I recently preached on Acts 8:26-40. If you know your Bible it’s the story of the Apostle Philip sharing the good news of Jesus with a government official from Ethiopia. You can find the audio of that message here.
Most of our time in this text was spent looking for lessons from the example of Philip. Philip is, after all, the apostle. Philip is the one who knows his scriptures inside and out. Philip is the ‘hero’ of the story, if I can use that word. We should endeavor to be like Philip.
But there’s an important lesson in the example set by the Ethiopian we must heed as well. The Ethiopian is curious. Not only is he found to be reading from the scroll of Isaiah aloud, he was on his way back to Africa having “gone to Jerusalem to worship” (Acts 8:27 NLT). Let us not too quickly gloss over this stunning detail. Here was a man going to incredible lengths in search of truth, in search of meaning, in search of God.
Too many of us, I’m afraid, have grown bored with God. How can this be? How can a person become bored of growing in knowledge and intimacy with the Creator of all? I don’t know. Let’s try an experiment. Consider how you feel when facing the choice between the following activities:
Spending 5 minutes listening to scripture Spending 5 minutes playing a game on a phone
Worshipping with God’s people Going out with friends
Searching for God in a book of the Bible Watching the newest episode of your favorite show
Meditating on God’s truth Talking about the drama in another’s life (gossip)
What is it that so often causes us to desire the activities on the right more than we desire those on the left?
Maybe we aren’t bored. Maybe we’re lazy (yes I’m implicating myself here too!) Consider this: fantasy is easy, reality takes work. The events on the left are our ultimate reality. They are things human beings, at least those who belong to Jesus, will be doing for all eternity. They are really real. The activities on the right are often distractions from reality. They act as a drug. Like a strong buzz coming on they cause the anxieties and stresses of the real world to melt away. The trouble is, of course, they themselves aren’t real. And, like a drug, the high wears off, leaving us more depressed, more eager to avoid reality, and, ironically, more desirous of the drug that has just disappointed us.
The way of Christ is the way of discipline. It’s learning, through faith first and then experience, to say no to the promise of happiness through distraction or entertainment. Jesus warned, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 ESV). He also said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 ESV). There is only one True Way to happiness, no matter what the world or our deceptive hearts tell us. That way is to know Jesus and to be known by him.
Take a look at your life, your routine, the way you spend your time. Leisure and entertainment are good gifts, to be sure. But how much time do you spend engaging in true life-giving, life-affirming activities vs. time spent being dosed with the myriad drugs of distraction our society offers? How much of what you do is really real and how much is but a temporary fog of illusion?
Will you be curious enough about your God to want to know him more even when it means saying no to the instant gratification that media, social events, consumption, or achievement offer? How will you, like that Ethiopian, be curious today?