Acts 9

Acts 9 is in stark contrast to the previous chapter where Saul led the pack in stoning Stephen.  He is still on the rampage here – heading for Damascus with letters allowing him to haul any Christ Followers back to jail.  But on his journey intended to destroy the church – something happens.  “Suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him”.  He met Jesus.  Saul meets the Living Savior and King.  “Falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me”.  Jesus meets him where he is – a sinner – and considered one of the worst because of the persecution he was doing to the church.  Yet Jesus pursues him even though the rest of the church was hiding and running literally for their lives.  Saul is blinded and led into the city by his traveling companions and “for three days he was without sight and neither ate nor drank”.  So as he sits in this house pondering what has happened – God calls on a man named Ananias to “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying”.  Can you imagine being tapped on the shoulder with that call?  Hey Ananias – go find this guy Saul who has been killing your fellow believers and heal him.  I would have reacted just like Ananias did: “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem”.  Look God – I am a follower of yours but this is asking a lot.  This guy kills people like me.  God persists and says “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine”.   There was a job for Ananias to do.  He wasn’t really being asked – he was being told by God to get up and get moving.  Ananias could have refused I suppose.  But “Ananias departed and entered the house” and he came to Saul who “regained his sight…..rose….and was baptized”.  

What if Ananias hadn’t answered God’s call?  What if Saul had not met Jesus and His saving power and been transformed into Paul who wrote much of the New Testament?  We often don’t see the impact of the call God has on our life.  We may just treat those gentle nudges or whispers as unimportant.  But God has a plan for each one – and we need to listen and act when He calls.  God’s call is not optional – He isn’t asking if we think it is a good idea when He nudges us.  He is God and knows what needs to be done.  So we just need to respond and follow His direction.  It is so simple yet we resist it so often and fail to follow His leading.  Ananias did respond and now scripture tells us that Saul “immediately proclaimed Jesus in the temple”.  Because of Ananias’ simple response of obedience to go and do as God asked – Saul has been set free from sin and is not a leader in the church.  Immediately the response of the leaders was to try and kill this guy.  Saul was wreaking havoc on their plans to shut down the Christ Followers before they got out of control.  But “his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall” to save him.  He headed on to Jerusalem and the fellow believers were afraid of him but “Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles”.  Another man who followed God’s direction even when it didn’t really match up with the common wisdom of the day.   

Saul continues preaching boldly and impacting the church.  Here is the way the church is described: “the church….had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied”.  Did you catch that?  The church was walking in the fear and power of God.  For that reason – it multiplied.  It wasn’t because of the great programs it offered.  It wasn’t about the building or campus they were on.  It was because they were walking with God.  That is what grows the body of Christ – the church.  Want your church to grow?  Then walk with Him.  That is the place growth comes from.  He is the vine – He provides the growth – we have to be plugged into that source of power if we want to make a difference in the world around us.

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