Getting involved in global kingdom work should be an act of obedience to divine direction. God has gifted you and has guided you to this point with a purpose: to glorify him with your life. Divine direction, though, is not always easy to understand, as our line of thinking is not usually in sync with God’s. Many biblical stories illustrate this, but let’s consider specifically the experience of Philip, a short-term missionary sent by God from Jerusalem, just as the church was getting its start.
Philip was active in the new church of Jesus in Jerusalem, speaking and serving as there was need. He had been selected by the apostles to serve as a deacon, ensuring that all the needs of the people gathering there were met. Then, without warning, his colleague Stephen was martyred by the Jewish leaders. Threats became common against all the leaders of the Way. Philip threw some stuff in his backpack and headed to a place he knew he would not be followed: Samaria. He continued to spread the good news as he went, and God blessed his words and actions. Many Samaritans came to a living faith in Jesus.
As Philip was marveling at the work of God around him, he noticed someone standing beside him. He had heard of angels visiting others in the Way, and now this was one visiting him. He bowed and listened.
“Philip, head to the south and catch the desert road from Jerusalem toward Gaza” the angel instructed.
That was it. Nothing more… just a direction and a road. So once again, Philip shouldered his backpack and set out back to Jerusalem and then on toward Gaza.
Not far out of Jerusalem, he stopped under the shade of some olive trees. As he rested, a well-outfitted chariot rolled in to rest its horses and entourage. In the back of the chariot sat an Ethiopian who had visited Jerusalem to worship, and was now on his way home. As it turned out, this well-dressed man was the treasurer for the queen of Ethiopia.
“No wonder all the attention,” Philip thought.
“Go and stand next to that chariot” the Spirit spoke directly into Philip’s brain. He knew the voice and obeyed immediately.
The Ethiopian was reading from the prophet Isaiah, but struggling to understand it.
“Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.
The Ethiopian did not, so Philip helped, beginning with the words of Isaiah and finishing with the story of Jesus. They were back on the road at this point, and as they passed some water, the Ethiopian asked to be baptized. Philip happily obliged; then, the Spirit just transported him away. He appeared later in Azotus, and preached his way back to his home town of Caesarea.
We should notice three things about this story related to divine direction:
- Divine direction is always clear. In Philip’s case, it came directly from an angel. That is not as common today, but if God wants you to do something for him, he will make his will obvious. So obvious that if you don’t do it, you know you will be disobeying. If God is leading you toward involvement in a global kingdom ministry, that leading will be clear.
- Divine direction does not always take you where you think it will. Philip thought he was on his way to Gaza, but he never got there. He never anticipated what God had in store, the Holy Spirit had to instruct him further so he’d get the full message. Meeting the Ethiopian was why he was on this road. Sometimes, God needs to get us on the road before he can tell us what the final objective is and sometimes, that road leads through suffering on the way. No matter what the path or the destination, our only responsibility is to obey.
- Divine direction always comes with power. In Philip’s story, it was the power to transport him (think Star Trek) from that spot to Azotus in an instant. In other biblical stories, it was a staff turned to a snake, or 300 men defeating an army of 300,000. As you respond in obedience to God’s clear leading, no matter what the cost or consequences, expect him to show up with power.
As we step forward to follow God’s divine direction, we step out of the natural and into the supernatural. There will be risk. There will be sacrifice. There will also be miracles working in us and through us.