Mick’s Memo – Tough Assignments
My men’s study group came to one of the pivotal events in biblical history this week as we discussed Acts chapter 9—the vision and redirection of Saul of Tarsus. The man who had been the point man for persecuting followers of Jesus, saw and heard Jesus speak to him from the heavenly realm, and from then on became the point man for the explosive expansion of the church into the gentile world. This event changed the direction of his life, but far more than that, it changed human history. His intellect, knowledge of Scripture, courage and resiliency were indispensable to God’s plans. Yet those who knew him would have considered this impossible. Do you know anyone you consider too distant from God to change direction and put their life at God’s disposal?
As you read the narrative of this event, two “regular” disciples are instrumental, even though God used a supernatural intervention to confront Saul. They are Ananias of Damascus and Barnabas.
Ananias had the dubious assignment of restoring Saul’s sight from temporary blindness and delivering Saul’s assignment. He didn’t exactly leap at the opportunity. Like Jonah in the OT he had some reservations and concerns. Saul could have been faking the vision to infiltrate the network of believers. Saul was still carrying authorization to arrest “followers of the way” and he had companions with him who might still want to carry out their mission of persecution. In fact God was gracious enough that he gave a second supernatural vision to Ananias to deliver the assignment. It took amazing courage and faith, even with that vision, for Ananias to go to Saul and welcome him into fellowship and “lay hands” on him to impart the filling of the Holy Spirit. Though it’s not mentioned, there must have been many introductions where Ananias had to assure others that Saul’s transformation was genuine. The result? Saul immediately went to the Synagogue’s in Damascus and confounded the accusations he had once advanced.
Barnabas had a similar task. Saul’s presence was so influential in Damascus that a plot to murder him arose and he had to escape and return to Jerusalem. Naturally the believers there had heard rumors of his conversion, but they also had vivid memories of him “wreaking havoc” and supervising the execution of Stephen. Most feared his past so much that they wouldn’t give him a chance to demonstrate his new faith. Enter Barnabas. He had such a strong faith in God’s Sovereign grace that he believed Saul’s story and served as Saul’s advocate to the rest of the church.
God is able to reach ANYONE. Saul is proof of that. But it’s hard for us to believe it sometimes. It’s tempting for us to pre-judge others response based on their current state of faith. God is looking for people like Ananias and Barnabas. People who have a big view of God’s power to change people. Forty or more years ago, there was more of a “Christian view” of life making people who were not followers of Jesus seem more approachable. It was true. But it isn’t as much the case now. Our mission in representing Jesus today involves more people like Saul who are not only not following Jesus yet, but may be openly opposing faith in Christ. What will we do? I suggest 3 things. First we need to pray that God will do His miraculous work. Anyone who comes to faith is a work of God’s power. Second, we need to connect with people across the spectrum, not pre-judging their response to God. We need to demonstrate friendship and compassion. Third, we need to learn and practice how to initiate dialogue about spiritual realities; asking questions about life, life after death and what the options are for us all.
Ananias and Barnabas are challenging to me. Their huge view of God’s power and grace, their obedience to take on tough assignments and their initiative in the face of others’ opposition are not easy to emulate. But their assignments have been passed down through the generations to us. Will we take up the baton?
This weekend you will be excited by one of our own local college students who has been a part of CCC for most of his life—Cooper Young, as he continues our series “Connections”. You will be blessed! Bring friends!