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"Go, for He Is an Instrument Whom I Have Chosen"
Believing in the Transforming Power of God
Scripture Reading - Acts 9: 10-19
But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name." Act 9: 13-14
God calls us to do strange things. Ananias was certainly taken by surprise. God had just selected Ananias to restore sight to one of the most feared men in the early church: Saul of Tarsus. Imagine a person that is hated among many. Imagine a person that has murdered or committed violations against people that you know. Now imagine that God calls you to go to this person, lay your hands on this person, and cure them of their infirmaries. What would your first reaction be like?
Many of us would balk at the idea. We may even protest and question God's judgment. Yes, many of us would struggle. Many of us would put up a fight. Ananias certainly questioned God. After all, he had heard the stories. Ananias knew that Saul looked after the coats of the men that stoned Stephen to death. He knew that Saul had vowed to destroy the early church. Saul wanted to abolish the Way. No, He must have misunderstood God's command. This man? Saul of Tarsus?
Then God says something even more shocking. He tells Ananias that He (God) has picked Saul to deliver the good news of the gospel to the Gentiles, to Israel, and to kings of all the earth. Saul is God's chosen vessel, and Ananias must go minister to him. Though he must have been shocked, Ananias' response was a response of obedience. He did what God asked of him.
The scripture tells us that "Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus". Today's passage from the book of Acts teaches two lessons: God has the power to transform lives and the importance of fellowship with other Christians.
God transforms lives. It is a simple statement, but one that is so very hard for us to comprehend. Time and time again, the Bible reminds us that God picks the unimaginable to do the extraordinary. The story of Saul (who later became Paul) is an example of the transforming power of God. We, however, do a poor job of accepting this truth. Sadly, we as humans have a tendency to condemn long after God has forgiven. We still judge others according to their past actions even after Christ's blood has cleansed them of their iniquities. When an individual accepts Christ as his or her savior, it is our duty as fellow Christians to help this individual grow in the faith. This truth brings us to the second lesson from today's reading: the importance of Christian fellowship.
Mahatma Gandhi once said that the idea of knowing Christ fascinated him; but when he met Christians, he felt let down. Do we really want to be the type of Christian that drives others away from Christ. The answer is a stern "no". However, we often drive others away without thinking. We are called to nurture and encourage our fellow Christians regardless of their past actions. Like Saul who was strengthened in the presence of the other disciples, we are also strengthened in the presence of other Christians. Without encouragement and fellowship, Christians will wander away from the fold and become prey to the wolves of sin.
Today's passage reveals that we, like Ananias, must be obedient when God calls us to minister to others. We never know who has been chosen to be God's instrument. We never know who God is transforming. After all, it just may be one of us.