they committed themselves unto the sea, and loosed the rudder bands, and hoised up the mainsail to the wind, and made toward shore.
41And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the forepart stuck fast, and remained unmoveable, but the hinder part was broken with the violence of the waves.
What was the sailor’s plan as it became light enough to see the land before them? They pulled up the anchors and loosened the ties on the rudder, hoping that the wind would carry them to what appeared to be a creek with a safe shore.
But what happened to the ship once they let it go? It ran aground in the front. But the back was still able to move about. So the waves continued to crash into it, and the back of the ship began to break in pieces. And if the ship was breaking in pieces, what do you think would happen to the people on board? They thought they would soon be broken in pieces, too.
This created a new dilemma for the soldiers, since it was their job to make sure the prisoners didn’t get free. What might happen if the soldiers started swimming for shore? The prisoners might swim to a different spot, and try to escape. So some of the soldiers came up with a solution.
42And the soldiers' counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape.
What was the soldiers’ great idea? They would just go ahead and kill all of the prisoners, so none would escape. And that included Paul. But Paul had someone watching out for him. Well, actually God was watching out for him, and put a person in his life that would also do so.
43But the centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from their purpose; and commanded that they which could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land:
44And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land.
Who spared Paul’s life? The centurion. And what did the centurion tell everyone to do? He told them to head for shore. Those who could swim were to do so. Those who could not were to hold onto broken pieces of the boat, and ride the waves to shore. This probably didn’t seem like such a great idea…to jump into the raging sea, with boat pieces crashing all around, and rocks that were just waiting for people to smash into them. But the alternative was to get broken apart, with the ship. So everyone obeyed. And the prisoners were spared.
And how many of the ship’s passengers and crew made it to land? All of them. Not one was lost, just as God had promised.
Now, nowhere does it say that their swim to shore was easy. Nothing about this voyage had been easy! But God promised to bring them all through safely. And that’s just what He did. That must have been a great testimony to God’s love and power. The people on that boat knew very well what could have happened to them. But they also knew that the God whom Paul served had promised to spare them all. And that’s just what He did. He did not promise that He would take the boat around the storm. And He didn’t promise that He would make the storm stop. But He did promise to bring them safely through it.
And the God who brought those ship passengers through the storm, safely onto the shore, is the same God who is watching over us today. He has promised never to leave or forsake us. And that if we have been born again, His Holy Spirit is living within us; as He provides for all our needs.
Can we trust God to keep His promises? Yes! That’s why we have God’s Word – to give us many examples of God doing just that, so we can know that He is someone we can truly count on…just like Paul did.
Are you trusting in things around you to keep you safe and secure? Or have you placed your faith in the One who will never let you down? Those sailors probably thought their ship would keep them safe. But when the storm battered against it and tore it apart, they had to come to the place where they realized only God could save them. If you’re trusting, today, in anything or anyone other than God, you can be sure that someday a storm could come along and take it away. Only Jesus can be trusted to help us forever, through any storm. So make sure your trust is in the right place…only in Jesus!
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the example of the apostle Paul, and the faith he had in You. And thank You that the same help that was available to him is still there for us, today, in You. Help us, Lord, to put our trust in You, the only One who can meet all of our needs, in any circumstance, at any time. For it’s only in Your name that we ask these things. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Activity: (Review Questions)
Fill in the Blanks
True or False
1. The weather was favorable for sailing. (false – not favorable)
2. The ship’s crew threw things into the sea to lighten the ship. (true)
3. Paul was warned in a dream that many of those on the ship would die. (false – he was told none would die)
4. The sailors tried to abandon the ship with the prisoners still on board. (true)
5. As God had promised, everyone made it to land safely. (true)
Be of Good Courage
You may not be shipwrecked,
Or bitten by a snake.
But scary things may happen;
So, friend, make no mistake –
God is watching o’er you,
You need not be afraid.
Just claim the precious promise
That He’s already made.
“The Lord thy God is with thee, withersoever thou goest!” Joshua 1:9
Lisa DeVinney, November, 2021