Once upon a time I was driving from Indiana to Pennsylvania. Actually, I made this drive quite often as I lived in Pennsylvania, but attended college in Indiana. Normally the trip took between eight and nine hours, but this one particular day the journey was nearly ten hours because when I approached a fork in the road, I made a fateful decision.
At this specific “fork,” the road signs in northeast Ohio read: 71N or 71S. I reasoned that I lived in Southern PA, therefore, I should go south. Without a second thought, I followed my intuition and cruised on down the road unaware of what I had just done.
It wasn’t until an hour later when I began to see road signs for Cincinnati that I snapped out of my mindless pursuit of Pennsylvania. Now, I didn’t know my Ohio geography very well back then—I just knew it got in the way of my trip home—but I knew enough to know that Cincinnati was in the opposite direction from where I wanted and needed to go.
Two hours from my moment of decision, I was back on the road and headed toward Pennsylvania, feeling foolish yet a little wiser as a result of my detour.
Here’s the deal: we’ve all done it. We’ve all made wrong turns on the road. We’ve all made poor decisions in life. I am thankfully not alone.
However, had it not been for road signs with words that read Cincinnati I might still be driving in search of Pennsylvania. Words are important and words are needed. As I drove, the scenery wasn’t going to indicate that the direction on the highway I was driving was wrong. I wasn’t going to feel like my choice was wrong; after all, it was my sense of direction that lead me to where I was. I needed a sign, a literal sign with words on it that told me I was going to the wrong place.
In Acts 8:26–40 a man named Philip encountered a man known as the Ethiopian eunuch who was reading from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah. Philip asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The eunuch replied, “How can I, unless someone explains it to me?”
Simply reading a passage in the scriptures wasn’t enough for this man, he needed someone to explain it to him, to walk through what it meant and to share with him the good news about Jesus in more detail so that he could understand. This man understood, believed, and was baptized. It wouldn’t have happened without Philip using actual words to explain the Gospel.
A popular saying often attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi says this: “Preach the Gospel at all times and, if necessary, use words.” Whether he actually said this or not is beside the point, surely you’ve heard this popular mantra or even shared it yourself.
The intentions are great: live a life that demonstrates the good news about Jesus. The problem is that to actually share the Gospel it is always necessary to use words to verbalize and proclaim it.
I needed a sign as I travelled the wrong way. I needed more than a feeling or nice scenery. I needed a sign that spelled out the word Cincinnati.
Romans 10:14 says it plainly, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”
We need to live our lives in such a way that Jesus is evident. We also must use words to tell others about Him so they can choose Jesus when faced with a fork in their “road.”
Dave Nicodemus is the Communications & Creative Arts Pastor and has served at Grace Polaris for over nine years, seven and a half of those as the High School Pastor. Dave joined the Grace staff after serving at a church in eastern Pennsylvania. Prior to that, he studied youth and family ministry, minoring in art at Grace College (2001) and completing a masters degree from Grace Theological Seminary (2003). He’s the husband of Carly and father to Jack, Henry, Emilia, and Charlie.