Summary: Satan brings attacks upon all of God’s people, even when we are in the center of God’s will. Let us learn to kindle a fire and shake off the serpent in the fire of the Holy Ghost.
Shake Off the Serpent
By Pastor Jim May
Acts 28:1-5, "And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita. And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm."
Paul was in the center of God’s perfect will. He had been threatened with death in Jerusalem, but he was in God’s perfect will. He had been arrested by the Roman’s, but he was in God’s perfect will. He had been locked away in a dark, damp cell and mistreated, but he was in God’s perfect will. He was bound and escorted under guard to a ship that would take him to his final destination, a place from which there would be no coming back, but he was in God’s perfect will. He was restricted from moving about freely, held prisoner among heathen sailors that cared little for God, but he was in God’s perfect will. He was on a ship bound for Rome, but a ship that would face one of the fiercest storms in the Bible, a ship that would be shipwrecked on a strange island, after it had been broken into small pieces, but he was in God’s perfect will.
The point is that adversity, storms of life and attacks of the devil do not mean that we aren’t in God’s perfect will. In fact, many times, it’s exactly the opposite. All along this road of life that we all must travel there will be pitfalls, troubles, trials or tests that we cannot avoid. We are caught in the middle of a great struggle over which we have little control and few choices but to weather the storm and wait for the calm to return.
Paul was headed for Rome, to face charges before Caesar, and to spread the gospel as long as God gave him breath. But the storm had blown him off course.
Unexpected tragedies slow our progress, alter our plans, and give us great frustration. Our best plans often are shattered by the circumstances of life and we find our plans shipwrecked for no fault of our own.
Paul could have said, “Well, I guess it just isn’t God’s will for me to reach Rome after all.” But his present circumstances didn’t stop Paul. This was just another inconvenience and another bump in the road. He knew his destination and he knew that the Holy Spirit was with him, guiding him, leading him and watching over him, every step of the way.
The Holy Ghost simply said, “Stay the course and don’t stop now. It’s not over ‘til it’s over! You win in the end. You are an overcomer, Paul. I am with you and will never forsake you.”
Acts 28:2, "And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold."
Paul wasn’t shipwrecked next door to one of the churches that he had founded. There weren’t any Christians around to meet his desperate needs of food, warm clothing or shelter. He was alone in a world filled with sin and sinful people.
Isn’t it true to see how that it is those are the “barbarians”; the worldly people, who show more concern for your trials than people in the church sometimes? I pray that no one in this church ever finds more help, more compassion, more love and more friendship in the world than in the church.
The barbarians, people who most of the civilized world looked down upon as being backward, uneducated, uncouth and dirty, without the finer things of the more advanced nations around them, were the one who came to their rescue.
I have found it true that people who have to scratch out a living, facing the wolves of hunger and depravation at their doors every day, are the ones who are first to help their fellowman. It’s hard to get a rich man, or someone of high society, to get his hands dirty. They might be willing to pay for someone else to work, but precious few will pick up a hammer.
These barbarians were probably accustomed to seeing shipwrecks on their shores. They likely made their living by fishing and facing the dangers of the storms. They knew the pain, the suffering, the hardships of that kind of life and they knew what to do to help those in distress.