Extraordinary Kindness During Extraordinary Times

Slide1

Below is a biblical view from the Apostle Paul during an extraordinary time in his life and the kindness he was able to find and share for God’s glory and his own good. This is a first-person view of the Apostle Luke’s record in Acts 28, imagined from the mind of Paul (as he would tell it). This was originally preached April 26th, 2020 during WBChurch’s online service.


In case you have not yet put a name with a face, my name is Paul. My life has been quite a journey. I was born and bread to be a pharisee through heritage and learning under the most renown pharisees in Jerusalem. I had my life all planned out. Standing there watching the heretic Stephen get stoned, I was sure God wanted me to put to rest once and for all, this heretical movement among the Jews, the people of which eventually

were called Christians — starting first in Antioch. Like I said, this has been quite a journey and it would seem, as sure as I was that God’s hand was in it, which it was, God had other plans for me.

Like the song “Amazing Savior” mentions, His light can pierce the deepest darkness. Oh — I am sorry — who you ask? Well, the one I felt compelled to silence, Jesus Christ, Israel’s long awaited Messiah, the very Son of God. I know, you are thinking, wait, this is the one who was the biggest fraud of all you once said and now you are calling Him by name as the One He claimed to be? Well, yes.

On the road to Damascus, his light certainly pierced the darkness and drove me and all those with me to the ground. I must tell you; it was like nothing I had ever all those with me to the ground. I must tell you; it was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I thought I had talked to God before, but not like this. At first it experienced before. I thought I had talked to God before, but not like this. At first it was clear He was something beyond human, something celestial, but after a couple was clear He was something beyond human, something celestial, but after a couple of sentences He made it clear to me, He was truly the Jesus I was seeking to destroy of sentences He made it clear to me, He was truly the Jesus I was seeking to destroy the memory of.the memory of.

To make a long story short, you will remember how he changed my name…well, I was originally called Saul. Yes, it was a good Jewish name for sure. Like my new name, Jesus called me to a new life, one in Him. He truly is an amazing Savior through His amazing grace, worthy of all our praise. Well, I went from persecuting those who believed in Him to becoming His primary spokesman, to of all people, not Israel, but the Gentiles. I know, quite a change indeed. Let me see, I walked everywhere, had barely 2 pennies to rub together except that which I could muster up by making tents. There were a number of times the Christian churches (they were starting to be called) sent support for me, but most of that I saved and brought to the very Christians in Jerusalem that I once persecuted. You see, the persecution didn’t stop with my conversion, the Jews and the Romans continued to torment these dear saints to the point that they were desperate and began to spread throughout the region, even as far as Rome itself.

There I was, going from city to city, preaching Christ’s gospel, that He died, was buried, and rose again for, well your sins, their sins, my sins, that He took our place on the cross as the Son of God, to pay a perfect sacrifice so we might, by faith, receive forgiveness of sins. Every city I went to saw lives transformed, before the Jews now caught up with me, their once poster child now turned traitor. They chased me from city to city, but God’s message of the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ continued to spread despite their efforts.

After all my travels and God so transforming countless lives, forgiving their sins and giving them new life, I found myself, according to God’s will, back in Jerusalem. You can imagine how well my presence was received by the Jews. My friends told me not to go there, but I knew it was what God wanted. I already knew He wanted me to go to Rome to stabilize the new believers there, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to get there. I just knew He wanted me in Jerusalem, so to Jerusalem I went. That was well over 2 years ago.

The Jews finally caused such an uproar there, Lysias, the commander of the Roman garrison at Jerusalem arrested me. Lysias couldn’t figure out what to do with me, not finding any of the Jews accusations founded or in any way warranting such a fuss. Well Lysias took me to Felix, the Judean Procurator. He had the same problem as Lysias, but wanting to keep his head firmly attached to his shoulders by maintaining peace in Jerusalem as was his duty as head of the Roman garrison, kept me held in prison there. After sitting there for 2 years, he was free of prison there. After sitting there for 2 years, he was free of me by getting reassigned and was replaced by Porcius Festus.

Festus didn’t have any better solution and thought it a good idea to bring some sort of Jewish influence into it, so he involved King Agrippa and his sister Bernice. Oh, they questioned me and struggled with what to do as well. Funny, Agrippa was condescending. In my discussions with him, he couldn’t refute the gospel and how it clearly fulfilled all the Law and the Prophets’ promises, but he was so closed to believing that he made fun of me, saying we barely had talked and already I was trying to convert him. Well, I realized what God was doing after all this time, so I decided, as a Roman, to appeal to Caesar himself. I knew they would have no choice, but to send me to Rome. I wasn’t interested in getting set free; I was interested in getting to Rome and what better way than to be taken there. Okay, I know there are better ways than to go as a prisoner, but that didn’t seem to have any end in sight, and I was tired of waiting, so off to Rome I went.

As you well know, from that point forward, life just seemed to Run amuck. This rag tag group of soldiers were trying to get me there, which this time of year was quite a journey and had to be done in stages. We eventually set sail towards Crete, hoping to winter here, but storms were a brewing. I tried to warn them not to sail, but they were set on getting to the western end of the island to find shelter from the winter storms. Well, the storms blew us past the island. Too bad really, I had left Titus there with that motley crew of Christians to put things in order. It would have been good to catch up with him and encourage them on their spiritual journey, but God had different plans.

God sent a Euroclydon wind, an Adriatic Gulf wind, one that drove us clear past Crete. We had to let the wind drive us to wherever it willed. God reassured me that everyone would be spared if we stayed on ship. With the help of the Romans onboard, on the ship we stayed until we saw landfall. We dropped all the anchors we had, watched as the ship was pummeled to pieces, and made for land, finding ourselves safely on an island called Malta. For the rest of them, life had certainly run amuck, but for me, I knew God had seen everyone’s escape to land and safety. Even to these barbaric sailors and soldiers, God had shown Extraordinary kindness during extraordinary times. God had given me and them comfort, He was the source of hope, he was the light in darkness, and He was going to, even in these circumstances, give them a those of this little island, a history lesson they would never forget about all He had and would do for them.

Now, having all escaped, we discovered we were on the Island of Malta. The native there showed us unusual kindness, kindled a fire and made us all welcome. Listen, it was winter, it was cold, and it was raining, so the fire and warmth of their kindness we gratefully accepted.


Slide2

God’s extraordinary kindness was already shining through life’s darkness.

Everyone else was frustrated over the loss of the ship, the change of plans, the desperation of tossing everything and swimming for our lives, but I knew God had this all under control. When it comes to God’s kindness, I know It keeps you in the right place no matter what. There are times you might find yourselves in places just like me. A place different than what you planned, with people hard to like and that certainly don’t like you, with a future that seems at best, bleak.  Listen, by this time, if I had learned anything, it was that I could trust God’s extraordinary kindness to keep me right where I should be, and you can count on that as well. Now, having said that, I was right where God wanted me to be, But, It does not mean easy living.

There are times, even being where God wants you to be that things, humanly speaking, are tough to walk through. By this point in my life, I had been beaten almost to death, traveled ruthless miles; life had taken a toll on me. I am not suggesting that life in Christ is easy. Here, let me explain; you can see what I am talking about in Luke’s journal, starting in 28:3. I wanted to help keep the warm fire going and after being cooped up in the ship all that time, it felt good to be up and walking around. So, I thought I would gather some wood for the fire to keep it going. Of course, while gathering the wood, out sprung a poisonous viper out of the fire as I was throwing the wood in, I mean right out of the fire. Of course, he latched right onto my hand. Talk about extraordinary times, well, I gotta tell ya, this one even caught me off guard. The natives knew the type of snake, thinking I was a goner and being quite superstitious, was convinced I was a murderer or something and was getting what I deserved, justice. Well, what would you do? Have you ever had a snake of any kind latch onto you? Listen, there were a lot of snakes around where I was from. I can remember playing with them as a boy. The second they lunge forward and bite, your first instinct is to pull back and shake your hand. Of course your hand, they always caught you reaching for them. So I did the same thing, shook that puppy right off into the fire. Now, put yourself in my place. Poisonous snake, bit for sure, everyone sitting around in silence waiting for the inevitable. The soldiers were probably thinking, great, one last prisoner to worry about. I have to tell you, it felt like forever, although as deadly as the snake was, it was probably only seconds. Then I remembered God’s promise that He would take me to Rome. Well, short story, I was not yet in Rome. As the time passed, God’s extraordinary kindness was again confirmed. I didn’t suddenly fall dead after all. They changed their minds about my guilt after a while and instead of thinking justice for me as a murderer, they thought I was a god. I have to tell you however, God’s extraordinary Kindness and power certainly stood out.

There we were in the darkness and the rain, standing by the crackling fire, but the brightest light in that dark time came not from the fire. It was clear, God’s extraordinary kindness was shining through life’s darkness so bright, everyone there had no choice but to acknowledge God’s faithfulness.


Slide3

“Forever God is faithful” is a modern song you sing. We had songs like that too, played on stringed instruments not that different than John’s guitar. Our Psalter, you call them hymnbooks, John and Wayne call them 3-ring binders, was filled with songs we sang about God’s faithfulness, even in the midst of hardship. It was clear God’s extraordinary kindness was shining through the darkness of life. God also wanted me and those with me to see that:

God’s extraordinary Kindness also would heal life’s wounds.

Let me tell you, I was ready for some healing at this point, as you might imagine.

So, in the region Luke reminds you in v. 7, there was an estate of a leading citizen of the island of Malta; his name was Publius, yep, a Gentile.  Well, news of us spread to him and being the island’s representative, he had us over and we had quite a time of entertainment and care. I have to tell you, it was refreshing. However, God did not have us there for our sakes, but for his and the islanders. Turns out, God’s extraordinary kindness in healing wounds is meant to influence others as well. The father of Publius was pretty sick, it seemed bleak. It became clear that God had not sent us there for our comfort, entertainment, and refreshing, but that He might, through me, send His extraordinary kindness to them. You see, during hard times and refreshing, often, God’s extraordinary kindness is sent through you. You don’t have to create the moments (I didn’t), God will bring you to them. So here I was, and I knew God would heal him, so I prayed, laid hands on Him and he was healed. Well, that is all it took, news spread like wildfire and God just kept healing one after another. The island was turned upside down.  God’s extraordinary kindness was so much more infectious than life’s darkness. As you might imagine, they honored us for the healing God had sent through us, so when it was time for us to go, they gave us everything we needed for the journey ahead.

I so appreciate Luke’s heart in journaling this event as it unfolded. It was certainly extraordinary times, much like what you are experiencing right now globally, but history has had many times like what you are going through now. It is times of darkness like this that light stands out even more. Remember, no matter what darkness you face, God’s extraordinary kindness shines ever brighter and heals wounds.  That kind of kindness is infectious. Like me, you don’t have to create opportunities, God will bring you and them together. You just have to be willing to trust and be used of God to share the light and healing of His extraordinary kindness. What opportunities has God brought your way already. Have you talked more with your family, your neighbor, someone online, co-workers or bosses? There is never a greater time than times like this, for people to be thinking about what comes after death. There is not greater time for you to witness in word and deed, the extraordinary kindness of God.  Luke wanted us to know, when life’s darkness overshadows, when life brings its wounds, God’s extraordinary kindness shows through.

As a good Jew, it just makes me want to sing, Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna to the King of Kings for His extraordinary kindness. Won’t you let God’s extraordinary kindness shine through you in a world during this extraordinary time? Won’t you let this time of isolation be a time of personal revival with the Lord? When things seem bleak, remember, God will bring the opportunities to you, but it is up to you to choose to shine and share His truth, the gospel. Won’t you today ask God to bring you together with an opportunity today to shine for him?

by Rev. Lex DeLong

Preached at Washington Baptist Church Online 4//26/2020

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