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A MARKED MAN
"Once everyone was accounted for and we realised that we all made it, we learned that we were on the island of Malta. The natives went out of their way to be friendly to us. The day was rainy and cold and we were already soaked to the bone, but they built a huge bonfire and gathered us around it.
"Paul pitched in and helped. He had gathered up a bundle of sticks, but when he put it on the fire, a venomous snake, roused from its torpor by the heat, struck his hand and held on. Seeing the snake hanging from Paul's hand like that, the natives jumped to the conclusion that he was murderer getting his just deserts. Paul shook the snake off into the fire, none the worse for wear. They kept expecting him to drop dead, but when it was obvious he wasn't going to, they jumped to the conclusion that he was a god!" Acts 28:1-6 (The Message).
Talk about drama! Never a dull moment with Paul around! It was obvious that Paul was a marked man. If it was not one thing, it was another. Since the storm had not taken him out at the end of a long line of assassination attempts, here's another trick up Satan's sleeve. A venomous snake was just the thing to finish him off and this time no one could help him.
But there was a word from God to cover even a situation like this one. "And these signs will accompany those who believe. In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands, and when they drink deadly poison it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people and they will get well." Mark 16:17-18 (NIV).
Paul was not fazed by the sight of a deadly snake dangling from his hand. Why should he be? Was he not walking on the Word of God? He shook it off as though it were a bug and carried on feeding the fire. Unlike his hosts, he wasn't expecting to drop dead because he was going to Rome!
The reaction of the islanders was typical of people who interpreted life from a superstitious world view. To them everything was a series of cause-and-effect events as a tit-for-tat response to their behaviour. When the snake struck, according to their understanding, Paul was being punished because he was an evil-doer but when nothing happened to him, they changed their tune. He must be a god!
There is a valuable spiritual lesson for us even in this bizarre happening. What was it that prevented the serpent's venom from circulating through Paul's body and doing its fatal damage? Was it not Paul's attitude? Had fear taken hold of him, so would the snake poison have done. He was protected from death by his confidence in the words Jesus had spoken.
How many times we are "bitten" by the venomous words spoken to or about us! Words have the power to strike and latch on to our minds like a viper's fangs. We have one of two options: receive them and allow the poison to seep into our minds and affect and infect our lives, or shake them off and remain immune to their deadly intention. "Words kill, words give life; they're either poison or fruit -- you choose." Proverbs 18:21 (The Message).
How we deal with them depends largely upon what we think of ourselves. A few days ago we looked at the reason why Paul was so unaffected by his circumstances. He was already a dead man. He died on the day he met Jesus. Since you can't kill a dead man, not even a poisonous snake could kill him. He was in the hands of God, not circumstances, so he could shake off the circumstances and stake his life on what God had spoken.
What a way to live! Carefree in the care of God! When you are walking on the Word, your feet are more securely planted than on solid earth!
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