PROMPTINGS FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT [ACTS 8:26-40]
Having been filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, Philip developed a natural expectation to hear God’s voice. Through years of practice, he had become sensitive to the Spirit’s promptings and knew when God was speaking to him. So when the Spirit told Philip, “Go over to this chariot and joint it” (Acts 8:29), he was swift to obey. It may not have made much sense at first, but Philip’s desire to spread the Good News won out. If he thought the Holy Spirit was telling him to chase after a chariot, he would do it – and the results were amazing.
Like any skill, discerning the Spirit’s voice requires practice. After all, God’s way of thinking can be quite different from ours. For example, we might wonder why Phillip, whose mission was to preach the Gospel, would be directed to leave an area like Samaria, when his preaching was bearing fruit and to travel through a less populated region such as Gaza? And why should he approach an eunuch, whose physical condition, according to the Mosaic Law, made him incapable of participating fully in Israel’s worship?
A man guided only by human thinking could find reasons to dismiss these promptings from the Holy Spirit. But through acts of loving obedience and time in prayer and study of Scripture, Philip had absorbed Jesus’ way of thinking. He had come to see how precious each person is to God, and he was not too surprised when spreading the Gospel involved some unexpected maneuvers.
Through our prayer and study of God’s word, we too can prepare ourselves to hear the Spirit’s voice. Let us think of ourselves as athletes in competition. A runner, on his mark, drowns out all distractions and strains to hear the signal that begins the race. Similarly, let us work at shutting out distractions so we can hear the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit. God is always preparing people’s hearts to receive the Good News. Even if we are shy or reticent, the Holy Spirit can guide us and make our very lives into signs of His love to people who are ready to receive them.
Jakarta, 8 May 2014
A Christian Pilgrim