The Preacher’s Middle-of-the-Night Phone Call

[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.

Readiness

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.

***

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9 Responses to The Preacher’s Middle-of-the-Night Phone Call

  1. Laura Droege says:

    A loooong time ago (thirteen years ago), when I was pregnant with my first child, I decided to stop at Starbucks for a latte and study my Bible there. A man asked what I was doing. I explained. He said, “Oh, I’m dating a Methodist minister. Lots of stuff I don’t get about the Bible . . . like how God’s all jealous and everything. Like, what’s up with that?” As it happened, my Bible study had just mentioned God’s jealousy, and I was able to explain that. I was also explained a whole lot of other things, too, and because he was doubtful about God’s existence and whether the Bible was reliable, etc., I also mentioned some Christian apologetics writers he might enjoy as he explored Christianity. I have no idea what happened to him or where he is in his path to God. But I’ve always thought that God gave me that craving for a latte. (Especially since I don’t like coffee!)

    • Tim says:

      That is a divine appointment for sure, Laura. The man and you arrived at the same coffee shop at the same time and God had you ready for each other.

  2. Tara says:

    It’s so fitting to believe the Ethiopian was reading Isaiah 56, or the story was written to fulfill Isaiah 56. Regardless, The Spirit will always meet earnest hearts searching. Thank you for referring to him as “Official”, though being identified by biology is fine too as so when it isn’t criteria for spiritual credibility. Thanks, Tim.

    • Tim says:

      He was reading from Isaiah 53, but I see what you mean about fulfilling God’s promises to eunuchs in Isaiah 56: 4-11. They had been excluded from approaching God’s tabernacle under the Mosaic covenant, but God breaks down all barriers through the New Covenant and brings everyone inside.

  3. Dee Parsons says:

    I had absolutely no idea how busy TWW would become. I thought we might get 30 people or so who could discuss issues with one another. I am still trying to figure out how to do the blog as someone who finds the people who come far ore important than the subject matter.

    • Tim says:

      You are extremely patient and gracious in how you run that place, Dee. You might not have expected it to become the meeting place it now is. but God has equipped you for the work.

  4. Jeannie says:

    Tim, I remember this post from a while back so perhaps I gave the same example then as I’m giving now: the year after I finished my undergrad in English, I was doing some part-time work as a research assistant. One day I got a call from the English Department head: the instructor of an evening course in Composition had suddenly quit due to student complaints and other “issues,” and I was asked if I might take over the course for the rest of the term. I had to suddenly come up with lesson plans & find stuff to teach them for 3 hours on a Wed. evening. I was 21 at the time, and most of the people in the class were older part-time students. They were SO appreciative and keen — maybe primarily because unlike their predecessor I did not smoke or drink while teaching, nor did I give long, incomprehensible lectures.) I felt totally out of my depth but found out I could swim. It’s a good memory of a really interesting experience.

  5. Pingback: The Right Teacher at the Right Time | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

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