[From the archives.]
The phone rang a few minutes after 1:00 on a Sunday morning, awakening me from a very deep sleep. My wife made it to the phone before I did, but then handed it over to me.
It was the senior pastor of our church. He wanted to know if I could preach that morning. Just past 1:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning, and the first service was less than 8 hours away.
I said yes.
I used to write Bible studies for our church every week. They were on the passage being preached on Sunday and were printed on the reverse side of the sermon notes. The study took the reader through six days of in-depth exploration of the theme of the sermon. This was one of the reasons the pastor called me; he knew I’d been working on the passage for that week’s sermon.
The other reason he called me was because he was in the emergency room and about to go into the operating room for an unplanned gall bladder surgery.
So now you know why I said yes.
The passage was from Acts 8, where Philip meets the Ethiopian official. This passage came back to mind recently when I read an article on a recent archeological find. You might remember that the official Philip met was the royal treasurer for Candace, Queen of Ethiopia. Now Candace is a title, much like Pharaoh is for Egyptian kings. This article includes a picture of a stone carving depicting an Ethiopian queen from 2000 years ago, right around the time Philip met the royal treasurer. This might be a connection to Bible history.
I feel more of a connection with Philip’s history, though, because of how he met that royal treasurer.
There Philip was, preaching throughout Samaria and people were falling all over themselves to respond to the gospel.
God told him to stop.
God told him to stop and travel all the way back to Judea and take a walk on the desert road that leads from Jerusalem to Egypt. No explanation, no assurances, nothing.
But Philip went, and there he met the Ethiopian official. The Spirit knows what he’s doing, of course, and he led Philip right up to the man as he was reading Isaiah. In fact, he was not only reading it but was trying to figure out what it meant. Enter Philip, a person who could tell him all about it.
If you want to hear my take on the passage in detail, as well as just how I managed to pull together a sermon from my Bible study notes while still getting a little more sleep, you can listen to the sermon I gave that morning.* But my point here is that Philip got an unexpected call from the Holy Spirit, a call that he possibly wondered at but then found himself quite ready and able to answer.
I don’t mean to compare myself to Philip’s ministry and abilities. But I can say that I received a very unexpected call and – like Philip – I found that God had equipped me to answer it.
When has God equipped you for something you didn’t see coming? How did it turn out?
*Go to this page and scroll down to 8/20/2006, then click on the little speaker icon if you want to hear the sermon. If you’d like to see the Bible study I wrote for it, click on the word “Scrolls” by that little speaker icon.