At the center of Christianity is the Person of Christ. However, there was another person who presaged the first coming of the Messiah on Earth. After Jesus had ascended up to Heaven, no other man has codified His teachings and message in such a profound and significant way as the apostle Paul. Together, the three form a key part at the heart of our faith.
But the Apostle Paul was not always the great servant and minister to the Church that we all know today. Before his encounter with God on the road to Damascus, he was a great oppressor of the Christian Church. No man took more pride in persecuting the Church, and he even supervised the stoning of Stephen just before his journey to Damascus. In fact, the reason why he was on the way to Damascus was to put more Christians into the prison at Jerusalem.
After the encounter on the Damascus Road, Saul had to be led into the city by hand, and for 3 days, he neither saw, ate, nor drank. What transformed him into the great apostle we know today? What did happen to Saul on the street called Straight? (Acts 9:11).
Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. 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.
There are several aspects into this passage in Acts. Last Sunday, Rev Irvin Rutherford shared at DUMC a powerful message centering on this part of Paul’s life, and how he became a great missionary.
- A Brave Man Was Willing To Go There
First of all, it required a man of courage to reach out to Saul in his time of need. As Saul was praying, he saw in a mental picture a man named Ananias who was called by God to restore his sight. Ananias knew who Saul was but his response was one of obedience to God. It required courage in the man to go to Saul, eventhough Saul was in trouble.
Many times in the Christian life, God may call us to even reach out and deliver people who were once our staunch enemies or great persecutors of the Church. But the main message here is that God’s redemption for men and women is for His people to be like Ananias, and Judas who opened his home to Saul in hospitality in Acts 9:11. Redemption is a one-to-one thing, just like how Ananias and Judas treated Saul with grace, kindness, and agape love.
Rev Irvin Rutherford shared that there is a difference between cursing the darkness and bringing light into it. We are called as children of God to bring light into the world even when we sometimes do not know what is at the end of the tunnel. Our role is to be obedient to God and to trust Him in faith.
- A Rebellious Man Was Praying A Desperate Prayer
Secondly, concerning Saul himself, he was a religious man. If it’s according to works and the Law, he knew all about prayer. But this was the first time that he had ever prayed desperately. Rev Rutherford imparted that we need to learn what it is to pray desperately again.
He shared that there were many times in his years of ministry that he had seen people in a desperate state. There was one time when he visited a hospital where a young man was lying surrounded by tubes and wires on his body. The young man’s mother had been praying desperately for him and she had called Rev Rutherford for help in prayer.
The young man was not a believer. In fact, he had been reading Bertrand Russell’s ‘Why I Am Not a Christian’. As he prayed for the young man, he could feel the mother’s desperate prayer reaching to God. It broke into the young man’s spirit and reduced him to tears. But God also delivered the young man and restored him. Today, the young man is serving the Lord.
God answers and is still answering desperate prayers. How desperately are we praying for our families and nation?
- A Man Was Finding The Will of God For His Life
Thirdly, and this is very significant, a man was finding God’s will for his life. We are not created by God as accidents. Each and every one of us has a purpose fore-ordained by God. We need to find this purpose for our life.
This was perhaps the most significant moment of Saul’s life. It transformed him 180 degrees. From a persecutor of the Church, he became one of its greatest apostles. His whole life centered around the Gospel, and he endured all things for its sake. It was what God had called him to do. It was also one of the most powerful and momentous turnarounds in our history.
Rev Rutherford communicated that before the Great Commission, there was the Great Compassion and Great Love (Luke 23:34). First God reached down to us with indescribable love. Then His children started reaching out to a lost world in love. All this is encapsulated in the Great Commandment.
- A Man Was Being Welcomed Into The Family of God
Notice in Acts 9:17 that Ananias referred to Saul as “Brother Saul”. He welcomed Saul as family. This was remarkable grace and it must have had an impact on Saul. As we read many of his letters to the various churches, we often find him referring to them as his family.
This is what the Church is. It is the global Family under one Father. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus redeemed and forgave us. In the same manner, we must also love others, accept them, and show them the way to redemption.
17 And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
- A Man Was Filled With The Holy Spirit
As Ananias prayed for Saul, Saul was filled with the Holy Spirit. It was the Spirit that did the transformation work within Saul. The Spirit is not just a vague power or an ‘It’. He is also not only for signs and wonders or for those in full-time service and ministries.
The Spirit is very personal and He is with us every day of our lives. He is there in our joys and also in our struggles. He is our guide and comforter. The Spirit empowered Paul and sustained him in all his trials. He is there to guide us and reveal to us the deep things of God.
- A Powerhouse For Missions and Evangelism Was Raised Up
From the Great Persecutor, Saul, was birthed the Great Missionary, Paul. This was the result of Ananias’ courage and obedience to the Lord. Paul spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ far and wide. He planted many churches, taught and discipled many believers. From one man’s obedience, a great missionary and evangelical force was birthed.
There are times when God’s call for us will make us uncomfortable or even take us to dangerous places. Are we willing to go? Ananias found Paul at the end of his road of obedience. What will we find, if only we are obedient to the One we call our Lord?
We need to recognize that we are not working for our own success but recognize that we are serving God and not man. As Christians, we need to encounter God in a personal way and discover our purpose.
Each and every Christian has been called to be a part of a great family, stepping up to our roles as salt and light of the world. We need to start moving into greater things in our ministries, being faithful to one another and to God in humility, courage, and love.
NOTE: This article was guided extensively by the sermon notes on DUMC’s website at http://dumc.my/whats-up/latestsermons/ Access the webpage for more great content on God’s word and their series on the Book of Acts.
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