"From there we put out to sea and sailed under the shelter of Cyrprus because the winds were contrary." Acts 27:4
This simple statement reveals the climate in which the character of Paul and the content of his message would be best revealed to his captors, companions and crew. From the moment Paul left Caesarea, and sailed towards Rome, his voyage would be met with hardship, delay, destruction, and ultimately, safe delivery.
"When we had sailed through the sea along the coast of Cilicia, and Pamphylia,...When we had sailed slowly for a good many days, and with difficulty had arrived off Cnidus, since the wind did not permit us to go farther, we sailed under the protection of Crete, off Salomne, and with difficulty sailing past it we came to a place called Fair Havens..." v. 7-8
These head winds were just beginning to take their toll on the progress of the voyage that would take Paul to Rome. It was not only marked by relentless delays, but real danger.
"When considerable time had passed and the voyage was now dangerous,...Paul begin to admonish them...'I perceive that the voyage will be met with damage and great loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.'" v. 9-10
Words mean things. If not properly understood, they may sound very similar, but carry two completely different meanings.
Note to self: Importunity and opportunity are not the same thing. Learn the difference.
The Greeks understood opportunity as a fleeting moment that must be seized, or it will pass by, never to return. Importunity on the other hand was the capacity to face enduring, relentless, winds of adversity, and by sailing against them, arrive at the correct port with cargo and crew intact.
The Roman Centurion listened to the professionals, and looked at the calendar. He went with his gut feeling, took a vote, and with the first first opportunity to set sail, seized the day. Like many people, the soldier was accustomed to calling the shots. People who are seldom right, keep making the same wrong choices because they are never in doubt about their infallibility.
"But the centurion was more persuaded by the pilot and the captain of the ship than by what was being said by Paul...the majority reached a decision to put out to sea...when a moderate south wind came up, supposing that they had attained their purpose, they weighed anchor and began sailing..." v. 12-13
Investors are encouraged to seize opportunity, the moment it presents itself. Platitudes persist. They warn that opportunity will pass you by. He who hesitates is lost. This may be true about opportunity, but importunity is a result of enduring long-winded resistance, not encountering fleet-footed opportunities.
Intercessors are challenged to embrace importunity, no matter how long relentless head winds last. The pay off for one is an increase in capital. The result of the other is the development of character. Importunity trumps opportunity every time. Persistent prayer develops reliance on God. Prayerlessness prioritizes self-reliance. Prayer cultivates the former and crucifies the latter.
Jesus described importunity as the persistent prayer, or the shameless audacity to continue making a relentless request to a friend. He honored importunity. So should we.
"I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth." Luke 11:8 KJV
Paul's voyage to Rome would provide him with many opportunities to sail into the wind, nautically and spiritually. He would be forced by necessity to pray for God's direction, protection, and correction.
Before Paul arrived safely at his port of destination, he would find himself in many crisis-driven situations caused by the prayerless decisions made by others. It simply didn't matter who was making the waves. The consequences of prayerless decisions impacted Paul when they hit his beach.
Ain't it the truth.
Reading about Paul's shipwreck is not for the faint of heart. The dangers were real. The losses were real. Sometimes, I read the last chapter of a book to find out how the story ends. In Paul's case, the cargo was lost, the ship was destroyed, but no lives were lost, and the mission continued.
"And so it happened that they all were brought safely to land." v. 44
Eventually Paul would be beheaded, but on this day, he appeared to be the only one who was keeping his head. Prayer has a way of placing the crisis where it belongs, in the hands of Almighty God, and leaving the results up to Him. People of prayer are always candidates for a Ph.D* available only to those who are enrolled in the University of Adversity. *Pray Hard! Daily! TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!