Adventures in going where God sends you

Jesus does not always send you where you think you should go or when you think you should go. He just says go, and you’ll often discover the details later. That’s what Philip learned.

Philip was a deacon. But instead of passing offering plates, he passed out food plates to hungry widows. He served faithfully until a leader named Stephen was stoned to death, and persecution swept through Jerusalem. Philip, along with many others in Jerusalem, took the hint and left. But they took Jesus and His message with them everywhere they went.

From deacon to traveling evangelist

So Philip traded his deacon duties for a new role: traveling evangelist. He started preaching in Samaria, and made such a stir, Peter and John heard about it and paid a visit to the newly-baptized believers to pray for them. Philip the Evangelist was clearly on a Spirit-led mission, even if it was different than his original calling.

One day, God interrupted Philip’s work again and sent him to hitchhike on a desert road. Philip didn’t know why, he didn’t know how far he was going—he only knew he was supposed to walk south toward Gaza. Then a chariot rolled by. Philip edged a little closer to listen as a well-dressed man read the Scriptures aloud to himself. Philip had a hunch he knew where the Spirit was going with this, so he asked the man if he understood what he was reading.

“How can I understand it if no one explains it to me?” the man said, and then invited Philip into his chariot. It turned out the man was the treasurer of Ethiopia, headed back home after worshiping in Jerusalem. (That’s right, the treasurer of Ethiopia! It was probably a nice chariot.) Philip explained the puzzling passage in Isaiah that the man had been reading. Then he continued explaining passage after passage that pointed to Jesus as the Savior—not just of Israel—but of the world!

At some point, it was enough. The Ethiopian was convinced, and miraculously they passed water on the side of the desert road. “Why can’t I be baptized right here, right now?” he asked. Philip didn’t hesitate. They jumped off the chariot and into the water. Philip baptized him in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—

And disappeared! The Ethiopian Treasurer never saw Philip again, but continued his journey home rejoicing, ready to share Jesus with his people.

As for Philip, the Spirit of the Lord dropped him off farther north in Azotus, and he preached his way through every town until he got to Ceasarea, where he settled and raised four daughters who had the gift of prophecy.

Everything changes

It seems like God often works that way. We feel like we’ve just got things figured out with God’s calling for our lives—and then everything changes. I wonder how Philip felt, leaving behind his hungry widows in Jerusalem? Or walking away from his fresh church-plants in Samaria to walk a lonely, desert road? Did he worry about the Ethiopian Treasurer, hoping he had taught him enough to share his faith with his whole country? Did he ever wonder what would have happened if God had allowed him to continue traveling with the treasurer to become a missionary evangelist in Ethiopia instead of settling down and raising a family in a nice coastal city? Or…did Philip learn to trust that God knew best how to make his life count? Somehow, I think that whether he was preaching to society outcasts, baptizing national leaders, or being a good dad to four special daughters, Philip learned to be present and faithful wherever he was sent.

Whatever changes may come your way, remember that Jesus is with you even there. He has a purpose and a calling for you, even if it’s different than you planned or imagined. Keep listening to the Holy Spirit, and then just be present and stay faithful.

Based on Acts 8:4-40 and Acts 21:8-9