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Acts 28:1-16: Great is Thy Faithfulness Print E-mail

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Life is full of difficult questions.  I wonder what questions you would be asking God if you could get a direct answer right now.  ‘What can I do to get my kids to love you more?’  ‘Why did they die so young?’  ‘Who am I supposed to marry?’  ‘What can I do to fix my marriage?’  ‘How long is this difficult season going to last?’  ‘When are you coming back for your Bride?’  On and on we could go with the questions that we wrestle with.  Some are easy to forget, or at least put off until later, while others are the first thing we think about each morning.  We are full of questions.

In one sense our questions could be summed up with one overarching question to God: ‘Will You be faithful?’  We know that God has promised us good, but there are times when doubt gets the best of us and we struggle to believe.  Or maybe our struggle is just simply: ‘Will you be faithful to me?  I have seen your goodness in the lives of others, but what about me?’  We all know that God is faithful, but I think we all struggle with knowing that He will be faithful to us. 

To fight against this doubt, it is good for us to meditate upon passages that highlight God’s faithfulness in the lives of those who have gone before us.  We have seen God be faithful in the lives of Peter and Paul and others in the book of Acts.  This book should strengthen our faith in God’s faithfulness.  In our passage this morning, we see examples of His faithfulness to Paul.  It is on display in this text.  So then, what do we see?

The healing of Paul and others (v. 1-10)

Acts 27 ends with Paul and the rest of those sailing with him landing on an unknown island.  Luke spends a few verses telling us where they were and what happened.  Look at verses 1-2.  They had made it to the island of Malta, which is not far from the coast of Italy.  The sailors were probably familiar with the place, but not with the particular people who found them.  Yet, Luke tells us that they showed them unusual kindness by building a fire to dry them out after their swim to the island. 

But something crazy happens in verse 3.  Look at that with me.  Paul is being a good servant gathering sticks and as he tosses them into the fire a snake latches on to his hand.  The natives of the island are intrigued by this and draw a quick conclusion.  Look at verse 4.  These people believed that justice was being served to Paul.  He was a murderer who had escaped the sinking ship, but he would not escape the viper’s bite.  They believed in fate or karma or something like it.  And so they waited for Paul to drop dead.  And they waited and they waited.  Look at verses 5-6.  They had assumed that the snake bite was justice (much like the friends of Job), but when Paul does not die, they can only conclude that he is some kind of a god.  How quickly their opinions changed from Paul being a murderer to a god.  It seems Luke is showing us the problem with such paganism.  They keep drawing false conclusions because they believe in false theology.  Paul is not a god, he simply serves the God who is faithful, who had a plan for Paul to testify in Rome.

Before they leave the island, Luke tells us about what happened when they met the chief man of the island, who had a father that was sick.  Look at verses 7-8a.  As we have seen Paul do before, he prays for the man’s healing.  Look at what happens in verse 8b.  Paul prays for the healing of the father of Publius and the Lord heals him.  As happened in the life of Jesus, when word of the healing spread, many came to Paul for healing.  Look at verses 9-10.  While they remained on the island, Paul was able to heal many on the island.  And the people were thankful and blessed them greatly when it was time for them to leave.

God was faithful to heal Paul from the snakebite.  This does not mean that we should start a snake-handling ministry, but it is another display of God’s faithfulness to His own.  He does not always heal, but He did heal through the Apostle while he remained on Malta.  As we have seen in the book of Acts, I am sure this healing gave Paul plenty of opportunities to share about Jesus and the spiritual healing that comes through faith in His death and resurrection.  It was not fate that had spared Paul’s life and healed the native people, it was Jesus and His grace.  The healing of Paul and the others is a display of His faithfulness.

The Arrival in Rome (v. 11-14)

Paul had been trying to make it to Rome for over two years now.  God had promised him that he would testify in that city (23:11).  Yet, things had surely not played out as Paul imagined.  He had spent two years in prison as a favor to the Jews by two governors in Caesarea.  I wonder if he ever stayed up at night wondering: ‘Will I ever make it to Rome?’  I have no reason to think that he did, but I cannot say the same for myself.  Then, when Paul finally does make it on a ship that is bound for the great city, he ends up lost at Sea with everyone around him expecting to die.  But God reminded Paul of his former promise by sending an angel to tell him that he would stand before Caesar (27:24).  Yet, the angel also told him that he have to be shipwrecked on an island first (27:26).  Through all of this, it seems likely that Paul, like the psalmists, at least wondered at times: ‘How long O Lord until you fulfill your promise?’

Our passage this morning teaches us that the time did come.  Luke tells us about the rest of the trip in verses 11-13.  Look at those verses with me.  Notice that they had to stay on the island of Malta for three months. Three months!  Again, you could not sail in those days during winter (they had experienced what could happen if you tried!)  So after they wintered on Malta, they caught another ship that eventually took them to Sicily and eventually Italy.  Finally, Luke tells us that they made it to Rome.  Look at verse 14.  Two to three years waiting, unjust imprisonment, speaking before Governors and Kings, lost at Sea, shipwrecked on an island, and finally, finally, Paul makes it to Rome.  Just as God had promised.

God’s faithfulness is once again on display in the keeping of His promise to Paul.  When Jesus told Paul that he would testify in that city, He knew exactly what it would take to get him there.  He knew every day, every hour, every second.  And there was nothing in all of the world that could keep it from happening.  We see in this story God’s sovereign goodness.  He is sovereign over all circumstances.  He was sovereign over Paul’s unjust imprisonment, his speaking before rulers, and even the wind that carried him out to Sea and eventually to Malta.  And the Lord is good.  He is faithful to keep His promises to His people.  He is not powerful but wicked or kind but weak.  He is sovereign and good.  He has good and gracious plans for His people and He has the power to carry them out.  Paul’s arrival in Rome teaches us this.

The encouragement of the brothers (v. 15-16)

There is one other display of God’s faithfulness in this passage.  Not only does Paul make it to Rome, but he is repeatedly encouraged by fellow Christians along the way.  Again, Paul is not traveling alone.  He at least has Luke and Aristarchus with him.  And when he gets close to Rome, Luke notes that other brothers travel to meet him and encourage him.  Look at verses 15-16.  Paul may or may not have known any of these believers.  He had written them a letter, which is now our book of Romans, but he may or may not have ever met any of them in person.  But either way, notice his reaction to them: Paul thanked God and took courage.  Paul thanked God, whom they served and he served.  And he was encouraged by their company.

One way that God is faithful to His people is through His people.  Yes, there are times when life in the community of faith can be hard.  Every local Church is full of sinful people, people like you and me.  But there are times when brothers and sisters and Christ can be a great encouragement to each other.  I have experienced this often in my life.  This week, in our small group, someone shared with me how the sermon from last week had an impact on their life.  I am thankful to God for that and encouraged to keep studying and preaching and praying.  I keep a drawer in my office that is full of cards and letters I have received through the years encouraging me.  I have one that I keep in my Bible that was given to me in a particularly hard time of ministry.  Let me read on line from it: “Brother William you will have mine and many other people’s prayers for your courage to face the bloody battle for truth, strength for you to lead us through it, and faith that you will never give the fight for our souls.”  I cannot tell you how many times the Lord has used that note to encourage me.  We are gifts from God to each other.  Every time the Lord uses us to encourage each other He is displaying His faithfulness to His people.  He is faithful to His people through His people. 

The Lord, our God, is faithful.  The Bible is the story of His faithfulness.  From Genesis to Revelation we read of Him being faithful to His people.  He is the God who has been faithful to His people over and over again.  He was faithful to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  He was faithful to Ruth and Esther and Job.  He was faithful to David and Daniel and his three friends.  He was faithful to Peter and to Paul.  The Lord has been faithful to His people.  And the Lord is being faithful to His people.  For all of the difficulties that we see around us, for everything happening in Ferguson and New York city, and for all of the tragedies that are happening world-wide that we will never read about on social media, the gospel is still being preached and sinners are still receiving mercy and grace.  The mission that Paul and the others began so long ago is still thriving, still moving forward, still pushing back the darkness, all through the faithfulness of God.  He has been faithful and He is being faithful. 

So brothers and sisters, you can trust that He will be faithful.  Whatever questions that you have for Him this morning, you can know that He will be faithful to all of His promises.  The gospel will go forth to every tongue, tribe, and nation.  The gates of Hell will not prevail against God’s people.  And when you stand before the Lord on that final Day, the work of Christ at the cross will be enough to grant you eternity with God.  When you begin to doubt it (and you will), when you have dark days (and you will), when you feel like your patience is wearing thin, just think of old Paul walking down the streets of Rome for the first time, surrounded by fellow saints, thankful for the faithfulness of God.  God promised Paul Rome and He delivered.  He has promised us the New Jerusalem and He will deliver.  He has been faithful.  He is being faithful.  And He will be faithful to the end.  Amen. 

~ William Marshall ~

 

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 24 December 2014 )

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