Airplanes, Buses, and Chariots
Spreading the word of God is more about listening first to God than it is about trying to manufacture boldness.
Morning. David Sorn. Pastor here at Renovation Church.
I don’t what it is, but for some reason every time Christians are on an airplane or a bus or anything similar, we feel this odd pressure that we should somehow bring up Jesus to the person next to us.
And not that that’s a bad thing, it’s just funny because we often don’t feel that pressure when we are hanging out with our good friends who don’t know Jesus.
But when we’re on the airplane we feel it.
Last year, I was on a plane out of Minneapolis going to Orlando, and as I began to glare out the window…(which by the way I’m obsessed with trying to figure out where I am with the plane).
The only aviation law I’ve ever been tempted to break is when they tell you to stow all your electronics (whatever that means), I really want to sometime turn on my GPS and track where the plane goes.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m highly obsessed with maps. To the point I’d consider breaking the law.
Actually, on my flight to Haiti from Miami last month, it was the first time I’ve ever been on a flight where they had the map up on the screen and you could watch the airplane slowly move along
And I stared at it the ENTIRE flight. AMAZING!
So, anyway, I’m getting ready to try and track which suburb we are flying over, and I’m thinking, I wonder if I should awkwardly start talking to the person next to me. “Um, Hi I’m David.”
When he breaks the silence, and says “Hi, I’m so and so”
We get to talking, and I’m getting ready for him to ask me what I do because that’s always the opener to talking about God, and he does and I respond that I’m a pastor.
And he says, “OH! Me too!”
And then I felt guilty because he started the obligatory conversation before I did.
But then the guy in the aisle seat all of sudden pipes up and says, “And I’m a missionary!”
And since I knew everyone in my section was already a Christian, I didn’t worry about offending them, so I put my headphones on and went to sleep.
Just kidding. Except not really.
We are continuing in our book of Acts series today and we are going to see a similar scene.
The Book of Acts is the story of the early church after Jesus ascends into heaven.
Last week, we were in the beginning of chapter 8 and we saw Philip, who was one of the 7 NEW leaders appointed in the Jerusalem church, go up north to the region of Samaria and start spreading the Word of God.
This week, we are going to see even more from Philip.
(Acts 8:26-40) – NIV
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.” 27 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,28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” 30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. 31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before the shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”
34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 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. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.
LISTENING AND FOLLOWING
One of the things that really strikes me about this passage is Philip’s willingness to listen and follow God. Even though his instructions were quite ambiguous.
He’s told to go south on a desert road, a road that goes from Jerusalem to Gaza.
Now, as a reader, unless you’re familiar with the area, you might assume that might be like telling someone to walk from the national sports center to the TPC golf course. Pretty simple.
(Point out Jerusalem and Gaza)
This is not an easy commute.
For one, it’s a desert road.
Secondly. It’s about the distance of 2 marathons. Walking. It’s just over 50 miles.
Most of us in that case would have said, “Could I have some more instructions please? “
“So…just start walking?!? That’s it?? You’ve got to be kidding me!”
And yet, that is how God often operates in our lives.
He’s just gives us a little. Which is sometimes bothersome to us.
WE want the entire strategic plan for how things should go down and He instead just gives us the introduction.
It’s like this: A father who had been separated from his son for a number of years decided to help his son build a bike from scratch as his father was quite good at building things.
The father only got to see his son on weekends when his son came to visit, so every weekend his son came over, they would get out all their materials, parts, plans, and drawings, and they would work on the bike together.
Now, his son was very bright and actually quite capable of even building the bike by himself.
But his father decided that every time the boy left, he would keep the plans and materials at his place rather then sending them with the boy.
Even though he could have very well sent them with his son. And his son could have gotten the bike done by himself and a lot faster.
But the father wanted something.
He not only wanted His son to learn to rely on Him. To trust in His wisdom. To trust in His guidance.
He wanted to build a relationship with him as well.
And God often operates in a similar way.
Sure, he could give you all the plans at once, but then, would you come back to Him? Or would we just run off and try and figure it out on our own?
I’m already too self-reliant the way it is. I unfortunately know what I would do.
But by giving us bits and pieces at once, we can often learn to trust Him.
“And TRUST in our God, is going to be more than critical at certain junctures in our life.
God is training us this way.
And I would ask you, where is God leading you right now? Even if it seems a little ambiguous?
Are there things he’s speaking to you about? Things he’s been hinting to you lately? Are you thinking about following? Even if it is a little broad and maybe not as detailed as you like
So Philips starts to head towards Gaza.
And it’s kind of interesting because he never actually gets to Gaza. He’s just pointed in a certain direction. He might have assumed that his end point is Gaza, but God never explicitly tells him that either.
It’s really just about “going.” About following.
Just follow God, and trust that along the way, He’s going to move.
And he does move. We know this from history. One of the church leaders from the 2nd century (Irenaeus) writes that the Eunuch actually became a missionary to the Ethiopians, and just like that the Gospel is expanding as Jesus predicted in Acts 1:8 like we read last week
And before I show you that passage again, it’s important to point out this
This is not actually modern day Ethiopia.
Much like how the term “America” has meant different boundaries and regions over time, so has the word “Ethiopia”
The “Ethiopia” they are referring to is where now modern-day Southern Egypt and northern Sudan are located.
And, to people of those days, as crazy as this sounds, that region was considered towards the end of the earth.
Because it bordered by the Saharan desert on one side, the Red Sea on the other, and Mountains on the other. And most people never crossed those. Or if they did, never came back
Why is this even relevant??
Because it’s relevant again to what we mentioned last week about the important stages of the spread of the Gospel.
(Acts 1:8) - NIV
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
And in just one chapter, Philip has taken the Gospel to Samaria and now given it to a man who will take it to the “ends of the earth”
So, Philip listens to what God would have him do, and God continues to do great things through Him.
This actually more profound than it sounds.
I think all too often, we come to God with our own agendas. And our own plans. And we spread them out across the table and we declare to Him, “Now show me how to make that happen!”
We too often wrongly look at God as a rich donor who could fund our projects rather than the one who draws up the projects in the first place.
Hudson Taylor, a famous missionary, once said, “ I used to ask God to help me. Then I asked if I might help Him. And I ended up asking Him to do His work through me.”
I was talking to a couple in our church last week, and they were sharing with Lindsey and I about how God had been teaching them the “open hand” principle
“That is, the idea of: Are you willing to open your hand to whatever GOD wants to do in your life”
And it’s not just opening your hand and saying, “OK, you can put A, B, or C” in my hand now.
It’s actually takes a lot more trust than that.
It’s like putting on a blindfold, opening your hand, and saying, “OK, I’ll accept whatever you put in here.”
And that’s what Philip’s doing. He didn’t suggest first that he randomly walk towards Gaza. His hand was just open and He’s following instructions.
Which makes me wonder…how open is your hand right now?
What stage would you put yourself in?
Is your hand not even open to letting God try and move?
Is it open, but you’ll decide later if you’re interested in what He gives you?
Is it open, but you’re trying to tell Him what to put in it?
Or, is it open, and your eyes are closed, ready to trust whatever the master deems is best for you?
JOINING GOD WHERE HE IS ALREADY MOVING
Some years ago now, Henry Blackabee wrote one of the more helpful Christian books that’s been written in the last quarter century called “Experiencing God.”
The basic principle of the book was this: Find where God is already moving, and join Him.
Blackabee writes that too often we just wrongly assume that God is up there twiddling his thumbs and waiting for us to make the first move.
But the reality is: He’s already moving. It’s just a matter if we’re going to join Him.
And that’s what’s happening in Acts 8 today.
God is already moving in the Ethiopian Eunuch’s life.
We don’t know if the Eunuch was just a seeker in God (as Jerusalem was a very religious place to go) or if he was a converted Jew from far away.
But we do know that God was moving in His life. Drawing him closer to Jesus.
As odd as it sounds, it was a customary practice to actually read aloud in those days. Don’t ask me why, but that’s what most people did.
So the man is reading from Isaiah 53. Which is a prophecy about Jesus’ life written 700 years before their time.
So think about that. God is DEFINITELY already moving in the Ethiopian’s life! Philip is just being obedient to God, and while doing so, He is able to find God moving, and join Him!
Speaking of the Ethiopian, we don’t really know if he was actually a eunuch. Meaning he had been castrated at some time. Sometimes in the ancient near east, they just called people who were trusted workers of the royal court eunuchs.
But either way, what we do know, is that he was a high ranking official in the Ethiopian court. Something like a finance minister. Just by the fact that he was riding in a chariot shows that he was extremely wealthy.
And the chariot makes me think back to the airplanes and buses from the beginning. It’s not really about the setting…it’s about what God is doing.
Let me explain:
Many say that they don’t have the boldness to talk to people about God or church. They picture themselves in a particular setting…like an airplane or something…and think, I could never have the boldness to do that.
But that’s the wrong way to think about it. We must first follow the Spirit, and when we do, THEN we will get power for boldness. It’s not about the setting. It’s about God’s leading.
Think about it this way: HOW MUCH BOLDER do you think Philip was when he followed the Spirit’s advice to come near the chariot and then heard the man reading the Bible?!?!?
Any nervousness that he probably had about approaching the wealthy man’s chariot probably immediately disappeared
But too often we try and manufacture our own boldness, rather than listening to God first and being given boldness!
It’s always more difficult to follow God WHERE He’s already moving if you’re not listening first.
It would be like showing up for orientation at school, or college, or grad school, and getting to the nametag table where they will instruct you where to go here the important info for the night.
But then blowing right by them, going into the room of your own choosing by yourself and then complaining that nothing’s happening!
If we want God to move in our friends and families lives, we have to be committed to slowing down, and listening for how God wants us to move, find where He is already moving, and follow what he wants us to do next.
Walk this road…come by the chariot…
Call them now. Invite them over for dinner this weekend. Invite them to church at this time.
It’s HARD to do though. Really hard. We just want to get it done ourselves!
But we have to wait…trust in the master planner.
And when God is moving people, they are on a journey. That’s why 3 out of 4 new churches are named Journey Church. J
Our job is to work with God as he takes people on a journey.
And it’s actually really important to recognize that people are on a journey.
Because honestly, most of your friends and family maybe aren’t ready for the salvation talk yet. For you to lay out your 4 spiritual laws handbook
I hope they are someday, but many are just at the beginning of the journey.
But they are ON A JOURNEY
There’s a reason that church statisticians continue to say that 80% of people who get invited to church will at least come.
That’s amazing! Why is that?!? It’s because God is probably ALREADY working on them in some way or another. Revealing himself in little ways. Drawing them to Him in little ways.
I was talking about evangelism with my friend Tim Wilson the other day, and he mentioned to me that it’s interesting how when churches feel they want to teach evangelism we almost just exclusively teach how to help people explain salvation (which is important), but really, one of the best things we can do is just empower people to invite their friends to church.
The Vast majority of people I’ve seen come to Christ have done so after coming to church…often for a period of 6 months to a year and NOT just because a stranger or a friend had the salvation talk with them.
Now, eventually this happened, but often the church thing comes first.
Why does it work so well this way?
Because, church provides a passive and safe way for people to start interacting with God, hearing about God, thinking about God.
There was a young salesman once who was disappointed about losing a big sale, and as he talked with his sales manager he lamented, “I guess it just proves you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” The manager replied,
“Son, take my advice: your job is not to make him drink. Your job is to make him thirsty.”
And it’s the exact same with evangelism: Our job is to make people thirsty. And church is such a powerful way to do that, and I’ve seen God use it over and over and over again in our culture.
It’s really one of the main ways God is moving in our culture that is so afraid of confrontation.
So how are you going to get the people around you thirsty?
You know what the best way to get people thirsty in real life is? (TAKE A DRINK)
Start drinking in front of them.
Start speaking of the positive of what God’s doing in your life.
Too often we foolishly try and just condemn people into the church….
“You know, God’s not happy about you drinking, swearing, cheating on your wife, and being lazy at work. Want to come to church with me on Sunday?”
But start drinking in front of people. Start speaking of the positive of what God’s doing in your life.
And then get them in a place where they can see a lot of people drinking at once.
It’s just like the party scene in college. You put one person in a room of 40 college kids drinking and what’s that person gonna do? They’re gonna drink.
Put one person in a room full of people drinking in Jesus Christ, and what’s gonna happen? God is going to move!
The power of invitation is huge!
“It allows us to move with people at the pace God is already moving with them!”
So let me ask you: Who are you praying for right now to know Jesus?
Because chances are, God is already moving in their life.
And if I could, let me challenge you to a list. For some of you this is going to be extremely challenging, for others maybe not.
I think it’s a worthwhile goal for every Christian to daily be praying for 5 people who don’t know JESUS and could also go to your church.
Which makes it a little harder.
But it’s important and here’s why: I think if you commit to doing this and listening to God like Philip did, you are really going to see God start to move
I’ve been doing this for 3 or 4 people and just made it 5 this week. And I’m very excited to see what God will do.
Because God IS moving.
He’s always moving. We just have to listen and follow…and then join him.
So would you join with me in this?
We are going to be talking about this a lot in the coming month.
I’ve seen it happen already, and I KNOW that God can use this church to do incredible things.
This is a city in need of knowing Jesus. In need of knowing his love.
And you better believe that God has put us here for a reason. He’s already moving. He’s ahead of us.
And I’m excited, more than excited to see how He’s going to continue to use Renovation to light this city up for Christ.
So let’s commit to praying. Let’s commit to listening. Let’s commit to inviting. And let’s commit to following God where He’s already moving.
And He Will do great things. Buckle up.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.