February 26, 2020·Kristin Gentry
Can you imagine being imprisoned for several years and being totally innocent of the crime you were being charged with? That’s what happened to Paul. Time and time again, he was being accused by the Pharisees, who hoped to sentence him to death for sharing the Gospel message. They wanted to silence him from sharing about all Jesus had done, but nobody could find a reason to sentence Paul. You would think they would just set him free, right? But no, they continued to pass Paul off to the next authority figure — all the way to Caesar himself! But before they made it to Italy, Paul, along with almost 300 other men, was shipwrecked on an island! So, after all this time waiting… in chains… for years… and then being shipwrecked and nearly drowned… Paul was then bitten by a snake — a poisonous one at that:
As Paul gathered an armful of sticks and was laying them on the fire, a poisonous snake, driven out by the heat, bit him on the hand. The people of the island saw it hanging from his hand and said to each other, “A murderer, no doubt! Though he escaped the sea, justice will not permit him to live.” 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 wasn’t harmed, they changed their minds and decided he was a god.” (Acts 28:3-6)
I don’t know about you, but I try to picture myself in these situations and, by now, I for sure would have been asking God, “Lord, what’s going on?” But see, every step of the way God encouraged Paul with angels, who instructed him in what to do (Acts 27:23). But here is my favorite part of the story. This island was home to a village of people who had never heard of Jesus. Because they witnessed God’s hand of protection on Paul through a shipwreck and then Paul just shaking a venomous snake off his hand without being affected, they knew something different was happening — but Paul didn’t take the credit. He was then able to share the Gospel message and see an entire village of people come to know Christ on his unplanned detour to this island. And, even though Paul would still be imprisoned in Rome for the next couple of years, God never ceased to work through him.
Through Paul’s testimony, we can learn a few important lessons. 1) You can be a leader even when you don’t have any authority. Paul was a prisoner, and yet he had favor with his guard. God still used Paul as a vessel, regardless of his position, when trained sailors took his sailing advice. 2) When you listen and obey the Lord, He will use you to change the community you’re in — even if it wasn’t on your planned route. 3) Even in perilous situations, people are watching you to see how faithful your God is and how faithful you remain to your God.
Holy Spirit, thank you for being ever present with us. Continue to guide us and equip us for every work that You are calling us to, even if they are off our radar. Help us to always be open to the possibility that You are working in and through our every situation. Allow us to see clearly, even through our most difficult circumstances, so others will see You at work in our lives. Amen.
Pastor Kristin Gentry