Monday, February 04, 2019

Going Where I'm Sent...Obediently

[This the journal entry from my quiet time with God earlier today.]

Look: “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…’” (Acts 9:15)

A Christian in Damascus named Ananias receives a vision from God that a man named Saul is in his city and needs his help. Ananias is appalled at the whole idea. “‘Lord,’ Ananias answered, ‘I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.’” (Acts 9:13-14)

That’s when the Lord gives His simple imperative to go and take care of Saul, who has encountered the risen and ascended Jesus on the road to Damascus and now is blinded and helpless at a house in the city.

It’s not as though the Lord says, “Go, because it’s what I told you to do.” He could have pulled that number, a favorite of exasperated parents through the centuries. And He would have been justified in doing so. After all, if anyone has the authority to tell us what to do, it’s the Lord.

He does assert His authority when He tells Ananias, “Go!” But He also explains why He’s telling Ananias to go to a street called Straight, to the house of Judas, where he’s to ask for Saul (Acts 9:11-12): The Lord had plans for Saul to be a preacher of the good news of new life through faith in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ to Gentiles and to kings. The Lord also wants to reveal to Saul, soon to be renamed Paul, that he was going suffer for being faithful to Christ. (Acts 9:15-16)

How does Ananias respond? Acts 9:17 says, “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.’”

Listen: I suppose people could have a debate as to exactly why Ananias obeys the Lord and goes to Saul. (1) Is it the simple imperative, “Go”? (2) Is it the explanation the Lord gives to him as to why he needs to get Saul? (3) Is it a combination of the two?

All of those factors are in play, I suppose. But it boils down to this: Ananias is a disciple who trusts in Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, he is able to be obedient to a command that he doesn’t really want to obey.

Because of the relationship Ananias has with and his receptivity to Christ, he hears Christ’s command to go and he goes.

It makes me wonder how much of what God may want to do through me am I missing through my failure to listen for Him as I read His Word and interact with people who may have needs God could take care of through me?

The things that God may want to do through me won’t necessarily lead me to grand gestures or sacrificial martyrdom. In the grand scheme of things, Saul/Paul is the “important” figure in this passage, the one who will be used by God to plant Christ’s Church throughout the Roman Empire, proclaim the good news to kings, and then die a martyr’s death. Ananias is a bit player. But his simple responsiveness to the Lord was pivotal!

After telling Saul that Jesus has sent him so that Saul can be filled with the Holy Spirit, we read: “Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.” (Acts 9:18-19) It appears to me that Ananias baptized the apostle Paul!

God could have chosen someone other than Ananias to “Go!” to Saul, of course. But Ananias was obedient.

This inspires me! I want to be a disciple of Jesus who, however frightening or insignificant or pointless it may seem to be, is willing to, “Go!” when God tells me to to go.

Everyday in God’s Word, I encounter commands from the One Who has saved me from myself and done so as a free gift of grace through Christ, to go, to take Christ to others by my words and actions. Everyday, I’m convinced, as I go through my life, Christ is calling me to follow His lead in some way or another. But I’m so busy with getting the next thing I think that I need to get to that I’m often deaf to  opportunities to be useful for God’s purposes.

Respond: I think that a useful thing for me to do today (if I can remember it) is to ask You, Lord, “What do You want me to do or say in this situation, in this appointment, in this meeting, in this time of study today, Lord?”

Could You help me to remember to do that, Lord? And could You help me then remember to do what You, in Your purposes, seem to want me to do?

What do you want me to say or do right now, Lord?

In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen  

[I'm the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

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