TO CHEW ON: "Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, 'Arise and go toward the south which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.' This is desert.' Acts 8:26
"Put a sack of flour over your shoulder and walk down the road."
That's the instruction John Joshua Matteson heard one day. John, a serious, hard-working young man was not one to give in to imagination or impulse. Yet God's order was unmistakable.
John tried to rationalize it away. The idea was outlandish. He would look foolish going down the road with a sack of four. The family didn't have extra food.
Yet he had grown up in a Methodist home that taught and lived the importance of obeying God. His mother had been a missionary and was a committed abolitionist. His father had told him many mission field stories too.
John's conflict that day ended with partial obedience. He walked down the road, but without the flour sack on his shoulders. Steven Stiles continues the telling of this true story about his grandfather:
"John walked a good distance along the dirt road near Stockton, California. He was still pondering why he should ever have been carrying flour, when he was approached by a horse and wagon occupied by an exhausted and disheveled family. A conversation ensued. 'We are hungry,' the family finally told him. 'We have enough to cook a meal, but no flour. We have been praying, and God told us he would bring us a bag of flour. We were so excited to see you approaching in the distance, and we really thought you were they man God told us about'" - Steven Stiles, Journey on the Hard Side of Miracles, p. 295.
I can't say that I have ever heard God's audible instructions like Philip or John did. But I have known His gentle pressure, calling me to focus on activities with eternal values while allowing the temporary to atrophy, edging me away from one task to another. I understand John's struggle, to a point at least. It is always a matter of paying attention with the ears of faith, and obedience.
What an example of ready, unarguing obedience Philip gives us. No objections about why going off to the desert is a bad idea and how foolish he'll look. No rationalization that he has better things to do with his time. He just goes and we have this wonderful miracle-encounter story of a seeker, finding Jesus.
PRAYER: Dear God, help me to be tuned in to Your frequency of living life so that I will hear Your instructions and have the faith to carry them out.
MORE: The rest of the story.
John went home that day and faced his failure to believe. Sometime later he felt the need to share this incident at church. Quoting Stiles again:
"When he was finished sharing his story about the sack of flour, a visitor, sitting with his wife and children spoke up:
'We were that family! We were the ones who talked to you! Let me tell you what happened. After we left you, we traveled up the road and met a farmer. When we had talked with him for a while, the farmer looked at us and volunteered that we looked like we could use a sack of flour, and he went and brought us one.'********
Whatever John learned form that battle of faith was due not to his tenacity, but to a merciful God who turns our failure into purpose. What we learn from our own experiences of faith, especially miracles, is often just the same" - Steven Stiles, Journey on the Hard Side of Miracles, p. 296 (emphasis added).
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.