I am reader of John Piper and his writings. John Piper is the senior pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minn., Piper is the author of more than 30 books over his 25 years of preaching and teaching.
Not long ago I read again one of Piper’s statements. He said: “A snake bites Paul, so they think he’s a criminal. He doesn’t fall dead, so they think he’s a god. Beware of human polls.”
What is the background on that? The Apostle Paul was a prisoner, on a ship headed for Rome. He was to stand trial there. The ship with 276 men on board encountered a terrible storm — the Bible calls it a Northeasterner — causing their ship great peril.
As the waves beat against the ship and as the wind grew stronger, the whole bunch was terrified except for Paul. God appeared to Paul in a dream and told him that even though things looked bad, they all would be saved. Paul relayed this news to the entire group: “… I urge you to keep up your courage … not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.” (Acts 27: 22-26)
That is just what happened. The ship was wrecked but all the men held on to planks and other debris from the ship and made it safely to shore at Malta where the islanders built a fire to keep the men warm in the rain and cold. Then as Paul gathered some brushwood to toss on the fire, a snake jumped from the heat and bit him.
The Bible gives us the scene: “When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.” (Acts 28:4)
But Paul miraculously did not die after the snake bite. Everyone was surprised: “The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.” (Acts 28: 6)
From a criminal to a god? How quickly they changed their minds. These people were fickle and so are we.
A wide range of polls are taken daily: Polls on marriage, political issues, toothpaste and paper towels. Yet polls are only a snapshot on people’s thoughts for that day.
People may think one person is great one day but their approval ratings can plummet in 24 hours. People may stake their reputations on a product, negative information then comes out and the company goes broke.
People change their minds and people make up their minds on the evidence of the day.
But Paul said that God would deliver them from the storm just as God said He would and God did. God is immutable and that simply means that God never changes. It is as the Bible says, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Hebrews 13:8). He was the same God of Paul and those travelers as He is for us today. So we can be encouraged in a world today that is constantly changing.
Judy Brandon is a Clovis resident. Contact her at: