Just Shake It Off
"But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand." Acts 28:3
When I was a kid, I played Pop Warner football. It was a ton of fun for a fifth grader like me who loved the sport. It was, however, my first introduction into getting hit. Oftentimes, after one of us received a big hit, I would hear my coach say, “You’re okay. Just shake it off.”
It is amazing how that simple advice can make such a difference. It is exactly what Paul did when he was bitten by a poisonous snake. He shook it off … and suffered no harm.
PAUL’S STORY – IT’S ALWAYS SOMETHING
In Acts, Paul was being sent to Rome for a trial before Caesar. It was a LONG trip via the Mediterranean Sea. On the way, the ship Paul was on went through a severe storm for weeks on end. It was a fearful, “we are all going to die” event. (And the sea sickness was probably at an all time high as the ship was battered for two weeks by the wind and waves.) Everything was lost in the storm, from all the cargo to the ship itself. By God’s mercy, however, not one person aboard lost his life.
As soon as they hit land – the Island of Malta – they began to gather sticks to warm themselves by a roaring fire. It was at the fire that Paul was bitten by a viper hiding in the sticks. Can you believe it? He had just endured the worst storm of his life, had beaten certain death by God’s grace, and then this happens?
Upon seeing this occur, the natives on Malta surmised, “Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, and though he has been saved from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live” (Acts 28:4).
But Paul didn’t freak out. He just shook the snake off into the fire. The natives waited for him to die … but he didn’t get sick or even have a tinge of swelling. Their opinion of Paul then took a drastic change. No longer did they consider him a murderer … they now considered him a god. (Oh, the fickleness of public opinion.)
LESSONS TO LEARN
1. Just shake it off. When the devil’s poisonous snakes fasten their fangs on you – people who malign your character or go out of their way to hurt you – just shake it off. Turn that “snake” over to God and shake it off. Don’t let the venom of bitterness poison your life.
2. Trust God’s Word. Paul had a promise from God that he wasn’t going to die but live and testify before Caesar. He knew dying on the sea or at Malta was not God’s plan for him. Regardless of the snake, God’s promise was stronger.
3. Remember that people are watching. Those natives watched Paul for a long time to see if he would get sick and die. They were astonished when that didn’t happen. People are watching to see how you and I respond to unexpected attacks. Does the poison injected make us poisonous? Do we get sick, filled with bitterness and revenge? When Jesus was dying upon the cross, He prayed for those who hurled abuse at Him. He took all the poisonous scorn and responded in love and forgiveness. He shook it off and chose to trust His Father. And the hardened centurion who oversaw His crucifixion, that man who had no doubt seen hundreds of people die on the cross, exclaimed, “Truly this was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54).
You and I can have tremendous influence for Christ if we will seek to “shake it off and trust the Lord.” I know it is not easy … but it is always right. The bites hurt, just like they hurt Paul, but God will give you the strength as you rely upon Him.
What do you say? Will you join me in shaking it off?
Jeff Schreve is Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Texarkana, Texas. He and his wife Debbie have been married for over 20 years and are blessed with three wonderful girls. Jeff began From His Heart Ministries, a radio and television ministry, in January of 2005. This ministry is completely listener/viewer supported. It continues only through the faithful and generous gifts of people like you. Pastor Jeff takes no salary from this ministry. All gifts go to further the broadcast.