Thursday, February 25, 2010

Running Alongside a Chariot

Many of us are obsessed with determining God’s will for our lives. Myriads of books have been written, sermons preached, speeches given, Bible studies pored over, all in an effort to discover God’s plan for our future. This is understandable for two reasons. One, the Scriptures are obsessed with discovering God’s will. Paul writes in Ephesians 5:17: “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Second, everyone desires a purpose for their life.

I believe that this commendable desire to discern God’s will or purpose for our lives becomes a dangerous combination with the busy schedules and oodles of leisure time that belong to wealthier societies. Many of us have so much on our plates that we don’t want to take the time to wait for God to show us his way. We have so many other activities to occupy our time with we get easily distracted from waiting on the Lord. We come to expect that God will slot his map for our lives into our hectic schedules, much like a repairman, “between 2 and 4 pm on Wednesday.” When he doesn’t show, we move on to the next bullet on our schedule and get on with our lives.

This brings us to the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch found in Acts 8:26-40. Philip finds himself in an odd situation: Knowing where God wants him to be but not knowing what God wants him to do. Philip had been evangelizing in Samaria and doing miraculous signs. One day an angel of the Lord tells him to go down to the desert road. That’s it, nothing more nothing less. Now, being a desert road, I am sure Philip did not expect to find much going on. God simply tells Philip to be in a place. Have you ever heard a fellow brother explain that God had commanded him to go somewhere? “Why?” you may ask. “What will you be doing?” “I don’t know,” he replies. “God just told me to go there.” You would think that he needed a few more lessons in determining God’s will in his life.

So Philip goes down to the road and on his way meets the chariot of the Ethiopian. Remember, Philip has no idea why he is there. He may have observed several groups of people traveling the road. He may have walked north than south than north again. When the Ethiopian comes in sight, however, God gives him a most unusual command. “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

Weird, huh? I know. God tells Philip to run alongside a chariot. The great evangelist and miracle worker is told to run alongside a chariot. Again, no reason why. Put yourself in Philip’s sandals. Think about how you would react in this situation. I know I would probably peel off at a hundred yards or so to go get homework done. I would ask God to clarify his will for me.

Apparently Philip is more patient and obedient than I am. He runs alongside the chariot for who knows how long. The Scriptures do not say. It explains that Philip heard him reading a passage out of Isaiah and asked whether the Ethiopian whether he knew what it meant. Again the facts are sparse. I like to think that Philip was running along listening to the eunuch reading out of Isaiah. When Philip heard the Ethiopian get to the particular passage quoted in Acts, he recognized his opportunity and took advantage of it. It was an opportunity available only because Philip had taken the time to run alongside the chariot.

I like this story because God never told Philip what to do. He only told him where to be. As a Christian, Philip, like the rest of us, knew how to behave and how to treat others. Yet we still desire God’s will for us perfectly spelled out. Philip didn’t need that. He only needed God to tell him where to be. His Christian attitude towards others took over when the opportunity presented itself.

So the next time you are impatient with where you are in life and are seeking to discover God’s will for your life, try running alongside a chariot for awhile. As a Christian immersed in the Word, you’ll know what to do when the opportunity arises.


Terry said...

I would like to add that the great commission includes the phrase: Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit...

I've been told that the phrase "therefore go" means literally: "as you are going". That means as we simply go about our lives, living out our relationship with Christ daily we should be focussed on "making disciples". Christ made them by being with them living life. Maybe that's what we should be doing - God gives us the freedom to enjoy our life - he placed Adam in the garden to enjoy it and fellowship with his Creator. All kinds of freedom with only one restriction.

So just go do....

Tim B. said...

I like that translation. It opens up so many more possibilities. Thanks, Terry.

Richie said...

Tim this is a very helpful post. Great observations. I look forward to reviewing this passage during our home group.