Acts 8:8: “…there was much joy in that city.”
Acts 8:39: “…went on his way rejoicing…”
I hate interruptions. I’m especially irritated when my plans are interrupted. A flat tire messing up my daily schedule, a sick child changing my travel plans, an email requiring immediate attention. I loose focus, I become upset, I feel wasted and immediately I turn into problem-solving panic mode.
Foreign mission was born out of God’s intentional and continuous interruption. We see in Acts 8 that God twice interrupted the success, the fellowship and the comfort the church has built and enjoyed. Interruptions came through various means – once through unwanted circumstances (Acts 8:1-4) and later through an unexpected voice of God (Acts 8:26). Through these interruptions one person planted the seed of the gospel in two nations in a very short period of time. None of that would have happened without those interruptions. The person was Philip. The nations were Samaria and Ethiopia.
God used various means to force his people to multiply his mission and placed them where He wanted them to be and where they’ve never planned to be.
God’s interruption came through unwanted circumstances. Acts 8:1-4.
God used the change of the political environment to multiply his mission. God didn’t use a very gentle way to interrupt their peaceful success. Persecution and suffering is a pretty harsh way to force them to multiply. The force of circumstances is used by God to advance His mission. They’ve experienced growth, stability, success, fellowship and fruitfulness. But the goal was multiplication: multiply that in other places.
God will always interrupt our success for the sake of multiplication. He interrupts because He wants something else.
We read in vs 4 that “those who were scattered went about preaching the word.”
This unexpected change was not a small change. It forced families to move and to leave behind houses, jobs, carriers, businesses, schools, relatives and future promises. They had to replant their whole life somewhere else building new communities around them. It represented a total, major life-change. Everything that defined them, they had to leave behind. There were grief, fear and losses involved. Yet God used these painful circumstances to force them into the right direction.
Bad things has happened to them yet the good news has spread through them.
God’s interruption came through an unexpected voice. (8:26)
Philip went from success, community, fellowship and fruitfulness (in Jerusalem) and built a new success, community, fellowship and fruitfulness (in Samaria).
Again, at the peak of his ministry where he saw great success, incredible fruitfulness, where he was extremely useful, where ”the city was full of joy”, the Lord, again interrupts. An angel appears and gives a command: “rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza. This is a desert place.”
He is called:
- from the success to the risk,
- from being well-known, celebrated, honored to be unknown,
- from the familiar to the unfamiliar,
- from the multitude to the individual,
- from the city to the desert,
- from something he started, built and led to success to start something new again,
- from being the top leader to be the level one evangelist,
- from great impact to great risk.
And he is called to all of that without knowing WHY!
God took away the useful and the successful person from his place of success. He took away Philip’s ministry and everything that defined him in that environment. But it’s not Philip’s ministry, but it’s God’s mission. It’s His garden and he takes the hose wherever he wants to water with that hose.
God rarely reveals his reasons when he gives us commands. The reasons behind of God’s commands, interruptions will be understood on the journey of obedience. Philip understood it as he has obeyed. We understand looking back why God interrupted the church through unfortunate circumstances and why He interrupted Philip’s success. It was all for the sake of multiplying His mission.
We need to embrace God’s interruptions. We need to embrace that either through unexpected circumstances or through unexpected changes or through the unexpected voice of God, He wants to advance His mission. He is not interested in our ministry, He is interested in his mission.
The best part is this: both of these interruptions from God led to JOY! First, the city of Samaria was full of JOY (8:8) and then the Ethiopians went away with JOY (8:39). When we walk through God’s interruptions with obedience the end result will always be God’s Joy multiplied.