I’m not a dog guy, but the dog show industry is kind of fascinating. It is quite amazing the ability that humans have to train various animals. As I searched google images for “the thrill of obedience” quite a few pictures that showed up were of dogs performing (such as the one above). All of the faces of dogs were smiling or something expressing even greater joy! I spent a few minutes thinking about this. Why are they happy? Why do they do it? I may be mistaken as an outsider, but I think it is for the simply joy of treats! Throughout the training process, food treats are given as a reward for obedience. And the joyful expressions of their masters when the dog does what it was asked and trained to do also impacts “man’s best friend”. Show dogs are a fine illustration for the idea of “the thrill of obedience”.
This past Sunday we continued to see King Jesus building his Kingdom through the scattered disciples (Acts 8:4), and specifically through Philip in the narrative we looked at (Acts 8:26-40). To recap for us, through narrative passages (like Acts) God SHOWS us how to live. By identifying the characters, observing their actions, and noting the results of their actions we discern what God is saying. So what do we learn from watching Philip? One thing we can learn from him is the “thrill of obedience”. When Philip scattered and landed in Samaria he did not hide away or try to start a quiet, new life. Rather, he was obedient to the commission he learned that Jesus gave to his disciples, that included being his witnesses in Samaria (Acts 1:8). In Acts 8: 7, 8, and 12 we see that Philip’s show and tell (miracles and preaching) resulted in many people seeing the Kingdom come in their lives (healings, deliverances, and eternal life). Luke doesn’t tell us how much time had transpired for Philip in Samaria before the angel gives him a new assignment (v.26), but we can reasonably conclude that it is a much longer period of time than simply days. What many would call “revival” was happening in Samaria. In the midst of this period of great fruitfulness in ministry, the Lord speaks to Philip and gives him a strange assignment: to leave the revival in Samaria and go to the isolated desert road leading to Gaza. Philip obeyed, with Luke reporting no resistance (in contrast to Moses in Exodus!). Wouldn’t every fibre of our being resist and argue with God? Why did Philip up and leave without a fight? I would suggest it is because of “the thrill of obedience”.
If you have never experienced it, there is no greater thrill than being led by the Spirit, obeying and seeing God at work. It is truly intoxicating! The more you experience and see the correlation between obedience and fruitfulness, the more it becomes a lifestyle. There is no greater joy in life than seeing God transform a life. It draws you to keep obeying and keep listening! So I would suggest that Philip had seen the fruit of lives changed in Jerusalem and in Samaria and so joyfully obeys God’s seemingly obscure call. Now we see God use Philip to transform the life of the Ethiopian eunuch on the desert road. Each changed life is a miracle and a thrill! What happens next? Verse 40 concludes the narrative this way, “Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea”. God shows us through Philip what it looks like to seek first the Kingdom, and the fruit of listening and obeying the Spirit.
Here’s a convicting and challenging question to ponder: Does our passion or apathy in our faith walk directly correlate with our obedience or disobedience?