Available for the Purposes of God
Our “2020 Theme” is Availability. Specifically, our availability for the purposes of God. How would you describe your availability for the purposes of God? How would you describe your availability in terms of your time, desire, effort, priorities, and stewardship? As I examined Acts 8:26-40, I learned 5 things about what it means to be available for God’s purposes. Let’s begin by reading the text.
AC 8:26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:
“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter
and like a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he opens not his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.”
34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
The following is a summary of the 5 things I learned from Philip about what it means to be available for God’s purposes.
- Philip was listening to God. In Philip’s case, an angel spoke to him. We don’t know if Philip saw the angel or not. It doesn’t matter. An angel, representing God and His will for Philip spoke to him. After all, God is not limited in the ways he speaks to us. He can speak to us in many ways: a) His word, the Bible b) Holy Spirit c) angels d) other people e) circumstances
- Philip responded in obedience. Let’s remember, the church was under persecution and scattering but Philip was busy with ministry. In fact, he was preaching in Samaria.
AC 8:4 Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. 5 Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. 6 And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was much joy in that city.
What was involved in Philips obedience? 1) He had to leave an area-wide campaign in Samaria where he was preaching, and the people were experiencing great joy. 2) He had to leave a large number of people to meet one person in the desert. 3) He had to cross cultural barriers 4) He had to be willing to go alone.
- Philip was open to the ongoing direction of the Holy Spirit. Yes, Philip heard and listened to the voice of the angel. Furthermore, he obeyed God’s command to go to the desert. However, our availability never ends with listening and obeying. We must follow the Spirit’s ongoing guidance. For instance, I’ve been in the right places at the right time for the right reasons, but unavailable for God’s purposes because I wasn’t sensitive to the ongoing direction of the Holy Spirit. Remember, Philip knew God wanted him to go to the desert but he didn’t know what he’d be doing when he got there. He had to be open and sensitive to the Spirit’s leading to successfully complete his mission.
Why did the Holy Spirit direct Philip to the Ethiopian official’s chariot? The Ethiopian needed guidance. He didn’t understand what he was reading. How many people in your life and sphere of influence need guidance? I tell people that you’re not just reading, studying, meditation and memorizing God’s word for yourself. You’re also doing it so you can guide others. After all, the people in your life don’t need your opinion about things. They need you to guide them by the scripture. The Bible is sufficient.
- Philip shared the gospel and baptized the Ethiopian official. It is clear in Acts 1:8 and Matthew 28:18-20 that no matter where we are or where we are going, we are called, assigned the responsibility to witness and make disciples. The basics of being available for God’s purposes is witnessing and baptizing.
Philip used the reading of Isaiah 53 to share the gospel about Jesus. Not only did the Ethiopian official believe, he was baptized. As we read the book of Acts, we read . . . “those who believed were baptized.” Why? Jesus commanded it in Matthew 28:18-20. Furthermore, baptism is a symbol of what we believe. It is a testimony of our faith. It symbolizes the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It also symbolizes dying to self and living for Christ. In fact, it is a testimony of the person’s faith.
But, that’s not all. There is something else going on here. Notice what God is doing. Philip shares the gospel to an Ethiopian that is going back to his country. What better missionary would there be than the Ethiopian who had status and authority? In fact, Eusebius of Caesaria, the first church historian, in his work “Ecclesiastical History,” further tells of how the eunuch returned to spread the Christian teachings in his native land shortly after the Resurrection of Jesus and prior to the arrival of the Apostle Matthew.
- Philip continued to share the gospel as he traveled from place to place. Our availability isn’t limited to the obvious divine appointments. What about the people you meet along the way to where you’re going and from where you’re returning? When we are available for God’s purposes, we preach the gospel even on the way to where we are going.
What does it take to continue to preach the gospel? 1) pray daily for opportunity 2) study and practice 3) pray for the people around you 4) be intentional in looking for people to share the gospel
How would you describe your availability for the purposes of God? How would you describe your availability in terms of your time, desire, effort, priorities, and stewardship? The Apostle Philip demonstrated his availability by listening to the instructions from God through an angel, by obeying the instructions, further he followed the instructions of the Spirit, he shared the gospel and baptized consistent with the Great Commission and he continued sharing the gospel as he traveled from place to place.
A Work in Progress,