Grades 3-6 Lesson for Sunday School 
The Apostle Paul: Part 8
Faithful to the End

Author’s Notes:   In our last lesson, Paul and his fellow travelers survived a storm at sea, and the shipwreck that resulted as the raging sea broke their ship apart.  But before you breathe a big sigh of relief, the trial didn’t end there for the apostle Paul.  As we wrap up our series on the life of the apostle Paul, he still had a few more battles to face, as they reached the shore, and beyond.  But each and every battle would give Paul the opportunity to minister to others, and share with them the love and power of his great God.

Opening comments/story:

Do you know anyone who has been bitten by a snake?  How about a poisonous one?  What can happen if you’re bitten by a poisonous snake?  (Allow the students to suggest what could happen to someone bitten by a poisonous snake.)

A viper bite can be particularly nasty.  Not only can it cause a lot of pain and swelling, it can also cause damage to the heart, and disrupt the victim’s blood clotting ability.  Viper bites can also cause paralysis, even to the diaphragm, leaving the victim unable to breathe.  A person can die as a result of a viper bite.* 
But a viper is no match for the God who created it.  So we’re going to see, in today’s lesson, what happens to Paul when he faces another life-threatening trial - a run-in with a deadly viper. 
But first, let’s take a look at this week’s memory verse, which should be familiar for those who were with us last week.  It reminds us that even in life’s scariest situations, we don’t need to be afraid because our God is with us, no matter what.

Memory verse:  (Have the children repeat this verse with you several times, until they are able to say it themselves.  And encourage them to repeat it to others several times during the week, so that it’ll have a place in their hearts.)

“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”  Joshua 1:9

Opening prayer:  Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today.   And thank You for the apostle Paul – the example he is to us, and for the Words he’s given us to read, from You.   Help us, today, to be attentive to the lesson we’ll be learning from his life.  Amen.

This Week’s LessonSnakebite! ( Acts 28)

In our last lesson, we watched Paul and his fellow travelers battle through two whole weeks of stormy seas.  The battle ended with their ship breaking apart, as everyone on board swam or floated safely to shore…just as God had promised.  It must have been a relief for the ship’s captain, and for Paul, to count the people on the beach, and realize that everyone was there, safe and sound.

But only moments later, not everyone would still be safe.  Paul was about to face yet another battle.  This time it was with a deadly snake.  And as all of his trials had done, it would give him an opportunity to share the truth about God with those around him.  Let’s take a look at what happened to Paul, in the final lesson in our series on his life.

 (The snakebite)

Acts 28

 1And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita.
 2And 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.
How did verse 2 first describe the people of the island of Melita?  It said they were “barbarous” people.  Does anyone know what that means?   One dictionary defines “barbarous” as “mercilessly harsh or cruel.”** Does that sound like the kind of people you’d like to run into as you crashed onto their island? 
But then, Luke (the writer of Acts) goes on to describe how the islanders treated the weary travelers who washed up on their beach.  What did they do for Paul and his friends?  They showed them kindness by welcoming them, and building a fire to help them dry out and warm up.
But something happened to Paul when he helped keep the fire going.
 3And 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.
Snakes often sleep in piles of branches or brush.  And they often become lethargic when they’re cold.  That would explain why Paul didn’t notice the snake when he picked up the sticks.  But when the snake sensed the heat of the fire, it quickly woke up and latched onto the nearest thing…Paul’s hand.  And it didn’t just give him a quick bite, then let go.  The verse says the viper “fastened” onto his hand.  A snake does that to give it time to deliver the greatest amount of venom, in order to paralyze or kill its victim.  So the reaction of the islanders was not unusual.  They wondered, as we would, what would happen to Paul.  Would he fall right over, dead?
 4And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live.
These people thought that the gods must have been trying to punish Paul, by drowning him, for some great sin, maybe even murder.  And that since he had managed to escape death in the shipwreck, he was surely being judged now, with the viper.  So they watched closely to see what would happen to him.  They probably expected him to immediately fall over, dead.  Or perhaps he would swell up and die slowly.  But surely he would die.  Or would he…
 5And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm.
 6Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.
What happened to Paul, after he shook the viper off into the fire?  Nothing!  So what did the islanders conclude when Paul overcame death, yet again?  They concluded he must be a god, himself.  Those who’ve been with us for several weeks may remember that this had happened to Paul before.  He and Barnabas were mistaken for gods when they healed a man on one of their missionary journeys.  So even though this passage doesn’t make it clear what Paul said in response, we can be fairly certain that Paul would have responded the same way, and directed the credit right back to the one, true God.
But regardless of who received credit for Paul’s miracle, the islanders continued to give Paul and his companions special treatment.
(The special treatment)
 7In 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.
Paul and his friends were taken to the home of the most important man on the island, a man named Publius.  And they were invited to stay with him for several days.  While they were there, God provided Paul with another opportunity to minister to those around him. 
 8And 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.
 9So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed:
 10Who also honoured us with many honours; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary.
What was going on in Publius’ family?  His father was very sick.  Do you think Publius had heard about what happened to Paul on the beach? Yes, he probably had heard the story several times of how Paul had looked death in the face, and did not die.    So what did Paul do when he found out about Publius’ father?  He went right in and prayed, then healed Publius’ father. 

And once word spread about what Paul had done for Publius, what happened on the island?  Everyone on the island who was sick came to Paul, to be healed.  And there’s no indication that Paul was reluctant to help in any way.  The passage simply says that they came, and were healed.

Do you think Paul ever got tired of helping others?  He had just been through two near-death experiences, himself, including a two week battle on a stormy sea.  He had to have been nearly worn out, and probably could have used some time to himself, to recover.  But Paul would later write these words to the church in Philppi:  Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:”  Philippians 2:4-5

When Jesus was on earth, there were many occasions when He and His disciples were tired, and ready to get away on their own for awhile.  But the crowds would find them, wanting Jesus to do some miracles for them.  And Jesus, in His great compassion, would stop to minister to them.

Paul had that mind of Christ within him.  And when those in need came to him, he reached out to them in whatever way he could.   He didn’t ask them to come back later, when it would be more convenient, or when he felt more rested.  He saw these situations as opportunities to share the love of Christ with others.

How are you in those circumstances?   When someone comes to you and asks for help, is your first response a happy willingness to help in whatever way you can?  Or do you first complain that it’s not a good time, that you’re too tired or too busy, or that it’s not fair that you always have to do it?  That would not be the mind of Christ in you.  That would be the voice of Satan, trying to rob you of the blessing you would receive for obeying the voice of God. 

Next time someone asks you for help, try picturing Jesus’ face instead of the one in front of you.  Then respond as you would if it were to Jesus, Himself.  Then you will find, as Paul did, that you will be glad you did.  Maybe it’ll even give you the opportunity to tell that person about Jesus!  That certainly was Paul’s goal with everyone he met.

And speaking of people that Paul had the opportunity to meet, after a few months on the island, the weather cleared and there was another boat at the island that was headed toward Rome.  So Paul was once again on his way to the city that would prove to be his final home.  Once he arrived in Rome, Paul was given the freedom to live under house-arrest; which meant he was still under arrest, always watched by a Roman guard.  But for two years he was basically free to come and go as he wished.  So he was able to spend time with his new friends from the Roman church.

(Acts 28)
11And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux.
 12And landing at Syracuse, we tarried there three days.
 13And from thence we fetched a compass, and came to Rhegium: and after one day the south wind blew, and we came the next day to Puteoli:
 14Where we found brethren, and were desired to tarry with them seven days: and so we went toward Rome.
 15And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum, and The three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.
 16And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him.

 30And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him,
 31Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.

The Bible does not tell us what eventually happened to Paul.  But according to church tradition, after two years he was put into a Roman prison, where he stayed until he was beheaded by the Roman Emperor, Nero. 

But even during that time in prison, Paul was still serving the Lord, writing some of the greatest passages in our Bibles.  Paul never let the circumstances he found himself in stop him from preaching and teaching about the Lord Jesus. 

Have you ever felt like God wanted you to talk to someone else about Him, but you convinced yourself that it would just be too hard?  Next time that happens, think about Paul, and all of the tough things he went through, but was still willing and able to share the love of Jesus with those around him.  Then take a moment to ask the Lord to give you that same courage and compassion that Paul had.  You can be sure that He can and will answer a prayer like that!   

Closing Comments:
The writer of Hebrews, in his chapter on the champions of faith, talks about many people, like Paul, who endured great persecution, but still remained faithful to God, and His mission for them.  Like Paul, these men and women did not allow difficult circumstances to stop them from being obedient, or from sharing the good news of Christ with others.  Listen to the description of what some of them, including Paul, went through for the Lord.  See how many of them you remember from our lessons on the life of Paul:
(Hebrews 11)
35…and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:
 36And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:
 37They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;
 38(Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
 39And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
 40God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.

Do these verses make it sound like these people received some great reward for their faithfulness?  Did they get a big pat on the back from other Christians, or a party to honor their accomplishments?  No.  In fact, it says that while on earth, they received a good report, but no rewards.  So why do you suppose they remained so faithful, some of them even to the point of dying for Jesus – like Paul?

The next few verses go on to explain just what they were working for – the chance to faithfully serve the Savior who had endured suffering for them.

Hebrews 12

 1Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Do you remember from last week’s lesson, how the sailors had to literally do what this verse suggests?  They had to get rid of all the extra weight in the boat, so they wouldn’t sink.  This verse says we need to do the same thing in our lives.  We may not have literal objects we need to throw away.  But like we mentioned in our last lesson, if there are things that keep us from obeying and serving God as we should, then those are weights that need to be laid aside so we can be effective servants.
Can anyone think of examples of those weights?   (Allow the students to respond, first.  Then offer these examples:)

If we want to go on to receive the rewards that the Biblical heroes of faith looked forward to, the promised crowns and a congratulatory “Well done” from Jesus, Himself, then we need to regularly check out what we’re doing in our lives, and get rid of those things that are weighing us down. 
There’s no reason we can’t be just as faithful as Paul, and the great example he looked to …Jesus:
 2Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
 3For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
These verses remind us that if we would just remember what Jesus was willing to go through here on earth, for us, then we, like Paul, can keep serving the Lord without becoming weary in serving. 
Remember our question from a little earlier:  how do you respond when someone asks you for help?  What do you say when mom asks you to clean your room?   Or when your teacher asks you to help that other student finish his work?  What will you do when you see your elderly neighbor out working in their yard, when you know they have a bad back?  If you’re looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith, then hopefully you’ll respond like Paul did, faithfully serving even in the toughest circumstances, right to the end.

Closing Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank You for the example of the apostle Paul, and his faithful service to you, through some of the toughest circumstances life could throw at a person.  No matter what, he still trusted and served You.  Help us, Lord, to be more like the apostle Paul; remembering that he always tried to be more like You  In Jesus’ name, amen.
Activity:  (Review Questions)
Fill in the Blanks

  1. The people on the island of Melita were barbarians.
  2. Even though they were barbarians, the people of Melita treated Paul and his friends with kindness.
  3. A viper came out of the fire and latched onto Paul’s hand.
  4. At first the islanders thought Paul must be a murderer.
  5. Paul was not hurt by the viper.

  True or False
1.  When Paul was not hurt by the viper, the people decided he must be a god.  (true)
2. Paul and his friends were kept in a prison while on the island.  (false – they stayed in the house of the island chief)
3. Publius, the chief of the island, was very sick.  (false – his father was very sick)
4. Paul prayed for and healed Publius’ father.  (true)
5. The people of Melita brought other sick people for Paul to heal.  (true)

Devotional Poem: 

Faithful to the End

Whether God has called you
To service, great or small,
He’d have you be faithful,
To give to Him your all.

So in the good and bad times,
Seek His strength and power.
And He’ll be right there, with you,
Through even the darkest hour.


*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viperidae#Venom
**http://www.referencecenter.com/ref/dictionary?invocationType=topsearchbox.refcentre&query=barbarous

 

Lisa DeVinney, January, 2017