“And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand.” Acts 28:3 (KJV)
As the people kindled fire for Paul and his fellow travellers, I notice that the Man, who served in Paul, did not allow him (Paul) to sit by and wait for these Islanders, to keep gathering sticks or firewood for them, in order to keep the fire burning. I notice that Paul himself went in search of firewood.
It is very important for me to note that God will send men to offer me kindness to the point of kindling fire for and in me; but, if I want the fire to last, I must personally gather sticks (firewood) for it!
Men who kill revival are men unto whom the kindness of revival was shown, when God sends men to kindle the fire for and in them, in order to save their lives and who, after the fire had been kindled, depended solely on the kindlers of the fire, to sustain it.
I see here that it is responsibility of the people unto whom the fire was kindled to keep, sustain and preserve the fire. God can send men to kindle this fire in me or in my community, but it is my responsibility to gather woods for its sustenance. It is this lack of sustenance that is making it look as though no revival has taken place in our days.
I need to beg God to give me the needed understanding to gather the right sticks that would make revival sticks in our generation.
I perceive that this long awaited revival would have been noticed if I have gathered enough woods to, possibly, increase the burning and make it to last until all lives are sustained through it.
God has sent men like Bro. Gbile Akanni, to kindle this fire in me, and it is of no little kindness that I have received, in the last few years, to be a partaker of this. However, God is waiting on me to gather woods in order for me to sustain this fire, lest it goes out.
As Paul gathered this ‘bundle of sticks’ and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat. The issue of bundle suggests to me that the quantity of sticks that Paul gathered were not small and yet they were not scattered.
There are few lessons for me here:
A VIPER OUT OF THE HEAT!
First, is that there is possibility of a viper coming out of the Fire made by kindness! It is not that the Fire produces vipers, no, but the Fire makes the viper to be revealed! I should know that the Fire that comes from kindness does not produce vipers, it is the stick that harbours the viper and when such viper-laden sticks comes in contact with the Fire, the Fire separates the viper from the sticks!
Many times, it is also very discouraging when I unexpectedly see this kind of ugliness at the Gate called Beautiful! It is unfathomable to hear, this morning, that, when this fire is truly ignited, out of it will come a viper! It looks odd that among those who are trusted to sustain this kind of great work comes such a devil as Judas Iscariot. I need to prepare my heart for this; may I remember, when it comes, that, it is normal for a viper to come out of the sticks brought into the fire of kindness.
However, I must not be confused here; I must note that there was no viper at the point when the Fire was made; it was at the point of gathering sticks for sustaining the Fire that the viper was gathered along with the sticks.
Second, is that it is not everything that looks like stick is stick. Not everything that sticks is a sticker! When the Bible says ‘a bundle’, then I think the Bible is talking about size/quantity, agreement, bonding, and the likeness that exists within the rank and file of the sticks. It means that what Paul gathered was much, both in size and quantity. It also implies that what Paul gathered was bonded, as it were, together. They were not scattered; they were tied together. In other words, the woods were not in disagreement or in disarray. Being bunched together, they had fellowship, as though in love with one another; albeit different in individual shapes and sizes.
Alas, the size or quantity of the woods Paul gathered (for revival) did not preclude a viper from being a part. In fact, the quantity of the woods gathered became a subtle cover for the serpent. I should not think that the viper that does not bite at the point of recruitment would not bite at the point of use. I should make no mistake that a man who does not bite me at the beginning will not bite me mid-way or at the end of the day, when he becomes uncomfortable in the bath of fire. Judas Iscariot waited till the tail end of the ministry of Jesus before he bore his fangs!
Third, is the fact that vipers are cold-blooded animals; therefore, as long as the winter was on, this venomous beast was at peace with Paul. But trouble came, when there was heat.
I am beginning to think now that ‘cold-kindness’ (kindness in a cold atmosphere) does not pay, though it makes the vipers among the wood to also be ‘kind’ towards me. Cold-kindness is a quiet compromise with the viper, the devil!
Some men will be my friends, as long as I make the atmosphere cold (cool) for them, seeing they are cold-blooded beings. Some people may not threaten my life if I do not bring them into the atmosphere of heat. Some will not mind to go through all the motions with me, as long as there will be no introduction of fire. But something else will happen if I try to increase the temperature beyond that which is normal for their nature.
FASTENED ON HIS HAND
The serpent targets nothing else in Paul except the very hand with which he fuelled the fire! This viper was not interested in giving Paul a single bite, it was determined to empty its entire venom into Paul; the Bible says “and fastened on his hand.”
Oh, how much I need your mercy, LORD! I remember that Paul did not cast this serpent into the fire deliberately, initially. It was the normal treatment that should be given to the sticks so gathered for this life-giving fire. Though the sticks would have been burnt in the process, but the lives and sacrifices of the sticks would have been found in the lives of the people revived and sustained! But this treatment was odd to the nature and intention of this viper. Therefore, Paul had to deliberately shake the beast into the fire! This time, not to give life to the people but to terminate the life of the viper, that wanted to terminate the life of the instrument meant to sustain the fire.
I need your courage, LORD, to shake off the beast into the Fire and not to shake off my faith into the mire, when such happens in the near future. Send help to me to shake off the beast into the fire and not to shake off and extinguish the fire because of the beast.
Once the beast was off Paul’s hand, his hand became free to continue what he was doing!
(Segun Ariyo, Ibadan. 19th August, 2015.)