Early Acts: Surprised by Opportunities
When I turned 18, I started working out at the gym with a personal trainer named Mike. As we worked out together, we'd spend the hour talking and getting to know each other. There were only two topics Mike didn't like discussing: politics and religion. We kept our conversations mostly to sports and TV shows.
A few years later, Mike went through an unbelievable transformation. Someone had invited him to church, and within a few months, Mike committed his life to Jesus and got baptized. He began sharing the love of Jesus at the gym with anyone willing to listen. I was stunned. This did not seem like the same man I knew.
As happy as I was for Mike, I also felt convicted. How come I never shared the story of Jesus with him? How come I never invited him to church? Was it out of fear of rejection? Maybe. But Mike was my friend. I never felt like he'd end our relationship if I brought up God. So what was it?
This past Sunday, we concluded our Acts series by looking at the story of Philip and the Ethiopian official. There is one line from the story that keeps coming to my mind again and again. It's a line that, as I've thought about it, sheds light on what prevents me from sharing Jesus with others.
In Acts 8, the Holy Spirit prompts Philip to leave Jerusalem and go to Gaza. Even though Jesus told the disciples that he wanted them to bring the gospel "to the ends of the earth," we sense some reluctance on their part. They understood that Jesus was all about grace, but was that grace really meant for everyone? Even the people who are different from us? Even the people we'd prefer not to associate with? "Yes," says Jesus. "I don't want anyone left out."
And so an angel gives Philip a little push out of his comfort zone toward Gaza. What happens next is pretty funny if you imagine it. Philip runs alongside a chariot, somehow keeping pace with it. He's like the original Flash! He peeks his head into the chariot, sees the Ethiopian official reading from the Bible, and asks, "Do you understand what you are reading?" And the official, not thinking any of this to be strange, simply responds, "How can I unless someone explains it to me?"
How can I unless someone explains it to me?
A very practical question.
So often, I don't share Jesus with people because I assume they've already heard his story. I thought Mike didn't want to talk about religion because he'd heard it all before. But that's a big assumption.
Another friend once told me he hadn't heard the name Jesus until he went to college. I didn't believe it. He means that he didn't start following Jesus until college, I thought. But no. He had literally never heard about Jesus until someone shared the story of the gospel with him. He grew up in America, celebrated Christmas and Easter for years, and yet never heard about Jesus.
How can people understand the good news of Jesus unless someone explains it to them?
We live in a world of information overload. Our devices beep and buzz continuously, and we have access to limitless knowledge. Have a question? Google it, and the answer is right there at your fingertips. If someone wants to know who Jesus is, they can do a quick search and have all the information about him they need, right? People need more than information on screens. They need relationship. They need people willing to take time out of their day to listen without judging. They need people to point them to the hope of Jesus. They need people with the courage to tell their own story truthfully. If I make myself available to God, I may be surprised by how many opportunities I get to do that. Philip didn't need to go out and find the Ethiopian official. He was led right to him by the Holy Spirit—just like the Spirit is leading us to our neighbors, our co-workers, and our gym buddies.
I still work out with Mike on Monday mornings, and I am still amazed by the change in him even 13 years later. In between sets, he'll smile at the person next to us and ask how they're doing. If they engage with us, the topic of Jesus usually comes up at some point. And I'll tell you one thing—it makes the conversations a lot more interesting than just talking about sports or TV shows.
Michael Murray is one of the kindest and funniest people you will ever meet. He’s a talented writer, and was a big part of creating the script for “Jonah & The Wave Breakers.” He most recently started a new devotional for messy, broken people called “Nobody Left Out,” and you can check it out here!