I’ve been spending a fair amount of time reading The Book of Acts lately, which is one of my favorite books in the New Testament. It’s a historical account of the first Church, and it’s exciting to read. It’s also a beautiful reminder of what the Church is supposed to be to unbelievers even in this generation. Much of what we do today is rooted in tradition and in our culture more than it is in the Person of Jesus Christ and in His mission for His Body. When we read Acts, we can see how the Church is supposed to look.
Anyway, almost every time I read it, I see something “new”. Now, I know it isn’t really new. It’s just that the Holy Spirit is helping me to see it in a way that I haven’t before. I think that’s pretty cool. One of the things I noticed this morning was found in the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. I’m not going to go into all of the background information that this passage contains, but, from what I understand, Philip was a Jew who had become a disciple of Christ in a society which was fairly hostile to believers, and the Ethiopian was a non-Jew (AKA Gentile) who apparently had some level of belief in God.
A brief summary of the account that begins in Acts 8:26 is that Philip had been told by an angel to walk a certain route out of Jerusalem. While in obedience to the angel, he came across this eunuch, who was reading a passage of prophecy in The Old Testament Book of Isaiah. The Holy Spirit whispered to Philip to go stand near the eunuch’s chariot. Again, Philip obeyed this nudging. Once Peter heard what the eunuch reading, he approached the eunuch’s chariot and spoke to the man, asking if he understood what he was reading. The eunuch confessed that he did not understand, and invited Philip to come up into the chariot with him to explain.
This conversation resulted in Philip sharing the Good News of Jesus’s love with this man, and the man gave his life to Christ and was baptized on-the-spot. I love this story!
Here’s the thing I noticed this morning: Philip made himself wholly available to God’s leading. He was willing to walk where God told him to walk, stand where God told him to stand, and speak when God told him to speak. Philip allowed his day to be dictated by the Holy Spirit. He was not trying to fit his faith into his day. Philip was living his day around his faith.
How many of us do this? How many of us regularly allow our routines and routes to be led by the Spirit of God? How often do we begin a day entirely at the Lord’s disposal, laying aside our own “to do lists” for His? I confess that I do not.
Two times in the past week, I have been compelled to do something for someone else that was not even on my radar. Both times, I immediately came up with a handful of very logical excuses. Both times, I ignored the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Both times, once the opportunity had passed me by, I regretted my actions.
Slow learner, I guess.
In verse thirty-nine of this passage, Philip was whisked away by the Spirit of the Lord only to later appear, still sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. I cannot imagine what he saw during that time, but I know for certain that Philip was rewarded for his faithfulness. His reward may or may not have been immediate, but it was certainly amazing. Of that, there is no doubt.
I wonder what rewards I have missed in my disobedience. I wonder what beautiful things I have not seen because I have not been where I was supposed to be to see them. I wonder what souls I have not touched because I was too busy (distracted/insecure/judgmental) to be bothered with touching them. This is sad to me.
I am so grateful for God’s grace.
People often say that God is a God of second chances. I don’t know that I believe that. I believe that we all have the opportunity to accept Him as Lord for as long as we live on this earth and have the ability to choose. However, I do not believe that He is continually re-creating opportunities for us that we miss on the first time around. Sometimes, we’ve just missed our chance. Period. Does He still love us? Yes. Did Jesus still die as an atonement for our sin? Yes. Are His mercies still new every morning? Absolutely.
I am praying that God continues to give me opportunities to share Him out of my comfort zone. I am also praying that He gives me the discernment I need to recognize these opportunities and the courage I need to be faithful in them. If at first we don’t succeed, try, try again.