That Hidden Viper
by Pastor Cornelius Claassen
Goldfields Revival Centre, Welkom, South Africa

Bible Reading: Acts 28: 1-9

Bible Text:
v3. 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.

I have entitle my message today:
That Hidden Viper - That Hidden Snake !

A Viper, or as our Afrikaans Bible says, a snake, came out of the heat and fastened on the hand of the Apostle Paul ! What does this illustrate ?

Well it was Job of old that once said:
Job 12:7
But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee.

The snake in the Bible is a picture in words of that old serpent (Afrikaans: old snake), the devil !

Revelation 12:9
And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were ca
st out with him.

That viper, that snake - the devil wanted Paul dead and therefore attached himself - fastened himself onto the hand of Paul ! The devil wants to destroy the man of God - the work of God even to this day !
But first, a little background concerning the events that led up to our Bible Reading.

Paul had been taken prisoner by Claudius Lysias and appeared before the Governor Felix and two years later before Festus who wanted to send him to Jerusalem to stand trial in order to please the Jews.
Paul then made his appeal:

Acts 25:8-12
While he answered for himself, Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all.
But Festus, willing to do the Jews a pleasure, answered Paul, and said: Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these things before me ? Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar's judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest. For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar. Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered: Hast thou appealed unto Caesar ? Unto Caesar shalt thou go.

While sailing to Rome they encountered a terrible storm. The ship ran aground and the forepart stuck fast and remained unmoveable and the hinder part was broken with the violence of the waves.

The command was given to abandon ship. Those that could swim, swam ashore while the others reached the shore on boards and broken pieces of the ship.
Everybody escaped safely to the shore ! The reason - they had given heed to the words of Paul - It pays to listen to the Man of God !

If you want Eternal Life heed the words of a Man of God. Heed the Word of the LORD ! They would all have perished had they not heeded Paul.

We next read:
Acts 28:2
And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold.

Friends, Church, the Lord also wants to bring you in out from the present rain and cold of this world but first you need to heed the Word of God.

Listen what the Word says:
Matthew 6:33
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

But Friends, Church, Paul did not sit idle by the fire. We are told that Paul gathered a bundle of sticks for the fire. And now I make no excuse for what I am about to say. We sing many songs concerning the Fire: Keep the Gospel fires burning !
Send us the Fire, Lord !

We have liken the Gospel Message to a burning Fire ! How we long for the fire to burn !
But Friend, Church, if we want the Gospel fire to continue burning we need to bring the sticks to enable it to burn.

The sticks of our Love for another -
Do you love your fellowman enough to share with them the Gospel of Jesus ?
The sticks of Friendliness -
Does your friendliness make other feel at home in the House of God ?
The sticks of our witness to others -
Does your witness confirm the Gospel of Christ ?
The sticks of our testimony -
Is your life a testimony of a new life in Christ ?
The sticks of our Talents -
Do you use your talents for HIS work ?
Have you come to this Service with something to share with the "saints" ?
The sticks of our Tithes and Offerings !

If you fail to bring your bundle of sticks to keep the Gospel Fire burning at the Goldfields Revival Centre - The Lord will use someone else.

I will never forget an incident many, many years ago in Chatsworth, Durban.
At the time we were working for the LORD among the Hindus, pastoring a small Indian Church called Miracle Mission. A Pastor friend felt led of God to pioneer a new Church in Shallcross which adjoins Chatsworth. With the help of the local Church to which he belonged, a tent was purchased and special tent services were held for about 3 weeks. I was invited as a guest speaker to one of the meetings !

The meeting was a huge success. Georgie and I left immediately after the service ended.

It was late and the night was dark - we lived a little more than 30 KM (about 20 miles) from Shallcross. Part of the road was narrow and one went downhill to a cement bridge crossing a small river in the narrow valley and then the steep incline on the other side. It was a lonely road which few cars traveled at night. Our car, a small Austin 11/55, decided to break down in the bend just as one approached the bridge.

Nothing I did made the car restart ! I remember turning to Georgie, my Wife, and saying:
There's nothing to worry about - our Pastor friend will come pass soon - furthermore about 20 of the local Church Members will also soon pass this way !

On the other side of the Bridge on the Hillside was a Squatters Camp. We could hear the noise from the nearby shebbeen (Pot-house, unlicensed house selling drink) among the tin shacks. It was an extremely dangerous area for any person to be stranded. Only the previous week we encountered a man that had been stabbed to death close to the spot where our car had now chosen to break down !

The first car to race past us was that of the Pastor - in quick succession the other cars also sped past us - It was if they chose not to see us !

We prayed for help and a few minutes after praying a car stopped. Five men climbed out of the car and walked towards us - I remember saying as they staggered toward us - "Lord help us" All five were drunk, so drunk they could bearly stand on their feet. In Afrikaans they said: "Baas (Boss) what are you doing here - this is a very dangerous place?" I told them that my car had broken down. What they did - and how they did it in the state they were, I can't tell you, but within minutes I was on my way - Praising God ! I had expected my fellow Christians to stop and help me but instead God used "Five drunken men" !

What am I trying to tell you, Church ?
To keep the Gospel Fire burning - sticks must be brought to the fire.

I am not afraid - difficult as it may be, and these past months have been extremely difficult - despite the Gold price being at its lowest level in twenty years, the weak Rand, the rising petrol (gas) price and the new round of threaten retrenchments at the mine - I know with a certainty that God will send those needed with bundles of sticks to help me continue this ministry ! Bring your bundles of sticks to keep this Gospel Fire burning !

Paul was prepared to gather sticks for the fire so that other could continue to enjoy the warmth of the fire.. Are you prepared to help to keep this fire burning ?

But remember our Text verse:
Acts 28: 3
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.

Hidden amongst the sticks - a viper - a snake !
Hidden, yet it openly and in full view of all it bit him and fasten on to his hand !
The snake fasten on to his hand in order to kill him !
The snake is a picture of the devil !
The snake is a picture of the hidden sins in our lives.
Hidden yet it will be revealed without warning !

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death.

The snake hung on his hand !
The man, the hand, the family that wants to work for God need beware - the devil the snake, the adder wishes you dead !

No Doctor present - The threatening rain - the cold !
The snake is holding fast - it wants him dead !
But instead, Paul, shook the snake into the fire !

The message is clear and loud Friends !
Shake the devil off your hand or you will die !
Be warned - shake that sin off !
We have all been bitten by the snake of sin and we need to shake it off !
We need to shake off those sins of:
Lies, hatred, idle gossip and slander, jealousy, disobedience to God's Word, need I name more ?
Shake them off !

But Pastor, what must I do ?
How can I shake them off ?

1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

James 4:7
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Friend, know this:
Hebrews 12:14
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

But friend the story does not end here.
Paul shook the snake off into the fire.
What happen then ? Lets read together:

Acts 28: 7-9
In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius; who received us, and lodged us three days courteously.
And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him. So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed.

Once Paul had shaken off the snake - they were given new lodgings ! Friend, shake off the snake, shake off those sins and turn to Jesus.

John 14:6
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

And you will also have a change of abode !
John 14:1-3
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

Will you spend eternity in the place Christ has prepared for you ? In order to do so, you need to shake the snake off from your hand and turn to Christ and follow HIM.

But finally, Friends, Church, Paul once again did not remain still, (did you notice ?) he prayed and laid hands on the sick of that island and they were healed - a complete fulfillment of:

Mark 16:17-18
And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

1. It all started with a storm -
God delivered them all !
No matter what the storm in your life - God will also deliver you if only you will heed HIS word !

2. A gathering of sticks to keep a fire burning so that others could also enjoy its warmth !
Will you be faithful in bring sticks to keep this Gospel fire burning ?

3. A shaking off - of the snake that took hold of his hand. Will you shake off that sin that has taken a hold of your life and turn to CHRIST ?

4. A new place of abode out of the rain and cold.
Where will you spend Eternity ? In that place that Christ has prepared for you !

5. It ended with Paul praying for others !
When last did you pray for someone else - Remember Job's whole situation changed when he began to pray for his friends.

Friend, you whole future depends on whether or not you shake off the snake of sin and accept the forgiveness of Christ and follow HIM.
Remember, the God that Paul served is always ready to help you !


Pastor CSJ Claassen
PO Box 99

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