The account in Acts 8:26-40 of the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch through the witness of Philip fascinates me every time I read it. There are so many surprise factors in the story.
- I’m surprised by an angel commanding Philip to go to the desert road that led from Jerusalem to Gaza.
- I’m surprised by Philip running up to the eunuch’s chariot and overhearing the Ethiopian reading from Isaiah 53, a passage so clearly about the suffering of the Messiah.
- I’m surprised by the eunuch’s question, “Is the prophet talking about himself, or someone else?” That simple question gave Philip an opportunity to tell the Ethiopian about Jesus.
- I’m surprised that, on a desert road, at just the right time, there was enough water for the eunuch to be baptized on the spot.
The passage overflows with surprising providences of God. Perhaps I’m only surprised because, like many people, I underestimate God’s supernatural ability to order the daily details of our lives.
However, the biggest surprise by far is what happens at the end of the story:
“When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing.” (Acts 8:39)
Instantly, Philip found himself whisked away, and the eunuch traveled on, celebrating his newfound salvation, never to see Philip again. It’s a reminder: God can bring us momentarily into the life of someone just for the sake of bringing that person to Christ.
Not long ago, my wife Michele and I were standing near a bus stop in Nicaragua, witnessing to people as they passed by. As we spoke to them through our translator, Anna, the people were amazingly receptive. Nearly all of them took time to listen, and, within an hour or so, around a dozen people had prayed with us to be saved.
We were thrilled. Then, in a moment when the foot traffic had slowed down, I asked Anna, “Do you really think their decisions are real? And how can we know when we’ll never see them again?”
Anna smiled and said, “We don’t have to see them again. God will work.”
Then Anna told us her story. During her last year of dental school, one of her requirements was to go to public schools and teach dental hygiene. She and her boyfriend, Cokie, had traveled by bus across the city for Anna to make a presentation at a high school.
After she finished, Anna found Cokie in the principal’s office. The principal, a middle-aged woman, had been sharing the Gospel with Cokie while he was waiting. Cokie had just prayed to receive Christ. Now, he wanted Anna to hear the same message.
Anna was in a hurry. They had a long bus ride home, and it was getting late. But, the principal seemed like a nice lady, so Anna listened.
After sharing, the principal asked Anna, “Would you like to ask Jesus to save you?” Anna had understood the Gospel, but she mainly wanted to catch her bus, so she said, “Yes, yes, I’d like to pray.” She only agreed because she needed to get out of the principal’s office.
Just as they were bowing their heads, the principal looked at Anna and said, “You have to mean it with all your heart.” Anna sighed in resignation and said, “Okay, I will mean it with all my heart.”
As Anna told her story, she said, “Somehow, in that moment, I went from doing something just to appease that principal to really asking Jesus to save me. And He did!”
Within ten minutes of Anna meeting the principal, hearing the Gospel for the first time, and praying to receive Christ, she and Cokie caught their bus home. They never saw the principal again. Cokie and Anna wound up getting married and finding a church that helped them grow in their faith. They have spent the rest of their lives serving Jesus.
When we seize moments to share the Gospel, God can use us just as He used Philip with the Ethiopian and that principal with Cokie and Anna.
Is there value in sharing Jesus with people you already know and can disciple? Yes, without a doubt. But God can also supernaturally bring you into the paths of people you’ve never seen before and may never see again to make an eternal difference in their lives.
Here are a few things we can do to seize moments for sharing the Gospel:
- Pray for moments. Ask God to bring lost people across your path. The truth is, He’s already doing that every day. So ask for courage and willingness to share with lost people when the moments arise.
- Make moments. Consider how you might open up a conversation with someone that can lead to sharing the Gospel. I have found that questions like, “Are you going home or leaving home?” on an airplane, “Are you having a good day?” in a shopping center, or “Can I pray for you?” at a restaurant can create opportunities to talk about spiritual things.
- Be prepared for the moments. When people ask, “What’s the best Gospel presentation?” I answer, “The one you will actually use!” One simple way to be prepared is to memorize verses that will help you share the Gospel. Romans 3:23; 6:23; and 10:13 are a great place to start. Carrying a Gospel tract in your pocket or handbag will help prepare you and also remind you to share the Gospel consistently.
- Trust God beyond the moments. Sometimes, the moment God gives you to share with someone will result in them trusting Christ as Savior. At other times, your moment may be a time for planting or watering seeds of faith that will come to harvest later. Sadly, some people will reject Christ not only for a moment, but for a lifetime. Even so, you can trust God to keep working beyond the initial moment when you share the Gospel.