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Paul was in prison even though he had done nothing wrong. And right about the time the governor was going to let Paul go free, Paul insisted on going to Caesar for trial.
So the governor put him on a prisoner ship headed to Rome.
Luke and some others got on the prisoner ship, too, because they wanted to stay with Paul, their brother. (Does that sound kinda risky? I’m sure it was. But, they loved Paul so much they didn’t want to leave him!)
Two days into their trip, the winds out on the sea started blowing stronger. Paul warned the two men in charge, “We shouldn’t keep sailing right now! We will lose the ship, its stuff, and maybe even our lives!”
But the men thought, “Nah, we’ll be okay. Paul’s just a prisoner, what does he know about sailing?” And off to sea they sailed.
Rumble, flash, crack! The strong winds became a huge storm! The wind was tossing the ship up and down, up and down. It stormed for days. It was so dark out they couldn’t even see the sky. Everyone was feeling kinda hopeless. Except for Paul.
Paul told all the men, “I warned you. So since I was right, listen to me now. Don’t worry! The ship will be lost, but none of us will die. I know this because an angel came and told me, ‘Paul, don’t be afraid because God wants you to talk to Caesar. So you’ll live through this. And, for you, God will let all the men on the ship live too.’
“So, no worries!” Paul told them. “Trust the God that I belong to and serve.”
After that, the storm went on for two weeks. Everyone was so scared that they stopped eating, and some of the sailors got so scared that they tried to sneak away on a smaller boat. But Paul warned them, “Stay with the ship.” And he encouraged everyone, “Please, eat something. You need food.”
Paul got some bread, thanked God for it, and began to eat. This gave the others enough courage to start eating some, too.
Finally, one day the sailors saw land! They tried to steer the ship to it, but the ship got stuck in the sand. The waves crashed against the ship and broke it into pieces. The men who could swim swam to the beach. Those who couldn’t swim grabbed planks from the broken ship and floated to shore.
Not one man was lost. They all made it to safety. Just like Paul said.
But now they were soaking wet and cold, so the people who lived on the island were helping start a fire to warm everyone up. Paul was helping, too, of course. But when Paul was putting some wood on the fire, a poisonous snake slithered out of the log and — chomp! — bit him right on the hand.
The islanders just stared at Paul… waiting for him to plop over dead (because that’s what had always happened before when that snake bit people). But Paul didn’t plop over. The people were amazed!
That gave Paul the chance to tell them, and the leader of the island, all about Jesus. And Paul healed many of the sick people there.
That’s pretty cool, isn’t it? No matter what circumstance you find yourself in, there are always people to love, aren’t there?
Do you think Paul thought he was big stuff because the snake didn’t kill him or because he healed a lot of people? No.
Do you wanna know what Paul said about this one time?
He said, “I’ve been beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, and afloat in the open sea. I’ve been in all kinds of danger — from journeys, from rivers, from robbers, from my countrymen, from foreigners, in the city, in the wilderness, at sea, from pretend brothers, and from excruciatingly hard work.
“Many nights I went without sleep. Many days I was hungry and thirsty. I was in the cold with not enough clothes. Plus, I constantly watch over and worry about all of you and all the churches — I care so deeply it hurts me. When one of you is hurting, I hurt. And when one of you sins, don’t you know that I’m burning up on the inside, too!
“So I could boast about some of the things I’ve done or been through, but I’m not going to! I’ll only boast in my weakness. I’m weak stuff!
“I could also boast about amazingly wonderful things I have seen in the unseen realms. But, nope, my only boast is — I’m weak stuff.
Have you ever had a splinter in your foot or finger? It pokes and sticks and pricks and stings under your skin until you get it out. But it wasn’t a thorn from a sticker bush poking Paul. It was that God had allowed something painful to be in Paul’s life. And God will allow painful things in YOUR life, too. We were all created in God’s image, designed to experience pain because He experiences pain. So everybody hurts, whether you’re a little baby getting new teeth-ies or an adult experiencing some sort of emotional pain. Either way, don’t panic or get depressed about it. And don’t let your thoughts start looping over and over and over again thinking about yourself. Instead, tell those thoughts to SHHHHH! Listen to what God told Paul about pain.
So Paul asked Jesus about this. “Lord, can You please take this splinter away?”
Jesus answered, “No, My grace is enough for you. It’s okay for something to hurt in this life.”
Later, when it was poking, sticking, pricking, and stinging Paul badly, he asked again, “Jesus, can You please, please, take this splinter away?”
But Jesus said, “No, My grace really is enough, enough for you.”
But later, when it was poking, sticking, pricking, and stinging Paul badly again, he asked a third time, “Lord, can You please, please, PLEASE take this splinter away?”
But Jesus said, “No, My grace, My undeserved kindness and the power to overcome that I provide, is enough, enough, enough for you. My power, My BIG stuff, is made complete in weak stuff.”
After this, Paul knew he should never ask again for the splinter to be taken away. Instead, Paul said, “God, if Your power is made complete in weak stuff, then I will boast in my weakness so that Christ’s power can live in me!” Boom-Baby!
So having a thorn for the rest of his life meant that he would always hurt, but Paul never used his pain as an excuse to sin (and neither should we). He didn’t say, “This splinter hurts too much, so I can’t do what God wants right now.” NO! God would always give Paul His grace, the ability to keep moving forward and say, “Pain, SHHHHH. This one thing I do, and I’m not going to stop. Not going to stop. Not going to stop. Jesus, I trust You with this owie. I won’t complain or whine about it or ask you to take it away anymore.
“For Christ, I delight in my weaknesses! Hard things, people saying mean things to me, and confusing, stressful situations — SHHHHH. Because when I am weak, then (in the Unseen realms, In Christ) I am Strong, Strong, Strong!”