BY: JONNIE WETHINGTON
E-MAIL ADDRESS: firstname.lastname@example.org
BIBLE TEXT: Acts 28:1-7: Once we were safe on shore, we learned that we were on the island of Malta. The people of the island were very kind to us. It was cold and rainy, so they built a fire on the shore to welcome us. As Paul gathered an armful of sticks and was laying them on the fire, a poisonous snake, driven out by the heat, bit him on the hand.
The people of the island saw it hanging from his hand and said to each other, “A murderer, no doubt! Though he escaped the sea, justice will not permit him to live.” But Paul shook off the snake into the fire and was unharmed. The people waited for him to swell up or suddenly drop dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw that he wasn’t harmed, they changed their minds and decided he was a god.
PERSONAL REFLECTION: Whether we admit it or not, we all want approval. In my travels as a comedian the past few years, I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve had moments of triumph and moments of despair. With a job like mine it’s very easy to begin to define yourself on the applause of strangers. If I’m not careful public opinion can trigger a full blown identity crisis.
I like this account of Paul’s journey because I think we can all relate to its elements. As soon as something bad happened Paul was accused of being cursed by God — someone getting what he deserved. But when the situation turned and he was miraculously unharmed, Paul was declared to be a god by the same people. If we go by the logic of the people on the island, Paul’s ministry was decidedly “cursed.” Once he became a Christian he was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, snake-bitten, betrayed, and jailed too many times to count. His nice, safe, previous life of comfort in the Jewish religious elite had been replaced by a life of danger, cut off from former friends and family– labeled a traitor. I’d say at some point, Paul must’ve come to the conclusion that it’s better to be right and have people hate you than to be wrong and have them love you.
PERSONAL APPLICATION (if applicable):
“If you live for people’s acceptance, you’ll die from their rejection.” –Lecrae
In my own life I’ve learned to treat praise and criticism in much the same way. They can be good in small amounts, but too much of either can be poisonous. If we live for the praises of others our happiness is dependent on them. If we let the negative opinions of the world define us we become apprehensive and risk losing the identity and security we have in Christ. Whose approval are you living for?
PRAYER: Father, I pray that you would teach me today to trust in you. Your finished work on the cross says that I have value, and it isn’t wrapped up in my circumstances, talent, or even mistakes. Give me the courage to follow you, even if none go with me. And help me to extend the same grace to others that you have offered me. In Jesus name, Amen.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jonnie Wethington lives in Mount Juliet, TN with his beautiful wife of 17 years, Curry. He is a stand-up comedian and speaker and also serves on the creative team at Life Assembly. His debut comedy DVD, “Angry Sandwich”, will be released next month.