What Would You Do If a Poisonous Snake Bit You?

And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. — Acts 28:5

When I read about the travels of the apostle Paul, I find his story to be simply remarkable! What he had to endure to take the Gospel to the Gentiles was out of the ordinary!

For example, in Second Corinthians 11:25, Paul tells us that during the course of his ministry, he was shipwrecked three times! He writes, “…thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep.” This verse is a bit of a mystery, because only one shipwreck is recorded in the book of Acts. Yet it is certain that too many significant events occurred during Paul’s ministry for all of them to be recorded in Luke’s account in the book of Acts.

Traveling by sea was a perilous and risky undertaking. Ships were not always reliable. The routes often took them through waters cluttered with sharp rocks, reefs, and debris. Even if the vessel was guided by strong and skilled leadership, currents were so strong that even the best ships could be carried directly into rocks and other dangerous obstacles.

In Acts 27, we read that Paul was traveling on board a ship that ran into rocks and broke into pieces. In that moment of crisis, Paul became God’s man on board ship! He spoke the word of faith to the crew and passengers, and soon he was in charge of the entire situation.

Once marooned on the island of Melita, Paul worked with the other crew members to collect wood for a fire. Apparently a venomous viper was hidden in the sticks that he was carrying to lay on the fire. When he dropped his wood onto the flames, that snake charged out of the pile of wood and bit Paul on the hand. Acts 28:3 says, “And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand.”

The word “viper” is the Greek word echidna, and it refers to a highly venomous snake. The verse says that this snake “fastened on his hand.” The word “fastened” is the Greek word kathapto, and it means to tightly fasten. This snake deeply bit the apostle Paul. Not only did it bite him, but it also injected its venom into his hand, for the word kathapto also meant to introduce poison into the body. That viper sunk its fangs deeply into Paul’s flesh and then released its full load of venom into his hand. That is why Acts 28:4 says, “And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live.”

But what did Paul do? He shook off that snake! Acts 28:5 says, “And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm.” The phrase “shook it off” is from the Greek word apotinasso. It is a compound of the word apo, meaning off and away, and the word tinasso, which means to shake. This word pictures the apostle Paul shaking his hand back and forth until finally the viper released its fangs and fell into the fire.

When the barbarian crowd saw that Paul didn’t die, they assumed he was a god. In just a short time, Paul used the event to bring the whole island together for a crusade! Publius, the chief of the island, was so impressed that he took Paul into his own home for three days. While there, Paul laid hands on Publius’ father, who “…lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux…” (Acts 28:8).

The man was miraculously healed, and soon the entire island was in revival! The Bible tells us, “So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed” (Acts 28:9). By the time Paul departed from Melita, he was so respected and honored that they loaded  him down with everything necessary for the remainder of his journey!

How would you have acted if you had been in Paul’s position? Suppose you became shipwrecked and lost all your human possessions. Then you found yourself marooned on an island inhabited by barbarians, where a venomous snake promptly bites you! Do you think you would have “shaken it off” as Paul did? Would you have turned your disaster into a revival? Or would you have been tempted to sit down and cry while you worried about your plans being ruined?

Paul’s attitude is what kept him in the midst of revival everywhere he went. He had the opportunity to give in to his flesh and throw a pity party, just as you and I do. But because Paul chose to keep going and never stop, God’s power was always available to help him in every situation.

What is hindering you today? What is the devil trying to use to latch on to your life and to distract you? Why don’t you make the decision to shake it off? There’s too much at stake for you to let some little thing distract you and pull you down into defeat. Turn that attack around and use it for the glory of God. Make the devil sorry that he ever sent that poisonous viper to try to attack you!

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My Prayer for Today

Lord, give me the attitude that turns every attack the devil sends into an opportunity for revival! Help me walk in such strong and consistent faith that I do not flinch at ANYTHING the devil tries to do to me. Rather than give in to my flesh and let worry conquer me, help me to remember the assignment You’ve given to me and to remain committed to finish my course on time!

I pray this in Jesus’ name!

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My Confession for Today

I confess that revival happens everywhere I go! Every disaster the devil sends is my opportunity to advance the Gospel! I refuse to give in to my flesh and throw a pity party. Because I keep going and never give in or give up, God’s power is always available to help me in every situation. There’s too much at stake for me to let some little thing pull me down into defeat. With God’s Spirit at work in me, I overcome each and every obstacle that tries to block my way!

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!

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Questions to Answer

1. Has there been a time when the devil tried to send a “viper” into your life to destroy you, your business, your ministry, your church, or your relationships? Who or what was that “viper,” and what did you do when you realized it had already stuck its fangs into your personal affairs?

2. What did you learn from that “viper” experience? What would you do differently today than you did when that event occurred?

3. Were you able to shake off the “viper” the enemy sent your way, or did that experience send you emotionally tumbling? Were you a rock, or did you fall apart? What did your response reveal about you and what you now need to do to strengthen your inner man?