It was like Saul/Paul used the death of Stephen as the catalyst to destroy the church. He went on a rampage, conducting a house to house search for disciples so he could drag them to prison. He led the way, but he wasn’t the only one out to persecute the disciples. Though the apostles stayed, many of the Christians in Jerusalem got outta Dodge.
Still, they didn’t leave just to survive. One thing they learned watching Peter, John, the rest of the Apostles, and Stephen – don’t forget Stephen – was that people need to hear about Jesus. They scattered with hearts full of good things and the saying of Jesus came true in their lives, “Words from your mouth are the overflow of your heart” (Matt 12:34).
Philip’s heart was overflowing. Luke tells the story about Philip’s preaching in Samaria and along a lonely road. We learn a lot from Luke’s account of Philip’s travels, including the kind of people that we are likely to encounter as we live and allow the overflow of our hearts reveal what Jesus has done for us.
You will encounter people who have a need that you can help meet, and who pay attention to what you say because they see power working through you. You may help them overcome defeat from sickness, financial struggle, family breakdown, lonely times, emotional crash, tough temptation, or moral failure. Because you care, and because you can help them, they listen with softened hearts to the words about Jesus that come from your mouth.
You will encounter people who have a hard time renewing their minds. When we’ve been brought up in a particular way, when we’ve lived by the same code for a long time, it is hard to change. Even when people really want to change, it is hard. If a man has lived his life for the attention of others because that attention brought power and wealth, it is hard to shake that drive for attention. You will likely say things like “With God everything is possible.” Philippians 4:13 will be overflowing, no doubt. You will patiently, sometimes sternly perhaps, one decision at a time, help someone in their metamorphosis to Christ likeness.
You will encounter people who know that the Bible says something about their situation and need some help understanding the text. Philip dealt with an Ethiopian who, very possibly, was reading the Isaiah scroll where it was written, “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter” because he wanted the context of a passage that spoke to his situation:
"To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose what pleases me
and hold fast to my covenant--
to them I will give within my temple and its walls
a memorial and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that will not be cut off.
(Isaiah 56:4-5; NIV)
Philip began where he was, and told him the good news. Man, people need that! They’ve got that tune in their heads from when they were young, “My Jesus knows Just What I Need” but they need some help finding Jesus’ answer and you can help.
Sick, struggling, and searching – those words describe people who we encounter who need help getting well, overcoming, and finding the answers to their important questions. You’ve been where they are. Can Jesus count on you to help?