Starting Where You Are
Posted by Rev. Jeff Dixon, Senior Equipping Minister at Covenant Community Church on Jun 1, 2000, 22:07
Greetings from Malta...
Wish You Were Here!
The apostle Paul had a dream to travel to Rome and tell Nero about Jesus. Although he was in a lot of trouble, one of his rights as a Roman citizen was to be granted an audience with Nero. To get there Paul had to take a long sea voyage from Palestine to Italy. If you go to the book of Acts you will discover the account of this story.
If you were Paul you might not think a long sea voyage, even if you were traveling as a prisoner, would be such a bad deal. Paul’s year and a half had been anything but peaceful. He had been in front of judges, in prison, had been beaten, there had been riots, and there had been many threats on his life—all because he was being obedient to what God had told him to do.
We could pause here and talk about the BAD theology we have heard before. You know what I am talking about, the theology that says “if you just love Jesus you will never have any problems or struggles.” That is the fluff pushed by the televangelists who are not as good of theologians as the teletubbies are. If you ever hear anyone spread this kind of junk, ask them, “What do you do about the apostle Paul?” Usually that will end the conversation and they will leave you alone. Bad theology can’t stand up to truth or common sense. But that is not the focus of where we are going in this article. Excuse the detour. If I were preaching that would have been called an entrance ramp. Let’s get back to the story of Paul’s sea voyage.
In Acts 27: 37-44 we discover that Paul’s sea voyage was anything but nice and relaxing. The ship got stuck in a bad storm and with few options they decided to head to an island. In the process the ship ran aground by striking a sandbar. With 276 people on board, including prisoners, they hit the water and swam for shore. I wonder if Paul stopped for a moment and thought, “here I go again!” You would think with the year he had already experienced the shipwreck might have been the final straw for the apostle. It wasn’t and we find that Paul is not only obedient but he is resilient as well. As Paul and Luke finally make it ashore, they discover they are stuck on Malta, a rugged island 60 miles south of Sicily.
Stuck on Malta. It was not a detour Paul had planned. This brings me to a principle that I want to share with you. It is simple, yet at the same time profound.
It takes a Malta at times to show us how to stop simply existing and start living.
I suggest to you that what happened on Malta was just what Paul needed to repair, refocus, and refresh his spirit for the next step in the journey that God had for him. That shows us that sometimes God plans the Malta stops to teach and prepare us. If you find yourself feeling like you are shipwrecked, that is a good thing to remember. Wherever you are, God has something to teach you and something for you to do. Paul was about to discover this and we will learn two important ways God works in our lives.
Now back to our castaways...let me share with you Acts 28:7-10. “There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and for 3 days entertained us hospitably. His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. They honored us in many ways and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed.”
The account we are reading is the written record of our friend , the good doctor Luke. There are a couple lessons I want to point out for you in these verses because they are lessons I think God was showing Paul and Luke. More importantly, these are lessons for us to remember when we find ourselves facing tough and frustrating circumstances.
First notice that Paul healed Publius’ father. The physician Luke stepped back and let Paul work. God healed the man who was so sick. The Greek word for healed (v.8) that is used in this passage is “iadomai” which refers to instantaneous healing. These were the types of miracles Jesus did. It is important to remember that God still is in the business of healing and does so in miraculous ways. He has been in the business of healing people for a long, long time. When you find yourself struggling in sickness or through rough times, God can remove them in less than a heartbeat. He can and He might. It is His choice, because whether we understand it or not, He holds the master plan for our lives. If you ever get frustrated that God does not work fast enough, we need to look a little further in the passage to discover another way God works.
In verse 9, after the healing of the father took place, the rest of the sick on island came and were cured. This is important. The Greek word is “therapeuo”. It is where we get our word therapy. It is the word that is translated “cured” in the passage. It means the rest of the islanders were not cured instantly. They were treated and were cured over time. The passage says they were there 3 months.
I have heard some preachers describe the events on Malta like a miracle crusade. You can only draw that conclusion if you simply refuse to study the passage. Clearly the message is that two different types of healings took place. The Bible is an exact book and things aren’t there by accident. What this means for us is that God may take a little time as He heals you, brings you through the crisis, and helps you through the tough circumstances you face...as if you were in therapy. Another way of saying it is that it is a process at times for God to do what He is trying to do in your life. That is an important lesson to learn. If you will pay attention, you will find yourself not only encouraged, but excited about what he is doing.
Remember the lesson Paul learned as well. Wherever you are, God is in the process of doing something with you and will use you. On the island of Malta, Paul found his plan to see Nero was not as important as what God was trying to teach him. He also discovered that God’s plan for him, although he never would have planned it, was to spend 3 months as a medical missionary on a rugged island as an assistant to Dr. Luke
If you ever feel that you are caught in the midst of the sorriest set of circumstances ever, relax and take heart. You might be in therapy and God is in the process of getting you ready for the next leg of the journey. Remember to praise Him for the Maltas in your life.
Now that I think about it, I am very familiar with Malta. I wonder if AAA can get me a discount on a rental car since I’ve been there so much?
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