There is a simple verse in Acts chapter 8 that I think we often ignore. At least we don’t talk about it when we discuss the concept when we are talking about successful ministry.
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
Early in this same chapter, he leads many people to Jesus. A well known practitioner of “the magic arts,” often we refer to as “Simon the Sorcerer,” was converted to Christianity. There were great miracles happening at the hand of Philip. There was so much excitement about God was doing in Philips ministry, he got a visit for the big guys, Peter and John. Rather amazing stuff going on don’t you think?
What is striking to me is that Philip is called away from a very successful ministry. In the midst of this great revival, God calls Philip away from Samaria and tells him to “go south” toward Gaza. Then just so we understand where this is, Luke (the author of Acts) describes this as “desert.” When I think of desert, I think of hot, dry, sand… lots of sand, and more hot and dry. Not exactly a nice Hawaiian beach.
3 things have been coming into focus surrounding these verses:
1. God will sometimes call us away from all the successful ministry activity.
Looking at things from a non-spiritual perspective, this idea is totally wrong. Why leave great success and head to the dry desert? Simply put, God doesn’t call us just to ministry where looks fun or where all the excitement is. Phillip had to leave the exciting place of ministry to go serve in a dry place.
2. Phillip went to the desert alone.
To me, this might be the hardest part of this whole concept. We have no account of how Philip handled this or if he resisted this call of God in any why. But I have to think there was a good chance he was given plenty of advice from those serving around him, “Why would you leave this exciting place and head to the desert?” God didn’t call Peter and John or anyone else to go to the desert like He told Philip. This was the calling for Philip and he alone was responsible for his obedience to God’s direction.
3. In the desert, God puts individuals in our path that we never would have encountered if we remained in the exciting place.
Read the rest of that chapter. God places Philip right where he needs to be to reach that Ethiopian eunuch. God had a reason to remove Philip from the excitement of Samaria and it was to ministry to this guy. Reminds of some advice I was given years ago about serving God right where you are – no matter how much you hate being there.
I can only speak for myself, but I have noticed that God many times directs this way. Yet we often resist this concept. We want to be called into bigger or bigger ministry ventures. Or desperately long to be in our own “Samaria” where ministry is exciting. We’ll say “I’ll go anywhere to serve you God,” but if He places us in a desert, we cry out to Him as if He’s rejected us.
I just wonder if many times we are called to be more like Philip and serve Him right where we are – even if it’s a desert, and quit longing for something else. I mean, didn’t we say He could use us anywhere or did we only mean a place with nice people, temperatures consistently in the 70’s serving people who already have it all together?
So, next time someone preaches a ministry call or challenge at your church, remember… God might call you to some exciting place with great things going on. Or He may send you to some quiet, dry, out of the way desert area to reach one person.
Chew on that awhile…
Blessings My Friend