Ananias: Risking to Reach Out
In my last two blog posts we have examined the topic of evangelism, sharing the good news of Jesus. We learned from Stephen that we must be witnesses in both action and word and know how to share. From Philip we learned that we must overcome the fear of sharing the good news of Jesus. We were introduced to Saul at the stoning of Stephen as he “. . . was there giving approval to his death.” Saul made it his mission to seek out Christians and put them in prison. Philip was one of the believers who was scattered by Saul’s persecution. In this post, we continue the story of Saul and his interaction with another believer, Ananias. Ananias was a mentor to Paul in his transformation from persecutor of Christians to Apostle to the Gentiles.
1Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything (Acts 9:1-9 NIV).
Saul’s Conversion (1-9)
Saul’s conversion to Christianity is one of the most powerful and important events recorded in Acts. There are at least four important points to note about Saul’s conversion:
Radical Change—Saul made a 180 degree turnaround from persecutor of Christians to proclaimer of Christianity. The change was so radical that he changed his name from Saul (Hebrew) to Paul (Roman), as he became the Apostle to the Gentiles.
Dramatic Change—We don’t know what happened (e.g., lightning, epilepsy, vision) to Paul that day, but it changed his life as he encountered Jesus on the Damascus Road.
Unexpected Change—Saul was not looking for God, but God was looking for him.
Powerful Change—Paul had to admit a need for others. He was led by the hand. The powerful one became powerless in the presence of Almighty God.
Like Paul, each of us must experience the power of conversion. God touches each of us in different ways—some quiet and gradual; some dramatic and sudden. We all need the touch of God in turning us into the pathway to him. Sometimes we need the help of a friend in this process. Paul didn’t have many friends among Christians, but he had the one that he needed. Ananias was Paul’s first Christian friend and also his mentor in the new life of faith.
Ananias Reached Out (10-19)
10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength (Acts 9:10-19 NIV).
We all need mentors, those who introduce us to our work and instruct us in it. Mentoring is defined as “a developmental relationship between a more experienced person to help a less experienced person develop in a specified capacity.” I have had many mentors in my life as I’m sure you have as well. Rich Barnett and Charles Halliman were my mentors at NASA as I learned about the Space Shuttle and its computer system. In ministry my Uncle Ross Morrison and Ron Lyles have been my mentors. I’m sure you can think of special people in your life who helped you learn something new or grow in your faith, work, or life in general.
Do you know the name Dr. Melvin H. Watson? He died in June 2006. Watson lived to be 98 and was senior pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA for fifty years. He was a religion professor at Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Religion, and the Interdenominational Theological Center. One of his students said that "He was one of the great teachers of his generation, and his teaching skills and mentoring capacity was as comprehensive outside the classroom as in the classroom." Many of his students continued to turn to him for guidance even after their graduation. Of course you know the name Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the great civil rights leader. Dr. Melvin H. Watson was Dr. King’s teacher, mentor, and friend in life and ministry. Dr. Watson shaped and guided the life and thinking of Dr. King behind the scenes.
Even the great Apostle Paul needed a mentor. As he began a new life of faith, Paul needed someone to open his eyes and help him see the way. Paul needed a spiritual mentor just as we all do.
Being a Spiritual Mentor – Risking to Reach Out
Will you be a spiritual mentor to someone who needs to come to faith or to grow in their faith? Here are three characteristics of a spiritual mentor that we can learn from Ananias and apply as we seek to help others walk in faith.
Be Prayerful – Ananias was in touch with the Lord and aware of God’s plans (10-12).
Be Faithful – Ananias shared his fears and weakness with the Lord but obediently relied on God to provide what he lacked (13-17).
Be Joyful – The text does not reveal this directly, but Ananias must have rejoiced to see the transformation in
Paul at his baptism, in his preaching, and through his subsequent ministry as Apostle to the Gentiles. Later Paul in turn would become a spiritual mentor to his spiritual son Timothy. God blinds each of us with the light of his love and through a mentor—a parent, grandparent, spouse, co-worker, friend, or sometimes even a stranger—we come to see him for who he is—our Savior and Lord. Thank Jesus for bringing us to our knees before him. Thank him for those who risked reaching out to mentor us with the good news. Thank him for the privilege of being spiritual mentors to others.