“I vote for no one.” American voter’s attest.
An orphan in China just lost his liver donor. He is already sick, and needs his surgery soon.
We hear the nay-sayers all around, as the lights dim, as the night of our surroundings press down, making us feel like we are on an island, natives shouting all around.
And we can pull up a chair and settle tight into religion’s model of powerless living and apathetic, mediocre Christianity….or we can walk by faith, set apart, believing…We were made for more.
I open the Bible this morning, in the middle of a battle, the news that a little boy who is ready to aged out of the system, just lost his hope for a forever family.
I read – “So keep up your courage, men [or women] for I have faith (complete confidence) in God that it will be exactly as it was told to me.” (Acts 27:25)
And how many of us have complete courage? In our night-time waking, quiet-time questioning? Among so many pointing at us and deliberating, “What do they believe?” And, “Is who they serve really worth seeking?”
Courage = to show daring courage necessary for a valid risk (“putting it all on the line”); courageously venturing forward by putting fear behind and embracing the fruit that lies ahead for taking a necessary risk.
In the next chapter, I read of Paul washing up on the island called, Malta. Natives around him watching, “Who was he?” And yet, they showed him hospitality.
Paul stokes the fire. It had begun to rain and was getting cold. He gathered a bundle of sticks, and was lying them on the fire, when a viper crawled out because of the heat, and fastened itself on his hand.
The natives watched and waited, thinking Justice (their avenging god) would not permit him to live.
How many of us feel cold and weary, sense the rain washing away the things we thought we had attained and accomplished?
And just when we have a tiny bit of energy left, we reach out in faith and use our last ounce of hope to grow the flames of faith within us….
It is then when the same viper in the garden begins to attach to us?
He wants to stop and paralyze us. Make us quit burning the flames of His light within us. Hinder us through fear, doubts, questions, and the onlookers waiting for us to shrivel up in hopelessness…
But Paul? He was the epitome of faith.
Scripture says he didn’t cringe, start quoting the Torah loudly in rhythmic motion. He didn’t cave by telling God all of his good works and worthiness…
He didn’t give into doubt, or become plagued with paralyzing fear….
He simply shook that viper back into the fire. He took courage, flung his hand, threw it off and burned up the very thing trying to kill him.
And I wonder if we too used the enemies weapons against him? If when the enemy of our souls sneaks in with questions and lies of doubting…
Do we throw his accusations back at him, trusting the one who empowers us….Jesus?
If when He slithered close to us with fear, do we walk confident, walking further towards where God was leading, without looking or questioning?
What I love about this passage is that it doesn’t say Paul even spoke one word when the snake slithered on him. He didn’t curse it, look at, or even acknowledge the snakes purposes.
He just flung the enemy straight into the fire, silencing his accusers, turning his oppressors into celebrators of the great God Paul was serving.
Scripture says the natives were expecting Paul to swell up and suddenly drop dead.
After all, that’s likely all they had known from vipers in the past…death.
But God’s plans are not man’s plans, and we know the one that defeated death, the one that squashed the snake underneath His feet.
Oh friends, maybe today you are like the pastor mentioned in the sermon I listened to…you are losing faith, filled with fear, and spreading words of death, in expectations of bad things happening.
But, oh friend, we don’t have to be like the natives. God has called and delivered us. After all, we serve the same God who raised Christ from the dead, and He can save us, if we put our trust in Him.
Maybe you feel cold and abandoned, are on an proverbial island filled with strangers. You have come here by faith, but then it seems God has abandoned you.
The fire is dwindling. You have been waiting, but no one else is stoking it…
To you, I say, grab the kindling, take the logs, and load the flames so the world can see Him high and lifted up. Don’t look at those questioning, don’t fear the viper watching you walk by faith.
We were not called to be apathetic or lukewarm, wavering along doubt.
We are His ambassadors, empowered and equipped with the Holy Spirit, whether children are taken, needs seem insurmountable, lives around us, are clinging for hope, but simply don’t know where to find it…
The world needs us ablaze. If we are not empowered in faith, if we don’t lift our hands and put the kindling of prayers and praise, scripture and faith, how can we blame the cold?
“Keep up your courage.” Those words grip me, again.
It doesn’t say, let another person of God fill us, let some church be our sole source of hope or encouragement. It doesn’t say expect another to impart to us courage….
That’s the type of faith I want. That’s the kind of boldness I long for, when children in China are waiting for families, the world tries to crush us with doubts and questions, when people are attacking every potential president.
Our hope is in the fire that burns the viper, the one who flames within us, the one who turned Saul into Paul through a Damascus Road experience…
That’s the God we serve. It is exactly as He has said to us…
And even the natives, the rules of nature, the predictions of man cannot rob us from the hand of God.
So let’s be bold, fearless, risk-taking, living courageous. Our God didn’t make us to be fearful, but to be viper slayers, filled with faith burning in us…
Together, let’s stoke the fire. The world can see His glory.
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