Paul, the unlikely hero (part 3)

Picking up where we left off yesterday, we see that God wanted to display his compassion more by using someone named Ananias to heal Saul.

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.

You’ll notice Ananias’ response. He was well aware of Saul’s reputation as a strong persecutor of the faith, Ananias had a right to be afraid. And he questioned God. You’d have to admit it must have seemed strange to Ananias. This is the one you have chosen to reveal the gospel to the world?

I like the way Tim Challies put it:

I have always loved Ananias’ response. Somehow he forgets his place and attempts to give God a bit of a newsflash. I can just picture Him stammering a bit as he takes it upon himself to remind God of just who this Saul guy is. I like to think that he began the sentence with uncertainty and confusion, and perhaps with with the words “Ummm…God….?” 

Have you ever questioned God? When you feel that tug in your spirit to say something, but you’ve felt afraid to do so? Why? Perhaps it’s because we’re afraid of their response when they find out we’re a Christian. We are afraid of just a little bit of backlash. But here, Ananias had some real fear to contend with.

Tim Challies goes on: Ananias had not only heard of how Saul had been systematically destroying the church in Jerusalem, hunting down men and women and turning them over to the authorities, but also knew that he was on the march to Damascus, ready to destroy that church as well. Paul’s hatred for Christ and His followers was common knowledge. We can well imagine that Ananias and the other believers were terrified as they awaited Saul and his cohort, for they knew their lives might be lost for the sake of Christ. They must have awaited his arrival at the city with great dread. And now here God asks Ananias to go and confront the ringleader of the persecutors.

Why did God ask Ananias to do this? It was for both Ananias’ benefit and for Saul’s. For Ananias, it was an act of obedience that resulted in God demonstrating to him just how far reaching God’s transforming love and grace really is.

For Saul, it furthered his belief in Jesus as Messiah because God gave a miraculous vision to a Christ follower, Ananias; and furthermore, that Christ follower extended grace by healing Saul. You see, God’s grace was proven to both Saul and Ananias. The first to a Jewish Pharisee who was an ardent persecutor of Christ. The second to a Christ follower who needed to see and practice the extent of God’s love. It’s evident that both were transformed, not just Saul.

That happens to us when we extend grace today. Both we and the other person are transformed by that grace. But what happens when we judge a person for where they are? Neither one of us experiences God.

This was all due to God’s ability to see Saul’s potential. God knew when certainly, Saul did not. Think about it. Would Saul have ever imagined where his life would lead? That he would leave a lasting legacy 2000 years later?

You never know where a step of obedience and grace on our part could lead someone else. Think about Ananias. His act of obedience was a leap of faith. He must have been scared to death the whole way to meet Saul. I can feel his stomach tightening as it must have seemed to take forever to get to that house. His mind spinning of what might happen when he gets there. But he did it anyway.

We never know what God might call us to do, and what one small act of kindness and obedience might lead. I think Ananias’ life was changed forever that day. I think he now looked at people with the potential of God’s transforming love. And he also, out of that one act of obedience, has a legacy that has lasted 2000 years.

And what is Ananias’ legacy? He obeyed God by demonstrating the love of God, and by seeing and believing that God has chosen Saul to do wondrous works of ministry for the kingdom. Ananias saw Saul now as a brother.

We need to see others for their potential in Christ, not remind them who they are as a sinner. Ananias had every right to rip into Saul. But he didn’t. He obeyed God and demonstrated grace and healing.

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