Turn on the news and you’ll hear the same messages over and over. Fear. Hate. Disdain. Rejection. As much as I would like to turn the news off completely and keep to my happy bubble life, I can’t seem to make myself do it. I can’t do it because in the back of my mind I still see the faces of those around the world who are looking for Hope. And so I watch and pray. I pray for the faces I see, the faces that strike my heart. I pray for those people specifically because I know that there is a reason God showed me their face. He knows their name as I remember their face.
“God does nothing except in response to believing prayers.” – John Wesley
The Lord led me to Acts 9 today, and its significance took on a whole new scope.
Paul was a persecutor. He hated the Christians and truly believed they were following an evil lie. And so, he persecuted them. He arranged their arrests and supported their deaths, making it his life’s purpose to erase any evidence of these Christians and their message. Let us realize, however, that Saul was doing this because he wanted above all to honor the one true God. He was convinced he was doing what was right in the eyes of God.
Then, one day on the road, he was stopped by a bright light. A voice called out, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” he responded as he fell to the ground.
“I am Jesus.”
The story goes on and Saul, now blinded, was taken to Damascus. We see that God first called Saul out. He gave him His name, but nothing else. No details, no clues. God left Saul in the mystery. For three days, Saul sat in blinded darkness. Three days of literal and spiritual blindness.
Can you imagine the depth of pain Saul felt at realizing he had been persecuting the very God he was so zealous for? Realizing he had wounded the heart of God? I don’t know if there is any greater agony. But for three days, Saul sat in a room, in pitch blackness, with nothing but the fact of his actions and the truth of what it was he had really done.
In his faithful grace, God sent Ananias. God sent a Christian to the great persecutor of the Christians. What faith Ananias had to search out the very one he feared might find him! What could have convinced him to do this? What God said about Saul.
“Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
Ananias sees that God has truly chosen Saul, and so he obeys. But perhaps the greatest significance lies in how he obeys.
“Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Did you catch it?
“Brother Saul,” he calls to him. Brother.
He pressed past the fear. He embraced him spiritually, and in that simple message, Ananias offered Saul Hope. The scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and “immediately,” he began proclaiming Jesus boldly. He of course wanted to join the disciples but “they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe” him. Here enters God’s second chosen helper. “But Barnabus took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord…”
My purpose in writing today, is this: I believe this is the story of those whose religion we fear the most right now in America. That people group is Saul. They think they are honoring God and will go to the greatest lengths possible to honor and obey. They truly want to do what they believe is best. But what happens? God intervenes.
God hears our prayers. He hears the intercessors. He hears the disciples praying for their enemies and steps in. We have heard the stories of God revealing himself to these people in their dreams and in visions. He reveals himself to them and a shift occurs. They are then left to question for some time their past beliefs and actions, as well as what these dreams and visions can possible mean. It is in this mystery of “three days” that things are broken down and softened.
What next does God need? He needs an Ananias. He needs a Barnabus. He needs one who will overcome logic, reason, and fear to approach a Saul. He needs one who realizes that these people are “a chosen instrument of [God’s] to carry [His] name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.”
We have to see those whom God touches, not with fear or apprehension but as brother.
Ananias greeted Saul as “brother” before Saul had even received the Holy Spirit or the Gospel. It was a title of forgiveness, grace, and love. That word brother was a source of great comfort to the devastated Saul. It was Ananias’ ministry to Saul that truly made way for Paul’s ministry.
But it also required Barnabus’ ministry of forgiveness, grace, and love. No one believed Saul except for Barnabus. Barnabus had to stand for Saul. Without Barnabus, Saul might not have ever gained the fellowship and trust of the disciples.
It took two witnesses for Saul’s ministry to be solidified. It took two believers who put aside their common sense and logical fears, two believers who believed God could truly do the impossible, to help begin perhaps the greatest ministry of all history.
And so the question stands, will you be an Ananias? Will you be a Barnabus? Will you believe God for the “truly impossible?”