“A man named Ananias lived there. He was a godly man, deeply devoted to the law, and well regarded by all the Jews of Damascus. He came and stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight.’ And that very moment I could see him!” (Acts 22:12-13, NLT)
The apostle Paul lived a remarkable life. Born in Tarsus as a Roman citizen, Paul’s lineage was through the tribe of Benjamin (Romans 11:1). As a young man, he trained under Gamaliel, a prominent rabbi and leader of the Sanhedrin (Acts 22:3). Although we don’t know Saul’s exact date of birth, scholars feel he was about the same age as Jesus. He was extremely fervent in his beliefs.
We know Saul (later Paul) as a fierce persecutor of Christians and also as a passionate missionary and defender of the faith. His encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus led to this shift from persecutor to preacher.
Acts 9 relates the well-known story of Saul’s conversion. When the Lord stopped him on his way to Damascus, his instructions were to “get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” For three days Saul sat sightless in the house on Straight Street as he fasted, prayed, and waited.
At the same time, in another part of the city, a man named Ananias encountered the Lord in a vision. The Bible describes Ananias as a disciple and a godly man with a good reputation. Nothing indicates that he was part of the church leadership. It’s very possible he was just a faithful follower of the Lord, part of the local group of believers. But God had a special (and scary) assignment for Ananias—go talk to Saul.
Ananias knew of Saul’s reputation and reminded the Lord that this was an evil man. Yet the Lord said, “Go!” Saul was praying. In fact, God had already given Saul a vision as well and told him the name of the man who would soon arrive on his doorstep. God was at work on both ends of this encounter.
“So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 9:17, NLT)
God didn’t send Peter or John or another of the twelve apostles to deliver His message to Saul. He tapped an ordinary man for this extraordinary assignment. Yes, Ananias probably felt somewhat nervous as he headed out to meet Saul. After all, this man had breathed out “threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” But Ananias chose to obey. He even addressed the man as “Brother Saul” as they met, showing his faith that God was at work here.
What if God asks us to step out in faith to reach a modern-day Saul? Would fear hold us back? Or feelings of inadequacy that we aren’t “ministry” and don’t know what to do? Is the person God is directing us to “too evil to be saved”? Just remember, God will be working on both ends. He does not send us on impossible missions. The person we witness to may become an evangelist, a missionary, or a future leader in the church. Their past life does not hinder God’s plans for a great future.
“But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” (Romans 5:20)
If God could transform a man who terrorized the early church into a missionary and the writer of several epistles, He can transform the lowest of sinners into a new creation in Christ. Hear Him say, “For he is a chosen vessel unto me” (Acts 9:15). This mission is possible!
Lord, You have called me to be witnesses to those around me. Help me to look beyond the depths of their sin to see the possibilities of a new creation filled with Your Spirit. Give me boldness and wisdom to speak Your peace and deliverance into their lives.