Our reading for Wednesday, May 22, 2019 is Acts 9. 10-19.
10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered. 11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” 13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” 17 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.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. NIV
We never know whom God shall use. In some way God uses every person to fulfill his plan. God can and will use even the evil person and the non-believer. God raised up Babylon and used the destruction of Jerusalem to fulfill God’s greater plan, even referred to them as his servants. It may be a frightening exercise to review history to consider the times and people God used to discipline and guide his people and purpose. I say it is frightening because the thought alarms us that God would use evil.
God uses “bad” people and tragic circumstances to draw attention to the dreadful plight of humanity and to accentuate our need for God, salvation and grace. Even Adolf Hitler was used by God to unite humanity against a common evil and to expose the danger of complacency and silence in the face of evil. We may attempt to protect a mistaken image of God we cherish in order to protect God’s reputation. Accepting the truth is our problem, not God’s, and our acceptance of the hope God works all things out to our ultimate good is the challenge of faith.
Ananias struggled with this when asked by God to leave the security of his life and beliefs to go help a man he knew as a persecutor of his fellow Christians. Saul had caused great fear and imposed suffering upon innocent families due to his love for traditional Judaism and his hatred for Christians whom he earnestly believed were heretics and a threat to his faith and tradition. The lesson to be learned – we can be earnest and completely wrong.
Saul fell into the category of one who should be admired for his earnestness but completely mistaken in his understanding of the truth. Thank heavens Ananias was obedient even in his wrestling with this paradox that God could and would transform such a one as Saul. Lesson 2 – God transforms people and circumstances; we are called to obedience.
What Ananias found when he did as he was asked was a broken man who had a miraculous encounter with the Lord that transformed his life. Please note that Ananias did not transform Saul; it was God, yet it was God’s plan to use Ananias in his work. What would have become of Saul had it not been for Ananias’ response of obedience that was counter-intuitive to all he knew? While Saul had been stopped in his destructive tracks and become responsive to the gospel he needed someone to believe in his change of heart and mind to nurture his growth. Ananias became that person. Had he not been obedient history might never have benefitted from the ministry of the Apostle Paul.
We need to be open to the potentials of what God might be doing in our time with the challenges we face. What might God be working through the evil we see and in the lives of others we discount as lost and hopeless? How might God be calling us to obedience in the midst of the evils that surround us? Good questions to ponder don’t you think!