I enjoy a good bonfire. Sometimes I need it for warmth on a cold night while camping. Other times I need it because it creates an environment for deep and personal conversations as people tend to relax and open up. I will also admit, there are some times I create a fire solely to make a S’more. As I look back over my life I can also recall some bonfire moments that were eventful. As a youth pastor I have had many, and some that I frankly would love to forget.
There was a very eventful bonfire in the Bible that we learn of in Acts 28:1-10. Paul had just lived through a shipwreck and was finally drying off by a fire, when he was bitten by a viper. Seriously! This guy can’t seem to catch a break. He is doing his best to obey the Lord and continue his calling to go to Rome, but one dramatic event after another seems to fall his way.
When we read this story it may be easy to be distracted by what we can only imagine to be the emotional state or discouragement of Paul. Perhaps we want to chase a rabbit and discuss snake handling in the church and what Acts 28 would imply about that. I encourage you to pause and slow down for a minute. Read the account of Acts 28:1-10 and notice the sovereignty of God on display and the faithfulness of Paul, and be sure not to miss the point.
God rescued Paul from a shipwreck and in His sovereignty led him to an island that was named Malta, which means “refuge”. In that place of refuge he was met with kindness and provision. All had been lost on the shipwreck, and God provided him a place and people which enabled his needs to be met and ultimately his voyage to continue.
Consider this encounter and reflect in your own life. When has there been an apparent disruption in your plan or interruption that resulted in you receiving a word of encouragement that was duly needed? Or perhaps, that interruption opened a door for you to encourage someone or proclaim the Gospel. Like Paul, you and I should be living submitted to the authority of Christ and following His guidance, even when on the surface it may seem like a disruption. Step into those moments and look for God to work.
It may be that God swings open a door for us to boldly speak His name. Looking back in Acts 28, Paul was bitten by a snake and God spared his life. This miraculous event opened a door for Paul to point people to Jesus. While Acts 28 does not explicitly state his sermon, there is ample evidence in Paul’s past to suggest that he preached and discipled. Given that he was in Malta for three months, we can certainly conclude he was faithful to his calling to preach and proclaim the hope of Jesus.
We can be encouraged by Paul’s example that we seize every moment and every season to follow Christ, submit to His authority, express His hope to others as we care, and speak His name. Keep your eyes open to those encounters and opportunities today, but be sure to be careful around your next bonfire.