I want to remember this mornings good sermon at church. Pastor Mark Carr, our pastor at Arlington Community Church has been working his way through the tricky book of Acts. And today was chapter nine, on Paul's conversion. I had read ahead, knowing what was coming, but how come you can read the Bible all day, and miss 99 percent of whatall is there? What is up with that? Some conspiracy on God's part to get us to assemble and encourage one another?? Oh, yeah. I get it. God is smart!
But, humor me whilst we look at chapter nine in the book of Acts:
1Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest,
2and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
3As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him;
4and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?"
5And he said, "Who are You, Lord?" And He said, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,
6but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do."
7The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.
8Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus.
9And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
10Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord."
11And the Lord said to him, "Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying,
12and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight."
13But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem;
14and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name."
15But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel;
16for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake."
17So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit."
18And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized;
19and he took food and was strengthened.
Don't you just love stories in the Bible, when smart men (much smarter than me) argue with God? What a hoot. And what is with Ananias? He is given specific instructions, and yet he is told to go lay hands on the Osoma bin laden of their day. That would be tough. Ananias had heard the stories of persecution, and how Stephen was killed. And yet, Ananias is given the extra information that Paul/Saul will suffer the rest of his life. I wonder if Ananias warned him? Did this information make Ananias' step lighter?
And I may be wrong (most times I am) but, God sure goes through a lot of trouble for Saul/Paul. God does what it takes to bring a zealous, religious Pharisee into the fold. And as our Pastor pointed out, when you persecute one of His, you persecute Him. When you are cruel or unfair to one belonging to Jesus, you are hurting Jesus, too.
I have to believe that God will do whatever it takes to save the lost. I have to believe that not one at the judgement seat can say they never heard. And yet, Jesus tells Paul to go to Damascus and wait for instructions, and those instructions are three days coming. Three long days and night where Paul has too much time to think, in the dark, and he does not eat or drink anything. He has time to remember Stephen's death where he stood and held the cloaks of the murderers. He starts to pray at some point. And has to face the fact that his whole life has been misdirected. wrong. a waste. And that not only did he get it all wrong, that he has pissed off the God of the Universe, the Creator and Savior, Jesus Christ. That he does not earn nor deserve rescuing. Paul later calls himself the chief sinner. And in the dark, he is given a vision of a man who will come lay hands on him, and it happens as he sees it. And the scales fall from his eyes, and God remakes his heart and gives his life new purpose and meaning. And a new job. A job he will die for.
I like how our pastor pointed out how Saul carried letters of authority to Damascus to enslave and kill Christians. Soon, Saul renamed Paul will send letters to encourage and set Christians free. Most of the New Testament books are written by Paul, right?
God chose to save Paul this way. But, what happened to Ananias? Did he go home and relate whatall happened to his family? Did he become a witness and never tire of retelling this story? Be willing, we were told. Be willing, and able, and ready. You just never know how God is going to use you. And know that if you decide to argue with God, you may get written up for eternity for all to see. And God will even turn that cursing into blessing.