Meditations on “God of Transformation: 25: Purpose by direction
Acts 8:26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road–the desert road–that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.”
Yesterday we saw how the believers of Jerusalem were scattered from Jerusalem by persecution and saw how one of them, Philip, was amazingly used by the Lord in Samaria. One of the temptations in the Christian life is to settle in the area of blessing where we are. The Lord (or circumstances) has led us here and it is a good place. Philip is in a good place where he is blessed and being used.
It sometimes takes something special to get us out of that place where we have settled and in Philip’s case it was an angel. For each of us, the changes of life come through different means. We often talk about how the Lord can speak to us and guide us and, yes, there have been times in my life when I look back and can remember His voice coming in some particular way to bring new guidance, but a little while ago I was reflecting on the Lord’s goodness through the years of my life and I was surprised to note that in the three times I have made a major career change they were all because of the circumstances. Yes, I did need to check with Him but it was the circumstances that pressed me to move. The first one was an office move that made travelling a pressure on our family so I took redundancy. The second one was an employer cutting back and so I took early retirement. The third one was age and an obvious moment to move over and let others lead while I went off to do something new. It was the circumstances that brought the pressures to move, and yet afterwards in every case I can see the Lord’s blessing on the move and although initially in each case I took a drop of salary, our standard of living and quality of life as a family improved greatly – every time!
It may be that your motivating force for change is a negative thing. In each of my three changes the circumstances appeared uncomfortable but necessary. Your negative thing may be change of health or change of financial circumstances or who knows what. I say this because when the angel comes to Philip in the middle of his revival in Samaria and tells him to go south on the desert road – without any other instructions or guidance – he would be less than human not to struggle with what appeared a very negative instruction. Most of us would reply, “But I am involved in a good work blessed by the Lord,” but he goes. The transformation appears to be from fruitfulness to barrenness – I mean what good can happen on a desert road going nowhere.
Well of course it wasn’t going nowhere, it was the route for “an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians.” (v.27) Be very clear this man in the chariot is a very important person. In our context we might say the Governor of the Bank of England or the Secretary of the US Treasury; that’s who we have here, and Philip this is why you have just been yanked out of the midst of the revival in Samaria, so you can catch this man who is on the edge of the kingdom, bring him right though and send him back to his country where some believe he established the first Christian church in Africa. That’s who you are going to, but of course the Lord did not give him that little detail when He called him to go south.
After Philip has shared the Gospel with this seeker and baptizes him, we read, “When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.” (v.38,40) I have often though that the reference to the Spirit meant He caught up and whisked him away invisibly, but it may just be that he received that urgent sense of the Spirit’s directing that he needed to move on to the next assignment which led him up to Caesarea where he appears to have settled and stayed for some twenty years at least (see Acts 21:8).
What we have here appears a life of transformation: a deacon in Jerusalem, a power evangelist in a Samaritan city, a personal witness on a road going south, an evangelist in Philistine cities and eventually an evangelist in Caesarea. What motivated the moves? First persecution, second an angel and third the Holy Spirit. Yes, a variety of different things leading him into a variety of fruitful ministry areas. What a beautiful example of an available believer.
Our lives often contain ‘seasons’, periods that appear fixed, but only for a time, when we then move on to the next ‘season’. If you are a mother of young children that is your present season. Make the most of it while you can, rejoice in it, thrive in it, be blessed in it and do what no one else can do in the same way, establish them in life and in the Lord. Create an environment for them of love and security where He is known to be a resident friend. You are studying at College or University. You are in a season. Make the most of it, rejoice in it, be blessed in it, and in it learn to receive His help in learning. It will soon come to an end and you will need to move on to your next season. But in every season there will be opportunities to share the love of the Lord and to know His presence and His blessing.
Unlike the natural seasons, every season we are talking about can be fruitful in some way or other. The fruit may change but He never wants us to be static, unchanging, unlearning, unproductive. A different season simply means a different series of opportunities, just like Philip had. Some may be dramatic, others less so, but the all-important, over-arching thing is that you know His will, that you are where you are by His appointing and doing what He wants with His enabling and His power. As I shared earlier, guidance comes in different ways and you may simply have gone by the natural circumstances of life before you and the peace He grants you, or you may have had a dramatic word that came through preaching and then by prophecy and then by the counsel of a friend. The ways are endless and they are all valid. Rest in your experiences of Him and rejoice as He moves you on to the next ‘season’ of life and service. Hallelujah!