The apostle Paul was among a group of 276 people shipwrecked on the island of Malta. Wet and cold from their ordeal, they decided to build a fire. Knowing the fire would need more fuel, Paul took the place of a servant and went out to gather wood. Paul, the great spiritual leader that he was, never asked others to do what he was not willing to do himself. He was a man of ability and humility. What a lesson in spiritual leadership!
It was while working hard for the good of others that Paul accidentally picked up a snake that was hiding among the sticks. It was no ordinary snake. The Bible says it was a viper - a deadly, poisonous snake. Before Paul could pull away the viper bit him and fastened onto his hand.
Paul did not get excited or worried. He didn’t even cry out, though he must have felt pain. He merely shook the snake off his hand into the fire. God overruled the venomous bite that was no doubt sent from Satan himself. Paul was on his way to Rome and Satan was out to stop him at all costs! In Rome Paul would preach the gospel to world leaders. Members of Caesar’s household would come to faith in Jesus Christ. Four New Testament books would be written during Paul’s imprisonment. So Satan was on a mission to stop Paul.
The conspiracy to kill Paul in Jerusalem failed. That was plan A. Paul somehow survived the shipwreck in route to Rome. That was plan B. So Satan planted the deadly viper in the bundle of sticks. That was plan C. Imagine Satan’s frustration when Paul simply shook the snake off into the fire! Not giving the matter another thought, Paul went on doing God’s work.
Snakes still bite and seek to attach themselves to us. It might be venomous words that are intended to hurt. False accusations. Ugly insinuations. Poisonous lies. It might be the snake bite of a major setback in your life. The unexpected happens. You didn’t see it coming. The enemy strikes like a viper hiding in the sticks in an attempt to stop God’s work in and through your life.
It isn’t just the initial bite that hurts. It’s the insidious nature of the viper that wants to fasten itself permanently. It wants to bite and hold on in order to inflict maximum damage. Many people continue to struggle over painful events or toxic words that go back decades. The snake bites and hangs on!
What do you do when you feel the painful bite of a deadly snake? Shake off the snake and keep on serving Jesus. Dismiss it outright just as Nehemiah dismissed the slanderous charges made against him by Sanballat (Nehemiah 6:3). God will cancel the deadly poison and you will suffer no harm (Acts 28:5).
Pastor Todd Weston