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Bringing Life In Desert Places

Acts 8:26-27 And the angel of the LORD spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority… had come to Jerusalem for to worship.

A desert road. There wasn’t much activity out across the dry, dusty sand hills between Jerusalem and Gaza. Certainly not many caravans of merchants or sojourners at roadside cafes on the day Philip found himself led there by the Spirit of God. I wonder if in his heart, the evangelist questioned God’s wisdom concerning what occupation for good he could possibly do there. Yet, in obedience, Philip arose and went to do the LORD’S bidding.

Deserts. Inhospitable places devoid of people, opportunities and fruitful work for the LORD’s servants. Or are they? We learn from the unfolding of Philip’s story with the Ethiopian eunuch, that we ought not to underestimate where God has placed us. We can understand if Philip felt any frustration at being sent onto a lonely stretch of desert road. Sometimes the place God has settled us for His service can feel like a desert too. Most of the time the way God wants us to be an influence for the Kingdom, is in a place we would least suspect and often not choose to be!

It’s often in a role we would not wish upon ourselves. It’s the desert road where we can feel lonely, and unsure whether we can possibly be of any useful service, let alone make an impact for our LORD.

What might the desert road look like for you? Perhaps due to debilitating health issues you spend much of your week at home. Or the desert road might be when you’re a stay-at-home mum with young toddlers and it’s the same routine every day. The desert road is the factory line job, clock in, clock out and you wonder how on earth God will use you there. Or the desert road might be the hard slog of doing a university degree that you feel is definitely not going to help you turn the world upside down for God’s Kingdom. But even these circumstances or others that seem to offer no relief can be the very desert experiences that our God can and will use for His glory.

‘So, he arose and went.’ If Philip had any misgivings about His divine appointment, his response did not reflect this. Scripture says he arose and went. He did not delay, did not question, did not discuss the pros and cons of his assignment. He simply obeyed. God told Philip what to do; he does it – it’s that simple.

If we want to be people who, even in our desert places are used by God to bring His Kingdom to earth, we need to obey the simple commands of God. Is that what we do? We want to do ‘great things for God’ yet fail time and time again, to do the basics. I read a quote once that sums up this situation succinctly. ‘Everyone wants a revolution, but no one wants to do the dishes.’ Yes, that is us. We want the grand ways to glorify God, but when it comes to obeying Him in the desert places, in simple ways, we fall short. Loving each other. Forgiving one another. Tithing our wage. Speaking honestly. The list goes on.

There are no shortcuts in Christian living. Being a servant of the King is a long slow journey in the same direction. Philip was a deacon, first introduced to the reader in Acts 6. The appointment of a deacon does not happen rashly or without serious consideration. His appointment to this position would have taken time whereby others would have witnessed his integrity, honesty, trustworthiness and humble service. Philip may have been very familiar with the LORD’s work in desert places. And because he had not shirked from it in the past, he did not shirk from the work now.

Acts 8:29-30 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Isaiah, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?

As Philip heard the eunuch reading from the book of Isaiah, he would have in that moment understood clearly why the Spirit had directed him to the desert road. In faith, he had obeyed and in time God made the reason clear. Sometimes it’s like that with us. We are truly clueless why God would have us serving Him on a desert road, but in faith we do His bidding and in time, He may make the answer clear. Philip did not wait for the answer to obey, and neither must we. That is not faith.

Faith is acting on God’s directive whether it makes sense or not. And whether in time it makes sense or not. Sometimes we will not understand the reason God directs us certain ways this side of eternity. But in faith and with a heart of deep love and honor, we continue to minister to others in Jesus’ name in the desert places. Philip trusted that God would be glorified in some way and so must we.

Acts 8:36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?

We can only begin to imagine the joy and gratitude Philip felt in his heart as he heard these words from the eunuch. The willingness of Philip and his hope in God’s wisdom, the divine direction of the Spirit, the eagerness of the eunuch and God’s circumstantial provision of water, all accumulated in a glorious outcome to the extension of God’s Kingdom. All praise and glory to Him! And this happened on a dry and dusty desert road.

Isaiah 43:19 Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

How are you feeling in your desert place right now? Despondent and hopeless? Let’s be encouraged by this story and moreover, by the promise that God offers to us in Isaiah 43:19.

There is no place that He has forgotten. And as we labor each day for Him in our desert place, on the road that seems lifeless and tedious, we are not forgotten. The God who sees us, who knows us so well, can transform our situation and in the midst of our monotony bring springs of flourishing, living water.

‘Heavenly Father, thank You for the encouragement that this story about Philip and the eunuch offers me. Help me to cling to You and hold fast to the promises in Your Word that remind me that my circumstances are ever before You and that You will sustain me in desert places. Amen.’

About Jennifer Woodley

Jennifer is an Australian freelance writer who lives in a small rural town in sunny Queensland. She is passionate about encouraging others on their journey with Christ through writing and mentoring. Jennifer is a school chaplain, wife, mother of three adult sons and loving grandma of one adorable grandson. More of her writing can be found at www.inhisname6.com and www.faithwriters.com.

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  1. Jennifer,
    Thank you for this reminder and important message. We must remember that no matter what, God is with us and has a purpose and plan for whatever and wherever we are at that moment.
    This is something all of us should remember at all times – thank you Jennifer!
    God Bless~

  2. Thank you for this great message that spoke to my heart. We might often feel discouraged because of the way, but God gives grace, picks us up, sets us on the right track, and uses us. We need to simply do as you say. When He directs us, just move and obey.
    God Bless.

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