"Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls."
1 Peter 1:8-9 (KJV)
1 Peter 1:8-9 (KJV)
The Great Setup
You know that feeling you get just when you believe God is going to do something great in your life and then the most undesirable thing happens? I know that feeling really well….. REALLY WELL.
It’s the trouble that arises in the midnight hours, the flat tire the day after getting new ones, the spilled coffee on the new shirt you bought yesterday. It’s also the long-term undesirable events in your life such as the spouse becoming disabled after being completely healthy, the loss of a loved one, or the car accident that changes everyone’s life. It can’t be by accident right? No. I call this a setup, the Great Setup.
Sometimes when we believe bad things are happening and there can be no other answer than the enemy is trying to take us down, God can make situations result in our blessings.
Romans 8:28 tells us that, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
Paul was a man who understood this concept of being set up well. He was truly “set up” at every corner he turned. There was not a place that Paul went where he did not run into some type of resistance. However, “we must endure and practice persistence to overcome all resistance!”
I don’t think you may have heard that, so let me say it again, “practice persistence to overcome all resistance!”
Paul knew a few things about persistence. You see, Saul (later known as Paul after God changed his name) knew about persistence long before he was even converted. Paul showed great persistence while chasing after the Christians while he was still a Jew seeking to destroy Christians.
Acts 8:3 says, “As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.”
This took great commitment and time to run down Christians who were already used to being secretive about their movement. They already knew that their lives were at risk, therefore they moved in secrecy. He even went long distances to find them which is why he was on the road heading towards Damascus when he was converted. God had to literally blind him just to get him to stop. He was a workaholic, a machine, a working maniac. Which was great for the cause of the gospel. He was such a hard worker, that he thought of marriage as so much of a time burden that he said it would be better and easier to not marry than to marry and work for the Lord.
Out of all the situations God led Paul to however, there was one that sticks out to me the most. That is the story of Paul and the viper.
Acts 28 King James Version (KJV)
28 And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita.
2 And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold.
3 And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand.
4 And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live.
5 And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm.
6 Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.
7 In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius; who received us, and lodged us three days courteously.
8 And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him.
9 So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed:
10 Who also honoured us with many honours; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary.
Paul, after being ship wrecked at Melita stayed behind to minister to the people of that island. However, as he gathered wood to build a fire for warmth against the rain, a viper comes out of the woodpile and bites him on the hand. Due to the beliefs and customs of those residing on that island, the snake bite gave him the credibility to minister to those people.
Right now, someone under the sound of my voice has either recently, is about to, or is currently going through a similar situation as Paul here in Acts 28. I want to encourage you that you must remain confident in your faith. Know that God has your back and remember Romans 8:28. I have had to remind myself many times of such Scripture and God’s promises.
Deuteronomy 31:6 tells us, “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”
We are reminded of this also in Hebrews 13:5 by Paul himself to, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”
Paul had just been bit on the hand by as the Word states, “viper.” This would have certainly been a venomous snake as most vipers are. The residents of the island believed that he was cursed because of this event, but isn’t it amazing how God can turn our situations from worse to the most well. He can turn bank accounts from negative, to positive numbers with commas, He can take broken lives and mold them like clay on the potter’s wheel because that’s just who Jesus is. He is the Lord God, He is the King of Kings, He is the Alpha and the Omega. He turned his birth in the humbleness of no room in the inn, to a triumphant return of a King coming to claim his treasure! Certainly He can take your situation and turn it around.
He did it for Moses, He did it for David, He did it for Paul, He has done it for me, and He can certainly do it for you!
So the next time you see someone and it looks like they just rolled out of hell itself, tell them to, “shake it off!” We must shake off the vipers, hold ups, and hang ups that come our way.
Those things that try to stop us, slow us down, and make us unfruitful are nothing more than imaginary vipers, set in place to keep you from accomplishing God’s purpose for your life.
All you were trying to do is collect some provision so you could carry on again tomorrow. You might be trying to work, so you can earn some money to eat, but because you witnessed to a few people along the way, a viper was set in your path to trip up your finances, your family, your job, your relationships, and we have to “shake it off!”
In due time, God is going to take that viper bite and use the enemies own venom against him to get the respect of the very individuals who are shouting you must be cursed because you’re a Christian and your life isn’t perfect.
Your island might not be Melita, it might just be the Merita bread factory, but its still the island God has put you on and the island you are destined to be a witness to.
Don’t overlook small or humble beginnings because Jesus didn’t start in the Mega-church, he started with just the priests as a boy. There were amused by his knowledge at such a young age, but it was obvious He was entertainment to them. Jesus was looked at as a joke in His hometown, but a hero in others. You must serve to the best of your ability wherever God has placed you and sometimes that means you may be shipwrecked along the way in your journey to the place you thought you were going.
You may have intended on being a missionary in New Delhi and instead get shipwrecked in Istanbul. Either way, you are doing the Lord’s work, so make the best of it. Either way, God has placed you right where He wants you in exactly the right moment He wants, so do your best to sow seeds wherever you go. Shake off the vipers along the way my friend, keep a positive attitude, and watch the Lord do miracles through you that you would have never imagined in your lifetime!