Our pastor preached the best sermon last week, and I just have to share it. It was titled “SHAKE IT OFF!” The scripture was:
Acts 28: Paul Ashore on Malta
1”Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. 2The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. 3Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. 4When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.” 5But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. 6The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.”
This story reminds me of that Costa Concordia that wrecked a few years back because that crazy pilot wanted to go by and wave to someone or some stupid thing and it got grounded and flipped over sideways. I had watched a 20-20 episode about that, and they interviewed this older man who was telling about rescuing people who had swum to shore. One of the City of Giglio’s spokespeople said, "Usually there are 700 people on the island at this time of year, so receiving 4,000 and some in the middle of the night wasn't easy," she said. "Some people jumped in the sea so they had hypothermia." This old man that was telling his story of how he rescued people and brought them to his home, wrapped them in blankets and fed them, cried even as he was recounting it several years later. In this day of people not getting involved and expecting “the officials” to do everything, this tiny town jumped in and did what humans do for each other: Hospitality and kindness.
Same thing happened on this island. You’ll remember, Paul’s ship wrecked, but all 200 plus people on the boat were able to be saved. They had to be frozen and bereft, probably having little clothes, nothing to stay warm, and nothing to offer to their rescuers but needs. Paul was a prisoner headed to Rome to stand before Ceasar. As they gathered up the wood, Paul was helping, and this viper (very poisonous snake) attaches itself to his hand. When the people saw that, knowing Paul was a prisoner, they reached the conclusion that although he had been saved from the sea, he must have been a murderer and he would meet his fate here by the snake just so justice could be served. When that didn’t happen, they quickly changed their minds again and thought he was a God. If you follow the scripture on through, he ends up staying there and many people were healed.
One of the main points our pastor made is that things may attach themselves to you, they may attack you, but you have a choice: Succumb to the poison or believe in God and SHAKE IT OFF. He equated the story with people getting offended in churches and different places and letting things bother them and fester and become a huge boil, a huge impediment to a victorious Christian life, when if you had just seen that thing for what it was, something the devil sent your way to attack you, you shake it off and go on. Very simple, yet very profound.
And another interesting note in this story is that Paul’s attack was public. This didn’t happen in private – this happened while tons of people were watching! How Paul reacted to this was huge – it totally changed their view of him in all respects. We must remember that when we’re attacked in public – how we react and act is how people will see our walk as a Christian. I remember one of the most profound things my husband ever said to me was that when I was going through my divorce, very sad and terrible circumstances (Tom was my friend before, during and after my divorce), he said that watching me deal with all I had to deal with made him want what it was I had, whatever that thing was…..
Have you had something attack you lately and you’re having trouble shaking it off? I sat there thinking of how I really never get offended – you could practically beat me up and I’d still love you anyway – but I was having difficulty shaking off the lies and damage to my reputation in this legislative thing, laying awake at night scripting letters that tell my side of the story and that illustrate that this person who was against me did not have the support of the other reporters, like she said she did, not even her own employees. On and on my mind has been going, trying to figure out how to best professionally address this thing. My Senator friend told me a couple weeks ago, “Let it go, just let it go. You’re making a bigger deal of it than it is.”
Is that not what we do? When something happens to us that’s unfair or wrong or a lie or a slam, do we not obsess on it, make it into something huge when all we needed to do was to shake it off? I have to admit, I usually see the devil for who he is and just shut him up and tell him I’m not wasting a minute of my energy on his tricks and move on. I needed this sermon to see that yes, I may need to address my situation in a professional way, but I sure do not need to waste energy that could be used to help another person by letting my mind go nuts over perceived wrongs, or actual wrongs, or perceived slights, or actual slights – there is work to be done, and the harvest is plenty and the workers are few. If God be for us, who can be against us?
Is there a viper in your life? Facetiously, of course – but maybe not so facetiously. Is there someone or some thing that constantly tries to latch on to you with poison? Something that may send a little poison at a time, perhaps into your emotions or your home, your workplace? Shake them off! Shake that situation off! All it takes is a decision, and it’s done! The devil has no place in your mind, in your spirit, no right to send poison into your veins – choose today – SHAKE IT OFF!
My name is Teresa Evans. I am a wife to Tom, a retired Circuit Judge, and I am a court reporter by trade, a mother by God's grace and a lover of Jesus Christ. I've grown up in a family blessed with many miracles, and have received multiple miracles myself.