Acts 8:26-40 As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and he was now returning. Seated in his carriage, he was reading aloud from the book of the prophet Isaiah.29 The Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and walk along beside the carriage.”30 Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”31 The man replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him.32 The passage of Scripture he had been reading was this:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter. And as a lamb is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. 33 He was humiliated and received no justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”
34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, was the prophet talking about himself or someone else?” 35 So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus.36 As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?”38 He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Meanwhile, Philip found himself farther north at the town of Azotus. He preached the Good News there and in every town along the way until he came to Caesarea.
Philip was so faithful to the Lord. Can you imagine what was going through his mind when the Lord sent an angel announcing his “new” assignment? Philip was preaching in Samaria with much success when this angel arrived and told him to go travel a desert road.
What? There is such success here in Samaria. I am not finished here yet. I am on fire spreading your word. Why would you want me to go into the desert? Yet Philip did as he was told.
As we read above, he met the treasurer of Ethiopia. This man was reading through Isaiah’s prophecy. He was a devout Jew (we know this because he was traveling all the way to Jerusalem to worship). Philip took the time to explain the scriptures that the man was reading. (Read through Isaiah 53 if you would like to see what the man was studying).
Isaiah 53 is a prophecy of the Messiah. The Lord’s suffering servant will die a horrible death. He will be condemned a criminal even though he did nothing wrong. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. “No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream.”
You can see why the man was confused. How on earth could this be the Messiah that Isaiah was talking about? When we do God’s will aren’t we rewarded with blessings? Doesn’t God watch out for us and ensure our safety? Shouldn’t we feel good when we do God’s Will?
Fortunately for all of us, we receive the blessings of Christ’s sufferings. We receive the good feelings and eternal life. He served us with the ultimate sacrifice. He gave away his namesake, his notoriety, his pride, his body and ultimately his life – for us.
So, why do we think when we follow God’s Will here on earth that we deserve blessings for what we did? Why do we think that good feelings will arise just because we follow God’s plan? Shouldn’t we reserve those good feelings and blessings for those we serve?
When our youngest suffered from seizures, anxiety and depression, Pete and I were at the height of our faith life (or what seemed like it). We were both involved in our church in many aspects, maybe even too many. Yet we knew and recognized the power of God. We had committed ourselves to helping others, to placing God first in our life, and to listening and following God’s Will.
So, why did He punish us by allowing us to agonize over our struggling child? Once we opened our eyes to how God had prepared us for this task, then we began to realize that blessings come in unexpected packages. We were not in a feel good situation, but we had the power to make Katie feel good. We still struggle today to feel like we have nailed a challenge for God, but the smile on Katie’s face shows me that she feels that for us. It is hard. It is a daily struggle. It exhausts us. It certainly is not what we expected.
We had allowed God to work in our life for years. He molded and readied us for this very difficult situation. The good news is we took on the challenge without batting an eye. He placed Katie (our youngest) in our home for a reason. We had to push away our urge to feel like victims, and pull to the front the strength that God blessed us with to tackle the task.
When we choose to increase God in our life and decrease our self pleasing desires (John 3:30), we don’t always feel fabulous afterward. That’s okay. It is God stretching and molding us into the people He made us to be.
Lent is all about becoming the person that God made us to be. In the story of Philip, he went out onto that desert road and spoke God’s truth to one person. That one person would then journey back to Ethiopia and touch more lives with this truth – probably some pretty powerful lives. God knew what He was doing even when Philip didn’t. Philip might not have walked away feeling on fire for God because he spoke the Truth to that one person, but He did what he was told – he died to his own personal successes in order to serve the Lord.