Saturday, November 12, 2011

Finding Courage

One does not say to God “You’ve got to be joking!” but I came very close. It was such an improbable, crazy command. This man was our sworn enemy, a leading agent in the persecution of the saints, and now God was asking me to go to him and heal him?? It didn’t make any sense. And what did God mean “he is praying”? Everyone knew that Saul was a devout Jew. Of course he prayed!!

I repeated the instructions over in my head, to make sure I had heard it right. I was to go to the house of Judas and ask to see Saul of Tarsus, because he had been praying (!) and the Lord had given him a vision of me coming and restoring his sight. “Why me??” was my other immediate thought, but I knew better than to say it, not because I feared some dire punishment, but because I knew enough to know it was a waste of breath. God’s reasons are often inexplicable to man.

Inexplicable? Yes, but not back-to-front-and-inside-out crazy. If our enemy had been struck down (and rumours had been running rife that something very strange had happened to Saul on the way here), wasn’t that the time to rejoice that God had rescued us from the hand of the enemy, not reach down and help him up so he could attack the saints all over again? I paused for a moment, while a heavy lump of fear consolidated inside me. Then, choosing my words carefully, I pointed out to the Lord the obvious problem: there had been many stories circulating about how this man had set about the persecution of the Jerusalem church, and it was a known fact that the temple authorities had sent him up here to do the same, and arrest in their name the followers of Jesus. Surely going to visit him was as insane as walking deliberately into the wolf’s den?

But the Lord wasn’t interested in my fears, however reasonable they seemed to me. He commanded me to go and lay hands upon this bitter enemy, because he (the Lord) had chosen Saul to carry the gospel into the nations of the gentiles and “show him how much he must suffer for my name.” There was no room left for argument.

If anyone ever writes the story of that day, they will simply say that I, Ananias, went to the house and entered it, laid hands upon Saul, prayed for him and he was healed, both in body and in spirit, as the Holy Spirit did His mighty work in him. And that is, of course, the truth. But it leaves out the struggle within me, the slow reluctance of my steps, the shaking of my sweating hands or the way I walked up and down the Street called Straight several times before, having run out of other options, I went up to the door. It was the hardest thing I have ever done – the bare word of God versus everything that my heart and mind could tell me. In the end, faith and courage are nothing more than taking the next step because it is the only step, and God was already waiting there for me, on the far side of my fear.

It was only when I entered the room and approached Saul that the power and love of the Holy Spirit filled me, and I knew exactly what to say and do. And the miracle occurred. But the greater miracle had already taken place in each of our hearts.

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