Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.”
Growing up in churches and religious schools with strict expectations, Amy couldn’t wait to graduate from high school and break free from all the rules and constant shame she felt every time she messed up. Once she graduated and began living her own way, she eventually found herself single and pregnant at the age of 19. Scared with no one to reach out to, Amy felt alone and confused—so much so that she contemplated getting an abortion even though she knew it wasn’t the right choice. She needed just one person to love her and accept her. She needed one person to tell her it would be okay. She needed a friend.
Amy went to an abortion clinic, and the sonogram technician told her that since she was almost seven weeks pregnant, it was way too late for her to do anything other than keep the baby, give it up for adoption or have an abortion. Not knowing what to do, Amy went home, still scared and lonely. Then out of the blue, her phone rang. It was Sacha, an old friend from high school who had gone through a pregnancy during their senior year. Amy told Sacha about her situation and the choices she was wrestling with. Encouraging and uplifting her, Sacha stayed on the phone until she was sure Amy knew that this pregnancy wasn’t the end. Sacha told Amy that it was just the beginning, God would be faithful to turn everything for good, and her baby was going to be a tremendous blessing.
Amy chose to keep her baby and soon married the love of her life. She gave birth to a baby boy and decided to name him Jess which means “gift from God.”
While at a women’s conference at Gateway Church in 2008, Amy heard Christine Caine talk about seeking God to find His calling for your life. On the last morning of the conference, God gave Amy a vision: She saw glimpses of her day at the abortion clinic, full of sadness and loneliness; but then the vision shifted to her full and happy life with her beautiful children and husband. It ended with her helping a single, pregnant woman and throwing a baby shower for her. Afterwards, Amy spoke to her friend, Salina, who had been with her at the conference and found out that she had also received a word during the conference about helping “mommies and babies!”
Six months later, after several meetings and going through some training, Amy and Salina started an outreach for single, pregnant women called “Embrace Grace.” This group ministers to young women by encouraging them and teaching them how God’s grace covers all; they simply need to receive His gift. Since the group has started, they’ve witnessed many miracles and transformed lives. And it all began because Amy’s friend, Sacha, was sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading to pick up the phone and make a simple phone call.
The book of Acts tells us about another individual who was sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading and willing to be open to whatever God had in store. When the early church first began, it grew so rapidly and exponentially that it became difficult for the apostles to distribute food and money to its needy members without neglecting their primary ministry of prayer and preaching. Some widows came to them complaining that they were being overlooked and not receiving their fair share of food and money. Realizing that somebody had to be responsible for administrating the daily business of the church, the twelve apostles appointed a group of seven men who were full of faith, wisdom and the Holy Spirit to oversee this critical need. Philip was one of the seven men chosen.
One day, an angel of the Lord came to Philip and said to him: “Get up and go down the road that leads from Jerusalem to Gaza.” Even though this particular road stretched for 50 miles through the desert and although he wasn’t told the reason for his journey or where it would take him, Philip obeyed and went where God told him to go—no questions asked, no hesitation.
We don’t know how far Philip walked down that hot, dusty, 50-mile road through the desert before he heard the sound of a horse-drawn chariot thundering up behind him. As the chariot flew by him, Philip caught a glimpse of a high-ranking Ethiopian official sitting in the chariot reading a scroll. In that moment, the Holy Spirit spoke to Philip and told him to go overtake the chariot. Even though the chariot was being pulled by horses and Philip was making his way on foot, once again, he didn’t hesitate or question. He simply obeyed and started running.
When Philip drew near to the chariot, he heard the Ethiopian official reading aloud a portion of Scripture from the book of Isaiah. Running alongside the chariot, Philip asked the man, “Do you understand what you’re reading?” He answered, “How can I understand unless someone explains it to me?” The official stopped the chariot and invited Philip to climb in and sit with him. As the two men continued to journey down the road, Philip began to explain how the passage from Isaiah was a prophecy from hundreds of years before that had recently been fulfilled through Jesus, the Son of God, who was crucified but three days later rose from the dead.
This message of good news resonated so strongly within the Ethiopian’s heart that he started to get excited. Spotting a stream of water, he asked Philip, “Is there any reason why I can’t be baptized right here and now?” Philip led the man into the water and baptized him. As they came out of the water, Philip suddenly disappeared! After obeying the Lord and accomplishing what the Lord had sent him to do, the Holy Spirit miraculously took Philip away. He later appeared in the city of Azotus, some 19 miles away from Gaza, where he continued to preach the gospel everywhere he went. Meanwhile, the official continued home to Ethiopia full of joy and excited to share the good news about Jesus with his own people.
Philip, Sacha and Amy were all where God wanted them to be … in the right place, at the right time. More importantly, they were sensitive to hear, believe and obey the Holy Spirit. Because Sacha was willing to obey the Holy Spirit’s prompting to call her friend, not only was Amy’s life transformed, but ultimately so was her family as well as every young woman who has and will come to the “Embrace Grace” support group. Likewise, Philip was sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading even though it didn’t make sense and seemed a little crazy. Nevertheless, he obeyed, and as a result of his willingness and openness to hear, believe and obey the Holy Spirit, the Ethiopian man’s life was changed and the lives of all those he shared the gospel with.
Are you—like Amy, Sacha and Philip—tuned in to the Holy Spirit’s voice and sensitive to His leading? Ask the Holy Spirit today to show you specific ways to reach out and show His love to someone around you.