Suppose God asked you to share your faith with an aggressive and antagonistically anti-Christian person. This nasty fellow, known to be offensive, even violent, has falsely accused other believers, creating division and causing difficulty. He’s a bad dude! God says, “Don’t send him an email or a text! Don’t call him on the phone! Go to the wicked person! Look into his bitter, evil eyes, and share the love of Jesus!” Would you go? Would you knock on his door? Would you?
Saul was a Pharisee, a religious zealot who had been empowered by the ruling religious establishment to eradicate the memory of Christ Jesus. He had tangled with Stephen, a deacon in First Church, Jerusalem, a man “full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3), “full of faith and the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5), “full of grace and power who was performing wonders and signs among the people”(Acts 6:8). Saul had, no doubt, been instrumental in enflaming the crowds to drive Stephen out of town. Saul had been pleased to watch the thugs execute the innocent and defenseless gentleman, crushing his body with devastating thuds.
Armed with legal writs and subpoenas authorizing the arrest of any person found to be collaborating or cooperating with the Church, Saul marched north from Jerusalem toward Damascus in Syria where he intended to visit the synagogues. He seethed with self-righteous anger as he contemplated arresting and abusing Jesus’ followers, of triumphantly perp-walking “them as prisoners to Jerusalem” (Acts 9:2).
“As he traveled and was nearing Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly flashed around him. Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul said. ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting,’ he replied. ‘But get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do’ ” (Acts 9:3-6).
Blind. Helpless. Afraid. Alone. Saul waited three days.
That’s when Ananias heard a word from the Lord. “Ananias… Get up and go to the street called Straight, to the house of Judas, and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, since he is praying there. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and placing his hands on him so that he may regain his sight” (Acts 9:10-12).
Ananias protested. “Lord… I have heard from many people about this man, how much harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has authority here from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name” (Acts 9:13-14). God gently, but firmly, urged Ananias toward faithfulness and obedience. “Go, for this man is my chosen instrument to take my name to Gentiles, kings, and Israelites” (Acts 9:15).
What might have happened if Ananias had disobeyed, if he’d rebelled and refused to go share with Saul? He didn’t disobey. “Ananias went and entered the house. He placed his hands on him and said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus … has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit’ ” (Acts 9:17).
God emboldened Ananias and transformed hateful Saul into the Apostle Paul… by grace.