Three months in Malta is time enough for Paul to witness to many about the powerful love of God.
At first they think that he’s really evil, so bad, that even though he escaped storm and shipwreck, there was a viper to finish him off! Mark you, some people see justice operating this way. They say you can only get away with wrong for so long; and then one day your sins catch up with you and hang you out to dry!
But the venomous snake has no poison to harm Paul. He is protected by the mighty hand of God. And so, they claim, he must be a god. Having changed opinions, they are ready to worship him.
Publius, a man of means, offered hospitality to the shipwrecked passengers. In the course of life, as so often happens, Publius’ Dad became ill- opportunity for Paul to witness to the healing that God can bring. Paul heals him. Naturally, other healings follow. No one witnesses such miracles and quietly leaves out the would-be beneficiaries from his or her own circle of family, friends and acquaintances. And so, Paul has lots of healings to do.
Following Paul as we have through the Book of Acts, it is highly unlikely that he spent three whole months in Malta without winning converts to Christ. His healings were done in the name of Christ. Every time he prayed and laid hands on a person, there was the claim on that life for Christ. Even though Rome was his destination, he would bear witness all along the journey there. That the islanders showered honours and gifts upon them as they prepared to set sail again, speaks to a level of relationship that had developed.
Sometimes we don’t even need to step out of routines or naturally occurring events to find opportunities to share faith. I recall one day many years ago when I walked into a store in Toronto with my two little children. Yes, that was a long time ago, when Jewish fabric merchants literally covered the west side of the city proper at the time. I had frequented the area since my sister, a fashion designer, did a lot of business there. This man was really shocked when one of the children called me Mommy, as he had assumed that they were my siblings. He wanted to know my secret of youth! Laugh yes. I was young, but must admit, did look years younger than I actually was. Anyway, the conversation revolved around faith, which, I cannot deny, has been my anti-stress treasure trove for many years now. I’m not saying that you have to go annoying people with preaching at every opportunity because I don’t. I simply cannot forget this faith sharing encounter which came so naturally, because I hadn’t expected it.
If we just go about our day to day duties, walking with God, then the Lord does provide opportunity for us to show or tell or show and tell. We don’t have to be preachers or full-time pastors like me. And people are sometimes more likely to listen to those who seem to be just like them.
Don’t undermine your capacity to influence others just because you think you’re not in the limelight. Most of God’s saints have not been canonised.
O timely happy, timely wise,
Hearts that with rising morn arise,
Eyes that the beam celestial view
Which evermore makes all things new.
If on our daily course our mind
Be set to hallow all we find,
New treasures still of countless price
God will provide for sacrifice.
Old friends, old scenes, will lovelier be,
As more of heaven in each we see,
Some softening gleam of love and prayer
Shall dawn on every cross and care.
The trivial round, the common task
Will furnish all we ought to ask;
Room to deny ourselves, a road
To bring us daily nearer God.
John Keble, 1792-1816