Sermons

Acts: Don’t Miss It

June 28, 2020 Pastor: Series: The Book of Acts

Topic: Christ & Hope Scripture: Acts 8:26–8:40

Have you ever heard the term "Once in a blue moon"? More than heard it, you've likely said it at some point. It's a very common phrase we use to describe something that doesn't happen very often. Rare events or moments we don't want to miss. Things like a particularly striking thunderstorm or sunset, a moving musical performance, and sometimes we even use it to describe a really good sale. The phrase also gets used to describe people. Bringing home a significant other or spouse to family and friends, you might hear some of them remark, "A guy or girl like that only comes around once in a blue moon." In the recent documentary spotlighting the career of Michael Jordan, one of the commentators on the piece said Jordan was a "generational talent" and that players like that only come around once in a blue moon. All of that is to say; whether it's a display in nature or a great deal on a car or a remarkable individual, there is a quality there that urges us not to miss out. It's funny; an actual blue moon isn't quite as rare as we might assume. In reality, we have the chance to see a blue moon every two years. The most extraordinary event occurred about three years ago when we had the chance to witness a solar eclipse. Do you remember that? It was talked about for weeks leading up to it. Many of us made sure to get our special eclipse glasses. And from personal conversations to posts on social media, countless people were telling us the same thing: Don't Miss It.

There are some opportunities that come up that are too important or precious to let slip by, and I'm not merely talking about astronomical events involving the sun or moon. Each and every one of you has likely had several Don't Miss It moments in your lives. Maybe it was an unforeseen career opportunity, a breathtaking display of compassion or affection, a special event, even that rare moment on a family vacation where everyone seems to be getting along. Those moments are filled with so much meaning for us. We end up wanting to savor every second, and then they become stories we go on to tell people about for years. And, often, those moments end up meaning a great deal, not only to us but to others as well.

We've been traveling through the book of Acts this summer, and last week heard about a man named Philip, a leader in the growing movement of Christ-followers. Philip had been chosen by his community to do the works of mercy and compassion that were necessary as he and others sought to live like Jesus. Soon, however, that work expanded as Philip was one of many who were forced to flee Jerusalem due to unjust persecution. Last week we examined Philip's encounter with a man named Simon, who practiced sorcery. This morning we keep following Philip on his journey as he is struck by one of those "can't miss" moments. But, this moment didn't come from Philip himself or another Christ-follower. It came from an angel. We're in Acts 8:26-40.

After his encounter with Simon the Sorcerer, Philip continues the faithful work of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. And we hear, at the very beginning of our text, that an angel of Lord appears before Philip and gives him a simple instruction: Go that way. Go south. There was no other guidance or command, just a direction to travel, and so he does. And while obeying that divine nudge, he encounters an important Ethiopian official - a high-ranking individual who oversaw the treasury of the queen. Philip catches sight of this man and notices that he is reading something, and that's when the Spirit offers another whisper to him: Go over there to that chariot. And, as is frequently the case when the Lord calls somewhere, Philip is lead into a relationship.

As he approaches, Philip hears the official reading the words of the prophet Isaiah. A simple question, Do you understand what you're reading? Then brings to life an incredible experience of revelation, decision, and redemption. The Ethiopian official explores the depths of the teaching of the prophets, and, with the help of Philip, is shown how those ancient words point to the Savior who had conquered death, Jesus Christ. They travel together, and upon seeing water, the official is baptized and initiated into this growing community of people who seek and wish to be like Jesus. All because Philip heard the voice of the Spirit when it told him, "Go over there. I want to do something exciting. Don't Miss It."

This brief account really is something remarkable. When you serve in ministry, whether it's in a church, volunteering, or serving at a camp, you come to find that witnessing a moment of conversion and transformation is a rare, precious event. We are given that opportunity with this exchange between Philip and the Ethiopian official. And what I love most about this moving moment is the context. It didn't happen in the crowded temple courts or in response to a public sermon or even during a moment of revival. In fact, you could almost call this event happenstance or accidental… that is if you weren't paying attention to the prominence of God's voice spoke to Philip.

In truth, nothing about this incredible account of conversion is accidental or random. Before either of these men were even born, our Lord knew their stories in full. More specifically, it is very clear God had been fostering something special regarding the intersection of Philip's story and that of the treasury official. All that was required to see it come to fruition was Philip's awareness and obedience.

And the incredible truth is that the Holy Spirit cultivates moments just like this one in each of our stories, moments that generate a new realization of God's presence and sense of exciting renewal within someone's life. I'm convinced that our God works to orchestrate moments like that in endless fashion, but there's an element of participation our Lord values and desires. The Almighty will arrange the pieces, gather the people, remove the obstacles, and sometimes even tell us what direction to walk and then urge us forward, saying - Don't Miss It.

I can think of such an example in my own story. God didn't use a stranger who ran up to me. Instead, the Almighty used an email. It was January 7, 2016, and I was actually in Chicago for a seminary immersion trip. It was my final year in seminary, and, by that time, I had begun the process of seeking a pastoral call. I was already in discussion with several churches when, that seemingly random Thursday night, I got an email from a church asking if I'd be interested in talking with them about their open associate position. By this time, many of you know the plot twist, but the thing that struck me as the oddest - the church is in a town called Normal. But it wasn't just the name of the town that captivated me. It was like I could hear the Spirit saying, "I'm doing something over there. Don't Miss It." Four plus years later, and our God has made good on that promise tenfold.

What about you? Can you think of an experience like this one? Like Philip and his new friend? Like my definitely-not random email? Can you recall a moment where you can only describe it as God putting the pieces together right before your eyes? Maybe it led to a powerful moment of realization in your faith. Perhaps that moment set into motion the formation of a relationship you count as precious. And maybe, just maybe, you had the opportunity to witness a life-changing event in the story of another…all because you heard the Spirit whisper and you felt the soft, subtle nudge.

This is a strange time. All of us are a bit more on edge, and every single one of us is wondering about what's next. It's an easy time to be distracted. But, friends, I urge you not to wander away from the voice and touch of the Holy Spirit. It's distinctive, but it's not immune to our tendency to dismiss something that interrupts our attention. But in that couple of seconds when you just have a feeling that you should go there, talk to them, do that…listen and obey. When you feel that sense of gnawing at both your heart and your thoughts, don't try to stifle it. Follow it.

When I listened, it led me here. When Philip listened, it literally brought someone into an intimate relationship with Christ. You don't have to be a Bible expert or know exactly what words to say. You're not required to be perfect or to have your life together, whatever that means. More often than not, the barriers that we perceive are blocking us from participating in something remarkable are self-created. Nowhere in Scripture do we see the Lord waiting for someone to get their act together before they can do inspiring things. Moses was self-conscious. Rahab was a woman with a reputation. Gideon worried about everything. Peter always had his foot in his mouth. Regardless, God used each of them to write incredible stories of freedom, shelter, victory, and discipleship. God doesn't wait for the stars to align or for a blue moon to do something spectacular. God activates the willing and creates the incredible. Our job, most of the time, is simple: Don't Miss It.

Let's pray.

 

More in The Book of Acts

September 6, 2020

Acts: State Your Case

August 30, 2020

Acts: Lost At Sea

August 23, 2020

Acts: A Story to Tell
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