Have you ever noticed how when Saul became Paul, God didn't do all the heavy lifting? He asked a Christian named Ananias to help Saul, and Ananias almost didn't do it...
This is an excerpt from Bill Hybel's The Power of a Whisper: Hearing God, Having the Guts to Respond [eBook]. -Adam Forrest, Zondervan
A risky mission for Ananias
God spoke to Ananias in a vision, telling him to go to Saul and deliver a message. God even provides the address where Saul is staying [Acts 9:10–12].
"Hey, God," [Ananias] essentially said, "I don't know if you've neglected to keep up with the daily news or what, but Saul's name is all over the headlines. He's a terrorist, and the whole reason he's in town is to destroy the church that I attend. If you think I'm going to actually seek him out, well, then one of us is crazy!" ...
God stood by his one-word reply: "Go." And Ananias went. [Acts 9:13-16]
Earlier that day...
On the road to Damascus as Saul lay there blinded by the light, God had issued him a triad of instructions, as well: "Get up, Saul. Go into the city. And wait." Saul now had a decision to make. What would he do with the direction he'd been given? He's a tough guy—should he just stand up, shake his fist at heaven and say, "Is that your best shot?"
In perhaps the wisest move of Saul's life to that point, he chose the other path. The text says that he rose, he was led into the city by his band of brothers (who were probably shocked to be leading their once-fearless, now-helpless leader), and he waited for whatever would happen next [Acts 9:1-9].
Listening to God: A risk worth taking
I have read [Acts 9:17–19] many times, and with each reading I find myself trembling just a bit...
[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.' 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."]
Think about it: a highly intelligent (though completely misdirected) man—who will someday become a powerful force in the hand of Almighty God—is lying blind on a bed with no clue what he is to do next—other than to wait. If someone could only deliver a small dose of knowledge—a divine insight to him—the blind man not only will regain his sight but will eventually change the whole world for good.
Ananias delivers that small dose of knowledge, and Saul goes on to write two-thirds of the New Testament; he plants churches that will have lasting impact; he leaves a legacy, not of bitterness and rage, but of boldness and righteousness and faith. Lost people are saved, believers are encouraged, churches are strengthened and entire communities experience times of great peace, all because two men hear God's whispers and have the guts to respond.
I imagine God cheering from heaven's balcony as he watched Ananias enter the home where Saul lay anxiously awaiting the arrival of a man he'd never met.
'You were so ecstatic about your license to kill,' I picture God saying to Saul, 'but I can do you one better than that...'
"You were so ecstatic about your license to kill," I picture God saying to Saul, "but I can do you one better than that! You're about to be granted a license to help millions of people throughout history live. You now have full access to grace. Full access to love. Full access to power. Full access to fulfillment. Stay close to me, Saul, and you will want for nothing. I will care for you. I will protect you. I will provide for you. And while we're at it, I'll even give you a new name. Paul—that's who you are now ... Paul, my brand-new creation...
I am convinced that one of the major reasons a one-time terrorist [Saul] wound up becoming one of the most impactful Christian leaders in history is because he chose the path of obedience. On day one, when Jesus asked him to do three little things, he did them. And that step of initial obedience began a pattern of submission to the will and ways of God. Despite the eventual respect among believers that Saul—now Paul—would come to enjoy, the apostle Paul never got too seasoned, sophisticated or smart to do anything less than that which Jesus whispered for him to do. How I wish the same always could be said of me!
- Bill Hybels (@billhybels)
A theme from this story leaped out at me: Small obedience can make a big difference. It doesn't always feel like that, does it? But in the case of Ananias, doing something that frightened him had world-changing results. And for Paul, those small acts of obedience marked a new kind of life, characterized by obedience and "full access" to grace / love / power / fulfillment. -AF
Learn more about Bill Hybels's The Power of a Whisper: Hearing God, Having the Guts to Respond (eBook).
(Some styling above is a web-exclusive feature not included in the text of The Power of a Whisper. This post does not represent the views of Zondervan or any of its representatives. The writer's personal opinions are shared only for information purposes. To receive new Zondervan Blog posts in your reader or email inbox, subscribe to Zondervan Blog.)