They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand … But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. Acts 28:2-5

This is a different picture of Paul to the one we are familiar with. Normally we picture Paul as standing before crowds preaching the gospel (Acts 17:22), or reasoning in the synagogue on the Sabbath (Acts 17:2), or teaching daily in the lecture hall (Acts 19:9), or singing in jail (Acts 16:25), or fighting wild beasts in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 15:32), or even making tents to provide his own support (Acts 18:3). We don’t normally picture Paul doing something so ordinary like collecting firewood.

Paul didn’t think collecting firewood beneath him. He didn’t wonder about whether it was his gift or his calling. He simply saw something that needed doing. It was as he went about being helpful God performed a miracle. A poisonous snake fixed itself to his hand but Paul suffered no ill effects. Paul didn’t even draw attention to this event, it was the locals who noticed. This incident then provided Paul with an opportunity to minister to those who were sick on the island.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). We can follow Paul’s example by being helpful, doing the mundane without complaining, and not needing to be the centre of attention. As we go about “doing good” (Acts 10:38) being helpful, showing kindness, and not showing off we may even find God performing miracles and providing unexpected opportunities to minister to those in need.