Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. (Acts 8:26-28)
Deacon Philip also left Jerusalem because of the persecution of the church. Like the disciples who were scattered, he preached Jesus Christ everywhere (cf. Acts 8: 5). At this time Philip’s ministry in the city of Samaria had just begun, and even though the church had just been established, the angel of the Lord asked him to leave. Leaving the city of Samaria meant that Philip had to give up all his previous efforts, and had to begin again. The place where the Lord called him was neither a city nor a land where the gospel had not been preached, but a deserted wilderness on the way from Gaza, which is on the way from Gaza to Jerusalem.
At that time, Gaza was a deserted place. Even travellers were scarce on the road leading to this deserted city and Philip was aware he might not find anyone there to whom he could preach the gospel. In contrast, there was a growing group of believers in the city of Samaria and they needed someone to strengthen the believer's faith. So Philip might have been puzzled by this leading of the angel of the Lord. However, even though Philip knew that the road to Gaza was a wilderness, he didn’t delay. He obeyed the Lord's leading by following the road to Gaza from Jerusalem.
Obedience to God is often emphasized in the Bible and can be said to be the core of the Scriptures. But most people are often reluctant to obey God's leadership. The most important reason is that they are not willing to leave their comfort zone. But God often leads people out of their comfort zone to a completely new place. There will be unknown challenges and many difficulties. There is no other way but to rely on God.
Especially when his ministry was going well, Philip was even more reluctant to leave his comfort zone. If we are unwilling to obey God’s direction because we want to remain in our own comfort zone, we will inevitably miss many of God ’s blessings. We will not be able to expand our horizons and can’t please God. For example, if Philip would have been unwilling to leave the city of Samaria even with a slight delay would have meant that he would miss the opportunity to tell the Ethiopian eunuch about Jesus.
Although the church encountered persecution in its early years, the spread of the gospel and the growth of the church were very rapid, precisely because believers in the church at that time were very obedient to God. Philip was also able to meet the Ethiopian eunuch who was on his way in the wilderness because of obedience to God’s direction. He had the opportunity to preach Jesus to such a powerful person, lead him to believe in the Lord, and baptize him. In this way, the gospel was also brought to Ethiopia.
Similarly, if we Christians want to be used by God today, and want to participate in the ministry of building God’s kingdom, we should always be ready to leave our comfort zone and obey God ’s leadership, going to the land he has directed.
(Note: The author of this article is a full-time co-worker in a grassroots church in Fujian)
-Translated by Abigail Wu