As a newly graduated teacher, I moved to Detroit in the fall of 1967 to attend Wayne State University for my master’s degree. That summer a terrible race riot had occurred not far from the University and my apartment. As a country girl I was very intimidated by my new city life. Although I did have enough savings to live on, I thought it would be good to substitute teach in the schools around me. I went to the Board of Education building and filled out the forms and interviewed. I told them I was willing to sub for K-6, preferably the younger grades. They said that I was hired, and all I had to do was call a number the day before I would be available and they would send me out. I was excited but also scared since I didn’t know the city that well and they didn’t give me a school map, but I gave the number a call and told them I would be available the following day. The blessing was that every time I made myself available they gave me a job. Never mind if it was crazy trying to find where the school was located. The worst of it was that they often sent me out to do crazy things. One time they assigned me to a High School to teach health. I tried to get out of it because I only wanted elementary but they pressured me to go. I went in 3-inch heels and a suit and found out that I also was to teach volleyball! That was the topper of the assignments that were not to my liking! Every week I summoned the courage to call in, but by the next morning the courage was waning and sometimes when the phone call would come in I would just let it ring! I was available but inaccessible! (And not too reliable.) I finally gave up on this job opportunity after I was teaching in an all black school in the riot area and part way through the day the school was dismissed due to the threat of more riots after it was announced that Martin Luther King was assassinated. I got out of the area after a brick had damaged my car and I never returned to subbing in Detroit again. I chose to be no longer available or accessible.
The idea for this newsletter came to me when I was praying and I told the Lord I was available, and His reply to me was, “But are you accessible?” To my humiliation I remembered a few times when I had heard the whisper of the Spirit to pray with someone right then and there, or to share the gospel, but I was too afraid of their response and not sure how to go about it, and then the moment passed. As I sat with these memories I asked for forgiveness and the courage and strength to be accessible when He called in the future.
This led me to think about Jonah’s story. Sometimes we find his story laughable, but my story began to show me that I wasn’t so much different from him. When God called Jonah, he ran away. It doesn’t really matter if it was because Jonah was afraid of the aggressive and evil people he was to offer salvation to, or because he was just prejudiced and didn’t care about them. What mattered is that he was called a prophet and his calling said that he not only was to be available, he was also to be accessible. Jonah failed in his commission until God got his attention with the strong possibility of certain death. Then he was willing to do anything for the Lord, at least for a little while. Jonah says in Chapter 2:9, “But as for me, I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that which I have vowed” (Amp), which basically means “I’ll do what I promised to do.” He finally agreed to be accessible.
It is interesting when I get an idea for a newsletter how the Lord always brings readings, sermons, and teachings that correspond to what He is calling me to write. I was listening to a teaching on Acts 8 and the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch became louder in my ear as the Lord said, “See, Philip was both available and accessible.” As I look at this story I see that Philip was very busy doing the work of the Lord. The passage doesn’t make it clear whether he was still doing work in Samaria or if he had gone to Jerusalem with the rest. But we know that he was a very busy disciple, evangelizing whomever would listen, when “an angel of the lord said to Philip, ‘Rise and proceed southward or at midday on the road that runs from Jerusalem down to Gaza.’” (Acts 8:26 AMP) The next verse says, “So he got up and went.” Now there is a man who is immediately accessible even when he has no clue about what the Lord is asking him to do. The Lord said, “Go” so Philip went!
Now if you are thinking, “Well, I’d go if an angel would show up and talk to me,” I want to share what one commentator I read said. Luke often used the term “angel of the Lord” for emphasis, as he also used “Then the [Holy] Spirit said” (AMP) in v. 29 and in v. 39 “the Spirit of the Lord.” It didn’t take a whale (big fish) or an angel to get Philip’s attention and it shouldn’t take either one to get ours either. As Christians we have the Holy Spirit residing within us, who is not only able to speak to us, but to give us the strength and power to do what the Lord is calling us to do. Philip apparently knew that. We don’t know if his knees were knocking as he headed off to Gaza and parts of the Philistine desert area to do what hadn’t been revealed to him yet. Philip knew he heard the call and that he had a Lord who would go with him and lead and protect him. If he was in Jerusalem at the time, Gaza was 50 miles away and Samaria would be even further from Gaza. It doesn’t say how long it took for him to get to the place where God wanted him for his divine appointment. And I just bet he was a little concerned as the Lord didn’t give him a map either, only light for each footstep. Unlike Jonah, Philip went when the Lord said, “Go,” and unlike some of us he didn’t stop before he got the second call. After all 50, or more miles on foot does give you time to question the call. All of a sudden he sees a chariot driver on the road and the “Spirit said to Philip, Go forward and join yourself to this chariot.” (Acts 8:29) So, Philip goes running up to the chariot. Now don’t you think that that is a bit amazing? Philip catches up with a chariot. Obviously, it was either driving really slow or Philip was given supernatural power to run fast! It is interesting what happens, isn’t it, when we follow the directions of the Lord without questioning? Anyway, I think you know the rest of the story. Philip evangelizes the man, and then baptizes him. The story goes on that, “when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord [suddenly] caught away Philip…” (Acts 8:39) Philip was later found in Azotus, 20 miles north, along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. He later traveled up the coast preaching “the good news to all the towns until he reached Caesarea.” (v. 40) In Acts 21:8-9 we read that he settled, married, and had four prophetic daughters in Caesarea.
Philip is a good example of someone who hears the Lord, does what the Lord says, and sees miracles as a result. I think if we want to see miracles in our lives we have to not only be available, but accessible to the whispers of the Spirit. When the Lord calls, answer you phone, get up, and go toward the next assignment. Don’t worry if it’s volleyball in heels (which you can take off, by the way, when you are playing) or if the divine appointment person might not like what you are offering. It is our job to answer the call, and leave the results to the Lord. When we do, we may see miracles!
May He empower us to hear His voice and do His will. Help us Lord!