Summary: We might think to ourselves, "I do love Christ, so why am I not doing what he has called me to do? Am I afraid of actually doing what he is calling me to do?" We can do everything Jesus is calling us to do. All we have to do is rely on him.
The theme of this Easter season is redemption. Jesus died to save us from our sins and to restore our relationship with God. The readings from Acts 9:1-20 and John 21:1-19 that we heard earlier in this service are good examples of Jesus' work of restoration.
Paul's transformation was one of the most famous transformations in Christian history. Here was a man who was a religious zealot. He was so convinced that the way the Pharisees worshipped God was the only way that he actively persecuted the early Christian church. He was present when Stephen became the first Christian martyr. Paul even called himself a strict Pharisee in Philippians 3:5.
Jesus spent most of his time on earth arguing with the Pharisees. He argued that it was not necessary to worship God by obeying the 600 or so rules that the Pharisees had. He tried to make the Pharisees understand that God is for everyone, both Jews and Gentiles. He had little success---until he quite literally made Paul "see the light".
Why did Jesus choose Paul to lead the church in its expansion to the Gentiles? We don't know for certain. God's ways are not easy for us to understand, even when we ask him "why". Take Ananias, for example. God used him to go to Paul and lay hands on him. God always uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. God used Ananias to deliver the Holy Spirit to Paul, thereby preparing Paul for his ministry.
Paul's reputation preceded him, but Ananias did not know that Paul encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus. At the same time that God was speaking to Ananias, Paul was waiting in prayer and fasting for a word from Ananias to tell him what to do. Ananias was the one chosen by God to go to Paul and tell him where his future was. Ananias' knowledge of Paul's reputation was a barrier to obeying God's order immediately.
Like Ananias, we have a word from God. We have an order to bring the Good News to a world that is tumbling toward hell. Our knowledge of people's reputations and opposition to the gospel often hinders our work. We have yet to hear that many people have reached the end of their hopes. We have yet to hear that people are in the depths of despair. We have yet to hear that people are frustrated by pleasure-seeking. We have yet to hear that people are frustrated by a daily routine without meaning.
Ananias also had his doubts. He told God about how Paul persecuted Christians, but God mentioned that he chose Paul to do his work. Ananias saw Paul as an enemy, but God saw Paul as an ally. God transformed Ananias from a doubter to a faithful servant. Ananias answered God's call so that Paul could answer God's call. No one is beyond salvation No one is beyond hope. Even if our past is dirty, God can clean us and make us whole. (Pause)
Paul saw the light of Christ even before he lost his physical sight. Paul had to lose his physical sight and be humbled by God so that he could gain spiritual sight. During his period of blindness, he ate and drank nothing, Was it because he was ashamed of his previous life? Maybe, but some scholars believe that he was preparing himself for the work God called him to do. Each of us has a place of obedience. Some of us only need a gentle nudge to lead us to God, while others need a lightning bolt. Paul realized that he was lost. He realized that by persecuting Christians, he was actually persecuting Jesus, the Messiah who had already come. Paul's conversion gave him a vibrant faith and a strong commitment to his calling.
Paul still had a will of his own, but he needed his own will and determination to do God's work. Paul is a good example for us to follow. When our will is merged with God's will, we can do great things for God's kingdom. We all want to control our own lives. Paul controlled his own life for more than 30 years, but when he "saw the light", he became dependent on others, including God. When he was redeemed by God, Paul surrendered control of his life to God. In return, God led Ananias to Paul, and God led Barnabas to introduce Paul to other believers and to help start Paul's ministry.
New believers need fellowship. Pastors can only do so much from the pulpit. New believers need living examples of what a Christian is. What do Christians do with their free time? How do Christians treat each other? New believers need to be out there in the real world with fellow believers, seeing how their new life will play out.