To be obedient means to obey without delay or question. Jesus is our perfect example of how simple obedience can impact the world through the power of God.
And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 9:17)
In today’s verse, we see a simple man acting in obedience. We hear nothing of Ananias before and after this event. He is as insignificant as so many of us in the body of Christ. In fact, he is likely only mentioned because of who Saul – Paul – was destined to be. For one brief moment, Ananias met the great Apostle to the Gentiles face to face. But he was instrumental releasing a bold and charismatic man who would drive the new church. It’s a wonderful verse to encourage every believer in Jesus. God uses anyone, no matter what their ability, status, qualification, or intellect. He uses the foolish to confound the wise. All He requires is a willing and obedient heart. When next we’re prompted by God, we should remind ourselves that our small and seemingly foolish service could ignite a dramatic process in the kingdom of God.
Obedient means in spite of.
Poor Ananias – and how like us is his response to God’s command. I picture myself in his shoes, having just been told to scoot off and pray for the one man in Israel he should really avoid. You want me to what? Seriously, Lord? Saul of Tarsus? You do know this is the bloke who wants to off every Christian he can lay his hands on, don’t You? This is about as crazy a death-wish we could ever find. The reality is that many of the things He tells us to do are…well…out there. His ways are not our ways. Like every single one of us at some time, Ananias ventures to question God. It’s not that he doesn’t want to be obedient. He simply can’t get his head around the idea of willingly handing himself over to the most feared anti-Christian zealot in the world.
But God is immeasurably gracious. His response to Ananias’ protest doesn’t contradict the truth. This is important. God never once says that Saul isn’t what everyone believes him to be. He doesn’t reassure Ananias that it’s all good and that He will make sure Ananias doesn’t come to harm. He simply points to the work of His kingdom. The message is clear. Look to His purposes. That is all that matters. God has a plan and a purpose, and whatever happens will accomplish that to His glory. His answer takes Ananias out the picture and puts God in proper perspective. We are called to be obedient in spite of the realities and in spite of our fear and inclinations, however valid they might be. God’s purposes never contradict reality. They inspire supernatural faith to act in spite of reality, trusting God to do the rest.
To be obedient means to take the Straight road.
I often discover little things that make me smile and which remind me that our God has a wonderful sense of humour. Paul, if we look back in this chapter, is staying in house on Straight Street. That’s the one that goes ‘straight’ through town, or which is straight rather than winding. The humour lies in the play on the word. Ananias must go straight there, not dilly dally or procrastinate. He must also keep in the straight way, not follow a circuitous route. Go straight away and take the straight and shortest road, and get there as quickly as possible. This is a good lesson when it comes to being obedient. It’s so tempting to question God and, when that fails, to question ourselves. Surely we didn’t hear Him right. He doesn’t really mean right now. Tomorrow makes more sense. It’s astonishing the arguments reason and reluctance can conjure.
The joke, of course, is on us. If we truly have a heart after God, we will find ourselves obedient sooner or later. It’s simply not possible to avoid it. Obedience demands the straight road – go straight away and go straight there. We would save ourselves a lot of bother if we simply took God at His word and trundled off without hesitation. Our God is mercifully patient with His children. He will let us procrastinate and deliberate and confusticate until we have to pause for breath. Then He will gently and lovingly remind who is in charge and point us down the straight road of obedience. His grace will remind us that we are here for His glory – to do His work and to do so as living sacrifices with joyful and willing surrender. Then it will empower us in spite of who and what we are.
Obedient disciples impact God’s kingdom.
This is remarkable encouragement. So often, we look at some of the things we are sent to do and wonder what possible purpose they hold. They seem pithy and inconsequential at best and downright dumb and crazy at worst. We long to be a Paul or Peter, David or Deborah, making a visible and bold impact on the world around us. But every great man or woman of God had, at some point in their faith journey, an obedient disciple who stepped out and was used by God. A simple encounter we perhaps never even remember can ignite a transformation in another believer. They may go on to do awesome things, or they, in turn, may simply be an instrument to impact another life in the same way. Nothing, not matter how small, stands alone in God’s kingdom. An invisible supernatural chain joins every work together in God’s plan.
We must never undervalue our purpose in the kingdom of God. He has chosen to use every single believer – though when we kick at the traces and continually question Him, it’s not clear why He would. In fact, each of us have ‘good works’ that were created for us in eternity. Those are works we are made, shaped, taught, and empowered to do. The saint on their knees in the privacy of the prayer closet can change the fate of families, communities, and nations. There are countless examples everywhere of how a chance encounter with an insignificant stranger has challenged and transformed a life in Christ. Most of Jesus’ disciples were simple fishermen schooled in the Torah but on the lower end of the social scale. These are the men Jesus chose because they had humility and would be obedient. Their impact on the world is beyond measure or comprehension.
To be obedient is to emulate Christ.
Our greatest example is always Jesus. He lived a life totally obedient to the Father, even to the point of laying down His life. Yet we resist even the simplest of commands. Like Ananias, our obedience might mean death or danger. God never promised us an absence of these things. What He does do is promise us that when we lay down our lives – even simply the sacrifice of self – He will fulfil His purposes through us. In many ways, Ananias was as brave and courageous as Paul proved himself to be. Once he’d gotten over himself, he went with a willing heart full of faith. The measure of that isn’t how many people we convert, what size church we found, or how many miracles God works through us. It’s in the beautiful truth that when we live like Jesus, we are a vibrant, essential part of all He accomplished.
Father, thank You for the opportunity to share in Your work. We confess that we seldom understand, and ask You to forgive us our foolish protests and procrastination. Help us to keep our eyes always on You and Your kingdom, to keep Jesus ever before us as our example, and to go with joyful, willing obedience.