Sunday, April 29, 2012

Fight the Bites

"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

Allow me to give a brief overview of the varying circumstances that occurred before this verse.
Paul was a prisoner.  Over two years earlier, Paul had been arrested by the Romans for "disrupting the peace" in Jerusalem (see Acts 21:26-40).  Felix, who was governor at the time of his arrest, failed to issue a verdict on Paul's case.  Paul finally appealed to Caesar when Festus took Felix's place.  Festus granted Paul's request and sent him to Rome, along with several other prisoners, under the supervision of a centurion named Julius.  On the way Paul forewarned that this voyage would end in disaster but the sailors and soldiers didn't listen.  True to the prophetic word of Paul, a huge storm arose and after battling the elements for 14 days they were finally shipwrecked on a tiny island southwest of Italy called Malta.
Okay, imagine Paul's current circumstances.  He's a prisoner under the hands of the Romans, he was shipwrecked on an island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, and now he's serving!?  Glance back at the verse mentioned above..."But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire,...".  He, being the Christian man that he was, lost himself in service to others.  I don't know about you but I'm pretty sure I would have just plopped on the beach thankful I survived; not really caring about anybody else (I certainly hope I wouldn't but I know my flesh all too well).  I've been swimming in rough water; it takes a lot out of you.  But Paul, as soon as he had caught his breath, picked himself up and gathered sticks out of love and care for those around him. 
Now look at the last part of this verse.  It says, "...a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand.".  This verse gives a great example of what might happen while you're serving.  Sometime you may get bitten by a snake, THE snake.  Satan is the snake that tempted Eve in the garden and continues to tempt us to this day.  His bites can be subtle but extremely deadly if not handled properly.  Another snake which we must constantly fight against is our own flesh.  The real question is how will these bites affect you and me?  When the bite of worry or doubt comes do we take it to Jesus?  When the poison of lust or envy enters our mind do we "take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ"?  If you continue reading in Acts 28 you see that Paul was unaffected by this bite.  How?  Well, look at what Jesus said in Mark 16:17-18, "And these signs will follow those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."
These things are humanly impossible but with God all things are possible.  These bites only affect us as much as we let them.

So, when we're bit by a snake in our life (overcome by a certain sin) what do we do?  Do we carry everything to Jesus and let Him take care of it or do we allow the little bites to stop our service to Him?  Satan (and our flesh) would like nothing better then to see us stop serving, stop caring for others.  Don't let the bites take you down.  Let's defeat them in the name of Jesus and show the world what He can do with a Christian who fights the bites and wins!

Learning to delight in Jesus,

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