Shaking off the Snakes
Reading Acts 27:27 -28:6
The Apostle 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 up his life for His Lord in Rome, Paul was a mighty preacher of the Gospel of grace. The passage we read a moment ago in today’s service, 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 Acts 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 had 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. 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.
Then we see Paul helping gather wood for a fire, and as he lays his bundle of sticks in the flames – suddenly a snake – 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 that poisonous snake. But, God in His mercy, fulfilled His promise in Mark 16:18 that “no deadly thing can harm us” and spared Paul’s life. While that viper was a problem, Paul faced some far more deadly snakes that night, snakes or EVILS that had the power to ruin his life and to end his ministry. He shook off every single one of them. I want to point out the snakes Paul faced on Melita today. I want to help you to recognize these snakes that can latch onto your life also. So today I want to preach on Shaking Off The Snakes.
Firstly, we need to learn how to 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 that God took care of the poison but here’s the problem I see: the crisis came when Paul was engaged in doing good. Have you ever seen all Hell break lose just at those times in your life when you are fervently and faithfully serving God? Have you ever known times when things were working out for you and you had finally got it together and suddenly your boat springs a leak? Most of life’s Crisis come to us without any notice or warning.
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. What we can see here and need to understand, is that “life happens to us all”. Its not necessarily a judgement, or a
Satanic/demonic attack, or a lesson we need to learn, it’s often just life; and although being a Christian does not spare us times of crisis, the difference is that we’ve God and His word to
help us through such times of crisis; we are not alone!
I can remember hearing some Preachers say “Come to Jesus and all your troubles will be over” and I wanted to shout
“liar, liar – pants on fire” … have you heard that?
Some mistakenly believe that our faithful service to the Lord is some kind of shield against trouble in our life. That is just not so. Ask Job, Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego, Daniel, Elijah, the disciples, even the Lord Jesus himself. If God did not spare his own Son the crisis of life, how can we hope to escape? Troubles are part of everyone’s life. When troubles come, they can derail our faith, and create fear. We often feel as though God is holding out on us, or being unfair to us. We feel that
we deserve better treatment than we are receiving.
In such times you must Do like Paul did, put your faith in the promises of the Lord and believe Him for the help you need. God sees that crisis you are facing, God sees that tragedy, that pain, God sees your fear and he sees your tears; but every evil
is just a snake in the grass that you need to shake off. As a Christian, unlike the world-ling, you don’t have to fight your battles alone, God will fight for you just reach out to him for help.
In our times of trouble, we have some very precious promises. Remember that “all things do work together for our Good“. Romans 8:28. And “God is not a man that he should lie” Num 23:19. Shake off that snake! God can turn the worst tragedy to His glory and Your good. God delights to do you Good,
God is a good God and God loves you.
In the Second place we see Paul SHAKE OFF THE SNAKE
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, their god of the sea, had not taken him, but Nemesis, their goddess in charge of dispensing justice would!
People are often quick to criticize when they do not understand what they see or hear. Some of you have been the object of the criticism of others. You are not alone! In his great sermon on the mount Jesus said: “Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you“. Matthew 5:11-12
I often wish I had the time to sit down and write a “Thank You” letter to all the people who I know were critical of me and my ministry over the years. I truly Thank God for them, for although they did not know it, they were instrumental in driving me nearer to God, closer in communion and union with Him, and even if I did make some mistakes:? My old granny used to say “a man who never made a mistake never made anything!”
Some of the greatest people who ever lived have been criticized by others and it was criticism that spurred them on, as it has me. Israel criticized Moses for everything that went wrong. They murmured when they were hungry, thirsty and tired. Even the Lord Jesus faced criticism from His enemies. Jesus was called a “blasphemer” and was even accused of being in league with
the Devil. Matt. 9:34.
If you are not careful or watchful, 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. But 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 can make you want to give up and quit. There are people who pride themselves on their candour, and it often degenerates into nothing short of brutality. One such man said to the great Methodist Preacher 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!
So what do you do in the face of criticism? If you are a Moses or a 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.
I have discovered that a great deal of criticism has it root in jealousy. People will try to make you look BAD, believing it
will make them look BETTER. Shake off that snake of criticism! Remember that God does not want us to please “Men”- God wants us to be well pleasing to him. Thank God I learned a long time ago to care little about what people think of me,
as long as my Father in Heaven is pleased with me,
I’m not trying to impress you, whoever you may be.
If I preach Jesus, He will always be an offence and a stumbling –
block to the unenlightened, (the Bible says so in Romans 9:33) but that does not mean I should stop. If you are offended by Biblical Truth that opposes your Denominational or Church Traditions, then don’t take it up with me, take it up with God.
I will answer to God for me, you will answer to God for you;
But I would not want to try to suggest to God that He was wrong and my church was right … Dare you?
Then we need to SHAKE OFF THE SNAKE OF CYNICISM
(A close relative of criticism.)
These people were sitting there watching Paul, waiting for him to swell up, keel over and die. They expected a great fall from the Apostle. They were a cynical crowd that looked for nothing good to come out of this situation.
How many of you listening today 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 on 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. I have no doubt whatever that there are some people out there, and tragically some carnal Christians in the Church who don’t want you to succeed. Its true!
They don’t want your marriage to work, they don’t want your business to prosper, they don’t want you to get that promotion, they don’t want your children to graduate, they don’t want your cancer to go away. Jealousy has poisoned their minds and
their motives and your failures – make them look good.
They’ll say things like “I knew it wouldn’t last” or
“I knew that was all talk” and they glory in your failures, while at the same time calling themselves Christian? Lord have mercy!
I have discovered that there are some people I should not associate with? While the Bible exhorts us to “Follow peace with all men” Hebrews 12:14, there are some with whom you cannot presently be at peace – try as you may. There are some who will “pull you down” and “take you out” if you are not cautious and careful about those with whom you associate. You may be full of faith, while they speak only fear. You may be full of vision, while they speak only vice. You may be as harmless as a dove, while they may be as venomous as a viper. Such things can rub off on us, and we need to “guard” our ways and our days. Are some vipers attaching themselves to your life?
I recon that there are some snakes hiding in all of our grass. The thing about a snake is that while you may know it is there, you will rarely see it, or identify it. Snakes are masters at camouflage and can blend in with their surroundings so easily. Are there folk “blending in” in your house, in your Church or in your place of work who are destroying the very life of Christ in you? Take care, shake off that snake!
No one but you can determine the quality and quantity 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!
NOW THIS FINAL WORD.
Criticism, Cynicism and Crisis are tools used by the Master
Snake, the Devil himself to render the believer powerless. The Devil does not mind you going to Church, even going to Prayer as long as he can render you workless and keep you powerless.
Think with me for a moment about spiritual power. We often think we have just enough to keep going. Maybe we would like to do more for God, being used in the miraculous and sharing our faith with others. However, most don’t think they have the necessary power. Why is that? Mark 16:17-18 tells us what kind of power Christians have: We read: ”And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; if they pick up snakes with their hands; or drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well and recover.” That sounds like more power than we are seeing in the lives of Christians today! Why? Has God’s power decreased? No! Have we run out of people who need healing or deliverance? No! Then what is the problem? If we are praying as we ought, and being fed by God’s word, then, why are we not seeing God’s power at work among us, more than we are?
I don’t have all the answers to this, but there is one thought
from the book of Acts.
– Jesus told the disciples that they would receive power to be His witnesses after that the Holy Spirit came upon them. Apparently, they believed Him, because after the Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost, Peter and the others demonstrated a bold confidence that miracles would happen and that people would be saved when they shared the gospel.
We must come to one of two conclusions. Either we do not have
the power Jesus spoke about, or we do not think we have it,
and therefore we do little or nothing with it.
It may be that God allows crisis into our lives sometimes to help us recognize the power and authority we have in His name. Those things may make us uncomfortable and shake us to the very core, but if they can accomplish His purposes then we should welcome them. Maybe some of our sicknesses come so that we will call on God and see His power at work in our lives. If we are living according to the principles in God’s word, and we are in right relationship with Him, then we do have authority as sons and daughters of God to speak truth and life into the most difficult circumstance or obstacles. If we are not in line with God’s word or if we are out of relationship with Him, the best thing for us to do today is come to Him and make things right. It is only as we keep things right with God that we will have the wisdom to give to those who are in need.
So shake off the snakes of Criticism, Cynicism and Crisis and get back on the track for God. Run on, and Run well, and don’t keep looking over your shoulder to see if anyone is following you. Leave the final outcome in the hands of God
and run and rest in Him.
God Bless you.