Following God (Even when I don’t understand Him): Acts 8:25-26

God Running is a place for anyone who wants to (or even anyone who wants to want to) love Jesus more deeply, follow Jesus more closely, and love people the way Jesus wants us to.

In our last post from the book of Acts we examined Simon the magician’s sin. Today we’ll look at how God instructed Philip to change his direction, and how Philip responded. (If you’re interested, you can check out our last post from the book of Acts here: Simon’s Sin: Acts 8:9-24.)

Acts 8:25-26

Now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place.

Acts 8:25-26

Philip was in Samaria and the Holy Spirit was moving in amazing ways. Philip was healing people, and performing signs and wonders, and sharing Jesus with the Samaritans. It was such a big deal that when the apostles in Jerusalem heard about it, they sent Peter and John to lay hands on the Samaritans so the Holy Spirit would fall on them. Then, apparently, on the way back to Jerusalem Peter and John shared Jesus with many Samaritan villages along the way. (Acts 8:4-25)

So here’s Philip in the middle of this amazing work of the Holy Spirit there in Samaria, he’s doing great things, miraculous things. He’s bearing abundant fruit for Jesus. Many people are giving their lives to Christ. When suddenly God sends a message to Philip directing him leave and go to this place in the desert.

That doesn’t really make any sense to me and I wonder if it made any sense to Philip. Because there was all this crazy good stuff happening in Samaria, but now God is telling Philip to leave and go to a seemingly random place in the desert. But what does Philip do?

He obeys.

That Time They Tried to Force Jesus

I’m reminded of the time when they tried to force Jesus to become their political king. Shortly after Jesus fed the 5,000, an idea runs through the crowd. They decide to make Jesus king by force. This was something that happened occasionally in those times. The people would gather around a popular person who they wanted to be their king, and if the person was unwilling, they would make him king anyway. They would take him by force and make him their king. That’s what the people decided to do with Jesus. They decided to force him to be their political leader, the head of their government. After all, this king can provide food for the hungry on demand. (John 6:13-15)

Those Times When I Try to Force Jesus

But what the Israelites wanted to do that day went against the will of Jesus and his Father. Jesus would later say that his kingdom was not of this world, not political in nature. He didn’t want the top position in a government organization. Jesus didn’t want to be king in the way the Israelites wanted him to, but that didn’t stop the Israelites. They decided to make him the king of their government anyway. It was only because Jesus withdrew into the mountains that they didn’t.

This speaks to me in a deep and profound way, because I do the same thing, and maybe, if you’re honest about it, you do too. Like the Israelites, I want Jesus. I don’t want to get rid of him, I don’t want him out of my life. But I want him in the way I want him, regardless of what he wants.

I want him to wave his hand and make my thing happen. I want him to make my world what I want it to be. I have the place where I want to go, I have my plan, my program, my agenda, and I want to force Jesus to get on board–with what I’m doing and how I believe my world should be. I even want him to make the people around me behave in the way I feel they should behave. I want Jesus but I want to keep him in his place, the place I’ve decided to put him. I want him to be my king, but on my terms.

That is so messed up, and so opposite of what we see Philip doing today in our text.

Disagreeing With God

Sometimes I look at what God says in the Bible, or I look at the circumstances God put me in, or I look at the people God surrounded me with, and I start to rationalize the way I feel about these things. I disagree with what the Bible says, or I find my circumstances disagreeable, or I don’t like the people around me and I try to conform God into my image. And I want to dismiss what I disagree with in His word. Or I want to dismiss someone He has put in my life.

The Stepford God

Maybe you’ve seen the Stepford Wives movie. It’s about these technical geniuses in Stepford, Connecticut who implant computer chips in their wives’ brains so they’ll think and behave precisely as each of their respective husbands want them to. If you think about it, isn’t that what we try to do with God sometimes? We try to mold Him into someone who thinks and behaves in accordance with our own personal views and opinions. And if He won’t cooperate in a certain area, then we reject what He said on that particular topic. You know, God never asks us to understand everything about Him. In fact if you think about it, it doesn’t make any sense that we would understand everything about the One who created neutron stars, black holes, and the 200 billion galaxies in the universe (at the speed of light it would take you 100,000 years to cross one galaxy, our galaxy, the Milky Way). He only asks that we love Him and trust Him. It’s probably no accident that the Bible often compares our relationship with God to a marriage. I don’t always understand my wife. In fact very often I don’t understand my wife. But I love her. And I trust her. But I could never love her if she were a Stepford wife. In the same way, you really can’t love God, if you make Him a Stepford god. (Keller) (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Surrendering Like Philip

So Philip, he’s so opposite of who I’ve been and who I sometimes still am. Philip surrendered to God wholly and completely. He gave his life to God so completely that he followed God’s instruction, even when it probably didn’t make sense to him. He left the revival to go into the desert.

That’s who I want to be. I want to be surrendered like Philip. I want to go into the desert if that’s where God wants me to go. I want to be like Paul when he said, “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” I want to be like Jesus when he surrendered his life to God in the garden and committed to drinking the cup God had in mind for him. (Acts 20:24)

I hope you want to be like Philip too.

“Father, be merciful to me and to the person praying this prayer right now. We’re like little children down here trying to find our way. Please bless us by filling us with Your Holy Spirit the way you did Philip. And inspire us to recognize and follow Your direction always, even when we don’t understand it.

“In Jesus’ name we ask this of You.

“Amen.”

Notes:

Tim Keller, The Reason for God

Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus) now available on Amazon!

Love Like Jesus begins with the story of how after a life of regular church attendance and Bible study, Bennett was challenged by a pastor to study Jesus. That led to an obsessive seven year deep dive. After pouring over Jesus’ every interaction with another human being, he realized he was doing a much better job of studying Jesus’ words than he was following Jesus’ words and example. The honest and fearless revelations of Bennett’s own moral failures affirm he wrote this book for himself as much as for others.

Love Like Jesus examines a variety of stories, examples, and research, including:

  • Specific examples of how Jesus communicated God’s love to others.
  • How Jesus demonstrated all five of Gary Chapman’s love languages (and how you can too).
  • The story of how Billy Graham extended Christ’s extraordinary love and grace toward a man who misrepresented Jesus to millions.
  • How to respond to critics the way Jesus did.
  • How to love unlovable people the way Jesus did.
  • How to survive a life of loving like Jesus (or how not to become a Christian doormat).
  • How Jesus didn’t love everyone the same (and why you shouldn’t either).
  • How Jesus guarded his heart by taking care of himself–he even napped–and why you should do the same.
  • How Jesus loved his betrayer Judas, even to the very end.

With genuine unfiltered honesty, Love Like Jesus, shows you how to live a life according to God’s definition of success: A life of loving God well, and loving the people around you well too.

A life of loving like Jesus.

(Kindlehardcover, and paperback now available on Amazon.)

2 Comments on “Following God (Even when I don’t understand Him): Acts 8:25-26

  1. We’ve been studying the three chapters of Habakkuk in our small group. Like Habakkuk, we aren’t always or initially happy with God’s plans because we can’t see the justice (or the full plan). Yet, like Habakkuk we must have a heart of praise, faith and trust. It’s not easy for sure.

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