Have you ever learned something new only to then read your own journal or notes and realize it isn’t actually the first time you’ve learned that very thing? You’ve learned this before, you just forgot!
Yeah, me too.
It happened to me again this week. I was doing my “homework” for BSF (Bible Study Fellowship). In this study, we go through one book of the Bible each year, chapter-by-chapter, verse-by-verse. I’ve been in BSF for about 9 years, and I enjoy the learning. The group discussions are so interesting. The lectures are illuminating. I even like the homework. (There’s almost never math involved, so that really helps!)
This week, we learned about Acts chapters 8 and 9. I read about Philip, who is a believer, and disciple of Jesus, going to Samaria and preaching and doing miraculous signs. Things go well. There’s a response. People hear and believe what he tells them about Jesus. The leaders of the early church, Peter and John, come and affirm his ministry there by praying for the Holy Spirit to come to these new converts.
Ministry is happening here.
And then I read further. Right after this ministry-rich time in Samaria, God asks Philip to
“Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” Acts 8:26
Philip obeys. He travels down the desert road.
Wow, I thought, he’s going away from the perceived “ministry” spot, and going by himself on a desert road where there’s no ministry opportunities in sight.
And then I read what I’d written in ink in the margin of my Bible.
“Away from where the ‘ministry’ is happening.”
Oh. I’ve learned this before. Okay. Good thinking, Christy. Good thought.
Apparently, I need a refresher. I need to learn this anew. In this particular season of my life, this idea means something different to me than it must have years ago when I wrote with a pen in my Bible’s margin.
Let me be clear. God’s Word doesn’t change. It was true last time I read it too. And, I am not to take verses out of context, or make them mean only what I want them to mean. But, God’s Word is “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12) and it teaches me and impacts me in fresh ways as I apply it to different seasons and experiences in my life.
Such is the case with this passage.
This week, I was struck by the fact that Philip could have thought that his ministry opportunity for the day, or the week, was complete. Check that off the scroll, buddy! Good work.
But it turns out a man, an Ethiopian guy, was on this desert road, sitting in a chariot reading the Old Testament book of Isaiah, and needing someone to help him understand it.
The man was not in the perceived, “ministry zone,” but away from everyone else. He was in the desert. On the side of the road. Not waiting for Triple A, but waiting for someone to help him find The Way.
And Philip was God’s chosen instrument that day. God partnered with him to help this Ethiopian understand who Jesus is.
For me, in the season of life I’m in right now, I sometimes get into a rut of thinking that ministry is a “regularly scheduled program.” My husband is in full-time ministry. He has official ministry duties. I write and speak about faith and hope. Ministry does happen in these zones.
But, who is out the ministry zone waiting for me to help them know Jesus?
Is it the woman cutting my hair in the salon?
Is mom in line behind me at Starbucks?
Is it my own child who wants me to take time to listen and help them understand something they’ve been wondering through in their faith?
Philip was so obedient to travel down the desert road with no ministry plan or programming in place. He just climbed up into this guy’s chariot and started right where the Ethiopian was reading and told him about Jesus from there.
I like that.
What empty seat can I slide into? What searching heart can I help? Am I listening to God’s leading and allowing myself to partner with Him where He calls me?
I hope I can put this thought into practice. That’s what really helps me learn something for good – putting it into action.
Writing it in my margin was a good start. This time, I’m looking for the chariot on the side of the road.