Sermon on Acts 9:1-20
Text: Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 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. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
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 holy people 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 proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to 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. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.
When you get a phone call, what is the first thing that you do? If you are like most people, you look at the caller ID. In general, if it is a relative or friend, you will answer so that you can visit with them. If it is a telemarketer or someone you do not want to talk to, you ignore the call. Sometimes, when people call, we do not want to talk to them. This morning in our sermon, the Lord calls one of his servants to do something for him. At first, he did not think he wanted to. However, after the Lord assured him, he was willing to do it. This morning, as we study Paul’s conversion on the way to Damascus, we want to focus our attention on Ananias. We will do so under the theme: WHEN THE LORD CALLS, BE SURE TO LISTEN 1. Even If The Task Seems Difficult, 2. Knowing Full Well The Lord Will Accomplish His Purpose.
Many of us are familiar with the account of Paul’s conversion. We first meet Saul, as he held the coats of those stoning Stephen, the first Christian martyr. This was the beginning of a fierce persecution of the Christian Church. Saul was no longer content to persecute the Christians in Jerusalem. We read in verses 1&2, “Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.” Saul wanted to stamp out Christianity.
As he went to Damascus, Jesus himself appeared to Saul. He asked, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Verse 4) Then, after identifying himself, Jesus said to Saul, “Get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” (Verse 5) Saul got up, but needed to be led by his companions into Damascus, because he was blind. For three days Saul sat in his blindness, praying to the Lord.
It is on this background that we meet Ananias. The Lord called to Ananias in a vision. Ananias was told, “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.” (Verses 11-12)
Put yourself in Ananias’ shoes for a moment. Can you imagine the thoughts that ran through his mind? We get a sense of what he was thinking, as he replies to the Lord, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” (Verses 13-14) He was asking, ‘Are you sure, Lord? Maybe, he’s just faking it. Maybe, as soon as I go into the room, he will have me arrested.’ The Lord had asked a very difficult thing of Ananias. Maybe, it was too difficult. Maybe, it was too much.
Sometimes the Lord may call on us and ask us to do something that is very difficult. Maybe the Lord is calling us to go through some difficulty in regard to our health. We may be tempted to ask, “Lord, are you sure? Is this really the way it’s supposed to go? I could serve you so much better, if I were healthy.” Perhaps, you may be facing a financial difficulty. There never seems to be enough to cover everything. We may be tempted to ask, “Lord, is this really the best thing for me? I could give you more, if I had more to begin with.”
There are other difficult things that the Lord calls on us to do. He calls on us to forgive others after they have wronged us. Our natural inclination is to hurt them back or hold a grudge against them. That is what we want to do by nature. However, our Lord calls on us to forgive. There are times when we may be tempted not to answer when the Lord calls upon us to forgive, or to say, “It’s too difficult. This person has done such a horrible thing that I cannot forgive them.”
When we need help with these difficult and seemingly impossible things, we can turn to God for the strength and the ability to follow through. For example, when we have trouble forgiving others, look at another act of forgiveness. This act of forgiveness is God’s act of forgiving you. As many horrible things that others may have done to you, they do not even begin to compare with the many sins that you have committed against God. We have done many things against God’s will, such as taking things that do not belong to us, even if they were just little things. We have said things that are against God’s will, such as when we say things that hurt other people. As for our thoughts, you know how many thoughts you have every day that are against God’s will. For each and every one of us, God would be just in condemning each and every one of us to hell.
However, God chose to send a Savior, instead. He sent Jesus Christ to be the atoning sacrifice for the world. Jesus lived for us perfectly following his Father’s will. Jesus died for us, to pay for every sin that we have ever committed. On Easter morning, Jesus rose from the dead for us, so that we might be assured that our sins have been forgiven. In addition to this, he has ascended into heaven where he is controlling the events of our world and causing them to work out for our benefit. Remember this: Even when things are going poorly for us, Jesus is still in control and we know that he will accomplish his purpose.
Sometimes, we do not or cannot see the Lord’s purpose when he asks us to do something that is difficult. He told Ananias why he had been called to go to Saul, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.” (Verse 15) After Ananias offered his excuses, the Lord said simply, “Go!”
However, there was more to it. God told Ananias that Saul had been chosen for a very special task. He would be God’s messenger, especially to the Gentiles. The great persecutor of Christ would become his advocate? That is what God told Ananias, and that is what happened. After Ananias went to Saul and spoke with him, his eyesight was restored. The first thing that we hear then is that Saul is baptized. He had been brought to faith. He did not just sit on his faith or keep it quiet. We read in verse 20, “At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.” This was just the beginning. Saul, later known as Paul, went to many places, teaching people that Jesus was their Savior. His travels fill the majority of the book of Acts. God be praised that this great persecutor became the greatest missionary the world has ever known.
However, do you ever think about what Ananias thought when he saw all that the Lord was accomplishing through Paul? The Lord had called upon him to do a very difficult task. It was not one that he really wanted to do. However, as he answered the Lord’s call, great things were accomplished.
The same holds true when God calls upon us to do or go through some difficult things. We may not know or be able to see why God would allow a hardship or sickness or death to come into our lives. When it is all over, we might be able to see why it happened the way that it did. Maybe, we will not be able to see it. How do we know that everything turned out the way that it was supposed to?
We have this calm assurance because God is in control of all things. In Psalm 24:1, we read, “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” Everything belongs to the Lord, from the weather to the ground to our bodies. Furthermore, in Psalm 115:3, we read, “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.” All that happens is according to the Lord’s will. The assurance that the Lord will accomplish his purpose in whatever may come our way is so beautifully summarized in Romans 8:28, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” When the task seems too difficult, or the road seems too long, we have Jesus’ words of invitation in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Whatever God may call upon us to do we have his assurance that all will serve his purpose and, ultimately, we will be blessed through it.
There is an interesting phenomenon that occurs in many households. It affects every member of the family at some point in time. The phenomenon is called “Selective hearing.” In other words, you hear only what you want to hear. If mom is calling the kids to have some dessert, or even talking about candy, they never seem to have any problem hearing it. However, if these same children are called by their mother to do something that is difficult, they do not seem to hear quite as well. We all suffer from selective hearing, in one form or another. Sometimes, we suffer from selective hearing, when it comes to God’s commands. If it seems too difficult, we may have trouble hearing it. Dear friends, empowered by the Holy Spirit, when the Lord calls, let us answer, even if it seems too difficult, knowing full well that the Lord will accomplish his purpose. When the Lord calls upon us, may we quickly answer, thankful for the privilege of doing what he wants. What greater joy can we have than to hear Jesus’ voice at the last saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Amen.
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