Yet most of what we do is done without much thought. As you got dressed this morning, you may have considered which shoes to wear, but you probably didn’t give much thought to putting them on your feet. Why? Because it is just what you do before going outside. Yet, why is that? Because you need to protect your feet. Likewise, your body will tell you when it needs food, so you eat when you need to eat. But sometimes we also eat when we want to eat – which is often why we gain weight. And how many children have no problem preparing to eat because they want some food only to hear, “You need to eat your vegetables.” Again, I would contend that everything we do will come down to either needing or wanting to do it.
So, what about evangelism? As I say that word, many will cringe. Why? Because we know we need to do it, but few really want to do it. Yet, according to the Bible we are commanded to evangelize – that is, we are commanded to share the Gospel. And I would guess most everyone in here has evangelized today or at least within the past couple of days. That is, you have shared good news with someone. Because that is what the gospel is. The word gospel simply means good news. But the question we must then ask is are we only sharing the gospel of our lives or the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Before I go on, let me just pause and ask this question. You need not respond out loud, but you should consider a response. Whether you have shared the Good News of Jesus recently or not, and whether you want to do it or not, would you agree that the Bible says that as a follower of Christ, you should be sharing the Good News with others? Hold on to that thought for just a minute.
This week’s message is about a story of a man who was ready to serve God in a moment’s notice. He wanted to serve, and thus God used him where he was needed. The story is of a man named Philip, and the passage is from Acts 8.
If We Want to Serve God, We Need to Be Ready (Acts 8.26-29)
Acts 8 begins with Saul ravaging the church. But the story immediately turns to the work that the Spirit is doing through the lives of people. One of those people is Philip who is preaching the gospel. Now before I go on, let me clarify something. Just a moment ago, I asked if, as a Christian, you should be telling others about Jesus – whether you want to or not. If you agree that is true, then let me share how the Greek verb “to evangelize” is translated in English. The word is preach. 55 times in the New Testament, this word is translated to preach, so if you agreed with that question a moment ago, then you have agreed that God has called you to preach.
The problem is that we have turned the idea of preaching into a form of speaking. But the Bible doesn’t explicitly say that preaching is standing behind a pulpit and delivering a message like we are accustomed to think of it. Now, it can mean that, but essentially, the meaning of the word is to share the Good News, and if we are to share that news, then we must be ready.
So, Philip is proclaiming the Gospel throughout Samaria. Remember the Samaritans are the half-breeds that most Jews detested. But they needed to hear the Good News so whether or not others wanted to go, and even whether or not Philip wanted to go, he went. And people believed. The apostles got word of what was happening so they sent Peter and John to make sure it was real. “Really, the Samaritans are believing that Jesus is Lord? Can that be true? Maybe Philip is mistaken. We better send someone to check it out!”
So, Peter and John go. And they find what has been said to be true. And even a magician believes so the apostles return to Jerusalem and preach, that is evangelize, to other Samaritans on the way back. Thus, the disciples have now made it to the third steps of Jesus promise. As we read last week, Jesus said, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” They may not have wanted to go to the Samaritans, but God needed someone to go, so Philip went. The apostles have followed. And that leads us to the heart of our story for this week.
So, imagine Philip on the morning of this story. We are not told what time of day it takes place, but let’s say Philip woke that morning and said, “God, I am ready for whatever is next.” At some point, an angel appears and says something like, “Ok, God heard you. Here is your assignment for the day.” When Philip heard what he was to do, he did it. He was ready. And he went. The end of verse 26 says it was a desert place. This important detail tells us that it was not going to be all comfort for Philip, but his intent was serving God, so he went. He did not know what he was to do. He did not know whom he would meet. He just knew God said, “Go” so he went.
Once he got there, he was given his assignment. Notice that it wasn’t until he obeyed that God revealed what he was to do next. This principle is often difficult for me. At least it is when I am in this vicinity, and less so when I travel abroad. As you know I am a planner. But when you are serving God, you need to let you plans be disrupted if they are His plans doing the disrupting. Planning is not wrong. The Bible is filled with the plans that people had – including Jesus. But as Proverbs 16.9 teaches us, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” I don’t know what Philip wanted to do that particular day, but he was ready to do what the Lord needed him to do.
So, Philip arrives at the spot. He is told his next assignment which was simply to go over to the chariot. Philip still did not know what he was supposed to do. But he kept going. Now, the text does not tell us if the chariot was moving or not, and I suspect it was not. However, I like to think of this passage as Philip running alongside it because it does say Philip ran to the chariot. It is likely not true (it does not say he ran alongside), but it adds to the drama. But when Philip arrives he begins to understand what his assignment will be.
If We Want to Help Others Understand, We Need to Begin Where They Are (Acts 8.30-35)
Sometimes we desire to help but we do not know what is really needed. In those cases, we need to take a moment to observe the situation and then begin to work. As I have mentioned several times, that was a mistake I made upon arriving in Fairfax. I did take time initially on Wednesday evenings, and frankly after about five months, I thought we were ready (or at least I was ready) to move forward. But after I began to present some ideas, I realized that I did not have the full story and we had to back up and begin again about seven months later. Overall, I estimate the process set us back about another year.
Philip did not have five months, let alone two years. He had just a short time, but he did not know that. Yet, Philip hears what the man is doing and instantly asks a relevant question. “Do you understand what you are reading?” We do not know how long this was after Jesus died, but likely not very long – maybe a year or two. But this man comes from Ethiopia to Jerusalem and is now returning home. We do not know why he was there, but this mention of travelling from Ethiopia to Jerusalem may be a reminder to some people of the Queen of Sheba’s journey to Jerusalem during the time of Solomon. This man obtained some of the ancient writings somewhere and was reading from Isaiah 53 (verses 7 and 8), when Philip arrived.
Philip hears the man reading aloud and now he can begin to minister. Philip knew the man was ready because he asked for a guide. We may not always need to wait, but Philip knew this man was teachable. The word used for guiding is the same word that Jesus used to say that the Spirit would come to guide the apostles in John 16.13. Sometimes the Spirit may impart information Himself, but here He uses Philip to do the teaching. Remember, it was an angel that told Philip to go to the area, but it was the Spirit who told him to go to the chariot.
So, Philip serves as a guide. Philip engaged him but not just one to one. Philip began with this Scripture, so he included God in the process. But what else did Philip have to help him? Perhaps this official had a copy of what we call the Old Testament, but perhaps all he had was the book of Isaiah. What we do know is that none of the New Testament had been written, so whatever Philip told this man was relating Scripture from the Old Testament to the stories he had heard (and maybe even seen) about Jesus. But whatever process he used, Philip told this court official from Ethiopia the good news. That is, he evangelized!
If We Want Others to Know the Joy of Christ, We Each Need to Do Our Part (Acts 8.36-40)
Philip had now done the first part of his job. He had done what the Spirit commanded and he had responded to the opportunity to proclaim God’s Word. Philip had helped this man understand. But now the emphasis moves to the official.
The man sees water. Is this a miracle? I think so. Remember, we were given a five-word clue in verse 26 above – this is a desert place. Why would this information be recorded? Maybe so we could see the miracle that God provided a place for water in the midst of the desert. Whatever may have happened, we know that Philip took the opportunity to baptize this court official. And then, Philip was gone. As in the fact, he immediately vanished.
But Jesus command was to teach them to observe all that I commanded. Philip had not done this. This man still needed to know much more. But Philip’s part was done. Someone else would continue the process at this point. You may remember what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3, “I planted. Apollos watered. But God gave the growth.” Here Philip was the planter and God must have had someone else in mind for the watering portion.
For Philip, God made it very clear that his responsibility with this man was over because he was immediately whisked away. God may not always make it as clear to us as he did to Philip that day, but if we are faithful to serve God, He will be faithful to let us know when it is time for our next assignment.
1 Peter 3.15 says that we should always be ready to give a reason for the hope that we have. Many people in this region right now are talking about the hope they have that the Chiefs will beat the Browns today or that Patrick Mahomes will lead the Chiefs to the Super Bowl for the first time in nearly 50 years. And, if he does it will be a time for celebration for every Chiefs fan. But what will happen to that optimism and hope if Mahomes gets injured? The good news people may want to share will quickly turn cynical again and people will say something like, “See the Chiefs will never be able to win.” And, in one moment, the perceived need to talk about the good news of the Chiefs is gone.
But, the Gospel of Jesus dos not disappoint. Of course, our lives are not perfect just because we believe that His death and resurrection are truly THE Good News. But Jesus cannot be injured and dash a city’s or a region’s football dreams. Because Jesus was already injured and even died but He was able to overcome death providing the greatest of news. But tomorrow morning, most people – even strong Christians – will be talking about the Chiefs’ game (win or lose) instead of what Jesus has done for them.
That is why we must remember that we NEED to share THE Good News that has stood the test of time. We NEED to be ready in a moment’s instant because somebody’s eternal fate might be at stake. We may not WANT to have our lives interrupted, but as Philip’s life shows us, when we are willing to be used by God, miracles do occur.
The JOURNEY letter for this week is: E – ENGAGE.
As we consider this series of the Church in HD, we are looking at areas where our church might be lacking in comparison to the church as it was described in the Bible. We may not be whisked away in a moment like Philip was, but are we ready to share the Gospel of Jesus in a moment’s notice? Are we willing to share the Gospel of Jesus at all?
Again, every day we are faced with thousands of small choices that have to do with our wants and needs. And I suspect, if there is any spiritual maturity among us at all, then we realize that we need to share His message. That means we have to engage with others. We have to know them. We have to meet them where they are. And we must be ready to lead them as far as we can before God gives us our next assignment.
We know what it means to be engaged to someone – it is to be committed or pledged to that person. And an engagement is an appointment or an arrangement that has been made. Well, if we truly want to be used by God, then He has an engagement for us with some person to whom we can engage and help them to become committed themselves to Jesus.
We need to quit making excuses and waiting for tomorrow. We need to be ready today!
PRINCIPLE: God asks us to be ready to engage with others because He wants to be further engaged with us.
QUESTION: What can I do that, if done well, and done for Jesus, can make a difference in this church, and for His Kingdom?
- LIVE: We all need to live with a readiness to serve God. Make yourself ready this week and let God use you to speak to one person about the good news of Jesus Christ. In particular, the person should be someone whom you would not normally talk to about Jesus.
- LEAD: We all need to lead others to not only know Jesus, but to be ready to serve Him as well.