Reaching Whole Communities

Near the shore where we landed was an estate belonging to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us and treated us kindly for three days. As it happened, Publius’s father was ill with fever and dysentery. Paul went in and prayed for him, and laying his hands on him, he healed him. Then all the other sick people on the island came and were healed. As a result we were showered with honours, and when the time came to sail, people supplied us with everything we would need for the trip.’ Acts 28.7-10 NLT

The fast pace of this so aptly named Book of Acts continues right up to the last verse of the final chapter, 28. As readers we are kept on the edge of our seats: What will God do next? And as people of prayer the cry bursts up from within us: Holy Spirit, come and do it again!

After the drama of a fortnight-long storm, a devastating shipwreck and the miraculous survival of passengers and crew, we find ourselves on the island of Malta. A crowd gathers around the bedraggled survivors, who must have been so relieved to encounter the kindness of strangers, rather than hostility or suspicion.  

The mood changes however when Paul is bitten by a poisonous snake. Having become accustomed to widely differing responses to his presence, I’m sure he was unmoved to be declared first a murderer and then a god!  

The chief mover in this passage is of course God. We discover that the survivors are in a favourable location, verse 7, in ‘an estate belonging to Publius, the chief official of the island.’ Once again, kindness is offered and gratefully received. I love the next verse, ‘As it happened Publius’ father was ill…’. We serve the ‘as it happened’ God, Who is always orchestrating the events and occurrences of this life to point towards Jesus and His saving power. Healing power flows through Paul’s hands and the news spreads, with the result that before long, everyone on the island of Malta who had been sick has been healed in the name of Jesus. All of a sudden the entire community are awakened to the presence of the miracle-working God, far greater and more powerful than their ‘gods’ of mere superstition and folklore.  

Tantalisingly, the scripture narrative doesn’t describe Paul’s preaching and the many joyful baptisms that must have taken place both amongst the households of Malta and I’m sure amongst the prisoners and crew who had been rescued from the sea. Rather, Doctor Luke tells us of an outpouring of generosity from the community in the form of honours bestowed and ample provisions given for the remainder of the voyage. God’s love had been poured out in their hearts through the Holy Spirit, Romans 5.5.

Our anthem in All Nations is Psalm 67: Let the peoples praise You O God, let all the peoples praise You! In the final chapter of Isaiah’s Old Testament prophecy, we hear the rhetorical question, ‘Has a nation ever been born in a single day?’ Our answer needs to be a resounding YES! Let’s stir our faith, let’s pray believing for entire unreached people groups in our own nation and across the globe, for our whole communities, neighbourhoods and families. We serve a God Who says, “I will gather all nations and peoples together and they will see My glory.” Isaiah 66.18.

- Catherine Horton

Inward prayer: Lord, would You work our Your kingdom plans and purposes in my life. Help me to make the most of ‘as it happens’ opportunities to share the gospel.

Outward prayer: Lord, would You use me to see my whole community transformed and praising You.

1 Comment

Tomi - September 25th, 2021 at 4:43am

Amen in Jesus name!