The simple obedience of one man changed the world for Christ. Cameron Lawrence asks us if we'll be obedient when God calls.
You are walking through the center of town, the city all sound and motion in the bright heat of afternoon. You turn down the main drag to a house you’ve seen but never entered, shins burning, a lump forming in your throat at the thought of what awaits you. Feel the hardness of your knuckles rapping against the door. Feel the lump in your throat rise and fall as the hinges creak and the host says, “Please, come in.” At first, everything is shadow as your eyes adjust from the sun to the room’s dim light. Slowly, as the walls and furniture come into focus, you notice three men: One pacing from the window to the corridor and back again, another crouched against the wall, and the last of them—a small bearded man in fine clothing, who doesn’t look at you, at anyone, or anywhere. He sits alert on the edge of a chair, like a child waiting for medicine, his wide eyes peering into nothing. This is the one you have come for, the one who killed your friends. This is the man who has come to take your life.
The above exercise in imagination isn’t a precise depiction of what happened in Acts 9. But it may serve to bring us closer to the experience of Ananias—the servant of God sent by Christ Himself to pray for one of the early church’s greatest enemies: Saul of Tarsus, or as we know him today, the apostle Paul.
The story goes that Saul was traveling on the road to Damascus, 150 miles and more than a two-day journey from Jerusalem. There, the young Pharisee had zealously been persecuting followers of “the Way”—a new messianic sect that would one day be called Christianity. Acts 8 tells us that, back in the Holy City, he had ravaged the church, dragging men and women off to prison (v. 3), and was ultimately responsible for the execution of many believers there.
As persecutions ensued, members of the fledgling church had scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, hoping? to escape with their lives (v. 1). But in the process of rounding up the faithful ?of Jerusalem, Saul had intercepted letters written from Damascus—correspondence from brothers and sisters in the Lord who had fled to safety—and purposed to broaden the bounds of his witch-hunt (Acts 22:5). He had decided to travel north to arrest everyone he could and bring them back to Jerusalem for trial, in hopes of quashing the growing movement. But on that very trip, the future apostle met the risen Christ. There on the dusty road, the uncreated Light—God the Son—struck blind the one with a blinded heart. At Jesus’ command, he was to go into the city and wait there for further instructions.
Enter Ananias. Scripture doesn’t say much about him, but tradition has it that he was possibly among the 70 disciples Jesus sent out into the cities He would soon visit (see Luke 10:1-29), and likely was one of the church leaders in Damascus—perhaps even the first bishop, or overseer, in the city. One thing we do know is that Ananias was aware of who Saul was and why he had come. The Lord appeared to the disciple and said, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight” (Acts 9:11-15). Who could blame Ananias for being afraid? “I have heard from many about his man,” he replied, “how much harm he has done to your saints.” But against all earthly logic, Christ said, “Go,” and he went.
Strikingly, Ananias was willing to obey regardless of the risk, demonstrating devotion to the Lord above all. Yet, perhaps even more impressive is the quality of his heart upon arrival in that room, as revealed in a single, subtle word: “Brother,” he said in love to the broken man, murderer, and enemy of God’s people, “the Lord Jesus...has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 9:17). And in a beautiful inversion? of Saul’s intended harm for the scattered believers in that place, Ananias laid his hands on the man and healed him. And what’s more, the servant of God lowered the would-be apostle into water, baptizing the one who days earlier would rather have seen Ananias lowered into a grave.
Strikingly, Ananias was willing to obey regardless of the risk, demonstrating devotion to the Lord above all.
We never know what an act of obedience will mean for the future of God’s kingdom. Ananias humbly allowed the Lord to work through him, and the result was that Saul became one of the greatest missionaries and most prolific writers of Christian history. Likewise, each of us has a role to play in the Lord’s great story of redemption. What He calls us to may not seem like much. But we can be assured that our faithfulness, in the power of the Holy Spirit, will ripple out from us into eternity. The question is, when Christ says “Go,” will we?
Written by Cameron Lawrence
The article was selected from In Touch magazine.