Monday, December 11, 2006

Am I Willing?

This past year my wife has been blessed to be able to serve on leadership at Hannah’s Prayer Ministries. This week was her turn for the weekly devotion. I wanted to share it with you all, so here ya go! It was written to address a group of women dealing with infertility and pregnancy loss, which will probably help you understand some comments (the baby shower thing, etc.), though the main point can be applied to any aspect of our lives.

Am I willing?

(Acts 9:10-19)
Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord." And the Lord said to him, "Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight." But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name."

But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake."

So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; and he took food and was strengthened.

Saul was a Jewish leader who had no qualms about destroying Christians. He was THE enemy. Ananias was a common man, nobody special really. Acts 22 tells us that Ananias could be considered a good man, well liked & highly respected by all. He plays a small part in the book of Acts – we never hear of him again - but his sensitivity to God's voice allowed him to be a key player in the building of God's kingdom.

Imagine you hear all the town talk about this evil man named "Saul". He has caused harm, killed, and hurt those whom you love. He had come to town to capture believers & take them away as prisoners.

One night you hear the Lord calling you, and you respond "Yes, Lord – anything".

The Lord tells you, "Go, find Saul – lay hands on him. He has been chosen to spread the news of me to the Gentiles".

And in your eagerness to serve you reply "Yes, Lord – anything. Wait! What? Saul? THE Saul? You've chosen HIM? You want ME to go to HIM?"

God replies "Go!"

This could have very well been a suicidal mission. Ananias could have been walking into a violent death. Yet he chose to heed the word of God. And in doing so he was the instrument that converted Saul (Paul) to Christianity. Ananias laid his hands upon Saul, and even addressed him as "brother". Imagine the braveness and courage in that. This man could have been bent on arresting Ananias, he possibly had even killed Christians that Ananias knew! I believe forgiveness overflowed when the word "brother" was spoken.

Notice that God does not directly address Ananias' fears, nor does he promise him safety. He simply said "Go!" This is all the rationale that Ananias - or any of us for that matter - needs.

I'd like to think I am eager to be a vessel God can use. I even tell Him that I am here, waiting to be used how ever He sees fit, yet I can't help but wonder how often I've said "no". My fear is great and my courage is weak. Do I submit to my Father when called upon or do I cower in terror and stay snug in my little zone of comfort that surrounds me? I doubt I'll ever see a clear vision from the Lord calling me to lay hands on a murderer, to pray for him, and convert him. But I know that each day God tugs at my heart and directs me to speak of Him to someone who comes across my path. Perhaps He gently nudges me to share my story at a baby shower to some lady who is just entering the world of loss, but I decline, unable to join in the celebration in my mere attempts at protecting my own heart. Was that him whispering to me to address someone whom I feel as been insensitive to me as "sister" … words of forgiveness to a possible hurting soul? I hope I never cower at His callings, I hope I never allow my anger, or bitterness, or fear yell back "no" at God, while He's telling me "Go!". It is not always easy to show love to others, especially when we are afraid of them or doubt their motives, but I pray that in obedience to the Holy Spirit, I will be willing to follow God's leading, even when He leads me to difficult places and people. God calls us to commitment, not comfort.

I believe it could be said that Ananias is a hero. Because of his willingness he helped Saul become Paul. Paul – who suffered so greatly for Christ, and who spoke so abundantly in favor of the Gentiles and of God's sacrifice. Ananias was able to participate in something so magnificent! The birth of an apostle! I hope Ananias' story will inspire us to think about what God might send us to do, and to be willing to go when he does send us. I pray that should an opportunity that could change even the smallest life come across my path that I am willing.

Thoughts to ponder:
1. Ananias could have said no and missed out on such a key event in the history of the church. Are there area's you are holding back from out of fear? Could God have amazing things for you if only you'd step out in obedience?

2. Do you seek God's leading in situations that could be painful or hurtful to you or do you simply say no? Are you quick to respond with your full defenses up to someone who you're unsure of? If He is calling you to do something I believe you can rest assured that He is protecting you safely in His arms.

Prayer for this week:
As Christmas approaches people are now, more then ever, open to hearing about Jesus. Let's pray that we are open to His callings, to His leadings and that we are willing to step out of our comfort zones, as Ananias did, in order to change lives.

Help me, O Lord, to throw myself absolutely and wholly on thee, for better, for worse, without comfort, and all but hopeless.
-Puritan Prayer.

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