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Acts 28:1-6 SHAKING OFF THE SNAKES
Intro: Paul was a faithful witness to the life-changing power of the Lord Jesus Christ. From the day Paul met Jesus on the Road to Damascus until he gave his life for His Lord in Rome, Paul was a mighty preacher of the Gospel of grace. This passage finds Paul on his way to Rome to stand trial before Caesar. Paul would spend years as a prisoner in Rome, and he would eventually lay down his life as a faithful martyr for the Lord Jesus.
In chapter 27, Paul and his companions are caught up in a terrible storm. Everyone on the ship supposed that they were going to die. Everyone, that is, but Paul. The Lord sent an angel to comfort Paul and to tell him that the ship would be lost, but that all the lives of those on the ship would be spared, Acts 27:22-25. The ship was lost in the storm, but all those on board made it safely to the shore, Acts 27:41-44.
Paul and his shipmates become marooned on an island named Melita. This little island is located in the Mediterranean Sea between Sicily and Africa. The island is called Malta today. When the survivors land on this island, they are met by some very friendly natives. Verse two tells us that the inhabitants of Melita were quick to offer aid and comfort to Paul and the others, all 276 of them.
Paul is helping gather wood for the fire. As he lays his bundle of sticks in the flames, a viper comes out of the wood and bites Paul, hanging onto his hand. Apparently, the snake was lethargic due to the cold and rain, but it quickly revived when it was cast into the fire. Paul shook the snake off and the people waited to see what would happen to him.
Paul faced a real trial when he was bitten by a poisonous snake. But, God in His mercy, fulfilled His promise in Mark 16:18 and spared Paul’s life. While that viper was a problem, Paul faced some far more deadly snakes that night, snakes that had the power to ruin his life and end his ministry. He shook off every single one of them. I want to point out the snakes Paul faced on Melita that night. I want to encourage you to recognize the snakes that can latch onto your life. I want to preach about Shaking Off The Snakes.
I. v. 3 SHAKE OFF THE SNAKE OF CRISIS
· When Paul was bitten, it was a moment of real crisis. That snake was poisonous and could have claimed his life. Of course, we know God took care of the poison, but here’s the problem: the crisis came when Paul was engaged in doing good. After the episode on the ship where he saved everyone’s life, Paul could have demanded special treatment, but he is out there working and serving and still a time of crisis came in his life.
· We seem to believe that our faithful service to the Lord is some kind of a shield against trouble in our life. That is just not so. Ask Job, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Daniel, Elijah, the disciples, even the Lord Jesus. Troubles are part of everyone’s life, Job 14:1; John 16:33. When troubles come, they can derail our faith. We often feel as though God is holding out on us. We feel that we deserve better treatment than we are receiving.
· Do like Paul did, put your faith in the promises of the Lord and believe Him for the help you need. In our times of trouble, we have some very precious promises. (His presence, Heb. 13:5; His victory, 1 Cor. 15:57; His purposes and plans, Rom. 8:28; 2 Cor. 4:17; His power, Eph. 3:20, Matt. 28:18. Ill. He will move Heaven and earth to meet your need, (Ill. Elijah, Joshua, Moses, Disciples, Widows, Mary and Martha, Jairus, Mueller, grasshoppers, countless others.) Shake off that snake!
II. v. 4 SHAKE OFF THE SNAKE OF CRITICISM
· As soon as Paul is bitten by the snake, the people of the island begin to criticize him. They were a very suspicious people and they assumed the viper bit Paul because of some evil in his life. In their view, he was being punished because he was a wicked man. Neptune, the god of the sea, had not taken him, but Nemesis, the goddess in charge of dispensing justice would!
· People are often quick to criticize when they do not understand what they see and hear. Some of you have been the object of criticism of others. You are not alone! Some of the greatest people who ever lived have been criticized by others. Israel criticized Moses for everything that went wrong. They murmured when they were hungry, thirsty, tired, etc. Even Jesus faced criticism from His enemies. Jesus was called a “blasphemer”, Matt. 9:3. He was even accused of being in league with Satan, Matt. 9:34.
· If you are not careful, the criticism you face from others will cause you to become defeated. There are times when you and I deserve the criticism we receive. There are times when we are wrong and we need to be shown our errors. There are other times when we are trying to do our best and still we are criticized, misunderstood and misrepresented. If you are not careful, criticism will make you want to give up and quit. (Ill. Moses – Num. 11:1-14) (Ill. There are people who pride themselves on their candor, and it degenerates into brutality. One such man said to John Wesley once, “Mr. Wesley, I pride myself in speaking my mind; that is my talent.” “Well,” said John Wesley, “the Lord wouldn't mind if you buried that!” You should weigh your words carefully before you place the burden of them on others!)
· What do you do in the face of criticism? If you are Moses or Joshua, you continue to faithfully lead your people. If you are Jesus, you go to the cross and die for your critics. If you are wise, you will consider the source of the criticism. Some people deserve to be listened to; others do not! If you are wise, you will get your eyes off the critics and focus them on Jesus instead, Heb. 12:1-3. Shake off that snake!
III. v. 6 SHAKE OFF THE SNAKE OF CYNICISM
· These people were sitting there watching Paul, waiting for him to swell up, fall down and die. They expected a great fall from the Apostle. They were a cynical crowd that looked for nothing good to come of this situation.
· How many in this room have been the object of a cynic’s words? “You will never make it. This church thing won’t last. You will fail. You will fall. This isn’t real!” Some people are just waiting for you to fail. If you are not careful the prophecy of the cynic can become self-fulfilling. You make a mistake and you say, “What’s the use? I might as well quit!”
· The cynics do not have the last word, you do! Shake off the viper of cynicism and prove the doubters wrong by your faithful obedience to the Lord. That was the attitude of David, 1 Sam. 17:28-51 – v. 28, 33; and of Jesus, John 7:1-8; John 19:30; Matt. 28:6.
· No one but you determines the quality and length of your service to the Lord. There is not a critic, a cynic or a crisis that can drive you from Him, unless you allow it to! Shake off that snake!
Conc: Are some vipers attaching themselves to your life? (Ill. 7 PM; Oct. 30, 1968; Mexico City; Heroic finish by #36 from Tanzania – Not sent to start, sent to finish!)