St Paul was a man who knew something of the presence of God. In the midst of the sternest of tests and trials, there was clear evidence of God’s presence. He speaks in one of his epistles of how many times he had been beaten, shipwrecked, the opposition he encountered and the hostilities he faced. Only someone who knew something of the presence of God could come through all this successfully, and it is one of these incidents I would like us to look at in this article.
Paul had been falsely accused. He was arrested had made a number of appearances before Festus Agrippa. In the process he opted to stand trial before Caesar. He was then put on a ship sailing to Rome. On their way they were hit by a storm, one that was so devastatingly powerful that they feared for their lives. They had to lighten the ship by throwing out cargo, and for many days and nights were in fear of their lives. No one had eaten for a long time, but in the midst of this chaos and trepidation, Paul stood out as a leader. He spoke encouragement to the occupants of the ship. He told them to take courage; that there would be no loss of life because an angel of the God that he served had appeared to him the night before and told him not to be afraid; that he would surely stand trial before Caesar.
The brutal buffetings of the storm led to shipwreck, the vessel running aground on the island of Malta. All two hundred and seventy six people on board reached ground safely. The survival of Paul and his fellow passengers on the ship is very clear evidence of God’s presence.
Once they had disembarked from the crumbling hulk that was once a ship, we see again the protective presence of God when a fire was lit and a snake latched on to Paul’s hand. Paul shook the viper off his hand and into the fire. The natives waited for him to die. They were disappointed. Rather, his being alive was reason for them to change their mind. They began to refer to him as a god.
Whilst on the island the father of the chief official was ill with dysentery. Paul went and prayed. The old man was healed. Immediately, a spiritual hospital was opened; people began to bring their sick that were healed though the hands of Paul. As they were about to leave, Paul and his travelling companions were provided with the things they needed.
What we see on the island of Malta is that God’s presence made a difference. Just as on the ship, the presence of God was evident in preservation of Paul’s life against the snake bite, but also in the healing ministry he was able to carry out.
So, we conclude that the presence of God makes a difference in times of crises, in the midst of life’s greatest storms. For those who trust in Him, His presence catapults them from a place of obscurity to one of prominence. He saves and preserves and enables them, as He did with Paul, to use the gifts they have been given in order to touch and transform lives. That in turn creates a platform for them to bear witness to the God whose power and presence is at work in and through them.
Copyright Emmanuel Mbakwe 2014©
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