Don’t Forget to Row

I was reading in Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology,” Chapter 16 on “God’s Providence.” He referenced the story in Acts 27:13-44 where Paul is traveling to Rome and the ship is being threatened by a storm. An angel of the Lord appears to Paul and says, “”Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.” Then Paul says to those on the ship, “So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we must run aground on some island.” There were 276 people on the ship.

Later, sensing the danger, some of the sailors attempted to abandon ship. Paul said, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” As I have read that passage in the past, I thought it odd that their preservation would be dependent upon all staying on the ship. God promised to save them; why did all need to stay on the ship? If some chose to risk their life by trying to escape on their own, why would that jeopardize those who remained?

Grudem says, “We may sometimes forget that God works through human actions in his providential management of the world.” As you read on in the story, you see that the sailors were needed. While God was choosing to save them, there were some remaining maneuvers that the sailors needed to perform in order to get them close enough to shore so that they could get safely to the beach.

We are told to ask that God would give us our daily bread (Matthew 6:11), but we are also told that those who do not work will not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). So, when God promises deliverance from danger, don’t forget to row.