I’m old enough to have seen the first Indiana Jones movie in the theater six times. It was at the Cinema City 8 for at least a year. This was just before VCRs, when good movies would be shown for months in the theaters.
For the life of me, I cannot understand why I went to see that film over and over. It was a great movie and universally loved, but I had nightmares for months. Not about the scary scenes of melting faces. No, I had nightmares about snakes. I was terrified of them then and I still have an irrational fear of them today.
As many times as I’ve sat through that movie, I have never been able to watch the entire scene where they actually find the ark. I have also never been in the building that houses the snakes at the zoo. And I feel like I’ve really accomplished something when I cut the grass without getting a snake bite.
Being bitten by a snake is my biggest fear. Second to that is just seeing one.
In Acts 27, Paul is in the custody of the Roman authorities for preaching Christ. He is on a ship. The ship is full of prisoners, and when it is shipwrecked, someone thinks it’s a good idea to kill them instead of letting them escape. Thankfully, they are spared. But once they get on land, Paul is bitten on the hand by a snake. The viper is so poisonous that everyone assumes Paul will die. Furthermore, the island natives assume he must be a murderer and he is receiving justice. But Paul lives, and he is able to use that hand to turn around and heal the father of the chief of the island.
Let’s review. Paul is under arrest. He then survives a shipwreck only to have his life threatened again by the soldiers on the boat. Then, my worst fear—on an unknown land he is bitten by a very deadly snake. And Luke, the writer of Acts, makes it clear that Paul continues throughout all of this to minister to everyone around him.
Wherever you read about Paul in the New Testament, there is this “To live is Christ, to die is gain” hum happening. Sometimes it is in the background but, more often than not, it is in the foreground.
Evangelicals today are fond of saying “It was a God thing” when something really good happens. While I refuse to ever say that out loud, I emotionally respond that way. I tend to see good events as sent by God. I also see bad and challenging events as sent by God, but I lean toward thinking they are punishment for some sin—sometimes to the point that I find myself feeling wrecked with guilt.
But Paul, who once terrorized the Church, was so convinced of God’s affection for him that he could see all the good and the bad as a “Christ thing.” To Paul, everything was about Jesus and His glory and His mission to save sinners.
My prayer? To see every won parking place and every cancer diagnosis, every triumph and every disappointment, every new and shiny gift and every loss as being about Christ and the glory of His grace toward sinners.
Written By Matthew B. Redmond