The Apostle Paul was on his way to Rome to stand trial before Caesar. He was crossing the Mediterranean Sea when a terrible storm broke upon the ship in which he was making the trip. The ship was wrecked, and everything was lost. By the grace of God, Paul, the other prisoners, the Roman soldiers, and the ship’s crew were saved.
After many hours on the stormy sea, they were cast upon the island of Melita, which today is the island of Malta. As the shivering group gathered on the shore, we are given a vivid picture, in the Biblical account of this event, which clearly shows us the importance of “readiness” in our lives as Christians and servants of God.
It is recorded in Act 28:2-3: “The natives showed us extraordinary kindness, for because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they kindled a fire and received us all. But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire……
Here was a servant of God, Paul, the Apostle, who had been so much mistreated, accused, and made a prisoner. He was a man who had every right to hate in his humanity. But, we see Paul stooped down to serve by gathering a bundle of sticks. The choice was Paul’s. He could have taken that opportunity to return good or bad for evil. He could let Christ shine through his actions, or he could do nothing. And, he gathered a bundle of sticks to keep the fire going for the comfort of those shipwrecked with him. He was ready to serve.
We are often prone to think or say, “I could really do something for Christ, IF I had enough money, or if I had the time, or IF I thought someone would notice and praise me for it.”
Paul had few of the advantages for spreading the Gospel that we have today. He was a prisoner. What did he have? He had hands, and an opportunity to serve. We are reminded the word in Ecclesiastes 9:10: “Whatever your hands find to do, do it with all your might….” Paul was a servant ready to serve.
Throughout the ages God has made known His call: “Whom shall I sent, and who will go for us.” (Isaiah 6:8). May we always be able to reply, and Isaiah did when he said, “Here am I, Lord. Send me.”
Lord, here am I. I’ll go where you want me to go. I’ll do what you want me to do. I’ll be a servant, ready to serve.
The Scriptures also tell us that we must be ready to strike. 1 Peter 5:8 says: “…be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary, the devil, like a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour.” Wherever you find a servant of God, ready to serve, you will find also a serpent ready to strike. Look back at Acts 28:3 again. When Paul picked up the bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, there came a serpent out of the fire and “fastened on his hand.”
Just as the servant of God does something to serve others and to glorify his Lord, the devil is there to fight it. Satan cannot bear to see anyone dedicated to God with a willingness to serve.
Moses had to contend with Pharaoh and his army, with the Red Sea in front and mountains on either side. David had to fight Goliath. Joshua had the giants who inhabited the Land of Promise. Wherever there are servants of God ready to serve, there you will find serpents ready to strike.
Another sad problem that comes to the servant ready to serve is that some people are always ready to judge. Let’s go back to Acts 28:3 again. “When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they began saying to one another, “Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, and though he has been saved from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.”
As long as people are human, we must expect them to be quick to pass severe and often unfair judgment upon the servant of God who is ready to serve and is seeking an opportunity to serve. And nothing is more heartbreaking than to have those whom you love and seek to serve turn against you and reject you.
After the red Sea deliverance the very people Moses was leading turned against him and cried, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, you have taken away to die in the wilderness. Why have you dealt this way with us? It had been better that we should die in the wilderness.”
When David’s young heart was stirred by the mocking giant against God and the Israelites, he asked the soldier of Israel why no champion would go forth to fight Goliath. David’s own brother discouraged him and mocked him by saying: “Why did you come here, leaving your sheep in the wilderness? I know your pride, and the naughtiness of your heart.” Paraphrase of 1 Samuel17:28. David had to endure these reproaches even from his own brother.
Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in Heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
So, we have seen here, the phases of human and Christian experience. A servant ready to serve. A serpent ready to strike. A people ready to judge. And then, we know we have a God who is ready to deliver. Here is the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey always said. Back to Acts 28:5-6 – “However, he shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm; but they were expecting that he was about to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god. “
Time and time again this story has stood as a lesson to remind us to be ready to serve in the name of Jesus; ready to deliver the message of the Gospel; ready to shake off the temptations and lies of the devil; and ready to give praise to God, rather than judgment, for the work of His saints.
Gary’s Wednesday Word Princeton Christian Church 11 August 2021