“There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days. His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. They honored us in many ways; and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed.”
When are you most tempted to withhold grace? To withhold forgiveness? To withhold help? To “withhold” does not mean we forgot, or our hands were full, and we were unable to help. To withhold means you could have helped, but didn’t. Perhaps you withheld because the person in need of help, hurt you. Or maybe because you felt strongly that the person in need, dug his own “grave” and deserved what he got. We are all tempted to withhold in this way. We’ve all done it at least a few times.
In our passage from Acts 28, Paul is now a prisoner. He is transported by ship, and is under constant guard. Nevertheless, he loves his captors, and – it turns out – some of them love him, too. Paul is being taken to Rome, and on the way he is shipwrecked on Malta. They are warmly welcomed by the people of Malta, and provided a place to stay by Publius, “the chief official of the island.” Publius was undoubtedly part of the government that detained Paul – that put Paul in chains.
If you were wrongly imprisoned, and one of the warden’s friends needed money for his son’s surgery, would you give? Most of us would not. I know I would be strongly tempted not to give. Paul has something even more precious to give: The work of the Spirit, through Paul, to help Publius’ son. Paul could have refused. He could have made an excuse: “I just don’t feel like the Spirit wants to do anything today…” But Paul prayed, and Publius’ son was healed.
We are in the season of giving and receiving. It’s almost Christmas. Think back over this year, and consider if – at any point – you withheld when you could have given. And remember, the grace that God has given you, is not yours because you deserved it. God simply gave it to you. Now go and do likewise, and get ready for Christmas to mean more to you than it ever has.
Prayer: Father, I remember him, and her, and them. I could have helped, but I didn’t. I withheld because I wanted them to suffer; to get what they deserved. But the grace you’ve given me, means that I got the most help anyone can get in this world. And I got it, even though I didn’t deserve it. Lord, give me the courage to go to those I’ve withheld from, and give generously. Amen.