Was it a chance vehicle breakdown or a divine appointment?
“Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza. So he arose and went” (Acts 8:26-27).
In this fascinating incident from Scripture, Philip the evangelist changed his plans and headed off in an unusual direction. He had been preaching the Gospel to receptive Samaritans with much fruit to show for his labors. But suddenly the Spirit of God told him to leave that area and go off down a lonely road to a deserted place in the desert. Because of his obedience, a high-ranking official of the queen of Ethiopia came to know Christ. Many others from that region followed.
But God was not finished with Philip. Soon after the above encounter, Philip was snatched up by the Spirit and brought to a city called Azotus, where he began another preaching tour. God’s plans are often quite different from our own well-intentioned, well-thought-out plans. And what looks like an annoyance or a distraction may actually be something special.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the mini-van the Lord provided for us when we could ill afford one. You might recall that, not knowing anyone locally, I asked the vehicle owner Mr. Burgess if he knew a mechanic. He did and even paid them for their trouble in checking out the car he was trying to sell us. But now, as the late Paul Harvey would have said, I want to tell you “the rest of the story.”
About a year after buying the mini-van, Marcia and I decided to take the kids on a camping trip. One of our favorite spots in Tennessee for camping is Pickett State Park, just west of Big South Fork. Traveling from our home in Robertson County, we would follow Hwy 52 as it snaked its way through Portland, Lafayette, Celina, and Livingston.
Josh and I left a couple of days ahead of the girls in the family hoping to set up camp and get things in order before they arrived. Our elderly 1969 Ford F100 with the topper on the back was loaded to the gills, and Josh and I were feeling quite chipper. We were, that is, until we hit Livingston.
There in the middle of town, with schools letting out and a surprising amount of traffic, our truck elected to break down. And I’m no mechanic, but I knew this repair would not be a simple fix. (As it turned out, the distributor had just disintegrated.)
Easing the vehicle out of the traffic lanes, I looked around desperately for anything that looked like a garage. Then I remembered. Josh, get out,” I ordered my son, “We’ve got some walking to do.” I knew the mechanic that had checked out the mini-van for us earlier was on that same stretch of highway. Actually he was only a quarter mile away. Clint and his older partner Arnie were in and even remembered me.
Looking around, however, I couldn’t help but notice how bare the shop looked. “I’m sorry,” Arnie began, “but we don’t do repair work anymore. If you’d been here last week, we could have helped you out. But we’re closing the shop altogether next week.”
Arnie didn’t look well. In fact, he had terminal cancer. He had stayed at his business as long as he could but just was not able to handle it anymore. Clint was starting a new job soon.
“I’m so sorry, Arnie,” I sympathized forgetting momentarily my own petty problems. Arnie was believer in Christ and spoke freely of his relationship to his Master. “Can I pray with you?” I asked him. And in that empty mechanic’s shop the four of us bowed our heads, thanked God for His faithfulness, and prayed for His grace to Arnie.
Arnie called another garage close by to fetch our truck. A nearby motel accommodated us for the night. And by morning we had wheels again. We were late starting our camping, but prayer with Arnie was well worth it.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).