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Instructions Not Included

By Reverend Michael Farias

 

I’m sure it happens, but it didn’t happen to me.  In fact, I can’t think of one person I know to whom this has happened.  I’m talking about coming to a relationship with Christ, alone.  By alone, I mean without the help or influence of someone who had the instructions.

 

My conversion experience is directly related to someone who nudged me.  No, someone who pestered me, until I finally saw the Light.  In fact, as I think back to that season of my life, I realize there was more than just one someone, there seemed to be an onslaught of Christians who were trying to show me the Way.

 

The only solo conversion experience I really know of is that of Saul of Tarsus while he was on the road to Damascus.  You probably know the story in Acts, chapter 9.  Jesus appeared to Saul, spoke to him, and converted him.  It didn’t happen that directly for me, though, and probably didn’t happen that way for you.  It also didn’t happen that way for the Ethiopian eunuch in the 8th chapter of Acts.

 

Acts 8:26  Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert.

 

Philip received divine instruction to go south along the road to Gaza. Notice there is no other instruction accompanying the order.  It’s just, “arise and go,” which is enough when the order comes from above.  Notice, too, that the last sentence of this verse says, “This is desert.”  I wonder why the Holy Spirit inspired the writer to give us that piece of information.  Perhaps so we might understand that the mission was not easy or comfortable.

 

Acts 8:27   So he (Philip) arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, 28 was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet.

 

It just so happened that as Philip was on the road, in the desert, that a man from Ethiopia was on the same road, in the same desert. He was not on foot like Philip, this influential Ethiopian was in a chariot.  We are told that was reading his Bible while in his vehicle.  That’s right, he was in the Word of God, reading in the book of Isaiah.

 

Let’s be real here: the book of Isaiah is a tough read.  Maybe it’s not tough if you have been to Bible College or are a student of the Word, but for most people, Isaiah is not an easily understood book, and it’s certainly not highly sought after for personal Bible study, Sunday School or small group ministry.  I believe we can get a sense of the hunger for God in the heart of this Ethiopian.  There was a desire to know, but there was a barrier to his learning.

 

Acts 8:29  Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.”

 

Again we see the divine taking place.  I love that Philip overtook the chariot even though he was on foot.

 

Acts 8:30   So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

 

I wonder how many people pick up the Bible during their time of need, interest or hunger for something more, and begin reading, but don’t understand what they are reading, and close the book in disappointment because of a barrier.  Part of my story is just like that.  I was in a tough spot, and I knew I needed what only God could provide, and I asked for a Bible.  I had no clue how to use it.  I didn’t even know to at least start with the words in red to find hope.  There was a barrier to my understanding.  Philip asked the right question; “Do you understand what you are reading?”

 

The answer was no!  Of course he didn’t understand what he was reading. That’s because the Word of God is not ink on paper, it is Spirit.  1 Corinthians 2:14 NLV  But the person who is not a Christian does not understand these words from the Holy Spirit. He thinks they are foolish. He cannot understand them because he does not have the Holy Spirit to help him understand.  And  John 6:63  The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.   The Ethiopian didn’t fake it or pretend to understand what it was he was reading.  His honest answer is a nudge for all of us to participate and partner with the Holy Spirit.

 

Acts 8:31  And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.

 

How can I understand the Word of God unless someone guides me?  I suspect that someone guided you.  I am thankful for the people in my life who guided me.  Someone, or truly many people, took the time to sit with me in order that I may understand.  Eventually, like the Ethiopian, I was converted and baptized.

 

I recently gave a 40-something friend their very first Bible.  I was jolted by the question they asked as they happily received my gift.  They asked,  “How do you use it?”


I had forgotten that even though the Bible is an instruction manual for life, it doesn’t come with instructions.  Of course,  I was delighted to give my friend some basic instruction along with a copy of our Bible study, “Introduction to the Christian Life.”  It made my mission easier and more comfortable. Is there someone in your life who needs your nudge or guidance? Perhaps in this season, the perfect gift would be a Bible, a Bible study, and some encouragement.