Scripture: Acts 28
3 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. 4 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.” 5 But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. 6 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.
Paul while on this leg of his mission trip endured several hardships; ship wreck, snakebite, no place to stay in a new, strange place. In each of these hardships God provides what he needed; safety, healing and the kindness of strangers. The people who lived on the island struggled to interpret these events in light of their previous faith in the goddess of Justice. Paul proclaims to them the truth about God.
As I read this story I am reminded that those who serve God often have to endure severe hardship. We shouldn’t think, like the people on Malta, that nothing bad would happen if God favors us. They believed that bad things happen as punishment. We see this thinking in Christianity also. For example, some church leaders publicly interpret hurricanes, earthquakes, and other disasters as God’s judgment on those who are victims. Paul served God’s purpose by enduring the shipwreck, snakebite, etc. Christ also served God’s purpose in suffering. Through suffering, Jesus provides what all people need most, forgiveness of sins. We too should expect trials and be willing to suffer for the sake of the good news of Christ.
Lord God, thank You for the hardships that Jesus endured for my benefit. Help me to see hardships as opportunities to serve You and not punishments for sin. In Jesus name, Amen.