- Sermon Notes
See God’s Hand of Favor
Aug 6, 2023
As we get to Acts 28, we see that Paul had now been on a ship that ended up being shipwrecked, yet God miraculously kept all of the ship’s people from drowning. God had promised that they would all be safe and confirmed to Paul that he would still be a witness in Rome.
We pick up the story just after they made it safely to shore. They found themselves on the island of Malta; cold, wet, beaten down, weak from exhaustion, and being seasick for two weeks. But then we see the favor of God on Paul and therefore on all of them.
What do you do when your ship is broken, and you’ve come to the end of yourself?
First, thank God for what you have (they were saved!), and then, begin to rebuild your life on the foundation of God’s heart for you. God is not finished with you. Press on knowing that His favor is still on your life, even if there are shipwrecks and storms. He is the one who brings beauty out of ashes; He will rebuild your life on this sure foundation.
I. Hold on to God’s Love
- The natives were exceptionally kind to them and because of the cold, they kindled a fire. Paul was also gathering sticks.
- I love Paul’s helpful, servant’s heart here.
- But while he was gathering sticks and laying them on the fire, a viper fastened on his hand.
A. Respond with faith when troubles come
- How you respond to trouble has a lot to do with your faith. There are a lot of people that would respond with exasperation to yet another peril.
- “All right, Lord, I’ve had just about enough. I’ve had all I can take. Here I am, serving You, and I get attacked by a crowd, there’s a plot to kill me, I sat in prison for two years in Caesarea, I have to go through a raging storm for two weeks, I get shipwrecked on this island, and now this, bitten by a viper? How much can a man take?”
- That’s not Paul’s response. He gets bitten by the viper and then just calmly shakes it off into the fire. When you’ve been through as many storms as Paul, it begins to change your perspective.
Illus – I think a lot of people would have panicked; snakes and vipers tend to do that. I hate snakes. I have been in the presence of many snakes. We had mambas, tree snakes, vine snakes, puff adders, and many others where we lived… I think I would freak out if a snake bit me like that.
- Not Paul. The reason he was not afraid was that he was told he was to stand before Caesar, and he trusted God to keep His word. So, if God allowed this, He would keep him safe and use it for His glory. He knew that God saved him from the shipwreck and would not allow a viper to now kill him before God’s purpose was accomplished.
- There is a perspective of faith that strengthens the soul.
Psalm 138:3, 7-8, You made me bold with strength in my soul… Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; and Your right hand will save me. The Lord will accomplish what concerns me; your loving kindness, O Lord, is everlasting.
Deuteronomy 31:6, Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.”
B. Be anchored in God’s love
- He knew that God loved Him, so circumstances did not shake his faith in the love of God. This is why he wrote to the church of Ephesus:
Ephesians 3:17, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
Illus – When you fill a bucket with sand, there is no space for anything else.
- When you are filled with the love of God, there is no space for fear, anxiety, insecurity, and all the other lies of the enemy.
- That is the foundation of Paul’s faith, he knows that God’s love is everlasting and that nothing can separate him from God’s love. He desires that everyone should KNOW this personally.
Romans 8:35, 37-39, Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …In all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- What a powerful perspective; no matter what tribulation, or distress or peril Paul is going through, he has every assurance that he is in God’s love.
- There’s beauty out of ashes; the favor of God is seen even as he’s going through these storms and troubles.
C. The curse of sin is broken
- It’s interesting that it was a viper that latched itself onto Paul’s hand. The viper, or serpent, has represented the enemy since the beginning. The enemy wanted to poison Paul’s soul with doubt and discontentment.
- The enemy of our souls has his grip on many people’s lives and many people have been destroyed by it.
Jeremiah 17:9, The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?
Illus – We just have to look around us at the fruit of sin in the lives of many. People say ‘My will be done’, thinking it brings fulfillment, but after a while the stark reality dawns that it brings brokenness and hurt. Sin wants to kill and destroy.
- But the curse of sin is broken, and the grip and power of the enemy has been defeated, so that we can confidently say…
1 Corinthians 15:55, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
- Jesus took it all and what we deserved fell on Him and we are saved. The curse of sin is broken.
- Not only that but His blood is the antidote to the poison of sin and its effects in our lives.
John 8:36, So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
- When the viper took hold of Paul, they concluded he had to be a murderer and that justice had found him.
- As mentioned previously, many think that if something bad happens to you, it must be because you have done something wrong and now you are being punished. There is some truth to it in that there will come a day when God will settle all accounts, but this is not always the truth. It does work forward, but not backward.
- The great truth for believers is that we have been set free by the blood of Jesus.
Romans 8:1-2, There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law sin and death.
- When He didn’t die, their perspective swayed totally to the opposite opinion. Now he was not perceived as a murderer but as a god!
- Isn’t it incredible how people’s opinions can sway? That is why we cannot build our lives on others’ opinions. They never know the whole story of your life and as such people’s opinions are based on limited facts, being good or bad.
- God though, knows the whole you intimately, all the good and the bad; and the amazing thing is that He still loves you, is for you, and wants to see you succeed. Not only that, but even though He knew all of you, He still chose to die for you. That is why we thank the Lord, because He is amazing!
- This trouble, which seemed like a curse, became an opportunity for a testimony and a miracle. Not only did this miracle impact Paul, but became a pivotal point where he could minister to many who were healed and impacted by the gospel.
- We have said this so many times because it is a recurring theme in Acts. We need to be reminded constantly that God is at work in and through our lives, in the good and the bad and the ugly!
II. Faith Must be Personal
- From there they set off for Rome. When Paul arrived in Rome, he was allowed to stay by himself, with a soldier guarding him. He called together the leading men of the Jews.
- He wanted to persuade them; he wanted them to take hold of God’s word, God’s truth, and be changed.
A. God’s word is personal
- Three years earlier Paul had written what we call today the book of Romans. He mentions people by name and sends it with his heart for them.
- But Paul wrote that letter by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and today we call it the word of God.
- It was personal for them and it’s personal for us.
Illus – Before there were emails, people used to write many more letters. Many people here can attest to how much a personal letter meant if you were removed from your loved ones for an extended time, for example being away on a war front or studying far away. What makes it special is that it is personal. Written to you. The words impact you.
- Similarly, God wrote His word to us and it’s personal, God wants us to take hold of it and be transformed by understanding His love for us. When you start to understand that it is written to you, it becomes more than just a factual or historic document. It becomes alive.
Isaiah 43:1-5, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you… For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior… You are precious in My sight, you are honored and I love you… Do not fear, for I’m with you.”
Illus – About ten years ago, my wife and I were seeking guidance from God in a specific matter. So we decided to fast and wait on the Lord…
Illus – This week, we had the privilege to have lunch with missionaries and church planters from India. It was wonderful to hear what God is doing in India through their personal testimonies.
B. Have faith with full conviction
- Paul sat with this group of Jewish men all day explaining the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning until evening.
- That would be an amazing Bible study! Some were persuaded… But others would not believe. It doesn’t say that they could not believe, it says that they would not It was their choice. Even after they heard of all the miracles, signs, and wonders attesting to the message.
- By the way, many today think that if God will just do many signs, wonders, and miracles, people will repent. This is not necessarily so.
Matthew 12: 38-40, Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
- In the end, this is an issue of the heart, not just the mind. A rebellious heart will always look for an excuse to not believe. One can choose to have a heart that wants to stay rebellious, or a heart that is looking for God and real life.
Luke 8:15, “The seed that fell on the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.”
- To those who would not believe Paul quoted Isaiah…
- In other words, it’s about the heart. The heart makes a convert of the mind. Many people with great intellect do stupid things. It’s the heart that opens the ears to hear and the eyes to see.
- God open our eyes more and more so that we will see you, beholding your beauty, being changed from glory to glory into the image of your Son.
- Let me see your love, see your favor, see your heart for me.
Acts 28:1-24 NASB
28 When they had been brought safely through, then we found out that the island was called Malta. 2 The natives showed us extraordinary kindness; for because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they kindled a fire and received us all. 3 But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened itself on his hand. 4 When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they began saying to one another, “Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, and though he has been saved from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.” 5 However he shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm. 6 But they were expecting that he was about to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god.
7 Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the leading man of the island, named Publius, who welcomed us and entertained us courteously three days. 8 And it happened that the father of Publius was lying in bed afflicted with recurrent fever and dysentery; and Paul went in to see him and after he had prayed, he laid his hands on him and healed him. 9 After this had happened, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases were coming to him and getting cured. 10 They also honored us with many marks of respect; and when we were setting sail, they supplied us with all we needed.
11 At the end of three months we set sail on an Alexandrian ship which had wintered at the island, and which had the Twin Brothers for its figurehead. 12 After we put in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. 13 From there we sailed around and arrived at Rhegium, and a day later a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. 14 There we found some brethren, and were invited to stay with them for seven days; and thus we came to Rome. 15 And the brethren, when they heard about us, came from there as far as the Market of Appius and Three Inns to meet us; and when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.
16 When we entered Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him.
17 After three days Paul called together those who were the leading men of the Jews, and when they came together, he began saying to them, “Brethren, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. 18 And when they had examined me, they were willing to release me because there was no ground for putting me to death. 19 But when the Jews objected, I was forced to appeal to Caesar, not that I had any accusation against my nation. 20 For this reason, therefore, I requested to see you and to speak with you, for I am wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel.” 21 They said to him, “We have neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren come here and reported or spoken anything bad about you. 22 But we desire to hear from you what your views are; for concerning this sect, it is known to us that it is spoken against everywhere.”
23 When they had set a day for Paul, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening. 24 Some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe.