Summary: Paul and Ananias are called into Christ’s service. One is called globally while the other is called to local ministry.
Acts 9:1-9 “Challenging Calls”
Jesus has risen. He has appeared to the disciples given them peace through the gift of the Holy Spirit. The fear of the disciples has been overcome. The purpose of Jesus’ actions is so he can send out the disciples to carry on the mission that he began.
For the next several Sundays we will be in the Book of Acts. The key verse for the book is 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The ministry that Jesus told his disciples about has begun. In the stories contained in the book of Acts, we learn much about our calling, the purpose of the church, and the Holy Spirit’s movement in us as individuals and also as a community of believers.
One of the first characteristics of an encounter with God is that it wasn’t planned. Instead, it was a total surprise.
In today’s text, Paul was busy persecuting Christians. He had recently received permission to expand his persecution to Damascus where there was a growing population of followers of “The Way.” On his way to Damascus, Jesus surprised him, knocked him off his horse, spoke to him, and blinded him. I’m not sure Paul would have gone through with the encounter if it had been planned.
A few verses later, we read about a follower of Christ in Damascus named Ananias. He was surprised when the Lord spoke to him in a vision and told him to look for Paul. Ananias knew that Paul was the one who was persecuting the Christians. A person can imagine that Ananias questioned this voice that spoke to him, but he also was obedient to that voice.
The encounters with God that are recorded in scripture are almost always surprises.
• Moses—the reluctant leader of people
• David—a teenage future king
• Mary—the mother of God
Even though we don’t meet a lot of people who say they have had encounters with God, such experiences do happen. The Bible is full of such encounters, but these personal theophanies are not confined to the Bible. They come as surprises. As followers of Jesus Christ it is wise for us to keep ourselves alert for such surprises.
As we read the stories of God revealing himself to individuals and calling them to serve him, we are amazed at how God matches the call to the gifts and talents of the individual.
The Holy Spirit does not call us to do something we would hate to do. At one point in my ministry I considered the opportunity to serve with L.A.M.P (Lutheran Association of Missionaries and Pilots). I loved to fly and this was an opportunity to fly in northern Canada. It wasn’t for me, though. It was colder in Canada than it was in Wisconsin. Occasionally, I would have needed to stay is some primitive facilities, and if the plane broke down I would be expected to fix it—at least minor repairs. Obviously, it was not a good fit.
Paul was uniquely gifted with the right Jewish and Roman educations to be a missionary to the Gentile world.
Ananias was an obedient follower of Jesus who had the courage to follow God’s leading and find the persecutor of Christians.
Moses, though timid and a stutterer, was trained as a leader, which came in handy as he led the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land.
Mary was the obedient young woman who was willing to be the mother of the Son of God.
These encounters and calls with God were gifts. The individuals did nothing to deserve the encounters. In fact, sometimes they seemed to be the most undeserving of people.
These encounters were fantastic gifts. The people were able to be caught up in what God was doing. They realized that they were part of God’s plan and that the Holy Spirit was working through them.
These encounters were life transforming events. Some of the calls led to severe trials and tribulations, but there are no records of people ever regretting that God appeared to them and called them to serve God.
Our lives are gifts. They have been given to us to be lived in love of God and service to humankind. We too know that we are living for something greater than ourselves; that we are part of God’s plan. We rejoice that God is using us and that the Holy Spirit is moving through us.