From God’s word – Shipwrecks and snakebites failed to deter Paul

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By Toni Ford

Paul always wanted to preach the gospel in Rome. We read about this in Acts of the Apostles Chapter 19 verse 21, where he says, “I must go on to Rome!” Little did Paul know what would happen to him before he arrived in that city: illegal arrest, Roman and Jewish trials, confinement, a shipwreck and a bite from a viper. However, none of these things stopped Paul from continuing to follow the calling he knew God had on his life, which was to preach the gospel in Rome.

In the last chapter of Acts, we read about Paul’s final journey to Rome. Within the first 11 verses of Acts Chapter 28, several spiritual lessons jumped out at me because of Paul’s life events.

Island of Malta: servanthood. Paul’s wrecked ship landed at the Isle of Malta, which means “refuge” (nothing, not even the meaning of a name, is an accident with God). The native people could have resisted or even attempted to kill the people coming off the wrecked ship but instead welcomed all 276 people on board. The Malta natives could tell that all those on the ship were weary, tired, hungry and cold, so they prepared a fire and did their best to make Paul and the others feel comfortable. By that time, Paul had done his part to take care of the people on the ship. In fact, he was the reason those folks had even survived the storm and subsequent shipwreck. In human standards, Paul had every right to sit, rest and let the others serve him. He never stopped serving, however, and when the natives went to gather wood for the fire, Paul joined them. Jesus, while here on earth, spoke not only about servanthood but demonstrated it all the time. As the Messiah, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus had every right to be served by others. Rather, He came to earth to serve and not be served. Luke 22:27 says, “Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! I am among you as one who serves!” Do we want to imitate my Messiah? Then we will be eager to serve rather than be served.

Bitten by a viper – spiritual warfare. As Paul was laying the wood he had collected on the fire, an extremely poisonous snake that had been driven out by the heat bit him on the hand. The people of Malta saw the snake hanging from Paul’s hand. According to their culture, when someone was bitten by a snake it meant that person was guilty of a crime. Verses 5-6 say, “But Paul shook off the snake into the fire and was unharmed. The people waited for him to swell up or suddenly drop dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw that he was not harmed, they changed their minds and decide he was a god.” Satan had already tried to take Paul out by wrecking the ship and now Satan was trying a second time by using a viper to get Paul out of the way. Paul was full of the Holy Spirit, however, and he had learned to be aware of the enemy’s schemes against him and his life. Paul knew how to respond and how to fight spiritually during such times, and although Scripture does not expound on this situation, what we do see is that Paul kept his focus on his mission of sharing the Gospel. He did not allow the enemy to slow him down or get him distracted from the mission God called him to. In the following verses after this incident, Paul, through the power of the Holy Spirit, heals Publius’ (the chief official of the island) father. How do we respond to the schemes of the enemy against ourselves and and our families. Do we fight back in our own ways in the natural realm or do we fight spiritually as we are told to do so in Ephesians by putting on the armor of Christ?

New ship – God’s provision. Paul and his fellow shipwrecked passengers remained on Malta for three months before setting sail on a ship that had been wintered at the island. When they prepared to leave, Scripture tells us, “We were showered with honors, and when the time came to sail, people supplied us with everything we would need for the trip (Acts 28:10).” The people had lost everything in the shipwreck, so one can only imagine that they were so very grateful to have their needs supplied. We are not told in detail what happened during the passengers’ three months stay there at Malta, but we must believe that Paul shared the Gospel with anyone that would listen. His miraculous deliverance from the sea and from the viper, along with the healing of Publius’ father, would certainly arouse the interest of the people, and there is no doubt Paul would want to give the glory to the Lord in each of those situations. When we are in a hard situation or experience times of lack, how deep and firm is our trust in the Lord that He will still provide? The Lord is faithful, and although His timing often looks different than our timing, two things are for sure: He is never late and will always provide if we keep our focus on Him.

Lord, we know that you have a plan and purpose for each one of us reading this column. As long as we are here on this earth, we are to keep sharing the gospel with others. Please open our eyes to see the opportunities before us, whether that be through our actions or our words to others. Thank you for providing for us and for never being late and always being on time! We love you!

If you would like continued prayer, feel free to email me at tonif77@gmail.com. I would love to pray for you!

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