February 20, 2022

Be Effective In God’s Service

Passage: Acts 8:26-40

In April 1912, a 39 year old Scottish preacher from the Walworth Road Baptist Church in London, Rev. John Harper, was making a trip across the Atlantic Ocean.  He was scheduled to preach at the Moody Church in Chicago.  The vessel he chose with his daughter and sister was the Titanic.  When it hit the iceberg and began to sink, his daughter and sister were put in a life boat.  But like many others Harper ended up in the icy waters.  As people tried to survive until rescue boats came, Harper swam from person to person and asked if they knew Jesus Christ.  He approached a young man clinging to a broken wooden board and he pleaded with him to put his trust in Jesus.  The minister was completely exhausted at this point.  His last words before he succumbed to the conditions and went under the water to his death were, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved."  A few years later at a meeting of survivors of the Titanic, the young man told the group that he had been saved twice that night.  First, he had accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour because of Harper’s plea.  And, of course, he had been rescued from the deep Atlantic sea.  Rev. John Harper’s focus wasn't on himself.  No, even in his dying moments, he strove to be effective in God's service.  In effectiveness he departed from this life.   Philip, one of the first seven deacons, was very much like John Harper.  He seized the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others.  He preached and performed miracles in Samaria and here in Acts 8: 26-40 we see how he influenced an Ethiopian eunuch in Gaza to come to faith in Jesus.

The first thing we learn in this passage of how to Be Effective In God's Service is:     1 Follow God's DirectionsListen again to verses 26-29, Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, 'Go south to the road – the desert road – that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.'  So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians.  This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet.  The Spirit told Philip, 'Go to that chariot and stay near it.'"

Earlier in chapter 8 we see Philip at the revival in Samaria.  He proclaimed the Gospel and preformed many miraculous signs and many flocked to him.  The number of new converts increased far above anyone’s imagination.  Philip must have thought by himself, “I’m at the right place.  Here I can reach many people for the Lord.”  But incredibly, God had other plans for Philip.  He was to go south on a desert road – a deserted road, all by himself.  That road was one people of that time avoided at all cost.  They felt exposed and vulnerable to robbers and wild animals on that road.  No one wanted to travel there alone.  But you see – Philip did.  He listened to God.  He must have known that God had a plan for him to fulfill on that deserted road.  We read in verse 27, “So he started out.”  He didn’t argue with God.  Quite often we can’t comprehend God’s plans.  We even want to question them and then we decide what we think is right.  Then God is forced into our perception of what we think is the best.  But you know just as well as me – God will never be manipulated.  Jonah had to learn the hard way.  “I will not go to Nineveh”, the prophet thought by himself and headed off to Tarshish  But in the end, he made it to Nineveh.  Jacob had other ideas about God’s covenant – he wanted other nations’ religions to be included.  But God directed him back to Bethel to reaffirm what he vowed to Him at the beginning.  Peter didn’t want to follow Jesus’ direction to the cross.  “I will never allow this to happen to You!”  he said to Jesus.  But we all know what happened in the end.  His Lord Jesus had to reinstate His disciple who was supposed to be loyal even in the face of death.  O, I think we all can share our life stories of how we wanted God to fall in with our plans.  A young man came from a Christian family and he was very effective as a Youth leader in his church.  His pastor encourage him to enter ministry.  Though the young man felt God's calling, he was in denial and went to Law School.  After graduation he started working in a Law Firm, but he just couldn't fit in.  After six months he quit and went back to school.  He had enough credits that he soon made it to Seminary.  As a young pastor he always told the children in the church, “Listen to God, follow His directions.  Don't be like me who first listened to myself and not God.”  The words our Father spoke to Jeremiah will always apply to all of His children – chapter 29: 11, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.”  God wants us to follow His directions unconditionally.  The Holy Spirit instructed Philip to stay near to the eunuch’s chariot.  What was his response?  We read in verse 30 that he ran up to it!  There was no hesitation – no second thought.  If we only could follow God’s directions unconditionally!

Like Philip we have to 2 Show Interest In Others.  We read in verses 30 b & 31, “'Do you understand what you are reading?' Philip asked.  'How can I,' he said, 'unless someone explains it to me?'  So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.”  You know my friends – there is so much to take to heart in the words of the eunuch, “How can I unless someone explains it to me?”  He was in desperate need of someone to explain the Gospel to him.  As much as he came from a worship experience in Jerusalem, he still longed for someone to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with him.  Philip wasn’t prepared for this.  The angel didn’t tell him about this mission on the desert road to the south where he was going to lead someone to Christ.  He only received instructions – be on the road!  Stay near the chariot!  But it was Philip’s compassionate heart that made him shown genuine interest in the eunuch.  He asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?”  Philip didn’t just go with the assumption, “Well someone who’s reading the prophets surely has to have an understanding of God’s ways.  Perhaps this is the wrong chariot.  I will wait for the next one!”  No his interest in another man made a difference that day.  What sincere and compassionate interest do we demonstrate as God’s people?  Do we still have it in us to say, “I made time for you today to visit you” or “I’m just phoning to hear if you’re okay.”   It's crucial for us to demonstrate a sensitive heart for the needs of others.  You know we have to become so sensitive for other people's needs that we will be able to see it in their eyes and hear it in their voices.  God the Holy Spirit instructs us just like He instructed Philip, “Stay close to this person.  Open your ears and act!”

Lastly, we learn from Philip's experience: 3 Share The Good NewsWe read in verse 35, “Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the Good News about Jesus.”  A direct translation from the Greek reads, “Then Philip opened his mouth.”  Words came from his mouth and he shared the salvation of Jesus Christ with a man who wasn’t saved at that point.  It was God’s appointed time for the eunuch to receive the Gospel and Philip was the public address in God’s hands.  Can we ever fully comprehend that we have to share what we believe?  We can’t wait for someone else to do it.  We might have only one opportunity to reach someone for Jesus.  A manager of a company worked late one night and when he left the building, he saw a beggar covered with a light blanket on the sidewalk.  He looked him in the eyes and had thoughts of having a conversation about salvation with him and then to get him something to eat.  The manager looked at his watch and saw that it was already 10:30.  He thought that another time he would have that conversation and placed a few dollar bills in the beggar’s hands.  There wasn’t another opportunity for him to share the Gospel with the beggar.  That night on the street the beggar died – hungry, lost and lonely.  The man couldn’t live with himself for a long time.  He told his wife, “If I only could turn back the clock.”  Can we just think of all the missed opportunities in our world and each day people cry out, “How can I know this if no one tells me!?”  Do you want to be Jesus’ voice?  We all have to say, “I will tell others – the news will be broadcasted from my mouth!”

What is the message God wants us to take with us?  He wants us to be effective.  It's something He will help us to be.  But then we have to follow His directions, we have to show interest in others and leave our own little world behind.  And then we can't neglect to share the Good News with others.  Are we willing to be effective in God's service?

Amen.                                 __________________________________                                                                                  Rev. Willem H. van de Wall