“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, NKJV)
It was always God’s plan for the gospel to reach beyond Jerusalem. As we learned in yesterday’s devotion, persecution made that happen. As believers scattered in an ever-widening circle, revival followed. After all, Jesus Himself told them that they would be witnesses in Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth. He allowed circumstances to push them into their mission.
Philip was a believer in the Jerusalem church and also one of the seven chosen to administer the daily food distribution. (See Acts 6.) When Saul created havoc in Jerusalem, Philip went to Samaria, a place many Jews avoided because of centuries-old feelings. Yet that was where Philip chose to begin preaching about Jesus. Miracles happened. Many were healed. The lame walked, unclean spirits were cast out, and a well-known sorcerer believed. Many Samaritans were baptized and filled with the Spirit. God was doing mighty things, and the city was filled with joy. (This is the short version of events in Acts 8.)
And then? If we were writing the story, Philip would build a large church, bring in a team of helpers, and pastor there for the next forty years. But that’s not how God wrote the story.
Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert. (Acts 8:26, NKJV)
Philip could have argued with the Lord. “Go to the desert? But revival is here! So many are beginning to believe. I’d better just stay.” But Philip didn’t say any of that. God said go—so he went.
In the desert, Philip found an Ethiopian man sitting in his chariot and reading from the scroll of Isaiah. The man was a court official and over the treasury of Queen Candace. He expressed difficulty understanding a passage in Isaiah and had questions. This gave Philip the perfect opening to preach Jesus to him. They came to a place with water, and Philip baptized him. The Spirit then caught Philip away, and the man went on his way rejoicing. The Bible did not choose to tell us the rest of this man’s story, but be assured it was a good one.
When we think about the encounter between Philip and the Ethiopian, we are reminded that God is interested in each of us individually. God loved the Ethiopian man enough to take Philip from a city-wide revival and bring him to the desert to answer his questions. Many times, God works in ways we do not understand; but like Philip, it is important that we respond to His promptings. God is at work, and He has designated us as His helper.
Acts 1:8 promises us power for witnessing. Just as the church at Jerusalem carried the message farther and farther beyond its borders, we are to reach our world also. In fact, the world is at my doorstep. I see so many cultures and hear their languages as I move around my city. Could it be that God wants me to answer some of their questions and tell them about my Jesus?
Go—reach your world. Someone is waiting to hear your testimony. You have the answer they need. It’s Jesus!