I mentioned to you this morning that I wanted to talk to you tonight on the subject of leadership. These are principles that apply in so many areas of life: church ministry areas – in fact any areas in the secular world where you’re involved in leadership; in the home, of course, where we exercise our leadership. All of us, to one degree or another, are engaged in leading in some way. And this is very, very practical and helpful information we’re going to be talking about tonight.
A crisis of leadership faces the world. I think we always know that. We’re aware of that all the time. The world is always looking for leaders. It seems as if more so now, in some ways, than in the past. We need leaders in every area of life. We’re crying out for great, heroic, noble national leaders. We need leaders at every level. And it comes all the way down, of course, to the church, and all the way down to every social order in which we engage ourselves, and right on down to the family.
If you look at the world, and if you were to sort of ask a general, you know, how the world would define a leader, it would be interesting for you, if you haven’t done that. There are a number of books on leadership. In fact, they come out constantly.
I was, on Friday, down at the University of Southern California for a special meeting of college presidents. All the presidents of the independent colleges in the state of California were there from Stanford and USC and all the colleges. And I was sitting around there. At the same time that we were discussing our role as leaders in the community and in the universities and colleges of our state, there was a conference going on on leadership. And at that conference, there were a whole number of people. We sort of mingled with these people during the lunchtime. And there was a table set up in the lobby of this particular building in the campus of University of Southern California, in which the latest offerings – the latest book offerings on the subject of leadership were all displayed.
Now, these are books that have just recently come out that need to be added to the almost endless list of other books on the issues of leadership. Now, there is a tremendous drive to try to develop effective leaders. And we, in the church, obviously have the same need, although I think we have certainly a better resource in the truth of God’s Word and in the power of the Holy Spirit than anyone in the world does.
But if you were to sort of pull together all of the typical patterns of leadership that the world offers. You would usually come up with their definition of a leader being a strong, natural, dominating kind of personality.
The characteristics of the leaders in the secular society would be these. Visionary – that is looking to the future and, in some degree or another, being able to forecast the future and plan ahead for the future. Action oriented – that is more than just someone who muses about things, more than someone who comes up with ideas and schemes, somebody who can make things happen. That’s what you always hear, “We want somebody who can make things happen.” Courageous – they have to be, to one degree or another, a risk taker, because if you don’t take risk, you don’t do anything new. And so, the world looks for people who have a measure of courage.
They have to be energetic; the high-energy people, they’re called often a Type A personality, driven kind of people. They need to be objective oriented rather than people oriented, because if they are stuck on people, they will allow their relationships with people and the fear of alienating people or hurting people or making people feel bad or terminating people or moving people to thwart their efforts. If they’re objective oriented, then people simply play a role in achieving the objective and they will move those people at whatever pace and in whatever direction the object that they are chasing calls for.
They tend to be paternalistic – that is they tend to see themselves as the father in charge of everybody who needs to get everybody around them and organized and directed in the appropriate area. They tend to be egocentric – that is they tend to be very self-absorbed. They believe in themselves; they believe they know the answers; they believe they know what to do; they believe they can solve the problems. These leaders also tend to be intolerant of incompetence in other people. It tends to be a very serious issue to them when they find somebody who’s incompetent. They demand competency at every level, and that’s what elevates organizations to a level of excellence.
And lastly, the typical strong, natural leader sees himself or herself as indispensible. They live with the illusion – and sometimes, in some cases, I suppose, it is a fact - that without them, the whole system that they’re a part of is very likely to come down.
So, you have this typical picture of a leader: visionary, action oriented, courageous, energetic, objective oriented, paternalistic, egocentric, intolerant of incompetence in others, and indispensible. This is, you know, the world’s picture of a leader. It’s very – it’s very different from what the Scripture says, and yet there are some similarities. And if you were to look in the scripture to try to find a pattern for leadership, you might ask the question, “Where would I go?” I can find a pattern for a leader who is an elder in the church, and he is to be a teacher of the Word of God and have a godly life. And it talks about his life virtues, and it talks about his spiritual giftedness, but where do I go in the Bible just to find the basic stuff of leadership? Where do I go to get an example of leadership?
Well, you could go back to Moses, couldn’t you? Moses was a leader, and Moses got some great advice from his father-in-law Jethro who told him that he was going to find it absolutely impossible if, on his own, he tried to lead the whole of the nation of Israel. And so, he needed to break it all down and break it down into various groups and appoint people under him who could take care of the various groups. And he was really told to learn how to delegate. And all good leaders need to know how to delegate.
So, you could look at Moses, and probably in the Old Testament you would find that Moses exercised a great amount of leadership, leading literally 2 million people probably all around the wilderness for 40 years is no easy job, but he did it.
I suppose somebody might make a case that you could look at the life of David, but frankly, while David was a lot of things, he never really demonstrated that he was much of a leader. Occasionally he did. Occasionally he did something that demonstrated leadership, but for every good thing he did, on the other hand he seemed to do something that would be the antithesis of effective leadership.
If you were looking into the New Testament, you were looking for someone who demonstrated leadership capability, obviously you would look to the Lord Jesus Christ, who was perfect in everything He did and was, for certain, the perfect leader.
But if you want a human model, I don’t think anybody’s better than Paul. Paul is my hero as a leader. He is a true leader of people. It had nothing to do with titles, because he really didn’t have any title. He wasn’t a king; he wasn’t a governor; he wasn’t, in the social sense, any leader. He didn’t have any status; he wasn’t a statesman; he wasn’t a nobleman of any kind. He was, however, a leader. And I think the best place to see his innate, God-given leadership capability is in the twenty-seventh chapter of acts. So, I want you to turn to Acts 27.
This chapter is a great chapter. Now, those of you who have a MacArthur Study Bible will have a kind of an advantage on everybody else because there are many details in this chapter. In fact, I grabbed my wife’s MacArthur Study Bible, since I usually preach out the NAS, but I asked her if I could borrow it for this sermon because I realized you’re all going to be looking at the notes, and I want to see what you’re reading as I move along through this thing. This is a good opportunity, really, for you to see how the notes can assist you in the unfolding of a passage.
Now, the basic principles of leadership you’re not going to find in those notes, because that’s not part of the actual interpretation of the text. But you will find a lot of details down there that I’ll refer to that make this scene really a very, very vivid one. What you have here, in Acts 27, is a very interesting situation. You have a transportation of the apostle Paul from Caesarea, which is a name for Caesar; it was a Roman city, a Roman military city on the coast of Israel. If you go direct west from Jerusalem, directly to the ocean, you come to Caesarea. It’s just a little bit north of the modern city of Tel Aviv., which is the capital of Israel, which grew up around the ancient city of Joppa.
So, if you go directly west of Jerusalem, you come to Caesarea. And it was a – it was a Roman military garrison. That’s where the Romans had their army during their occupation of the nation Israel.
Now, the apostle Paul had come back from his third missionary journey. He’d come back to Jerusalem. He had collected money, you remember, from the Gentile churches, to give to the church at Jerusalem because they had so many indigent Christians – Christians who’d come in there to hear the – to Pentecost. They heard the gospel; they were saved; they never went home.
And so, the church had to take care of these people. Many of the Jews in Jerusalem - who embraced the gospel, believed in Christ - lost their families, lost their jobs, therefore lost their income. And they, too, were indigent; they didn’t have a source of income. The church had to take them on.
You remember very early in the book of Acts, don’t you, that the people who had money were literally bringing their money, giving it to the apostles so they could give it to people in need. And some people were selling pieces of property, liquidating their assets, taking the cash, giving it to the apostles, and dispensing it to those in need.
Well, eventually the church at Jerusalem had exhausted its supplies, and so the apostle Paul had been going around the Gentile world, collecting money to take back to relieve this distress among the saints at Jerusalem.
Well, he came back to Jerusalem. When he got there, as you remember, he was warned that when he was there - the prophet Agabus said, “When you get there, you’re going to be put in chains, and you’re going to become a prisoner. That’s exactly what happened. He came back; the Jews accused him of all kinds of falsehoods. They said, “He’s against the temple, and he’s against the Law of God.” And so, he was arrested.
As a result of his arrest, the Romans didn’t know what to do with him. They arrested Paul to pacify the Jewish leaders who were screaming for him to be arrested because, ostensibly, he had violated Roman law, which, of course – or Jewish law, which, of course, he hadn’t done at all.
But nonetheless, the Romans arrested him just to keep the peace, and they hauled him that 60 miles west to the coast of Caesarea, and they incarcerated him there for two years. They kept him a prisoner there.
Now, he tried to deal with his issue. He wanted a fair and a just trial, and he kept asking for it. Well, finally at the end of chapter 26, he convinced Agrippa that he ought to get a fair trial. You can’t just hold a man in prison for two years just to keep the peace. He reminded them that he was a Roman citizen, and he was entitled to a fair trial.
And so, it was decided that he was going to have to go to Caesar. Agrippa says to Festus, at the end of 26, “This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.” I’m not sure you could convince me that he really meant that. But since he appealed to Caesar, he’s got to go and have a fair trial as a Roman citizen. Paul was a Roman citizen. He had a right to a fair trial. And so they say, “All right, we’ll deal with him by shipping him to Rome, and he can have his trial before Caesar, which is what he asked for.
So, you come to chapter 27. He’s in Caesarea, on the west coast of Palestine. He has to sail across the Mediterranean to the west to Rome, Italy, to have a trial before Caesar. You come into chapter 27, and this is where the trip begins.
As it unfolds – and we’re going to kind of go through the chapter all the way to the end, and just in a kind of a narrative flow – as this passage unfolds, we see Paul’s leadership ability surface. And I want to say, at the very beginning, that when the trip starts out, he is the low man on the totem pole. He has no authority; he has no title; he has no responsibility. He is a prisoner. He is a prisoner.
I spent most of the day yesterday in a prison, ministering to some inmates there. And it was quite interesting to be there. There were some very significant people there. There was a man who was the president of one of the largest life insurance companies in America who was there. There was a man who was a president of the Midwest Blue Cross. There was one of the great contractors in the United States who has built over a thousand churches and built Jim Baker’s PTL enterprise back in Charlotte. There’s some pretty formidable people there, people who were used to being in authority, people who were used to responsibility. And it was interesting to see them there with a mixture of drug dealers, Neo-Nazi members of the Aryan Brotherhood, street criminals all mingled together.
And do you know what I noticed? Nobody had a DAY-TIMER. Nobody had an appointment book. Nobody had any responsibility. Your responsibility was to get up and go to breakfast, and then go sweep something or vacuum something, and then go to lunch, and then go to the library and read, and then go to dinner, and then go walk around to get your exercise, and then go to a computer class, and then go to bed – for years. Nobody had any authority. There were 200 inmates in this unusual place, and there were 100 staff watching them. Pretty impressive environment.
Prisoners have no authority. They have no say. In fact, I took along one of my Bibles to give to a certain man there that I heard had wanted one, and there was no way I could do that. There was no way this man could receive that from me. Prisoners have no authority at all. And that was Paul. He had no stature; he had no station; he had nothing. He was the prisoner who was being taken to Italy with some other prisoners.
That’s where we pick the story up in verse 1. “When it was decided that we should sail to Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to one named Julius, a centurion of the Augustan regiment. So, entering a ship of Adramyttium” – that’s a city on the coast of Asia Minor; this would be a ship that was basically birthed there – “we put to sea, meaning to sail along the cost of Asia.”
Now, Paul, at this time, is in Caesarea. Caesarea’s on the coast of Palestine, right on the Mediterranean Sea. Docking there, at the port of Caesarea – which is still there; you can see it today – was a ship that was from Adramyttium. The idea was that the centurion, the Roman soldier who was in charge of the prisoners, was going to ride this ship to Adramyttium, and at Adramyttium, he would pick up another ship that would go on to Rome. That was basically the plan.
So, we see the scene, then. Paul is a prisoner. On this ship there is a captain, and there probably is a first mate, and there probably are other ranking sailors. The pilot of the ship and others. There is a Roman centurion who would be the commander of a band of a hundred men. A “centurion,” indicating 100, was over the Augustan regiment. This was named for Augustus. It may have even been the very crack troops, the very regiment of men, the very band of soldiers who were assigned to guard Caesar himself – Caesar Augustus. So, it would have been crack troops, and the centurion would have been a very outstanding soldier who would have been the leader of the Augustan regiment.
So, Paul is a prisoner of some formidable Roman soldiers. There are a lot of people with authority on the ship. There’s the centurion and whoever the ranking officers were below him, including that whole group that went with him. We don’t have to assume that the whole 100 went, but a number of those went. They would have had some rankings as well. And then there was the rankings of the sailors on the ship. But Paul was at the bottom of everything. In fact, he was probably down in the hold of the ship. That’s how it was.
The intent is to start sailing up the west coast of Palestine and across the southern part of Asia Minor, which is modern Turkey, till they came to Adramyttium, and there to dock and to take another ship from there to Italy.
It is in this situation that Paul’s leadership emerges, and we begin to see the characters of leadership. It starts very soon. It notes in verse 2, by the way, that Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica – “Aristarchus was with us.” Who does that “us” refer to? Luke is the writer. Verse 1, he says, “And when it was decided that we should sail” – Luke is with the apostle Paul. He’s been with him – at least nearby – during his two-year imprisonment, and now he is there, and so is another of Paul’s companions, a man by the name of Aristarchus. He had been captured during a riot at Ephesus, and so he’s there, too.
Then it says – and this is fascinating to me – “The next day” – so, they leave Caesarea – “And the next day we landed at Sidon.” Now, if you know anything about the geography of the land of Palestine, you know that Sidon isn’t very far away; it’s just up the coast. One day’s sailing, and they’re at Sidon. And for some reason we don’t know, they docked at Sidon. And this is what’s amazing, “Julius” – who is the Roman centurion – “treated Paul kindly” – get this – “and gave him liberty to go to his friends and receive care.”
Now, this is really pretty shocking. I mean you just basically don’t take a hot potato political prisoner - a prisoner who has stood before the governor Felix, the governor Festus, and King Agrippa; a prisoner who has been a serious threat to the Pax Romana, the Roman peace; a prisoner who literally generated riots in the city of Jerusalem; a prisoner who is on the way to a trial before Caesar – you just don’t give that kind of prisoner liberty.
And there was an underlying thing that you need to know about. If a Roman soldier, due to his own negligence, lost his prisoner, there was a very high price: he paid with his life. He paid with his life. And we’ll see that come into play later in this account. It is astonishing, frankly, that a Roman centurion, a highly trained soldier who would be parallel to a tough, seasoned fighter, who would have maybe the skills of a commander and the mental attitude of a sergeant would let a prisoner have liberty after he had only known him and had been in his care one day. One day. What would ever make him do that?
Here’s the first principle of leadership. A leader is trusted. A leader is trusted. Somehow, in maybe the brief days before the ship left Caesarea, somehow in that day trip to Sidon, Paul had convinced that centurion that he would never do anything that could cost that centurion personally – his life or anything else. In other words, that man believed that Paul would not take that liberty and try to escape. Paul believed – the centurion believed that the apostle Paul would never do anything to bring harm upon him. That’s an amazing thing. Amazing.
So, he let him go to his friends. He had friends everywhere. He had enemies everywhere. He had enemies everywhere, too, but he had some friends in Sidon from the impact of his ministry – the years of his ministry. And he said to the centurion – he must have said, “I want to go visit my friends. May I?” And the centurion let him do that. There’s only one reason: he trusted him. He trusted him. What do we mean by trust? When people are convinced that you will do everything in your power for their good and nothing for their harm, they’ll trust you. They’ll trust you.
When this centurion was convinced that Paul honestly had his best interest in his heart, he let him go. Why? Because he knew he’d come back. Paul had gained his trust. This is where all leadership starts. All leadership begins here. Paul cared about that man. He was sensitive to that man’s life, and he would never do anything to harm it.
Sometimes I think we assume that a leader is someone who’s consumed with his own issues and his own successes, but the fact of the matter is a leader is someone who convinces everybody around him that it is their interests that most occupy his heart. That’s the characteristic of a real leader.
A real leader is a person who will work hard to make everybody around him successful, work hard to make them flourish. Leaders are not – truly are not people who operate for personal fulfillment or personal gain. People who do that wind up leading nobody, because everybody abandons them. Leaders are people surrounded by gifted, capable, diligent, successful people who stay around that leader because they see that all of his energies and all of his abilities enhance their lives and their successes. If you can convince that you have their best interest in your heart, they’ll follow you. And this man was so convinced that Paul would never do anything to bring him harm that he just let him go. He let him go.
And, of course, he came back. It doesn’t say that, but he shows up for the rest of the trip, so we know it’s true. The first thing about a leader, he’s trusted. I don’t know how I can emphasize this too strongly - I don’t think I can – anybody in any position of leadership will succeed insofar as people trust them with their lives, with their futures, with their money, with whatever. Nothing can take the place of this. Nothing.
That’s why, in this country, it’s so sad to have a leader you can’t trust. That’s not leadership at all. That’s not leadership at all. Someone who is consumed with his own interests, his own desires, his own personal ambitions driving everything is no leader at all.
Second characteristic of leadership flows out of this text. And you notice that Paul is not officially the leader, but by the time we get through this chapter, he will be in charge of everything, because leadership always rises in a crisis. Second characteristic of leadership is leadership takes the initiative. Leadership takes the initiative.
You know, it’s not hard to recognize a leader just on this alone. I’ve been around long enough to know this. When somebody comes to me and says, “You know, I got – we got a problem over here, Pastor. We got a real problem over here. What are you going to do about that?”
Well, I try to be as gracious as I can, but in my mind I file the thought, “Well, it’s not a leader.” Leaders take the initiative. A leader comes and says, “And by the way, we had a problem over there; here’s how I solved it.” That’s what you’re looking for. Let’s see how that happens.
Verse 4, “When we put to sea from there” – they were there in Sidon long enough for Paul to be with his friends; when they left there, back out into the Mediterranean – “we sailed under the shelter of Cyprus” – Cyprus is an island; they went between the island and the mainland to be sheltered from the winds to some degree; the shelters were contrary to them. They were – they had a head wind that was very strong, and so feeling that they could get between the mainland and the island, they might be sheltered from that. That’s what they did.
“And when we had sailed over the sea which is off Cilicia and Pamphylia” – those are areas that would be along the south coast of Asia Minor or modern Turkey – “we came to Myra, a city of Lycia.” It was a – this was a port city – a port city used by the Roman government for their grain fleet. “So, the centurion found there an Alexandrian ship” – that would be a ship registered into Alexandria, which is, again, in Egypt, where some of their grain came from; so, this might have been the grain route from Egypt, the port of Alexandria up to Myra, and then over to Rome - “and he put us on board.” So, they didn’t get to Adramyttium to catch the other ship, but they took the ship that was going to Rome write there in Myra.
Verse 7, “When we had sailed slowly many days” – meaning that the wind was not helping them – “and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus” – Cnidus, another little sort of extension of Asia Minor – “the wind not permitting us to proceed, we sailed again under the shelter of Crete, off Salmone” – another little piece of the coastline there. So, they’re having a very difficult time, just kind of going along against the headwind; it’s not getting them very far very fast, and they’re struggling.
Verse 8 says, “Passing it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea.” They have finally managed to get around the edge of Crete, as they’re kind of creeping along up there, and they finally come to Lasea.
And now, here comes the point, “When much time had been spent” – we don’t know how much time; we don’t know how long they’d been at this, but it’s been much time – “and sailing was now dangerous because the fast was already over” – now let me stop you here. The fast is the Day of Atonement. The Day of Atonement occurs in Jewish calendar just at a very crucial time in the sailing calendar. If you’re sailing in the Mediterranean, mid-September to November is a very dangerous time. There’s the strong northeastern winds that come down off the mountains in the northeast corner of the landmass there that sweeps down into the northeast corner of the Mediterranean. It can be very, very difficult. And, of course, the Day of Atonement is either at the end of September or early October. And now they’re past that, which means they’re into mid-October, or they’re into November, or they could have been sailing for a month or more and getting very little headway. But they’re entering into a time of great danger because of the winds – the winter winds that are going to come.
Notice what happens here. So, much time had been spent; sailing was now dangerous, and even to this day, those winds are still well known and threatening in that part of the world. The fast is over; the Day of Atonement is over. “Paul advised them” – now stop right there. What do you mean Paul advised them. Who’s he? What’s happened here during these weeks? What’s going on? All of a sudden, in the middle of all of this, you’ve got the Roman soldier who’s the centurion, you’ve got some other ranking Roman officers, you’ve got whoever the owner of the ship is most likely, you’ve got the pilot and the captain of the ship, and you’ve got the ranking sailors of the ship, and everybody who’s got a formal right to speak. Nobody speaks, and so Paul just takes over. That is characteristic of leaders; they take the initiative. He had no rank; he had no particular right; he had no title; he had no bearing; he just realized there was a problem, and he just took the initiative. I like that. That’s leadership. Leaders rise, in times that are crucial, and take the initiative.
“Paul advised them,” it says.
I’m sure somebody said, “Who is this? What is this? What is this guy doing?” But by that time, his wisdom must have seeped up from the bottom to the upper decks. It’s the mark of a leader. It doesn’t matter where he ranks; it doesn’t matter whether he’s in a place of subordination or a place of prominence, he takes the initiative. It’s just built in. He was a prisoner; he was the lowest of the low. But as soon as he saw a problem, he initiated a response.
That was sort of reminiscent of a time in the history of Israel. The year would have been 444 B.C. The city of Jerusalem was in devastation. It had been in destruction, devastation, and waste for over 150 years, since the Babylonian invasion, in 586 B.C., had destroyed the city. The Jewish people had come back from captivity. They’d been back for over 80 years by the year 444, but they had never rebuilt the wall of the main city. The wall was still in ruins.
And then there appeared a man by the name of Nehemiah. Nehemiah wasn’t anybody official in terms of the life of Israel, although he did have an interesting job over in the Babylonian world. But he was not at all an official in Israel, but he took the initiative. The people were demoralized; everything looked hopeless. He wound up with the proper orders from Cyrus to go back and to begin the rebuilding.
You look at Nehemiah, and you can see that he did several things. One, he identified the problem. He identified the problem, and he identified with it. He came up with a solution, he took action, he delegated responsibility, and he worked alongside the people. That’s taking the initiative. He identified with the need, he came up with the solution, he took action, delegated responsibility. Remember, he set up family teams to build certain portions of the wall? And then he got in alongside of them and worked with them. He says in Nehemiah 5:16, “I also held to the work on this wall and acquired no land.” He stopped his business enterprising and his acquisitions, and he just worked. He was dedicated to the work. And you remember an incredible thing; they followed his lead against all ridicule, conspiracy, discouragement, greed and deceit – all that stuff that went on in chapters 4 through 6, when they tried to stop the process – the enemies of Israel. And in spite of all of that, because of the initiative of this one man, Nehemiah, in 52 days they built the entire wall around Jerusalem. Amazing results. And he was relentless. It didn’t matter what came, he never gave up the initiative.
Now, this is characteristic of leadership. Leadership recognizes problems, recognizes needs, finds solutions, mobilizes people, achieves results, and works alongside. That was Paul. He was just a leader. And so, he took the initiative. Nobody had said anything.
A lot of people had a lot at stake. The people who were the Romans, they wanted to get to Rome as fast as they could. They didn’t want to stop; they wanted to hurry the process. The people who owned the ship wanted to get the cargo where it was going as rapidly as they could get it there because it meant money to them. Everybody would have wanted to keep moving, but Paul recognized the danger and took the initiative. And that leads me to the third thing about leadership; it uses good judgment.
As I said earlier, the world’s view of a leader is that the leader is a risk taker; he’s a dice roller; he’s a gambler. Well, there is a certain amount of risk – calculated risk – in leadership, but no pure gamble. And you see Paul exercising very good judgment.
Let’s pick it up in verse 10. When he does stand up to speak, he advised them saying, “Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives.” We have a serious problem here. A serious problem. And I’m not about to trust chance – as if there was something like that – I’m not going to trust blind luck or fate; I’m not going to just wish that everything would go well. I’m not going to be foolish. The fastest way – I tell young pastors this often – the fastest way to lose your credibility and lose the trust of your people is not to preach a bad sermon – they’ll forgive that – the fastest way is to make a stupid decision that leads them down a blind alley or off the end of the pier. It is foolish leadership decisions.
Good leaders are analytical. They understand there’s a calculated risk, but they do a good job of assessing and evaluating direction. They bring into account all the factors, and they make wise choices. Leaders use good judgment.
So, he makes his speech, “Guys, we ought not to keep going; there’s an awful lot at stake: we lose the ship, we lose the cargo; we lose our lives.” That’s a pretty complete disaster.
Verse 11, “Nevertheless, the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman and the owner of the ship than by the things spoken by Paul.” Well, what does he know? He hears the other side of the story, and the other side of the story’s being told by the owner of the ship and the pilot of the ship or the helmsman of the ship. The owner of the ship wants to get the cargo there so he can get paid. He helmsman wants him to get the cargo there so he can get paid so he can get paid.
And so, “Because the harbor was not suitable to winter in” – they didn’t like Fair Havens; they didn’t want to spend the winter there; it was not suitable to winter in, so they did something that people still do today, they took a poll. That’s right; they took a poll, and guess what? “The majority advised to set sail from there also.” Give me a great, careful, thoughtful, analytical, wise leader anytime over the majority. Anytime. But they took a vote; they had a poll. And nobody wanted to stay there. They didn’t like the place to winter in.
“They were hoping they could at least reach Phoenix” – not Arizona, by the way it’s another harbor about 40 miles away from Fair Havens, but it was sheltered better from the winter – “a harbor of Crete opening toward the southwest and northwest, and they would winter there.” Because the winds, see, were coming from the east. They could be buffeted – they could be buffeted by those winds if they were exposed to the eastern wind that they could get on the southwest-northwest side; the hills in that area would protect them. They would rather have spent the winter there.
So, they said, “Okay, we may hit a storm, but we certainly can’t stay where we are.” Well, verse 13, everything looked fine, “A south wind blew softly” – just wafting them along. A south wind would have been a warm wind – right? – coming up from North Africa. A warm, nice wind blowing them along. “They obtained their desire; putting out to sea, they sailed close by Crete” - that famous island of Crete – “they sailed close by.”
Ah. “But not long after a tempestuous headwind arose, called” – literally – “Euraquilo” – Euraquilo – eurus means an east wind, and aquilō means a north wind. They got a nor’easter, the worst possible scenario; this northeast wind comes bearing down on them. This is the feared wind that comes off the mountains above Palestine, above Lebanon, and it blows the cold, hard winter wind right down onto that Mediterranean Sea. Just exactly what Paul had said would happen happened. And by the way, his stock is going up.
“And when the ship was caught, it couldn’t head into the wind, we let her drive.” They couldn’t get the thing turned to get where they wanted to get into the safety of the port of Phoenix, and they couldn’t turn it against that wind. The little south wind was blowing them, they thought, so gently. And as they were going to come around Crete and get the place – get to the place they wanted to be, that Euraquilo came, and they couldn’t bear into that wind. All they could do – the wind was so fierce – was to let the ship go and let the wind drive it.
“They” – verse 16 – “were running under the shelter of an island called Clauda” – sometimes Cauda. And they’re now about 25 miles away from Crete. They’ve been blown away from Crete by this wind. They secured the skiff. Well, what that means is that typically, in those ancient wooden ships, they had a dinghy, because they would have to maybe anchor the ship offshore, and then they would row into the shore because they didn’t have necessarily dredged ports in every place. And so, they would just anchor the ship out, and then they would go in on the little dinghy. They also would have used it as a lifeboat, although there wouldn’t have been enough room in it, perhaps, to carry everybody, since there were a lot of people on this particular ship.
But all of a sudden, this tremendous storm is coming, and this wind is blowing, and the skiff typically was attached to the main ship with a rope. It was just sort of being dragged behind like a trailer, and it would just be bouncing everywhere. And, of course, it would break loose, or it would be battered to pieces, or it would sink. And so, they had to secure it. So, they would literally pull the rope and get the skiff on board. And it was very difficult to do that, it says in verse 16, because of the nature of the storm.
Verse 17, “When they had taken it on board, they used cables to undergird the ship.” It an old thing that they did with ships; it’s called frapping the ship. This was a tongue and grove ship, like all those ancient wooden ships, and they would just tongue and groove the wood slats and set them together like that. But when the storm would come, and the sea would heave this way with tremendous crashing of waves, those boards would begin to separate. And so, they would string cables around the hull at crucial points, and then they would winch those cables with some kind of a winch mechanism on top, to literally keep the tongue and groove wood together so the ship didn’t fly to pieces.
So, they got the cables; they put the cables around and probably ropes, and undergirded or frapped the ship, “fearing lest they should run aground on the Syrtis” – which was known as the graveyard of ships. It was on the north coast of Africa. They were being blown south at such a fast rate, and they weren’t even able to know how fast they were going. They were afraid they were going to be driven right into North Africa, in a place called the Syrtis, where many, many ships had been run aground. And fearing, of course, that they would fall apart in the process, or that they would be ripped up when they hit that, they tried to tie the ship together.
“They struck sail” – which means they took down the sail; it doesn’t mean they put it up; it also tells us in some other manuscripts that they dropped the anchor. The anchor would act like a drag, and they were trying to slow down the speed with which the wind was driving them. The sails were down. They were now still being driven by the wind and by the wind driving the sea. They were dragging an anchor, trying to slow themselves down.
Verse 18 says, “And because we were exceedingly tempest tossed, the next day they lightened the ship.” What happens when you start getting tossed in a storm is you have to rise up. You have to get up out of the water or the ship gets swamped. Right? So, you’ve got to bring the ship up. The way you bring the ship up is to jettison the cargo to get the weight out of the ship. And that’s exactly what they did; they lightened the ship. And that’s not a – that’s not a trivial thing, because that’s the livelihood. That’s what they’re carrying – their cargo. And on the – they were so severely tempest tossed in verse 19, that “The third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands.” You get the idea that this isn’t some organized deal here, that in the in the midst of the panic, these people individually are just throwing everything overboard. Everything. And tackle is the equipment or the tools, the various parts of the equipment that put the sails up and down, that run the rigs and everything else. They started jettisoning everything they could get their hands on to get that ship up higher so it didn’t get swamped by the waves.
Verse 20, “Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up.” Everybody resigned to the fact that we’re going to die.
Now, who is the one guy who told them this? Who told them this? Paul told them exactly this. Now you know who’s in charge. Right? The one man who was right. And that is an affirmation of Paul’s good judgment. Good leaders have good judgment. Good, sound, careful, thoughtful, common sense wisdom. They look at things honestly, objectively, not haphazardly, not in a risky, gambling way. They understand what’s at stake, the lives of people, precious property. They make thoughtful, careful decisions. They’re patient.
Verse 21, “But after long abstinence from food” – I love this; they haven’t eaten now for all these days, because they’ve been trying to stay alive on this boat – “Paul stood in the midst of them and said, ‘Men, you should have listened to me’” – just, you know, reinforcing it a little. “‘I told you you should not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss.’” Was I right?
“You were right. You told us we shouldn’t have done it.” Boy, now they know; he’s a good leader. He has good judgment. “We can’t really trust the captain of the ship; we can’t really trust the owner of the ship; we can’t look to the Roman soldiers to give us the answers; we have to look to him.”
There’s a fourth characteristic of leadership that now appears. A leader is respected, takes initiative, uses good judgment. Fourthly, he speaks with authority. He speaks with authority. This I – I really love this, too.
Verse 22, what’s going to happen. They’re in a panic now, and there’s only one person they’re going to look to. Right? Only one person, and that’s Paul. He has now become the leader, because the crisis produced him. And now he says, in verse 22, “‘I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.’” Huh, how can that be? The ships going to go down, but we’re all going to be saved? That’s pretty strong confidence. Where’d you get that confidence? Verse 23, “‘For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve’” – boy, what a great evangelistic witness that was - “‘an angel from the God whom I belong and whom I serve, and he said to me, “Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed, God has granted you all those who sail with you.”‘”
Now, the fourth thing is a leader speaks with authority. A leader speaks with boldness because he knows his subject, because he knows whereof he speaks. He speaks with confidence, with authority, because he knows what is true.
When Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:27, the people said, “Never has a man spoken with that kind of authority.” They marveled at Him because he spoke as one having authority.
Speaking with authority, if I can just digress a little bit, is really crucial. It really is crucial. I often say to young people that are developing in leadership that leadership is 75 percent verbal. Unless you can speak clearly and with authority, and boldness, and confidence, and courage because you know whereof you speak you can’t really lead people. You can’t lead them by saying, “Well, maybe we could go this way or maybe we could – let’s vote.” No.
I mean you see it in the business world. You see it in the athletic world, somebody who just pulls everybody in the huddle and says, “This is what we do; here’s how we do it; this is how we win; everybody go do your job,” because he knows whereof he speaks. He understands what’s at hand. He understands its capabilities. And in the case of the apostle Paul, he had a word from God. Now, that’s what sets spiritual leadership apart from everything else. We can speak with confidence because we have a word from God.
You command trust by your selflessness. When people believe that you will give your life for them, you command their trust. You develop initiative when you care about what’s happening, because you care about the people to whom it’s happening and take the initiative to solve it.
And you also care enough about what’s happening, and who it’s happening to, to use very carefully thought-out wisdom and good judgment. And when all those things are in place, you speak authoritatively. And everybody is buoyed up by your confidence. And sometimes this is just having a strong, confident tone.
I remember, years ago, when I was doing a graduation at the police academy. It was before there were any women on the police force out on the field. And one of the guys was telling me they had flunked a student out of the police academy because of his voice. A male.
And I said, “Why?”
And this policeman said to me, “Well, you can’t go up behind somebody and say, ‘Put them up; you’re under arrest.’”
I think he’s probably had to change his view about that. Something to be said for speaking with authority. Jesus spoke with authority, and the reason he spoke with authority was because he had the truth of God behind him. I mean if you’re going to be a leader in your business, it’s going to be because you know what you’re talking about, and you can speak it confidently, whether it’s because you’ve carefully analyzed and studied the situation, and you know what’s involved, or because of your vast experience, or your wisdom, or your insights, or because somebody told you something that those people don’t know. Whatever the basis of that authority is, when you speak confidently and with authority, you lift everybody up, and you ennoble them. That’s what Paul did. It’s not abrasive; it’s not abusive; it’s a soft authority. It’s a confidence because you know maybe what they don’t know. And maybe you’ve learned it from experience, as in the case of Paul. He learned it directly from God, who sent an angel to tell it to him.
And that takes me to the fifth characteristic of a leader: he strengthens others. He strengthens others. He makes everybody around him better. He makes everybody around him stronger. He makes everybody around him more effective. We see this in verse 22. He says, “Now I urge you to take heart; there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For there stood by me this night an angel” – and he goes through that.
“Therefore” – he comes to verse 25 – “take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me” - it’s just going to be the way I told you. His confidence, his speaking with real authority becomes the strength of others. It builds them up. It encourages them to believe there is a future. “It’s going to be just the way I said it was going to be, because God told me.”
Down in verse 33, Paul told a them all to start eating because they’d gone 14 days with no food. And they began to eat. And I’ll go to that later. They were beginning to follow him. There was a time when they believed they were all going to die. But his confidence and his authority brought strength to them.
I can think of a number of times in the life of the church, Grace to You, The Master’s College, the areas of responsibility God has given me when we were sort of on the brink, and people were greatly discouraged and fearful, fearing maybe that there wouldn’t be a future. But if I could maintain my confidence and my assurance and believe that there was and speak courageously to the people about the future, confidently trusting God and believing I knew the path to triumph in the midst of this trouble, it’s amazing how people would rise and be strengthened. A leader, then, is respected, takes initiative, uses good judgment, speaks with authority, and invariably strengthens others.
Number six, a leader is optimistic and enthusiastic. Optimistic and enthusiastic. A good leader believes in triumph. A good leader believes in victory. And that driving belief will force him to move and adjust until he gets there. Verse 25 – back there again – “I believe God that it will be just as it was told me,” he says. “It’s going to happen, men; it’s going to happen. We will lose the ship, but not a life will be lost. And I believe that.”
And I admit to being enthusiastic. I was at a Christmas event here at the church a few years ago, and I was sitting across from a gentleman, and I said, “How long have you been coming to Grace church?”
He said, “Aw, I’ve been coming here over a year.”
I said, “Really? How long have you been a Christian?”
He said, “I’m not a Christian; I’m Jewish.”
I said, “Really? Well, why do you keep coming?”
He said, “Because I’m in sales, and I need to get jacked up, and you’re so enthusiastic.”
That’s really not my calling. You know? I’m not a cheerleader, but it is true, I am enthusiastic because I believe in 2 Corinthians 2:14, where the scripture says that God causes us always to triumph in Christ. You cannot be an effective leader and be pessimistic. I can’t have people around me, in positions of leadership, who are pessimistic. They literally debilitate everybody. They’re like vampires. They suck everybody’s blood out. They turn them into passive, pale, inactive people.
On the other hand, optimism and enthusiasm, within the bounds of reason, creates energy, and excitement, and hope. And we who have the truth of God and the promises of God and the plan laid out in the Word of God of all people should be optimistic and enthusiastic.
I told you - a few – I guess a couple of months ago – about this new book on the church that predicts that if the church doesn’t reinvent itself, it’ll go out of existence in 50 years. That’s a pretty bold thing to say, isn’t it? The church that Christ said He would build and the gates of hell will not prevail against it is going to go out of existence in fifty years if we don’t reinvent our techniques. I don’t believe that. I’m not pessimistic about the church; are you? I’m optimistic about it. I think the church is going to march triumphantly through the world. It’s going to be what God wants it to be, and it’s going to go all the way to glory. Don’t you believe that?
Leadership that is effective is always optimistic, always enthusiastic, always convinced of triumph. I remember when I was playing football in college, we – I remember a lot of things in speeches that our coach gave, but this one was very interesting. We were in some other school, and we were not playing well. It was zero to zero at the halftime. We went in the locker room, and he gave one of these Knute Rockne speeches. And I remember he put his fist through the blackboard that was there to draw plays on. And we were the visiting team; so, it wasn’t our blackboard. But he put his fist through the thing.
And then he started smashing lockers. And he was just – you know, it was pretty wild. And that stuff goes on. You who play football know that, but – and he starts smashing lockers, and there’s just racket. And this dressing room was under the bleachers, under the stands. I don’t know what people thought who were sitting above, because all this metal smashing and crashing. And he gave one of these fierce, fierce speeches about getting us enthusiastic and optimistic, and saying how great we were and we were better than that other team, and we ought to be killing – and he went on and on. I don’t remember all the features, but I do remember he got us all, you know, as wild as possible. And if the door had been locked, we’d have killed each other, I’ll put it that way.
So, they opened the door, and out we came. And I’ll never forget it; we scored 48 points in the second half. And I know that team thinks that one team went in, and another came out in their uniforms. “Who are these guys, and where did they come from?” But it was a great lesson to me about what people who are driven by optimism and enthusiasm can do. That’s part of leadership.
The apostle Paul, you know, is on his way to Jerusalem in Acts 20, and they tell him he’s going to get put in chains, as I mentioned earlier, and he’s going to be taken prisoner. And he says, “None of these things move me. I have an objective, and I’m going toward that objective triumphantly, and whatever happens, I’m going to be finishing the work which the Lord has given me to do. He believed in the triumph of his cause, and you cannot be an effective leader if you don’t. You cannot be an effective leader if you’re defeated. You cannot be an effective leader if you are pessimistic. You have to believe in the triumph of your cause, and then no obstacle can diminish that.
Number seven in this little list of leadership characteristics - and then we’re getting toward the end here - is the leader never compromises. Never compromises on absolutes.
Verse 26, he says, “We have to run aground on a certain island, however.” We are going to run aground. It’s not going to be the north coast of Africa, the Syrtis; it’s going to be on a certain island. “And when the fourteenth night had come, as we were driven up and down in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors sensed that they were drawing near some land. They took soundings” – you know, they would literally put down a rope with a weight on the end of it, and they would drop it down, and when it hit bottom, and the rope began to wrinkle, they would know that they were – that they had hit the bottom. They would pull the rope up and measure the length of it. They did that at another time a little later, and as the bottom started getting closer, they knew they were moving toward shore. So, they kept taking soundings, “found it to be twenty fathoms” – verse 28 – “gone a little further, they took soundings again and found it to be fifteen fathoms. Fearing lest we should run aground on the rocks” – they still don’t know where they are, and they’re afraid that they’re just going to keep going till they careen into the rocks – “they dropped four anchors off the stern” – that would literally create tremendous drag to hold the ship; and the sailors through that out – “and prayed for daylight to come.” This is amazing.
Verse 30, “As the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship” – now you know you’re in trouble when the crew is starting to try to get off the boat. I mean the old law of the sea is you go down with the ship. Right? Well, the sailors are trying to get off the ship, and they were very, very surreptitious about it. “They let down the skiff” – the dinghy which had been brought up on deck – “under pretense of putting out anchors from the prow” – they threw out four anchors from the stern. They went up to the front where the dingy had been anchored down or tied down, and in the pretense of putting out more anchors out there, they were really getting the little lifeboat off there, and they were going to get in it and sail away and save their own lives while everybody else perished.
Now, Paul is in charge of everything. Verse 31, “Paul said to the centurion” – now he’s commanding everybody, even the Roman centurion; he says to him – “‘Unless these men stay in the ship, you can’t be saved.’” So, what did the soldiers do? Who are they going to believe? They ran fast. “They cut the ropes off the skiff and let it go.” They let the lifeboat go. Really, in some ways, they let their only hope of safety go. But they were so confident in what Paul said.
And Paul basically had an absolute, and the absolute was this: God was going to rescue them. God was going to spare all their lives; not one of them would perish, even though they lost the ship. But they had to stay to experience God’s deliverance, and he wouldn’t compromise. That is another characteristic of leadership. And certainly for one who’s a spiritual leader, when God has spoken, there is no compromise. There is no compromise.
Paul wouldn’t allow human ingenuity to raid the purposes of God. You have to determine your absolutes. You have to determine your standards, and you never violate them. As soon as you do, you cease to be an effective leader. If Paul had said, “Aw, well, you know, let them go; it’s no big deal,” they might have begun to lose confidence in him. When he said, “Cut those ropes, let that boat go, and if those get away, you’re going to lose your life.”
“God is going to do this. God is going to put Himself on display here. There isn’t going to be any human ingenuity here; God is going to show Himself powerful and mighty. God is going to get the glory and the credit for this, and I’m just telling you right now, cut those ropes.” That’s uncompromising. So many people give away their character, sell their soul; such is not a leader. Whatever those absolutes are, whatever those convictions are, whatever those standards are, you don’t compromise them. And then people get very used to your integrity and your consistency.
An eighth principle of leadership, leaders focus on objectives, not obstacles. Verse 33, “As the day was about to dawn, Paul implored them all to take food, saying, ‘Today is the fourteenth day you’ve waited and continued without food and eaten nothing.’” Can you imagine two solid weeks and they haven’t eaten anything? I’m sure some of the food got thrown overboard, some of it got washed overboard, and there wasn’t - in the midst of this horrendous storm, there was no opportunity to prepare food.
So, he says in verse 34, “‘I urge you to take some nourishment, for this is for your survival, since not a hair will fall from the head of any of you.’” He just – he looks right past the storm, right past everything and says, “People, get ready. Get ready to swim. Take some nourishment. He doesn’t see the obstacles; he just sees the objective, and he’s preparing them for the objective. He looks right past the obstacles to the result.
And then a ninth principle of leadership, he leads by example. Verse 35, “And when he had said these things, he took bread, gave thanks to God in the presence of them all, and when he had broken it, he began to eat, then they were all encouraged and also took food themselves.” There, friends, is probably the peak of all leadership. Leaders set the example. Leaders set the example.
What makes an effective leader? He’s respected/trusted, takes initiative, uses good judgment, speaks with authority, strengthens others, is enthusiastic and optimistic about triumph, never compromises absolutes, focuses on objectives not obstacles, and leads by example.
So, “When they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, actually threw the wheat into the sea.” The owner of the ship probably made them hang onto that till the very end – at least some of it. They threw it into the sea.
“And when it was day, they didn’t recognize the land; they observed a bay with a beach onto which they planned to run the ship if possible. So, they let the anchors go, left them in the sea” – they just cut the ropes loose – “they loosed the rudder ropes” – you know, when the ship was being driven in the storm, they had to tie the rudder down; if you don’t tie the rudder down, it’ll just flop to one side and just go in a circle in the storm, and the ship will, obviously, be buried in the water. So, they literally tie the rudder in a direct straight line. Well, they loosed the rudder to let the ship go wherever it would go. They had planned to run the ship literally aground if possible – “let the anchors go, loosed the rudder ropes, hoisted the mainsail to the wind and made for shore.” Now they’re able to steer the ship a little as the wind takes it. “Striking a place where two seas met” – that would be – when two seas come together, it’s a hard place; it’s like hitting a wall – “they ran the ship aground” – which means that also there was a sandbar that had been built up there – “the prow stuck fast and remained immovable” – so, now the prow is stuck in the sandbar between where the two seas come together – “and the waves are just smashing the rear, the stern of the ship, and it’s being broken up by the violence of the waves.”
And we find this: “The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners” – why? – “lest any of them should” – what? – “swim away and escape.” Why? Because if a Roman soldier lost his prisoner, he – what? – lost his life. But look at this, verse 43, “But the centurion, wanting to save Paul” – can you wonder why? If there was one guy they didn’t want to lose, it was their leader - right? - he wanted to save Paul from being executed by these soldiers – “kept them from their purpose, commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land, and the rest, some on boards, and some on parts of the ship. And so it was that they all escaped safely to land.”
How many were there? Go back to verse 37, “Two hundred and seventy-six people.” Two hundred and seventy-six people. And they were all saved, and the ship was totally destroyed. The last thing you can say about an effective leader is he succeeds. He succeeds.
Boy, what a great story. This is a leader: trusted, taking the initiative, using good judgment, speaking with authority, strengthening others, enthusiastic, optimistic, never compromising his absolutes, focusing on objectives, leading by example. There’s even a balance of effort here: swim hard and God will deliver you. And in the end, everybody escaped safely to land. A tremendous story, tremendous insight into what makes a leader. Well, let’s close t that point.
Father, thank You for our time tonight. How rich and rewarding a study this is. Thank You for the time that we’ve been able to spend in this great chapter. And make of us leaders in every area that we are called to lead. Help us to be this kind of leader, looking not for rank and title, but for opportunity - for opportunity to lead. And all of that that You might be honored, in Christ’s name, Amen.
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