The shipwreck story in the life of Paul lands him and the crew on the island of Malta (Acts 28:1). The men made their way from sinking ship to safety on shore, and perhaps they wondered what they would find. Remember Gilligan’s Island? They encountered head hunters from time to time! But Paul and his buds encountered six discoveries:
- Unusual Kindness (Acts 28:2): there could have been unhappy natives, head-hunters or cannibals, instead, God prepared a safe haven for them. Luke tells us they were unusually kind. When was the last time that you were shipwrecked in a storm and found unusual kindness?
- Warmth (Acts 28:2): the water was cold and a fire was kindled. The fact is that we cannot really experience and appreciate warmth until we have experience the cold. What I like is that God was meeting their physical needs first. Another fact I like is that Paul gathered a pile of wood. A man who deserved a break after all his hardship was exercising his servant’s heart. This wood gathering brought his third discovery.
- Snakes (Acts 28:3): a viper is quite a poisonous snake; generally take three steps and fall down. It sort of looked like one of the sticks, and as Paul placed the pile on the fire, the snake grabbed at his only way out of the fire, Paul’s hand. Read 2 Corinthians 11:24, 25, and Paul might have thought, “and now this.” But God used this creature to reveal the beliefs of the islanders.
- Limited Knowledge (Acts 28:4): Paul must have been a murderer and God was not allowing him to live. While their assumption was not correct, they revealed a limited knowledge of the true God. The NIV capitalizes the word, Justice, meaning it is a proper noun. They must have believed in a judge who executes justice. Even though they were unevangelized, they had an awareness of a divine judge. God makes himself known in the most remote parts of the planet and men are without excuse (Romans 1:20). But God does not just want people to be without excuse, he doesn’t want them to be without a Savior.
- Spiritual Need (Acts 28:5, 6): they believed in justice and equity but their knowledge was incomplete. Paul shook of the snake and they waited for Paul to drop dead. When he didn’t, they thought he was a god. While they believed in a divine judge, they also believed in other gods. God is light who doesn’t want us to walk in darkness.
- Physical Need (Acts 28:8, 9-10): Paul was able to heal their sick.
- He prayed for the chief’s father; praying to God redirected their attention from Paul’s “divinity” to the real God, Jesus Christ.
- The means of the healing: it was through Paul, not the physician Luke. I think that’s too cool. Our Father wanted the people to recognize God for the miracle, not some well educated professional doctor. There was no room for doubt here.
- God was also up to a wholesale healing (Acts 28:9). While God’s servants seem to heal many individuals, seldom in Scripture do we read about a servant bringing healing to entire land. Their attention was drawn to the only one who could bring spiritual healing as well.
- Then they supplied Paul and the rest with physical supplies (Acts 28:10).
Application: it is essential that whatever we do, that God is the one who gets the glory for it. If we lead someone to the Lord, it’s all about God. When he works through you, it’s all about God. When you exercise a spiritual gift, it’s all about God. The group was able to spend three months on the island (Acts 28:11), so these people may have heard more preaching of the gospel in three months than most people hear in a lifetime. When Paul told the crew they must run aground on some island (Acts 27:26), little did they know it would be Malta where God had so much cool stuff planned for them.
For you, which discovery above is the most pressing on you right now? How you ever found unusual kindness in the midst of a storm? Or discovering warmth after a cold or chilling experience? What about the snakes in your life that are biting and just might be the death of you? How are you combating your limited spiritual knowledge and growing in the Lord? Do you recognize your spiritual need and have the courage to seek out help to meet that need in Christ? What area of physical need do you have or area in which you need healing?