by Robby Higginbottom
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. 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 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, "Go over and join this chariot." So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?" And he said, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:
"Like a sheep he was led to the slaughterand like a lamb before its shearer is silent,so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth."
And the eunuch said to Philip, "About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?" Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 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?" And Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he replied, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 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. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
God uses Philip in a providential crossing to bring the Ethiopian eunuch to Jesus Christ. God speaks to Philip and asks him to leave a thriving ministry and go to a place he doesn't know, to a person he doesn't know, for a reason he doesn't fully understand. And Philip obeys! What would we have done? As we reflect on what could seem like a strange detour for Philip, we should consider how we relate to interruptions in our lives. In Spiritual Leadership, Oswald Sanders shares a story to illustrate.
One busy man told me how he mastered the problem of interruptions. "Up to some years ago," he testified, "I was always annoyed by them, which was really a form of selfishness on my part. People used to walk in and say, 'Well, I just had two hours to kill here in between trains, and I thought I would come and see you.' That used to bother me. Then the Lord convinced me that He sends people our way. He sent Philip to the Ethiopian eunuch. He sent Barnabas to see Saul. The same applies today. God sends people our way.
"So when someone comes in, I say, 'The Lord must have brought you here. Let us find out why He sent you. Let us have prayer.' Well, this does two things. The interview takes on new importance because God is in it. And it generally shortens the interview. If a visitor knows you are looking for reasons why God should have brought him, and there are none apparent, the visit becomes pleasant but brief. So now I take interruptions as from the Lord. They belong in my schedule, because the schedule is God's to arrange at His pleasure."
If we believe in an Almighty God who advances His church through providential crossings, shouldn't we reconsider the way we think about the detours, interruptions, and "chance" meetings we have every day? Shouldn't we believe that the Lord still sends people to us, and still sends us to people, even when we don't know the who, the where, the why, or the how? Today, will we wrestle to hold onto control-which is an illusion!-or will we surrender to the providential direction of our gracious God who is building His church? What if He really intends to use us today to extend His kingdom? As another author writes, "What if our interruptions are in fact our opportunities?"