Scripture – Acts 8:1-24
Saul Ravages the Church
8 And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. 3 But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.
Philip Proclaims Christ in Samaria
4 Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. 5 Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. 6 And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was much joy in that city.
Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch
26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:
“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.”
34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
Engaging the Word
Today we are going to talk about what it means to be a “Thriving believer”. Many of us are familiar with the Thrive advertisements of Kaiser Permanente. These advertisements speak to various age groups and ethnicities of our communities about the significance of thriving physically. Many of us try in this life to live lives that are healthy. We try to eat healthy. We try to exercise. We try to get the appropriate amount of sleep, etc., etc., etc. We try to live thriving physical lives in this life. However if I were to ask you to give me three actions of a thriving Christian or thriving believer, most of you would automatically go prayer, the Bible and perhaps worship. Some of you may exchange that third attribute to something more along the lines of giving, or feeding the needy, or fellowship, etc.,etc.,etc.
This morning, rather than just telling you the functional elements that are required to live a thriving believer’s life, I would like to walk through today’s passage so that we can as a people, us this example of what it means to live a thriving Christian life.
As we enter today’s passage we can begin by coming to the agreement that our Lord was working in mighty ways within the early chapter of the church. People were being saved by the thousands. Men and women were being healed not only spiritually but physically in incredible ways. The incredible truth that is revealed through the few chapters in Acts is that when we allow God to move in our hearts and lives, his Glory is revealed in ways that we could never imagine and no matter what man or Satan try to do, God’s glory is always revealed.
Trial in God’s Glory
Here at the beginning of this passage we see as Saul is ravaging the church. That he doesn’t care if you are a man, a woman, a child, sleeping in your own bed, he would go into their own homes and rip them out so that he could throw them in prison. Even when we see here in verse 1, Saul approving of Stephen’s stoning the word approved is interpreted in a way that he was actually finding satisfaction in the killing of the Christians. So what happens here? Well instead of being overwhelmed by the trial that they were facing it says in verse 1 that the believers were “scattered” throughout Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Here in this text, the word “scattered” is interpreted one of two ways. First it could be interpreted as a being dispersed into nothing kind of like the old saying “the solution to pollution is dilution”. Secondly it could be interpreted within the context of seed dispersion for the purposes of growth. Here in this passage it align with the second interpretation because as we can see in verse 4, Philip lands up going to Samaria where he actually lands up being the first missionary or evangelist illustrated in the scriptures.
Isn’t God amazing? Our Lord sees the trials within the lives of his people and so what does he do? He sends his children into new measures that multiplies not only their faith but his glory in their lives in ways that they could not have ever understood before. However this truth came at a price in the life of the believers. When we consider Philip or Stephen or any of the other apostles and believers in scripture it is illustrated time after time that they had to step out in measures that they had never done before. When Philip went up to Samaria, he may have wondered to himself why he was even bothering to bring Jesus to these Samaritans who were considered as worthless in the eyes of the Jews. Yet he still did. Peter prior to this had never preached a sermon before, yet even in his moment of trial, he steps out in ways that he had never before.
So why do we as believers go on the defense when we are faced with trial within our lives? Here as illustrated through the life of Philip but also Acts 4 through the life of Peter and John getting arrested and also through Stephen’s life in Acts 7, we see time after time where the children of God always go on offense spiritually when they face trials in their lives. This morning if we desire to redefign our lives as Christians and as the church we have to stop siting on our laurels when we face trial and start going to where the fight is. I heard it said by a person once that you have to find where God is working and move there in order to find a successful ministry. I would argue that you have to find God and he will use you to live a successful Christian ministry or life. If you have found yourself in a time of trial or when you do find your self in a time of trial in the days to come, learn from these men of God. Always press harder into the essence of our Lord and it is there that you will find doors opening in ways that you could never imagine.
So how do we as believers life a successful thriving Christian life in this world of trial and heartache?
A People of Action
The first characteristic of living a thriving Christian life is being a “people of action”. It is often said by many preachers and leaders within the church that 90% of the work in the church is done by 10% of the people. This is often true and unfortunately its speaks to the spiritual health of the church. Here in this passage we see here in verse 4-6 that Philip at experienced the hand of God in his life and how does he respond to God’s hand. Even in a time of trial in his life, Philip goes to Samaria, he then proclaims the name of Jesus, he heals those who are sick in the name of Jesus, and then in verse 27 of this passage we seen that when he is called to go and speak to an African, he gets up and does exactly what he is told. There is no discussion. There is no point of difference whether to the Samaritans or the Africans. In either case, Philip doesn’t care, he just goes and does.
Isn’t it interesting that when God calls our name too often in the church we have all these arguments as to why we cannot do what our Lord has instructed of us. We are too old to go as a missionary. We physical ailments that prevent us from serving. We don’t have the time to serve. We can never preach in front of people. Blah,Blah. Blah,blah,blah. These are the excuses that our Lord must cry over when he give us a ministry, a calling, an instruction, a burden and all we can do is give an excuse as to why we cannot listen to his instruction in our lives. This morning, if you have been wondering why your spiritual life is not where you would hope. Maybe you are wondering why God is not moving in ways within your life that he did in the early church. I would beg to question is God the common denominator or is our inactivity?
A People of the Word
A Thriving Christian is an individual of the Word. We are a people of the Word. Here as Philip makes his way to this man that he has never met before, who is from a place that he has never been before, who comes from a place in life (an official) that he is probably completely unaccustomed to. How does he engage this man from Ethiopia? Through the Word of our Lord. You see in verse 32 and 33 of this passage as Philip engages this man, he engages him in an area of life that he enjoys and relishes, the Word of God. As the Ethiopian speaks to him about the passage out of Isaiah and is searching for answers, I can only imagine how excited Philip must have been. For not only did he know how to interpret this passage but he knew the answer to this passage. Not only could he interpret this word but now he could show this man how to live this word of truth.
Isn’t it interesting that we as creatures in today’s world have so much knowledge but very little understanding. If we went into any of our homes we could probably find at least two copies of the Bible somewhere within our homes. Some of us can recite entire passages of scripture. Some of us can theologically interpret the various passages of scripture. However when it comes to living the Word of God in our lives, so many of us even within the church fail to actually live the Word of God. Why is that? In order for us to live a “thriving Christian life”, we have to be a people not in the Word but of the Word.
A PEOPLE OF JOY
A this aspect of living a thriving Christian life is spiritual joy. Thriving Christians are a People of Joy. Isn’t it interesting that too many Christians live a life of the depression. Maybe not in the full mean of clinical depression but too often they are just not people that bring a smile to your face or cause you to want to love life. Here in this passage we see in verse 8 that wherever Philip was to be found in the city, through the hand of our Lord there was much joy. Again in verse 39, when Philip leaves the Ethiopian, he once again brings joy to the man’s heart through the hand of our Lord that he goes away rejoicing. So why is it that too often we struggle to see joy in our lives, even within the trials that we face.
I don’t know why it is, but so many Christians that I face today go on and on about the trials that they facing and fail to see or hold onto the joy that they have. Philip was just trying to stay alive from the death grip of Saul. Yet even in the struggle that he faced he brought joy to those around him. Today if we desire to be thriving believers we have to hold onto and cherish the joy that God gives us in this life. Now you know why your pastor almost every Sunday says, “God is Good”.
A People of the Spirit
Here in this passage the last key element that we find in this thriving believer is where his spirit it found. Thriving believers are people of the Spirit. In verse 26 we see as the angel of God visits Philip and in verse 39 we see as the Spirit of the Lord carries Philip away. In order for us to experience the fullness of God’s joy, power and purpose in our lives as illustrated by Philip we have to be a people of the Spirit. We can read the Word. We can pray. We can receive salvation. But when we receive the Holy Spirit and live in the Holy Spirit on a daily basis it is then that we experience a thriving Christian life. It is then that we can heal in his name. It is then that we can transport from one location to another in a moment. It is then that we can speak into the lives of those around us in ways never before experienced.