The story of a shipwreck is recorded in Acts 27. The apostle Paul was shipwrecked as he journeyed to Rome, a prisoner awaiting trial before Caesar. In verse 4, we can read that the ship’s captain avoided difficulty, caused by contrary winds, by taking a different course. As a result, we see that they “sailed slowly.” Verse 7. It would seem that they just sailed along, not worrying too much about where they were going or what they were doing. They refused to accept the counsel given them by God’s messenger. Paul cautioned that if the voyage were made, there would be hurt, not only to the ship and to the goods, but also of life. But because the centurion would rather believe the owner of the ship than God’s messenger, he did not follow Paul’s counsel. (Verses 10, 11.) Because it was a more comfortable setting to travel, they did not heed the messenger’s voice.
Read Acts 27:13: “And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained [their] purpose, loosing [thence], they sailed close by Crete.” What happens next in the story? It says that the “wind blew softly,” and when it blew softly, they thought it was safe. It says that they thought they had “obtained their purpose,” and so they set sail. They thought that now they could disobey what God’s messenger had said, because the wind was now blowing softly. It was perfect for sailing, they thought. They could now make it to the place in which they wanted to harbor, because the south wind was softly blowing.
To what in our lives might we liken that south wind softly blowing? Here God had sent them a message through His prophet, the apostle Paul, but they did not want to follow it. They then thought that they had verification for not following that about which God had warned them, because it looked like the wind that was blowing would take them to where they desired to be. The south wind softly blowing was giving promise of smooth sailing! And so they set out.
We speak often about the promises of God, and we should, but do you know that the devil has promises too? Here the devil is promising, we could say, a safe trip; a safe journey without being shipwrecked; a safe trip in violation of what God had said. And they accepted this false promise and set sail, expecting a safe trip. They trusted the deceiving promises of the enemy.
Does the enemy have promises for soft south winds blowing for us today? What do you think some of those promises might be? It is good to identify some of these promises so that we are not deceived by the south wind as it softly blows.
Has the temptation or the thought ever come to you that if you would get out into the world you would have more fun? It is a soft wind blowing. The devil prompts, “You would have a lot more fun if you would do this or something else. You will not shipwreck. You will just have more fun.” We all would like to have fun, would we not?
The devil tries to blow a soft south wind; he tries to give some promise that in the world it is going to be more fun, more exciting; there is going to be more pleasure. Many, many people set sail in the wrong direction, because they are listening to the promises that the devil brings.
Some things that the devil wants us to think are fun in this world include music and movies. They are not that bad, you may think; they will not hurt; they just provide a good time. And they hoist their sails because of the soft south winds—the promises of more fun, of more pleasure in the world, and they do not realize that it is leading them forward to shipwreck. The devil does not care why or how you start sailing towards shipwreck; he just wants to get you sailing into the tempestuous winds, that you might go down into the ocean.
There was a young man in the Bible who had one of the most promising beginnings of anyone. His father was a prophet. His father wrote portions of the Bible, and this young man wanted, especially in his youth, to follow and obey God. So much did he want to do this that, as he was praying, the Lord appeared to him and said, “Ask Me. What do you want?” The young man asked for wisdom! The Lord told him that he could have fame, riches, whatever he desired; and Solomon said that what he wanted and needed was wisdom. God gave him wisdom; he was the wisest man. (11 Chronicles 1:7–12.)
Seven years later, after the temple was finished being rebuilt, the Lord appeared to Solomon again to renew that vow with him, saying that if he would follow Him, not only would He give to him wisdom, but everything else. So Solomon continued to follow the Lord. (11 Chronicles 7:17–22.) Solomon, who began on such a good course, who had more promise than perhaps any other young person in the Bible, ended up shipwrecking his life. What does the Bible give as the reason why Solomon shipwrecked his life? Nehemiah 13:26 says that “outlandish women” caused Solomon to sin.
Solomon did not think he was going to end up with 300 wives and 700 concubines. If you would have told him that at the beginning, he would have said, “No way; that is ridiculous!” What was it that started Solomon down that wrong course? He listened to the soft south wind blowing. Solomon listened to the promises of the devil—“Oh, you can have more fun! It will not matter; it is not a big deal! It makes perfect sense for you to take the King of Egypt’s daughter for your wife, and, besides, she may become converted!”
Some people think that the Book of Ecclesiastes is a depressing book, and I can understand why, because a man who knew what he could have achieved wrote it—a man wrote it who came to the end of his life and realized that his life was ruined. We perhaps cannot even fathom coming to the end of our lives, but Solomon came to the end of his life and realized that he had wasted the best of everything.
Solomon repented, but notice what counsel he gives to us in Ecclesiastes 2:1–11. He is telling his experience, and I believe it is very instructive for us, especially for young people: “I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also [is] vanity. I said of laughter, [It is] mad: and of mirth, What doeth it? I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what [was] that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life. I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards: I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all [kind of] fruits: I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees: I got [me] servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me: I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, [as] musical instruments, and that of all sorts. So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me. And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all [was] vanity and vexation of spirit, and [there was] no profit under the sun.”
Grasping the Wind
Did Solomon have anything this world had to offer? Did he have everything this world had to offer? Sometimes we think, Oh, if I just had this amusement, then I would be happy. Solomon did not just listen to CDs; Solomon had the bands performing in front of him! Was he happy? Sometimes young people think, Oh, if I just had a boyfriend or a girlfriend, then I would be happy. Did Solomon have quite a few of these? Was he happy? No! He still was not happy! We think, Oh, if I just had what my friend has, then I would be happy. Did Solomon have everything that his friends had? Yes, he did, and a lot more; but he was not happy. He was only happy when he was following God.
Solomon lamented, “I had all the money a person could want. I had all the girlfriends a man could want. I had all the pleasure and all the music anyone could want.” But as he looked at it, what was it to him? Nothing! In one place he calls it grasping for the wind. (Proverbs 30:4.) Have you ever tried to grasp the wind? Do you get much when you reach out for the wind? You only get a handful of air. And Solomon said that was all everything was; it was just like grasping for the wind. It was nothing!
The devil, however, saw that this trap was successful with Solomon, and the devil is still using this game to win your soul and mine. He says, “You would be happy if you just had this; you would find enjoyment in listening to this music,” or whatever it is. Perhaps he entices you with alcohol. Some people may think it is fun for a while, but when they wake up the next morning, the resulting hangover or headache is not fun. Thinking about alcohol rationally, it would not make any sense at all to use it. Why would anyone want to have a little fun so that they can feel terrible the next day?
That is what everything in the world is like. Oh, it looks fun! It looks inviting! And the devil encourages, “Just do it! It will not matter. It will be fun; you will enjoy it! Everybody is doing it!” The devil promises pleasure, but Solomon tells us that there is no true pleasure apart from obedience to the Lord. His life is on record that we might know not to be deceived by the soft south wind blowing.
A Thousand Days
Notice what Solomon’s father, David, said in Psalm 84:10, 11: “For a day in thy courts [is] better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the Lord God [is] a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good [thing] will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.”
David said, “I would rather spend one day in God’s favor than one thousand days outside of it.” How many years are in 1,000 days? Almost three years. David said, “I would just rather spend one day with God’s blessing than three years outside of it.” The only lasting, true happiness in this world is in God’s court. He said, “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. I would rather be a janitor with the Lord’s blessing than to be in that beautiful palace of this world without it.” And then he tells us why; because “no good [thing] will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” How many things that are good does the Lord withhold from us? Not one thing!
So, if the Lord asks us not to do something—not to turn the television on to the shows that everybody is watching or not to listen to the music to which everybody is listening—is it a good thing that the Lord is withholding? It is not. It is just something that is going to bite us in the end.
God tells us that He has our best good in mind. He wants us to be happy; He wants us to know what true happiness and true joy are. That is why He is warning us about the deceiving pleasures of this world.
The pleasure may be anything of this world, and it may be different for different individuals. Whatever it might be, the devil has a promise for each one of us. He has a temptation for each one of us, and it is going to be different for everyone. For some of us, the pleasures of this world might have no attraction, but something else does, and the devil whispers, like that soft south wind blowing, “It is all right; you can sail; you can go; try it just once.”
Are you familiar with fool’s gold? In 1849, there was a gold rush in the United States. That is how California became the most popular state in this country; it was from that gold rush. There was a man at a mill, and he looked down and saw a pretty, gold rock. He picked it up to examine it more closely, and he discovered it was a nugget of gold. When the word got out, everybody started going to California to find gold.
The miners that looked for the gold had a way in which they could tell the difference between fool’s gold and real gold. Fool’s gold looks good. It is pretty; it is shiny; it looks like real gold; but the way to know if it is real is to bite down on it. Gold is a soft metal. When you bite down on it, it will leave an imprint. You cannot do that with fool’s gold. If you bite down on it, you will break your teeth!
The devil has lots of fool’s gold in this world. It looks good; it looks pretty; it looks shiny; but it is worthless. You cannot sell fool’s gold for anything. And when you really bite down into the world’s fool’s gold, it breaks your teeth.
God has true riches; God has true pleasures; God has true joys. But those true riches, pleasures, and joys come only by refusing to listen to those soft-whispering promises that the devil gives. God has our best good in mind.
Let us look at Acts 27 again, and read what the result was of listening to the soft whispering promise of the devil—that soft south wind blowing he made sound so inviting and so good. “But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon.” Verse 14.
At first the wind blew softly, and it seemed like they had obtained their purpose. It seemed like they were going to be able to do what they wanted to do, but then a tempestuous wind came up very quickly. Those smooth promises—the soft wind—that the devil gives sound sweet and beautiful at first, but then they turn into tempestuous trouble.
I had a friend, much older than I, and he listened. We had given Bible studies together, but he listened to the deceiving promises of the devil. He thought it was the only way he was going to be happy. After a little while, he made a statement that I will never forget. He said, “The broad road is pretty rocky too!” There are lots of bumps and trouble in the broad road, even though it, at first, seems so sweet, so soft, and so pleasant. But, then, that tempestuous wind comes up.
“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.” Verse 20. Because they listened to those sweet, whispering promises that the devil gave, what was the result? Not only did a tempestuous wind come up, but also they did not see the sun or stars for days.
We may read that and say, “So what?” But travelers in those days were dependent upon seeing the sun or the stars for guidance. What did it mean if they could not see these things? It meant that they were lost. They had no GPS (global positioning system). Using the stars as guides, those living in the Southern Hemisphere looked for the Southern Cross. Those in the Northern Hemisphere looked for the Big Dipper and North Star. They would guide their boats and their travels by the stars. But in an ocean in the middle of nowhere, without chart or compass, these sailors had no idea where they were going. This is also the result of listening to the promises of the devil.
Then, notice that although it began with a soft wind that was blowing and the thought that they could make it to their desired destination, hope departed. That is what the devil wants to do to each of us. He begins with a soft wind, saying, “Do not worry; you will have fun. You will make more money.” And then a tempestuous wind starts to blow, and we find ourselves out in the middle of the sea with no guidance. He wants us to lose all hope, and the end result is shipwreck.
Do you want to be shipwrecked? The only safety is to determine in your heart right now that you are not going to listen to those soft south winds. You are not going to listen to the promises of the devil that you will have more fun or make more money, that you will have more pleasure or more honor or whatever it is. Do not listen to him! You have an anchor—an anchor sure and steadfast, an anchor of the blessed hope, an anchor of Jesus who has died and resurrected and is interceding for you and is coming again for you.
I am sure you do not want to bite into the fool’s gold of this world. We have to make a decision every day that we are not going to follow the promises of the world, so we might truly escape shipwreck. Thousands and probably millions of people will be lost and shipwrecked because they listened to the promises of the world. Will you choose in your heart not to be one of them? Will you decide by God’s grace not to listen to those vain promises but to say with David, “A day in your courts is better than a thousand without your blessing”?
Cody Francis is currently engaged in public evangelism for Mission Projects International. He also pastors the Remnant Church of Seventh-day Adventist Believers in Renton, Washington. He may be contacted by e-mail at: email@example.com.