Paul’s shipwreck in Acts 27-28 certainly had an element of spiritual warfare. Being a prisoner on a ship that was caught in a two-week-long storm must have been testing, to say the least. Still, God was able to give the situation a positive result, as He always does. If the ship had sailed smoothly to Rome as planned, Paul wouldn’t have had the opportunity to show the power of God to his captors, or to heal to the sick chief’s father on the island of Malta. The outward attacks didn’t move Paul from his purpose to fulfill God’s Word and speak God’s truth. Everyone shipwrecked should have died—but didn’t.
So Satan tried another tactic as soon as they reached the shore. “When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand” (Acts 28:3).
Many times when Scripture talks about snakes, the word used is “serpent,” but this specifically talks about a “viper.” The difference is that vipers are venomous, so their bites cause muscular failure. When he got bit, Paul should have died—but didn’t!
Look at this verse and see how greatly Paul trusted in God’s promise that he would reach Rome: “But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm” (Acts 28:5). Catch that? He shook the spiritual snake off into eternal fire, and he suffered no harm. If only Eve had done the same thing!
I’ve felt a lot like Paul, lately. I struggle with a temptation-condemnation-double-whammy internal warfare, and whenever I finally get my head somewhat put together, I immediately get caught in a financial bind, or an argument. It’s very back-and-forth.
Paul’s storm and viper are good representations of how the enemy will attack us on our spiritual journey. Storms of circumstance beat against us from the outside, and as soon as the situation clears up, the attacks come from within. Satan injects venom of doubt, fear, condemnation, or temptation, trying to cause spiritual collapse, paralysis, and death.
Remember this: no matter how deeply that snake sinks in his teeth, though, he has no authority over your life. We can shake off those darts of thought and continue on our journey, confidently knowing that what the enemy intends for evil, the Lord can use for good (Gen. 50:20). Don’t see the storm as a setback. Smooth sailing and circumnavigating a problem won’t bring you to the shores of those who need healing. Don’t see the viper ’s bite as the end of life, either—you have been healed already. Also remember that people are watching you, just as the sailors and the Maltese were watching Paul. When the world sees you going through a storm, or sees a viper fastened onto your hand, they’ll see God use the thing that should have killed you to instead bring life and healing to many.