“Paul gathered a bunch of dry sticks and put them on the fire. As he did, a poisonous snake, driven out by the heat, latched on to his hand. When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer! He was rescued from the sea, but the goddess Justice hasn’t let him live!” Paul shook the snake into the fire and suffered no harm. They expected him to swell up with fever or suddenly drop dead. After waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and began to claim that he was a god.”
Acts of the Apostles 28:3-6 CEB
People are always going to have an opinion of who you are. They tend to make their judgment based upon extenuating circumstances. If good things are happening to you then you must be doing right. If things aren’t going well then you must not be doing something right. There’s some truth to that. Even the Apostle Paul even said, “Whatever a man sows that he shall also reap,” but we find Paul in a position where his punishment doesn’t match the crime.
Paul had been shipwrecked along with 176 other prisoners. He was arrested for preaching the Gospel. When they made it to shore they were trying to light a fire because it was cold and rainy. The islanders showed them unusual favor. The fire was lit and everything was looking up until Paul put some more wood on the fire. When he did that a poisonous snake leaped out of the fire and latched onto Paul’s hand. Paul shook it off into the fire without affect.
- When they saw Paul bitten they assumed that he was guilty. When you go through something bad people sometimes assume the worst about you. They said, “He said he survived the shipwreck but the goddess of Justice just got him, he must be a murderer.” People will accuse you of your past when something jumps up to bite you in your present. Paul had murdered Christians before his conversion. This attack wasn’t because of that. Jesus had forgiven him for that. This was warfare about Paul saving 176 people from shipwreck and the people he was about to heal and reveal Christ to. When people falsely accuse you, you have to shake it off! Don’t let poisonous accusations stay attached to you.
- They watched him to see if he would swell up and die. They watched him for a long time. Paul could have given in to the expectations of the people who expected the worst for him, but he shook it off and he probably reminded himself of what Jesus told the apostles. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you (Luke 10:19). When you go through something to whom will you listen? The naysayers or the Truth? Paul didn’t swell up. Don’t react to negative people or negative experiences. Stay calm and remember God’s word.
- When they saw that he didn’t die they changed their minds and said, “He’s a god!” The only thing that’s going to change people’s minds about you is that you outlive what they thought would kill you. As much as they want you to die, you can’t until God is ready for you.
Paul went on to heal everybody who was sick on that island before he left. Now that you have survived a shipwreck and a poisonous attack, what is your mission? God didn’t keep you alive for your sake. He kept you alive to give him glory and to help some people! What is your mission?!
Thank you that the storm didn’t kill me, the snake didn’t stop me, and the people expecting the worst didn’t get their wish. You have blessed me to survive! Now show me my mission. Show us what you want us to do. We are still alive and I know you have more for us to do. We will shake it off. We will not swell up. We will live and not die and proclaim the works of our hands.
In Jesus’ Name,