Watch Out for Snakes

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One of our favorite things to do together as a family on the weekend is to get out and about and explore somewhere new – and one of the best places we’ve found during our adventures is a sculpture park about half an hour away from home.

This place is huge – and there are more than a hundred sculptural works of art scattered through the gardens, which you access using walking trails through the wooded area.

So one sunny afternoon the kids and I were wandering through the place, checking out the sculptures when we saw what we thought was a sculpture of a snake.

Now I’ve seen plenty of live snakes in my lifetime, we’d get them on the property where I grew up, and when I lived in outback Western Australia part of my team’s area of responsibility was to handle snakes.

This thing was HUGE.

It was almost as thick as my arm, and it had scales the size of my thumbnails.

It was perfectly still, no flickering tongue or anything and it was longer than I am tall.

The kids were playing around one of the sculptures about 10 meters from this thing, and as they played I was watching it.

Part of my brain was going “man, that’s a real black snake and it’s bigger than anything I’ve ever seen before”, and another part of my brain was going – “don’t be an idiot! It’s a sculpture, you’re in a sculpture park and it’s too big to be real.”

One of the kids who was with us went within a few meters to take a photo of it, because she’d taken photos of every other sculpture we’d seen.

And then my youngest daughter went to go up much much closer to it.

I yelled at her to stop still where she was and to back away from it slowly, thinking that I’m going to look really stupid here because I’m totally panicked by the kids going near a snake sculpture.

But the second that my daughter changed direction, the snake, in the blink of an eye, turned like a flash and disappeared back into the bushes.

Eek.

So there’s a few famous stories from the bible about snakes, but the one we’re going to focus on here is from Acts chapters 27 and 28.

As we pick up the story, Paul is a prisoner on his way to Rome for his trial, and his mode of transport is by ship.

So they’re sailing along, but there are serious headwinds and it’s slow going, and because they’ve lost so much time the seasons are changing and the weather is getting worse – which makes sea travel a bit dicey.

Paul warned the ship’s officers that there may be danger ahead if they kept going, but the people in charge and the crew were keen to keep pushing on to a better port to spend the winter.

So they’re sailing along and this storm comes up, so the sailors bind ropes around the hull to make it stronger.

They lower the sea anchor to slow the ship down and let the wind drive the ship.

The next day they begin throwing cargo overboard, and the day after that they threw some of the ship’s gear over too.

In the middle of the storm, an Angel comes and tells Paul that he’s definitely going to stand trial before Caesar in Rome – but that they’re going to be shipwrecked, and that none of the people sailing with Paul will lose their lives in the process.

So they have a decent meal, and the shipwreck happens nice and close to the island of Malta, so everyone on board manages to escape safely to the shore. It was still cold and rainy, so the people of the island built a fire on the shore.

Acts 28 verse 3 tells us that Paul had gathered an armful of sticks, and as he laid the sticks on the fire, a poisonous snake that had been driven out of the fire by the heat, bit him on the Hand.

The locals saw the snake hanging from Paul’s hand, knew he was a prisoner and assumed the snakebite was judgement for whatever crimes he had committed and waited for him to swell up or suddenly drop dead.

As you begin to step into your calling, into your kingdom destiny, the heat is going to drive poisonous snakes out of the fire and they’re going to have a go at you.

It may surprise you, but some of the greatest attacks are going to come from within the church, from within your faith community and possibly even from those in leadership.

Attacks will also come from the people who know you best, from your family and your friends.

But, just like Paul, who was on a mission from God to stand trial in Rome – you are also on a mission from God and their poison won’t do any damage to you.

Paul was out in a storm, he’d just been shipwrecked, it’s raining, they’re on a beach, and he’s literally had a poisonous snake hanging off his hand by it’s fangs.

Everyone, including the locals who had undoubtedly seen the outcome when people were bitten by this type of snake before, expected him to swell up and die.

And what did he do?

He shook the snake off into the fire and was totally unharmed.

When we’re attacked, and particularly when those attacks come from people in positions of authority over us in a church context, it’s easy to back off from what you’re doing so you don’t ruffle any feathers or upset anyone.

But just like Paul, who had been told by an Angel about the shipwreck and that he was going to be making it to Rome – we need to shake the snakes off, keep our eyes on Jesus, and keep our focus on our mission.

After his miraculous recovery from the snake bite, Paul had opportunities to pray for people from the local community and heal them, and a few months later, after winter was over and it was time to sail for Rome (again) – the locals supplied Paul and the sailors with everything they needed for the trip.

If you’re walking in your kingdom calling, it’s not a matter of IF the snakes will come out of the fire for you, it’s a matter of when. So when that happens, make sure you remember Paul being shipwrecked on the island of Malta – and even if the attack fangs are still embedded in your hand – shake that snake off into the fire and rest assured that their poison won’t have any negative effect on you.

Until next time, blue skies!

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P.P.S. If you have a friend who might benefit from this message, make sure you take the time right now to share this with them!

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