Looking out at a sparkling blue sky morning with a foot of new-fallen snow, I smile in spite of the flitting butterfly, that small knot of fear in the pit of my stomach. As a family, we face not one, but two huge “leaps of faith”, and though I know God is capable, and faithful, and true, and keeps His promises… my little girl heart longs to see a wide platform of security covering those gaping holes of uncertainty. But sometimes that just isn’t the way it is. Sometimes we must simply trust and obey.
I recently read about the death of Stephen in Acts chapter 7. And then I came to the account in chapter 9 when Ananias is called by God to take an enormous leap of faith.
“Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ And he said, ‘Here I am, Lord.’ So the Lord said to him, ‘Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.’ Then Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.’ But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.’ And Ananias went his way…” ~ Acts 9:10-17a
Saul had been wreaking havoc against the Church – the followers of The Way -“breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1). Men and women were thrown in prison to face a death sentence like Stephen’s. And now Saul had obtained the proper papers of authority to haul “any who were of the Way… bound to Jerusalem” (Acts 9:2) from the region of Damascus.
Can you imagine what Ananias was thinking? If it had been me in his shoes, it would probably be something like this: Are you crazy, Lord? Have you heard what that guy Saul has been doing to Your followers in Jerusalem? And now he has come to my city to do the same to me and my friends! And I am supposed to go to meet him?
But when we look more closely, we see some clues that God had already been working in Saul’s life. Behold, he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.
Saul had been blinded. And God was going to open his eyes.
Go. And Ananias went. He was faithful and obedient unto death, for that very well could have been what awaited him. Look at what had happened to Stephen. And Saul had witnessed and approved it.
God ordered Ananias to “Go”, but He also reassured him that this was all a part of His plan. “For he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.” Wow.
Ananias’ faithful and trusting obedience reminds me of how Jesus is described by Saul himself, who would later become known as Paul:
“And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” ~ Philippians 2:8
Isn’t that what we are all called to, obedience to the point of death?
“Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?’ ” ~ Luke 9:23-25
“Let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” It is a continual process, denying our own hearts, wishes, and wants, and taking up the cross of Jesus – His kingdom work – to follow Him. Daily.
Do we face actual physical death? Most likely not today. But we do battle with our old nature and its desires, putting that “to death”, so that the new heart created in us through Christ Jesus might choose to follow after God. Daily.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17
Saul met and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ on that road to Damascus, and God used the faithful obedience of Ananias to open Saul’s eyes. Could God have sent someone else if Ananias had refused? Absolutely. But what a blessing Ananias would have missed! Because Ananias trusted God, he was able to witness firsthand how God made Saul into a new creation, His “chosen vessel”, the powerful teacher and extreme “obedient to the point of death” servant, the Apostle Paul. All things have become new.
* My husband just finished teaching through the book of Acts for his Sunday School class, and here are a couple of links to his blog you may enjoy: