What an Opportunity!

Introduction

Philip is an excellent example of how every Christian ought to be when it comes to sharing our faith with others. Often we find witnessing to others, especially strangers, very daunting, but it need not be that way if we follow the principles we find in Acts 8:26-40. God wants to make the best use of us when opportunities open up to us to speak to others about the Lord Jesus Christ.

Open heart

“And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert” (Acts 8:26).

The followers of Christ were faithfully preaching the Gospel as the Lord commanded. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16) … “Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). They were accomplishing this through the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit. Though it was an angel that directed Philip towards Gaza, we can see the principle of being led by the Holy Spirit.

Romans 8:14 states that “as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Have we ever thought about this verse in the light of our topic? It does not have to be extraordinary direction, as with the case of Philip, but the Spirit of God still wants to guide us where we can be the most effective. “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:6). This means that we must be sensitive to the voice of the Spirit if we want Him to mighty use us.

Open eyes and open ears

“And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?” (Acts 8:27-30).

When Philip arrived in the desert of Gaza, he noticed a man reading a scroll, which he must have paid a high price for, while being driven in his chariot. The Holy Spirit told him to catch up with the chariot. It is possible that Philip was given supernatural strength to run after the speeding vehicle, as was the case with Elijah, “And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel” (1 Kings 18:46), but it is doubtful that the chariot was going that fast since the Ethiopian was reading. Nevertheless, Philip did not question the unusual instruction.

Maybe the Lord has us in the right place but our eyes are not open to see the opportunity that He has prepared for us. There are times when God will tell us to run in a certain direction otherwise the opportunity might pass us by and be lost for ever. We need to keep our ears open, not to poke our noses into other people’s business, but to find opportunity to talk about Christ. This might be as simple as overhearing someone commenting on a religious news item or even a blasphemous remark. What a wonderful, God-given opportunity it is to find someone interested in and discussing what the Bible says!

Open Bible

“And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth” (Acts 8:31-34).

Philip did not discuss how the Ethiopian enjoyed his time in Jerusalem or if he had any other holidays planned, instead he was keen to get right down to the understanding of God’s word. The Scriptures must be the very foundation on which we build a conversation with those who do not know the Lord as Saviour. Our paths may never cross again, so it is vital that we get straight to the point, because that is why God has given us the opportunity.

Open door

“Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus” (Acts 8:35).

Did Philip need courage to speak so directly to this high-ranking Ethiopian official? No, all he needed was obedience to do as the Holy Spirit directed. He had already received the anointing of God to get the job done. He could expound the text before him because he had already studied the Scriptures for himself. “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). The door was wide open for Philip to teach the man about Christ.

The whole point in discussing Scripture is to bring our listeners closer to a true relationship with Christ. If we do not do this, then we are wasting our time. We must tell people who Jesus is and what He came to do. “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42).

Open challenge

“And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea” (Acts 8:36-40).

Philip challenged the man with the facts about the Lord Jesus Christ and with his need for repentance. In an instant he saw himself as a sinner that needed to be cleansed from all unrighteousness. He was challenged to repent and be baptised, and the Ethiopian took up the challenge wholeheartedly. He would have remained confused and unsaved all the way back to Africa if Philip had not been committed to obeying the leading of the Holy Spirit.

We should not be afraid to lay down challenges too. This does not mean that we have to twist someone’s arm until they say the “sinner’s prayer”, but we can straightforwardly encourage them to repent and turn to Christ.

Conclusion

How many opportunities pass us by? How many are lost and confused because we do not obey what the Lord has called us to do. The Lord provides us with countless opportunities to tell others about the Saviour.

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