“A DIVINE ASSIGNMENT”
More and more in my devotional time I have been led to meditate on one simple word—Yes! Maybe it is the season we happen to be in, but that simple word is so important now because it speaks to our agreement with the Lord about whatever His will may be for us. Before we get any direction or think seriously about any part of our destiny, we have to be open to tell God yes when God calls. The story behind this story is Philip’s connection with God – he is always ready to respond. This is Philip, not the apostle who walked with Jesus, but one of the seven faithful servants chosen by God and appointed by the apostles to serve the Hellenistic Jewish widows who were being overlooked in the daily feeding within the community of faith. The bible says that he was uniquely qualified to serve, being a man of good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom. These first seven deacons (not title, but function) were servants but they were also evangelists – appointed and available to share the good news of Jesus Christ in the midst of their daily responsibilities. Because of how the Lord chose to work in their lives, they were ready for divine assignments along the way because they believed God and in the kingdom work that God requires. The Lord has major plans for those who belong to Him. I've got a feeling that you and I are being set up! Set up for a life-changing encounter – Set up for good things to happen – Set up for the very power of God to work through you, because the Lord is in fact ordering our footsteps and guiding our pathways. Let me tell you about divine assignments. You can expect that God is going to set you up on assignments that demand your attention and your anointing when you have the right attitude. Every moment is purposeful and prescriptive. You ought to know that there are no coincidences – no chance encounters – nothing just happens when you are in God’s service. God will put you in the presence of people you need to meet, because ultimately there is somebody who needs your anointing. God wants to work us while God is working it out for us. My word for you this morning is to let it happen. Just say yes. On the other side of your yes to God is a life of impact and promise. Even the encounters you would prefer not to have, every moment with God is meaningful. The trouble is that we don't always know where that will lead us. Sometimes it leads into situations we don't think we are ready for – into places we would rather not be. But wherever and however God leads, you can handle it when you let it happen. How do we create space for the Lord to work in our lives?
OBEDIENCE RELEASES OPPORTUNITY
The first thing we can do to create space for the Lord to work is remember that obedience always releases opportunity. The angel of the Lord told Philip to go south down a desert road away from Jerusalem. “So he started out.” Then the Spirit told him to go over and walk beside the chariot. “Philip ran over.” You see what is going on here? Listening to God was a habit. Philip was so used to following God’s lead that he didn’t even second guess where he was going. He just went! No effort, no argument, no hesitation, no 5-year plan, no excuses – and he ends up where God wants him to be because of his obedience. I am convinced that that is the answer to much of the issue today. God tells us that obedience is better than sacrifice. One of the tragedies in the church today is that people just don't want to obey God. It is so much easier to do our own thing. How many times have we known that we should do something but let something keep us from doing it? How often have we not even bothered to ask God what God wanted from us? I'm reminded of a principle that gives me a reality check for ministry: People do only what they choose to do. Nobody can make us do what we are supposed to do. We have to have faith to move as the Lord leads. That’s what it means to be grown up in the Lord. As we walk with God, God reveals His will, very often by what I call circumstantial guidance. Things seem to line up and opportunities present themselves. Be faithful wherever you are to get where you are going. Do what God says and watch doors open for you. Obedience is better than sacrifice – better than superficial shows – better than sentimentality. I'll go wherever you send me – do whatever you are calling me to do – I will be the disciple – follower – wife – husband – son – daughter – friend – student – coworker – servant.
ALWAYS BE PREPARED TO PREACH
If you want to see God move, always be prepared to preach. The Ethiopian asks Philip, “Tell me who the prophet was talking about.” Philip tells him the good news about Jesus. Philip is not only available, but he doesn’t come to the task empty-handed. He’s got the word. This Fall I will teach again a course that is an introduction to theology to master’s degree students preparing for ministry. We will study cosmology and Soteriology, orthodoxy and justification, great philosophers and theologians like Kierkegaard, Hopkins, Barth, Tillich, Cone, Pannenberg and Luther – all of it designed to give future pastors and leaders a solid foundation for ministry. But when I look at this text, I see that Philip had no master’s degree – no seminary training – no ordination certificate – He just knew how to tell the story – Just Jesus! Imagine if he would have said, I don't have anything to share? He was prepared to preach – in season and out of season. All of us are preachers. Ordained preachers are those called to lead. But every believer has to be able to preach. You must have some word in you to condition the word coming out of you. No matter what else you may do well – sing – shout – dance – praise – serve – administrate – usher – welcome – you better have some word in your repertoire! The world needs some believers with a testimony of who the Lord is, what He has done and what He is able to do. Be ready to tell the story of why God created the heavens and the earth and created humanity in God’s image and after God’s likeness. Tell them about how God rescued faithful Noah and his family from a flood. Tell them how God delivered the people He had made a promise to from slavery in Egypt. Tell them how God remained faithful to those same people through the wilderness, through their disobedience, through their exile and through their trouble. But even if you don't know every detail of the bible, you ought to be able to tell them how at the right time the Savior was born of a virgin and walked the earth healing and teaching and delivering and saving. Tell them how He hung, bled and died on an old rugged cross. Tell them how He was raised to life again with all power in His hand. Tell them that sin has been forgiven and believers have been set free. Tell them the truth that Jesus is still alive by His Spirit in you and in me. Tell them that the kingdom of God is real and the Lord does reign forever and ever. My God, be ready to give them some good news that we all can have life and have it more abundantly! Be ready to give answer for the hope that is within you. Tell them that God is love – able – holy – merciful – gracious – good – You can't preach what you don't know – you can't talk about what you don't feel – you can't testify about what you don't believe. Preach!
GET OUT OF GOD’S WAY
Let your life be a way for God to do wonderful things by realizing that obedience releases opportunity. Always be prepared to preach. Finally, get out of God’s way. In the last part of this encounter, the Ethiopian asks Philip, “What is stopping me from being baptized?” Just like all of us this African brother needed word and water. The question was really, Is there room for me in this gospel we have been talking about? They had water. They had the word. The only hold up would have been Philip, but Philip got out of God’s way. Baptism is about inclusion. It’s not just an empty religious exercise, but a faith act that confirms we are in the family by God’s grace. You make room for Jesus when you make room for somebody else. Philip didn’t say I can't baptize you because you are a Eunuch, which meant that he was unclean. I can't baptize you because you don't dress like we do or look like you are from around here because he was from Ethiopia. Philip got out of God’s way and didn’t let any of his personal feelings or issues close this brother out. People you run into every ordinary day are asking the question, what is keeping me from being baptized? – Is it that you are too busy with your own stuff to lead the way – Do you think my sin is too ugly for God to forgive – Am I not important enough for you to give a darn – Have you not taken the time to share the word with me to help me understand how much God loves me – When it really comes down to it, the only thing stopping them is us! Don't let your Christianity get in the way of Christ. I wish I had time to tell you that you aren't holy unless you are helping somebody. Your anointing means nothing if your attitude just alienates people. You are not the church if God’s other children don't have any room next to you. Even your worship is worthless if your witness only puts the spotlight on you. It’s not even about what you get out of the deal, but what you have to give that sets the real followers of Jesus apart from the frauds. That’s what binding and loosing is about. For better and for worse, we are gatekeepers of the grace of God. If we let it loose, people get it. If we hold back, they miss out on it. Let’s get real. Nobody deserves God’s grace. But God made a way for you and me anyway. Hallelujah for favor – for forgiveness – for freedom. I think I'll leave you here and tell you again that you that you have a divine assignment. When the Lord saved you He was setting you up to see somebody else saved. Don't shout on how good He’s been TO you. Shout on how good He can be THROUGH you. Are you ready for your divine assignment?
b (preview) Devotion – “Yes” to God
p (proposal) The Lord is ordering your steps
q (point) Let it happen
a (problem) Trouble is that we don't know where “Yes” will lead
Q (process) Who do you create space for God to work?
y (promise) Somebody needs your anointing
1) Obedience always releases opportunity
2) Always be prepared to preach
3) Get out of God’s way
c (praise) Why does God bother?