We’re coming to the end of our journey through Acts – today’s is the final chapter. Paul too, at this point in the story, was coming towards the end of his time on earth. Although the chapter finishes abruptly, we know from his letters and other historical sources that he was then put under house arrest for around two years, after which he was released and went on a fourth missionary journey, before being arrested again, this time imprisoned in appalling conditions, prior to execution.
Reading Acts 28, I felt that he must have had more than an inkling of what the future might hold for him, and yet he kept going with the same zeal that had compelled him since his conversion. In this chapter alone, he is attacked by a poisonous snake, and yet his life is preserved because it isn’t yet his time to die – and the people around are amazed. He then takes the opportunity to pray for healing for Publius’ father, which results in not only healing for him but also for all those on the island who were sick. Having arrived shipwrecked, with nothing, he and his companions then experience God’s provision through the people on the island’s kindness in giving them supplies, when they are ready to sail on to Rome. When he reaches Rome and is under house arrest, guarded at all times, for two years, he continues to preach, making the most of every opportunity.
This reminded me of a well-known poem about what counts in our lives – it’s not our dates, but the “dash” in between them, and what we do with what God has given us. We may not all be called to endure shipwrecks or imprisonment, but God has a plan and purpose for each of us, just as he did for Paul. My prayer for us, having read this chapter, is that we all, along with Paul, make the most of the “dash” we have been given, and are able to say, as Paul did, in the last letter he wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)