Acts 28: 3-7
Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, ‘This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.’ But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.
John 2: 23-25
Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.
Paul has just been through a huge storm, he’s survived a shipwreck and now he’s bitten by a snake. He’s had better weeks. To make matters worse, those who are standing nearby explain his misfortune by speculating that he is under a curse from the gods for some wrong he must have committed in his past. They stand around, Paul still with a viper hanging from his hand, judging, condemning and criticising him.
How does Paul respond? He doesn’t spend time looking at the snake, asking ‘why me?’. Nor does he get into an argument with those criticising him, trying to defend his reputation. He doesn’t start crying from pain or shaking with fear. He simply looks at the snake and shakes it off his hand into the fire.
Paul doesn’t let the poison get into him. He doesn’t take their criticism personally. He refuses to let the false accusations deflect him from his destiny. He just shakes it off.
The principle is this. Just because the snake bites us doesn’t mean we have to let it hang onto us. Just because we are attacked doesn’t mean we have to allow the criticism to poison us. Because offense is given doesn’t mean it has to be taken.
We simply cannot let criticism and negativity takes us away from the call of God on our lives. We cannot let fear of what others think stop us from doing the things God calls us to do. We cannot allow anyone and their opinion to have the power over us that only God and His Word should have. When God is calling us to rise up and step out, we simply can’t allow others to hold us back.
If you are going to do anything remotely significant for God, accept that you will be criticised. Find your security not in what others say and think about you, but find your sense of worth, security and identity in Him. And face the fact - people are fickle. Look at what happens:
“The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.”
They are standing, staring at Paul, waiting on him to fall over dead. He just looks right back at them, the snake is sizzling in the fire beside him. He doesn’t fall, he doesn’t die, so they change their minds and now decide that he’s a god!
The bottom line is this – you can’t live your life according the opinions of others. Some will think too little of you and some will think too much of you. Some will put you on a pedestal and some will watch, waiting for you to fall off it. Live for an audience of one. Live according to what the Father thinks about you. If all is going well, the Father loves you. If everything falls apart, the Father loves you. In every storm, every shipwreck and every snake attack, there is the one constant – the Father absolutely loves you.
We look forward to seeing you this Sunday at 9.30 am and 11.30 am. There will be NO evening service this Sunday.
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