Paul, for example.
3 Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. 4 When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” 5 But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. — Acts 28:3-5 (NIV)
Some time back, I was reading through Rick Warren’s book on building community. In one particular chapter he instructs the small groups that are reading the book to seek godly examples as a source of encouragement.
Now, I realize that Rick’s meaning was to look for these examples in the people that live their lives around us. Some of these people may be co-workers, some may be fellow Christians in our church or they may just be the little old lady that lives across the street. It didn’t matter where we found these examples as long as they were strong followers who could be a source of instruction and encouragement to us as we continue to walk our daily paths. Isn’t it easier to make a long journey when you have someone to share it with?
I am blessed to have several such people in my life who I can go to and confide my frustrations and my celebrations. These are people who will not whitewash the truth to make it easier for me to swallow, but they are also people who will not beat me up trying to prove a point. They understand God’s grace.
At the same time, I can’t ignore the examples that have been given to us in God’s word. There have been many times that I have found hidden manna in the lives of the Bible. My two favorite men to read about are David and Paul.
The little David that watched his father’s sheep and became the king of Israel. David who wrote the Psalms and went out to war for the Lord. David who tried to cover over his sins with Bathsheba by having her husband killed. The same David who went to war against Israel while he fled from Saul. David who slew Goliath because he had unfathomable faith but this same David wasn’t allowed to build God’s tabernacle because of the blood that he had shed in battle.
His whole life is put on display before us – the good and the bad. We see him when he is strong in the Lord and we see him when he is trying to escape from Him. Nothing is hidden and nothing is excused. Yet this David was a man after God’s own heart.
Now I don’t want to overlook Paul because what I have to say today concerns him. Was there ever a man that had such a drastic turn around in their lives? This Paul who was called Saul persecuted the early church, he was at the stoning of Stephen holding the coats of those that cast the stones. The man who was fervent in his desire to destroy the church became one of the greatest missionaries for Christ that the world has ever known.
The verses listed at the beginning of this essay depict a moment in time toward the end of Paul’s trips. He is on his way to Rome because God has directed that he should go there. Even though those that are in charge have made bad decisions about when to sail at the cost of losing their ship and everything on it, God has promised Paul that He would keep everyone safe and that Paul would make it to Rome. Take some time to read Chapter 27 of Acts – it is a riveting story.
So here we have Paul, in total obedience to God, trying to get to Rome. He has just survived a ship wreck and is trying to build a fire to stay warm when a nasty snake jumps out and bites his hand. Not only does it bite him, it hangs on for good measure. This wasn’t your friendly backyard garter snake – this was a poisonous viper. A one-way ticket to the dirt bed express. And what do the people have to say about this whole matter?
They jump to the conclusion that Paul is getting what is coming to him and he is going to die for it.
Ever been there? Trying your best to live in obedience to God and everything around you seems to be falling apart. Your ship tossing from wave to wave comes crashing against the rocks of life. You drag yourself out of the water to dry ground thinking things can’t get worse, but Satan has one more insult to go with the injury. And of course, those around you are saying its all your fault. If you’ve been there, then you know where Paul was on that day.
Now here comes the important part of this whole thing: What did Paul do in the middle of all this? What does the verse say? – But Paul shook the snake off in to the fire…
Did you READ that?
Paul shook the snake off. He didn’t stop to complain or question the Lord. He had been given his marching orders and God had made him a promise that he would make it to Rome. It didn’t matter that the snake was poisonous any more than it mattered that the ship had broken apart. It didn’t matter what the people around him believed. God had made a promise and Paul trusted Him to keep it.
Therein lies the faith to shake off a snake.
What snakes have latched onto you?
Its time to:
- Shake off the worries
- Shake off the addictions
- Shake off the excuses
- Shake off the hurts
- Shake off the lies
- Shake off the pretenses
- Shake off the masks
God has made you promises and He is faithful to keep them.
Take Paul, for example.