Dear GCI Family and Friends,
I came across an intriguing quote that says, “When the student is ready the teacher will appear” (unknown origin)
Good organizational structures and systems accompanied with good ministry tools and practices cannot accomplish what we hope for unless we start with a spirit of humility and teachability. As the wise saying suggests, there needs to be “readiness” within the spirit of our would-be leaders. We define readiness as a stage when a person displays the willingness and capacity to receive instruction and then to engage and act in fresh, Christ-like ways.
We find both of these spirits evident in the great story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch.
On the heels of the martyrdom of Stephen in the early church, followers of Christ scattered from Jerusalem to avoid persecution. Philip “the evangelist” was one of those followers (he was one of the original seven deacons described in Acts 6).
Philip was directed by an angel of God (Acts 8:26) to go to Gaza, where he would encounter a eunuch from the court of the queen of Ethiopia in Africa. (This eunuch was apparently either following or at least exploring Judaism). The eunuch was returning from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, traveling south to his home country, Ethiopia.
The eunuch was reading from the writings of the prophet Isaiah—specifically a passage about the suffering of the promised Messiah. The eunuch did not know how to interpret what he was reading. He was a ready and willing student in need of a teacher. Philip, the able teacher and preacher, explained to him how the prophecy had been fulfilled by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, who was the Messiah talked about in the ancient writings.
As they rode together in the eunuch’s chariot, they came upon a body of water, and in response to the gospel, the eunuch professed his faith in Christ, and requested Philip to baptize him. Philip obliged, and then was immediately carried away by the Holy Spirit to another location. The eunuch continued homeward rejoicing in the salvation and new life that he had received in Jesus.
This account in the book of Acts leaves us hanging regarding the rest of the eunuch’s story. It is reasonable to infer that the eunuch would have been the first to bring and share the gospel message to Ethiopia and the continent of Africa—thus, fulfilling Christ’s proclamation in Acts 1:8 for the spreading of the gospel from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the world.
Why the eunuch? Why this marvelous encounter with Philip? Undoubtedly a divine appointment was at play— the angel instructing Philip to pursue the eunuch, the interaction with the scriptures and its fulfilled meaning in Jesus, the regeneration symbolized in the act of baptism, and even the Spirit redirecting Philip to his next excursion. For the eunuch, he was finally seeing something clearly for the first time, even though it had always been there; the Old Testament puzzle pieces had finally been joined to display the magnificent picture that is Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah. The light came on and changed his life forever!
This Bible story is about this state of readiness. When I say “readiness,” the posture of the eunuch is a great illustration. He was open and teachable with a desire to learn. When the light came on about Jesus being the fulfillment of the prophecies, he embraced the truth and displayed his surrender and allegiance through the act of baptism.
In Paul’s correspondence to the church at Ephesus, he explains why we have teachers in the church like Philip the evangelist.
The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13 NRSVA)
Paul wants all believers to come to the same understanding about Jesus that the eunuch displayed. It is crucial for the community of the church to have a thorough and unified knowledge of Jesus and to live out a unified faith. But get this, the journey of faith is a process of maturity—growth and movement away from childish behavior and toward Christ-likeness. In other words, toward a life overflowing with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Readiness is embracing this growth process with the assurance that the Holy Spirit is continuing a good work in us, moving us closer to and more like Jesus. This is not a clever behavioral modification program, but rather a dynamic work of the Spirit. Please understand that the Spirit is constantly at work, not just showing up in times of crisis and only working part-time hours.
My good friend and one of our Regional Directors, Anthony Mullins, gave me permission to share this story with you to emphasize the meaning I am trying to convey. Anthony, who serves as RD, local church pastor, moderator of a GCI podcast (Gospel Reverb), and coordinator of our GCI coaches, came to me and confessed that he was in a dry season and felt void of joy. Instead of enumerating the multiple circumstances and situations in his busy life that may be obstacles blocking the joy, he simply wanted me to join him in prayer to entreat the Holy Spirit to freely restore the spiritual fruit of joy to his life.
Please understand that Anthony was open to discussing his life circumstances and challenges, and quite honest about areas that needed attention and fresh responses from him. However, the inner joy that abides in a believer regardless of ups and downs was not going to come by fixing a schedule, or much worse, trying to fix other people or himself. Rather a humility that led to submission and reliance on the Spirit was the game-changer.
I see a kinship with Anthony and Philip—servants who are fully sold out for Jesus, going about their days freely sharing the good news about the Savior, and are open and receptive to the lead of the Spirit with an ever-forward trajectory of growth toward the stature and fullness of Jesus.
Growing with Jesus and aspiring to be more like him day by day!