I have this really bad habit of discovering online discussion boards and then getting lost in the discussion for days at a time. Usually the discussions in which I lose myself are religious discussions in which people are debating a particular point of scripture or are curious about how one can believe what I believe. Most of the time, these discussions seem to be absolutely fruitless because the involved parties are all people who think they have all the answers and are not interested in listening, only in getting other people to admit that they are right. Every now and then, however, you come across someone who is genuinely seeking and willing to listen. While having a discussion with one such person I recently found myself explaining a passage of scripture that connects me to a man named Philip.
In Acts chapter 8, Philip is instructed by an angel of the Lord to head out on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza and he encounters an Ethiopian official reading from Isaiah 53.
He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
And as a lamb before the shearer is silent
So he did not open his mouth.
In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.
(Acts 8:32-33, Isaiah 53:7-8, NIV)
The Ethiopian asked of the passage, "Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?" (Acts 8:34, NIV) and Philip was able to lead the man to Christ and baptize him.
One key difference exists between Philip's experience with the Ethiopian eunuch and the fruitless debates we so often have with people: Philip allowed God to direct him to the right person and place. Much of the time, we are so busy pursuing our own interests and desires that we don't allow God to lead us to those people that God has already prepared. We get distracted by whatever shiny thing comes across our path instead of remaining disciplined and faithful to listen for God's voice through the course of each day. So, rather than speaking God's word into the lives of people God has directed us to, we either don't share the gospel at all or we toss our seed onto unprepared soil.
God is not willing that any should perish and God has a plan to reach the world. Are we listening for directions from the God who knows each heart and mind or are we missing the appointments God has made for us?