As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
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. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
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. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
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.
I love this passage from Acts. What an experience for both men – Saul and Ananias. First, what faith Ananias displayed in going to the house where Saul was. Saul’s reputation preceded him to Damascus. All the Jesus-loving citizens in Damascus knew to watch out for him as he was a treacherous man on a mission. I recently read a great comparison of this situation in a book titled “Paul – A Man of Grace and Grit” by Dr. Charles R. Swindoll. By the way, if you get an opportunity to read this book, I highly recommend it. It is a great read from start to finish! Now getting back to the comparison that Dr. Swindoll makes with Ananias, he paints the picture in 1940, you are Jewish and you live in Vienna, Austria when the Nazis invade your beloved city. Imagine being awakened in the night by the Lord telling you to go to a specific house on a specific street to touch a specific man named Adolf Hitler. You have heard what a terrible monster Adolf Hitler is and that he despises and kills Jewish people. However, the Lord himself is requesting that you are the only one who can go and lay hands on Hitler to save your people. What an amazing, eye-opening analogy this is. I never quite put myself in Ananias’ shoes before reading this excerpt from Dr. Swindoll’s book. What amazing faith Ananias displayed in following the Lord’s request. Imagine where we would be if he did not follow that request. This disciple named Ananias is only mentioned in this chapter of Acts but what an amazing legacy he left all of us. And it was simple faith. Nothing more. Faith is defined in the Book of Hebrews.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6
Another thing I’d like to point out from the scripture above in Acts is that Saul became completely dependent on others in the “flash of a light.” The take-away I got from these verses is that our lives can change in the “flash of a light” and we can find ourselves in Saul’s shoes, so to speak. I gave my life to Jesus completely and feel compelled to spread the good news that Paul also felt compelled to spread. Another fact that Dr. Swindoll points out in his book is that Paul would have journeyed approximately 13,400 miles in his various missionary trips! And this is a conservative estimate and it does not include trips that Paul eludes to in the Bible but does not expand upon. Imagine the faith that he had in Jesus Christ. He knew that this life’s mission was to spread the Word, even if (and especially if) that included suffering for the cause, so that we could have the forever-after Jesus promises for all of us. If you have a passion for Christ, how can you not want to spread this good news?
I’d like to close this lesson with the following verse:
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Hebrews 13:15-16