Acts 28:1-10 is our passage today.
It’s fascinating how different groups run their churches. There seem to be as many forms of government as there are churches and some are adamant that theirs is the right way to do things. I don’t think the Bible sets out exactly how things should be done and different systems may suit different contexts but what is absolutely certain is that leaders are called to serve. Jesus took upon himself the form of a servant; he washed his disciple’s feet as a servant would and said that the apostles should do the same. The word ‘minister’ is a Latin word meaning servant and has the same root as the word ‘minus’ meaning less. The same is true of the word ‘deacon’, which comes from the Greek word ‘diákonos’ again meaning servant. The implication is clear; leaders do not boss people around, they serve.
In today’s passage Paul is again serving the people he meets.
The 276 survived the shipwreck and found themselves on Malta. Luke writes that the people were very kind and built a fire. He also puts in those little details that must come from personal experience; ‘it was raining and cold.’ It is noticeable that Paul was gathering the brushwood for the fire. There were plenty of people there, probably nearly three hundred but Paul was serving in the little things, he was collecting the wood. Some might say; surely he could have been doing something more useful and have left this to others but how we behave in the small things is Important. It shows our attitude to others and people notice that.
Even in the apparent safety of dry land, Paul’s trial was not over. A snake came from the wood and bit him. The islanders must have known that this was a poisonous snake because they waited for Paul to die. There is no panic from Paul, he merely shook it off into the fire and carried on. The Lord had promised Paul that he would testify in Rome and that word had sustained him through the storm and through the snake bite and would carry him on to Rome. He knew that the journey was not over. Like Paul, we too have a promise and if God has spoken it will come to pass. There may be storms, shipwrecks and snake bites. There may be persecutions, hardships and trials but it will come to pass;
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 37-39)
The Lord had brought Paul to Malta for a purpose. He spent three months there and God blessed his ministry. There were many healings and Paul must surely have spent time sharing the Gospel. We know that the Maltese people valued Paul and helped him by giving him supplies for the journey. Sometimes God puts us somewhere we may not have wanted to go in order to fulfil his purposes. It seems these months were a blessing to Paul as well, as he received rest and encouragement for the task ahead.
My Lord You’re faithful
You supply all good things
You know completely
All my thoughts, my deepest needs
You’re my shelter through it all,
You’re my refuge and my strength
Lord I hide in the shadow of Your wings (Shadow of your Wings – Rueben Morgan)