Shipwreck Leadership

Recently I was reading the New Testament book of Acts. I wondered, Why would Luke the author devote such a long chapter of his book (27) to describe a voyage and shipwreck? Surely he could have spared us all the detail! But skilled as a writer and inspired by God, Luke presented important facts about Paul the courageous leader in a time of great crisis.

Paul was prisoner aboard a ship bound for Rome. The ship had already encountered adverse winds, and November storms were looming. Speaking from experience – he had already been through three other shipwrecks – Paul warned the crew of impending danger. But as men in charge often do, they ignored him.

Their attitude was a costly mistake. Before long the wind became a typhoon. The crew did all they could to keep the ship afloat. They even threw their cargo overboard to lighten the load. Despite their best efforts, all seemed lost – including their lives.

Practical Leadership

When no one else knew what to do, Paul the prisoner became Paul the captain. He stepped forward, first with a word: “the ship and cargo will be lost, but everyone will be spared.” God had promised deliverance, but Paul also provided practical leadership. In all the confusion, he could have escaped, avoided the Roman court, and his story would have ended very differently. But instead he readied his shipmates for the demands that would come at daybreak. He led them to end their fast and eat. Before long, everybody felt better, more resolved to face the storm.

Just as predicted, the ship was a total wreck, but all on board made it safely to shore. The soldiers successfully delivered their prisoners. Later Paul was tried and executed, never to taste sweet freedom again.

The storm and shipwreck showcased Paul’s character. Even the worst storm could not hide divine purposes revealed through Paul’s practical leadership. This prisoner – one without position or status – was the most valuable leader on the ship. He knew how to hear and to act on his faith. He was in touch with the Almighty, and he lived to rescue people.

Effective leaders have the resolve to speak truth even when those in charge aren’t listening, and the courage to lead even in adversity for the welfare of others.

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