Once upon a time in my life some years ago I felt a very strong sense of calling to confront a prominent person about a difficult matter in his life. Fearing I might be mistaking the calling of God for indigestion, I essentially told the Lord that if this was to be true that He would have to bring this person whom I knew only casually across my path. Within hours, it happened. It did not go exceeding well, though I came away from it believing I had obeyed God. I did not like that assignment!
But my assignment was nothing compared to what Ananias of Damascus was called to do. Going to meet Paul was probably about like going to North Korea and telling Kim Jong-un to give up the keys to his nuclear program!
Here is the account in Acts chapter 9 …
Acts 9:10 – In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
Let me ask a series of questions today …
Was Paul looking to find Christ and be saved? Of course not. It was Christ who found him. We have no reason to believe Paul was anything short of 100% convinced of the truth of his convictions, hence his relentless zeal to carry them out. Salvation is a work of God from start to finish. Like Paul’s blindness, there may have been circumstances in our lives that opened us up to hearing and receiving the gospel, but even those events and our warming heart to truth were the result of God’s working.
Could God have saved Paul apart from Ananias? Well yes, of course. But God chose to use one of his disciples to be an instrument of His divine working, likely using him subsequently to minister to Paul in the coming months and couple of years. We need to be open to however God may choose to use us, and sometimes it might be a bit scary and awkward.
Are all of the small events of life a part of all of the bigger events in life? Again … yes, for sure. God is working at all times and in all things. We may often not see or understand it, but God has a larger plan … with connections to the grand plan of building the church and his kingdom. Ananias was a player with a role to fulfill … that Paul might join the team to which he was now called … in order that Paul might be used especially to move the gospel beyond Jewish circles to the whole world … even down to us today. All of the small pieces of the puzzle are a part of the larger puzzle of beauty that God is putting together.
Is the Christian life always easy and filled with victory? Not at all. God said that Paul must know “how much he must suffer for my name.” As shared and illustrated in the opening message of this series last Sunday, the Life Race will have joys and victories along the way, with the guarantee of the ultimate crown at the end; but the process is filled with times of difficulty and peril.
But there is no better race to be a part of than the Life Race. The alternative is the temporary “death race” of living only for this world and being eternally separated from God and the victors’ crown that is given to those who love Christ.
So, rejoice Christian that you have been called by God to be on His team, the ultimate winning outfit. And tighten the laces of your shoes for the unique race that God has called you to run. Run on! Keep moving.